By Tom Salmon:
I don’t know when or why the opening lines of the punk classic Blitzkrieg Bop became the rallying cry for a day out with the kids. But the Ramones’ most famous lines are now a part of a soundtrack of the weekend for our three under-fives. ‘Hey ho, let’s go’ they chant as we put our boots on.
We leave home with the kids packed up with their bikes and wrapped up for the chill in the autumnal Yorkshire air. As they clamber over each other’s car seats into the back of the car they play to another Blitzkrieg Bop lyric, “They’re forming in straight line, they’re going through a tight one, the kids are losing their minds, Blitzkrieg Bop”.
Our mission is simple. Get them out of the house and into the great outdoors to burn off some energy without travelling far.
“They’re piling in the back seat, they’re generating steam heat, pulsating to the back beat, Blitzkrieg Bop”.
Now into the car we start the engine and only then establish where we’re heading. We’re lucky to live on the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales and so we head north beyond Otley to the Washburn Valley, where reservoirs built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries shimmer beneath exposed moorland and the RAF Menwith Hill missile defence base.
Hey ho, let’s go.
Fewston reservoir was finished in 1879, part of a series of new water sources that drowned small settlements and farmland to support the rapidly expanding cities of Leeds and Bradford.
“What they want, I don’t know, They’re all raved up and ready to go”.
The chatter and demands from the back seat soon quietens as the heating in the car and winding Yorkshire roads send the three year old and 10 month old to sleep.
It’s a shame that they miss the red, brown, golden-crunching-underfoot autumnal glory of the woods that we arrive in. The low sun comes under the balding canopy of the trees, picking out almost transparent leaves ready to fall.
The reservoir is low, despite the storms over the last week, exposing a muddy beach some 70 miles from the sea for the hikers and dog walkers to explore.
Our little girl gets off her balance bike to look at the gulls and a Canada Goose with an injured wing. She asks why it’s alone and whether it’ll be able to migrate with its friends. I tell that it’s going to hang around with its British friends for a few months. She still has her helmet strapped to her head when we’re passed by an elderly dog walker whose Alsatian paddles in the cold reservoir waters.
We walk around the edge some more. The Yorkshire stone walls and embankments give you a sense of the scale of the engineering beneath the waters, and of the effort that went into supporting the growth of England’s northern industrial cities in the last two hundred years. Of course that heavy engineering is now reclaimed by nature. Huge oaks, maples and firs tower over and spill into the waters. Moss and ferns carpet the York stone walls while birds and squirrels bounce between the trees.
Further along a memorial bench from the 1970s shows that it took less than 100 years for the reservoir to move from industrial utility to natural beauty. ‘A place that she loved’. It’s some spot to be remembered by.
We’ve been at Fewston reservoir for less than 45 minutes when we decide that our mission has been achieved. A short but regenerating adventure just beyond our front door. Hey ho, let’s go home.
Words & Pictures: Tom Salmon