6am wake up calls come very easily to me in the UK, mainly because the sun percolates through my curtains at that time, and partly down to the noisy customers that happen to be buying todays newspaper from the shop beneath us. But today I had even more of a reason- Deer filming!
Here is a short clip of the deer I got the week before, couldn’t resist this little fawn!
Here is the shot of the two male Red Deer having a par at each other…nothing too serious as it is late in the rutting season, so are winding down from their predominantly active season. Filmed with basic SLR (Canon 600D) and VERY basic £25 Tamron 70-300mm lens, so pardon the quality and jerkiness and lack of editing YET!
Harewood Park Start: Harewood Church Lane Distance: 5 miles Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale and Washburn Valley
As part of the brilliant new YouTube Channel, Ecosapien, I work as a camerawoman to help get some of the story shots for the team to edit into one of the weekly episodes that David Bodenham broadcasts out. I am so grateful to be able to help out with something so exciting- the combination of stunning images with factual information targeted towards 13-25 year olds. Some more filming this Thursday so can’t wait! We parked up in a small neighbourhood (and yes we did check for a “Residents only” sign!) some way away from the deer park. Loaded up with a Manfretto Tripod, Canon 600D and Tamron 70-300mm I headed off with David to see if we could catch a glimpse of these beautiful British mammals. It was one of the most misty days I had come across being in England, and it was incredibly difficult to locate them at first. We headed down the side of the road to see if they had congregated by the roadside farmland, but with no luck. Back through the moss, thicket and ferns. It was truly magical walking through the forest that was so still. Quiet. Damp. Cool… The trees were playing tricks on my mind. Surely that tree was a deer? David assured me it wasn’t. I even had my contact lenses in at the time. I am certainly glad I had layered up correctly, the air was damp but very cold as well. Always put a thermal top underneath your clothes (sorry, love that Shakira song!) Then at the other side past the cattle grid we had more luck. The stalking began… This next stage of setting up your camera and trying out different lenses was really good fun for me. I have used my DSLR in lots of filming before but not at the adequate settings- aperture 5.6, 1080P 50f, ISO 200, white balance Auto. try it on your Canon model! We got a couple of establishing shots of the trees in the mist, just to highlight to the audience what the day was actually like! Then we saw the emblematic shape of antlers in the distance that soon enough melted away again in the depths of the mist. I could only hear the clashing and clanking of the antlers echoing through the mist as I crawled ever closer on the dew laded moss. It was thrilling. The next part of the shoot involved a lot more crawling. And yes, I got soaked but this is what you do to get the shot! it was so very worth it in the end after many failed attempts to get decent and clear shots. Never had getting soaked been so much fun! We stalked them all the way to the very same field that we had originally walked to, and for the very first time- I saw so males rutting! This is the best time of year to see deer rut (the mating season). The rutting month varies between species, but mostly it is during the autumn. You see the stags using their antlers in fearsome trials of strength during the rut (a Middle English word meaning ‘to roar’), and an enraged or injured stag can quite often be a dangerous animal. The episode is about the impact of the over browsing as Deer can have a huge impact on forestry operations. They cause extensive damage to young trees, either by stripping the leaves in the spring or by eating bark in winter or rubbing the velvet off their antlers in the summer. All of these actions can kill young trees. Many areas have to be deer-fenced to protect the trees until they are large enough to survive being browsed. Also, having no natural predators in the UK, deer numbers can become very high. For these reasons they are culled in many places. In another episode we will be talking about the reintroduction of wolves back to the UK, and I will be writing another feature soon! We had been able to find a small ditch as the side of the field that enabled us to get closer to them- we got some cracking shots of the males fighting it out in front of the females. With two stags, a third tried to join in! The males were pumped up, and also sniffing out the females. Brilliant day, I would highly recommend visiting Harewood to see them, and it is very much worth getting up early for.
You of course can actually if you go out of leeds on the A61 you will reach a large set of gates into the rear of Harewood. Then turn left and you can park there. If you go across the road, through the gates & turn left down a wooded path follow the path until it comes out through a wood gate back onto the main road turn left pass the main entrance and then take the next turn left on this road for 1/4 of a mile (no cars allowed) .You should see them on the right as the road drops down rather than get damp and mossy (but that’s the fun part!) You can also start from the village centre, parking at the village hall in Church Lane. The estate village of Harewood sits outside the entrance to Harewood House, one of Yorkshire’s premier stately homes. Other features include the Harewood Arms and the remains of a castle which we walked past on our trip down.
Almscliff Crag is located between the verdant green sloping hills of Harrogate and the bustling city of Leeds, and protrudes on top of a small hill. Made of Millstone grit, it optimizes the hardiness of the great Yorkshire people- tough and gritty is most certainly the way up North! It was formed out of the destruction of the surrounding softer and more fragile shale and mudstone strata, which left this hardier famous landmark which is extremely popular with walkers and climbers alike. I headed up with the Leeds University Mountaineering society (Climbing) to try out my first outdoor climb, having had several indoor and seemingly difficult routes indoors at the Depot (Pudsey) and The Edge (Leeds). I could only really manage the Blues and Black holds at that point, so wasn’t too sure what to expect on an outdoor trip! But I was rearing to go and try it out.
Beautiful views of Otley and the Chevin from the top of the Almscliff crag.
Ed and Dan were my teachers and were incredibly patient with my incompetent movements that resembled a seagull with broken wings that had been coated with tar… rather flailing!
But you learn fast, it literally is a steep learning curve, with all the different names for pieces of kit, it can be a bit overwhelming! Firstly, rock climbing involves two people or a small group including the use of ropes which can either be done indoors at a local climbing centre OR outdoors. Other types of climbing without ropes involves bouldering where crash mats are places strategically in order to prevent any accidents. This is usually done in indoor centres without rope as the crash mats provide sufficient padding to cushion a fall whilst you build up your strength and stamina, to prepare you for an outdoor climb. You can use ropes indoors where another person is strapped into a harness and tied up whilst one person belays you- basically pulling up the slack rope as you climb ever higher and ready to catch you if you slip and fall. The different types of climbing are:
# 1 Traditional (or trad if you want to sound cool and mingle with climbers, ALWAYS use colloquial language to get in with the climbers!). This is where one climber will “lead” up along the rock face and place in all the bolts, cams and screws through which the rope will be placed through. This not only keeps the lead and first climber safe but allows the second climber to follow. Then at the top an anchor is built and three ropes are attached with into the rock with hexes (you will see why, they resemble hexagonal metal pieces) and then attach yourself to them by the rope with a special type of knot know as a clove hitch. The second climber will follow up after the first has yelled “OFF BELAY, FREE TO CLIMB” and they have secured the ropes up at the top. The second climber will also remove the gear as they progress.
(Left) Your nuts, bolts, cams and clip ons to keep you safe! All of this should be provided with your climbing society. (Bottom) Nick Belaying Fergus, (Bottom Right) Nick being lowered by the belayer, Ed who is at the top.
# 2 Sport climbing is where climbers clip onto already placed bolts that are securely fixed into the rock for people to ascend. This is the much easier and quick way to climb, but not as exciting as leading a climb.
#3 Soloing is where climbers will ascend under their own steam without any rope and by themselves, DON’T TRY THIS FIRST!! It can be very risky going it alone, so make sure you have many months of experience before you try this out. Ed, (see below) has done this for years and so is experienced enough to know the risks.
#3 Ice climbing involves, as the name suggests, ice or snow with use of particular equipment such as ice picks (who doesn’t want those awesome looking pick axes?) as well as crampons, boots, thermals, rope and harness. This isn’t for the faint hearted, not only are the cold conditions tough, but the technique is better off perfected indoors before you go out there, but it looks beautiful.
# 4 Competition climbing is more competitive climbing primarily done indoors in climbing walls, check out these amazing videos of insanely good comp climbers!
# 5 Bouldering is as I mentioned earlier without ropes, and is frequently performed indoors with different coloured holds which indicates their level of difficulty. Hand Jamming, crimps are all part of the technical lingo…watch out for the Climbers chat guide coming soon!
Here is Fergus Bouldering up Manhorn…quite a long way down so crash mats were used! I was going to do this but then again….
Here are the essential basics to Traditional climbing:
#1: Belay Kit– can be bought in many outdoor stores, I personally bought mine at GO Outdoors as you can get a £5 discount card which will save you a whole load, and my gorgeous black and orange harness as well as purple screw gate (to clip rope through) and orange belay device (where the climbers rope is threaded through and to control the climbers ascent/descent). This will usually set you back £50 with all of the above and a chalk bag for when you get sweaty palms! If you have a bit more cash to splash, you could probably get a harness for £46 alone then buy the rest of the gear separately. Check this Climbex one similar to the one I got on Go Outdoors.co.uk:
#2 Climbing shoes- I can’t stress how IMPORTANT SHOES are… always get a size above your normal shoes size, as they can be quite tight! It is supposed to be just uncomfortable so that you can really grip the rock face and have the friction to push up against gravity and the wall. Also you want them to be super comfy!
#3 Chalk– is placed into you bag and attached to the back of your harness, used to stop those sweaty palms of yours when you’re up high from sweating up and losing grip!
The cheapest and best way to start climbing is to join your local university club and pay the membership there: your covered for insurance purposes and can borrow all the gear for a small £30 a year…think how much you will be saving if you don’t have to buy all that rope, harness, shoes, cams, nuts, clip ons, ect!
It’s also a great way to make friends and get shown how to climb with a good technique. Most members would have been doing this sport for some time and are experienced. So don’t splash your cash on all these fancy pancy climbing courses all the time- although I learnt how to belay at the edge for £25, I could have learnt the exact same thing with the climbing society showing me. I did my first outdoor climb with them too.
Me checking out my harness, belay device and screw gate.
So back to Almscliff! Classic climbs include the Chimney which is categoriesd as very difficult and Wall of Horrors. But as a beginner I would highly recommend doing Stewpot and Easy man– I am seen here doing Stewpot, which I also led a climb for. The rock is lovely and firm here which is reassuring, but it really makes you move your body in a way that makes you a more cautious and perceptive person. You need to be aware of where you’re placing your feet at all times…if you get a bad foothold then finding an equally dodgy handhold is of no significance.
TRUST in your strong powerful legs and push up always from them and straighten your body right from your feet, all the way through your legs, through your core and UP you go! Onto the next hand hold. I must say, when I first started climbing, I had my doubts whether or not I could do it. My arms are like spindly gibbon arms, not much muscle at all! My legs are strong with all the cardio I do, and I was assured that it’s your LEGS that are the key to climbing. Whilst climbing Stewpot, in one of the cracks my friend shouted out that he saw a bat! I had to come up as I must say I didn’t initially believe him! But indeed there was a small wrinkled up Pipestrelle, sat snuggly between the cracks. We wondered if he was dead but he stirred as soon as we took a photo of him. Hope he was alright. You need a special license to handle them so it’s best that we left it alone. One then route had been led for me and it was safe for me to climb, I tied up my harness and headed up.
It was a gorgeous warm and sunny day. 25ᵒC-perfect for climbing the warm baked rocks of Almscliff crag. The scenery is truly spectacular up there. You can see why it’s a popular haunt with climbers, ramblers, boulderers, painters and walkers. Prior to joining the group, on my way up from the side car park, I wandered the crag to get a couple of panorama shots, and found a whole host of insect wildlife there. Swallows dart up and down catching their ready packed meals that are equally agile and astute on the wing- talk about fast food!
My climbing friends tried the much harder Chimney, and Nick and Fergus gritted their teeth, and push and pulled harder to get to the top after attempts to get past the notoriously difficult mid slab of millstone rock- gravity ALWAYS wins. Funnily enough as I am writing this I just watched the film Gravity last night, brilliantly composed and shot, but a rather pessimistic film! Its unnerving to see your climbing buddies take a fall, even when attached to rope that can take the weight of a ton. We shout out support down at the bottom to help spur them on.
The sun was beginning to slide further down the clouds, providing the perfect opportunity for me to get a silhouetted head shot and create a double exposure- check it out!I was very happy with the results after a tinkle on Photoshop CS3, I will be posting up a video tutorial on how to do it shortly. I hereby name it “Fergus and the Ferns!” after the plant I used to create it and the guy posing for it!
After a long and gorgeous afternoon of climbing and photography, it couldn’t have ended more perfectly. I OFFICIALLY have the climbers bug, despite the climbers calluses and cramps in your toes after wearing the tiny shoes, climbing really makes you feel alive and brings out the best in your abilities- it MAKES you have to believe and trust in your judgment and work as a team to help them through the climb.
“Nothing beats that feeling when you get your hand at the top of that rock…”
I am officially “batty” now- I have descended into the depths of a cave and followed my fellow subject of research!
This is the second time I’ve been in a cave this summer…but this time I was actually ascending and descending it with karabiners, cows clips, descenders, hand and chest jammers, D-ring and a WHOLE load of rope! This stunning cave is located within walking distance from the Horton in Ribblesdale train stop in the Yorkshire Dales of roughly 2km. We left the Leeds train station at a later time of 9:10am, tickets will cost you £16 for a return, a with a rail card around £13. The weather, as usual was changeable with sheets of light piercing even the darkest of nebulous clouds, the occasional shower then patches of rather pleasant sun. ALWAYS take your rain jacket and thermals, that’s one thing I’ve leant the hard way! I keep forgetting that summer in the UK is rather different to a Spanish one! The walk to the site was equally as changeable, but nonetheless breath-taking. I felt quite safe with the three caving members of the Leeds University Union Speleological society, Michael, who has been caving for over six years, Katey who has been on more than 60 trips and Brendan who had recently joined the society a year ago, but nevertheless experienced.
The climbing team looking summery in their shorts!
They were all so welcoming and helpful, and exceedingly patient with my sometimes futile efforts! I literally had a crash course in Single rope technique (SRT) and vertical climbing/ascending/descending the day before with Michael and Kristian… then thrown into the deep end!
The journey ahead…
Selgil cave, the dry route which we decided to try out.
There were two entrances, the wet route is to the right hand side of the walk from Ribblesdale where the stream thunders down into a waterfall within the cave, or to the left is the dry (more like dry-ish) route which is the one we selected. We got dressed in the open into our oversuites and hooked up all our kit, including a cave helmet.
Katey, rearing to get going! (above). Mike posing for the camera with all the kit.
Katey descending into the cave via the dry route, we didn’t fancy our chances with the wet route on a rainy day! (Above)
The wet route is advisable only in dry weather! The route was all rigged by Katey and Brendan; we descended from the entrance 6m down into the cave with a 15 meter rope. It was a little daunting at first, I must admit, trusting in the gear away from the safety of The Edge! But I was always in safe hands and so trusted everyone and the gear. It was rather fun! We got to the bottom, and could hear the discernible roar of the waterfall tumbling down in torrents. I am SO glad I put my camera in the water tight daerum drum, the spray was a bit of a nightmare for any photographer… I was also lucky that the only damage to my camera was scratches on my 600D screen!
We then moved on to the second pitch where we were carefully picked our way along the route with cows tails and avoided accidentally dislodging any loose rock. The route to the left side was far drier, which we opted for! This was only 12m down, (we had 20m rope) but still a little daunting for a first timer like me! It was a good feeling though as you glided gracefully (well, perhaps not me!) down on the rope using the descender. It takes a bit to release your hard lock then soft lock because your life is literally handing on that rope, if you slip up, its a long way down….
Once at the bottom, I could hear the others further down the third pitch, then we descended ourselves. This was the furthest one down and required two steps of getting to the edge, then staying clear of the water falling from above. This was definitely the more daunting of the two pitches, and as I peered over the edge, I was glad I had misplaced my contact lenses! It was however, really beautiful, once I was off and descending, light flickering from my helmet painted the cave with an orange glow and light danced off the wet surface of the limestone rock. The spray hung in the cave like a blanket and created a slight haze.
Mike had to shout commands to me as I neared then end as the thunderous downpour of the waterfall echoed and resonated throughout the cavern. Whilst he was doing something technical further up the pitch, I waited gazing at the bottom with the scenes of what once was an ancient sea floor. I even saw fossilized remnants of coral on one of the slabs. All around me, I could see new sections of the cave forming with soft sediment being deposited at the sides. Katey and Brendan then reappeared from the bottom which was an easily accessible hop-down into a walkable section of the cave. When Mike joined us we decided to take a couple of cave shots and used our head torches as flashlights.
The depths of Selgil, Mike shines his torch and the wet surface of the cave reflects with enough light for my long 30 second exposure.Some more light painting in the dark with Kate as our model.
I used ISO 6400 to get some cave portraits, and then used flash for some other closer up shots. Then we took long exposures (30 seconds), of Katey and the cave, whilst the guys acted as flash assistants. They did blur but they were certainly fun to take! I couldn’t progress any further without my camera get wet, so I returned it to the daerum drum and headed down with the guys to complete the walk. The source of the noise and spray became apparent as I hopped down and the waterfall was visible in all its resplendent glory. It was truly breath-taking, admittedly I was very cold and wet due to inappropriate underclothes, but even that didn’t dampen my spirits! The trip wouldn’t be complete without #CaveSelfies which we eventually got right!
Cave selfie! We got it just about right, but Brendan was just out of the shot, sorry man!
We eventually reached the “Duck“, which as the name suggests, requires you to duck and crawl through to the other side. I decided to wait with Brendan, I was too wet and quite cold, and didn’t want to get soaked! But the cavern itself was lovely to look at, as was being silt being deposited with shining particles that glinted and danced in that light emanating from our head torches. We switched them off to fully appreciate how dark it was, 70 meters underground, I literally could not even see my hand in front of my face- most certainly an adept description of pitch black!
As Mike returned we then headed back up to the 3rd pitch to start ascending. Now the hand and chest jammers were used rather than the descender. This was the point at which I began to get nervous as I ascended with my hand jammer, which seemingly ‘jammed,’ and fear began to creep in! Mike reassured me I was fine and doing well, as well as encouragement from Katey and Brendan down below. Then, what seemed an age, I eventually reached the top, a little shaken but relieved. It is very enjoyable and rewarding, and I will be back for more! But it was scary as a first timer, and I feel good to have gotten over my fear of swinging from heights! When we stepped out of the entrance after a good 45 minutes (due to my inability to shimmy up the rope with the same speed and agility as the others), a gorgeous border collie greeted us, with his mane being whipped up by the blustering Yorkshire wind.
I was glad to be out, I was pretty cold and hungry but also exhilarated by a fantastic trip. I never felt in any real danger with experienced people, more of a heightened panic moment. We played with the dog, who apparently took a shining to Brendan’s yellow oversuit!
Ready to catch his new chew toy. Photo taken with flash, Aperture mode, 5.5, ISO: 800
“One man and his dog…”
We got undressed then headed back down the track to the pub for a well-deserved cup of tea and sandwich. What a day! I will most certainly be joining this September. The next social is go-karting in September which will be great fun, will keep you updated on all the caving- I am officially known as Bat womannow!