STOATS, you’ve got to admire their spirit. Following my mentioning a couple of weeks back how I had seen an ermine stoat, that is one whose coat had turned pure, snowy, white, Roger Nelson, who lives near Bolton Abbey, sent me this picture of one which to all intents and purposes looks like it has just done a few swift rounds with a rabbit, and won.

Roger tells me about a quarter of stoats turn all or party white in an average winter, that is with the exception of the black tips at the end of their tails. This stoat, with its rabbit, has kept its normal colouration, and was in the process of hiding it, out of the way from the prying eyes of red kites.

Interestingly, Roger adds that females are more prone to turn white in the winter because they are smaller and so feel the cold more.

And if anyone was in any doubt about the tenacity of stoats - a female stoat, so Roger tells me, averages about 210 gms and an adult rabbit about 1,700 gms.

One just has to be grateful they are no bigger, none of us would be safe.

ON the subject of cold, or otherwise winters, we, at the time of writing, are currently in the midst of a very mild one. Three years ago, in February, 2019, there was lots of snow about, but nothing like as in 93 years ago, in 1929, when it was so cold that waterfalls in the Dales were turned to ice, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal froze so hard you could walk on it, and in an attempt to get water moving again, men lit a fire in a Gargrave road to try and defrost a frozen water main.

In the Craven Herald of February 15, 1929, it was reported that the falls of Gordale Scar, in Malhamdale, presented a magnificent sight.

The upper fall, of 150ft, was one mass of ice, as were the lower ones and huge icicles, some eight feet long, hung from the cliffs.The stream below the scar was also frozen for several hundreds of yards. It was ‘well worth a visit by motorists’ said the Herald.

It was the same with the waterfalls in Skipton Woods, the frost making Craven ‘look like Transylvania ‘ said the Herald.

In Gargrave, two men were seen tending a blazing wood fire in the roadway. They explained that they were trying to thaw the water main which had frozen overnight and had caused the inhabitants of a group of houses further on to have to carry their drinking water nearly a quarter of a mile.

At Malham it was reported that the pipes in nearly every house was frozen and at the moorland farms water was having to be carried for the stock.

There was ice four to five inches thick on the canal and several boats were ice-bound. This caused issues, as a large percentage of goods carried were perishables, including feeding stuffs and flour. Each morning, the ice-boat from the Skipton Canal depot had had to force a channel through the water.

A few years earlier, during another severe frost, the ice-breakers from Skipton had made a dash into Lancashire with a cargo of food stuffs.

The ice on the canal between Gargrave and Skipton was broken every day, but the Skipton basin was full of boats unable to move.

According to weather experts, said the Herald, the cold weather was expected to last for some days - one one morning, some 22 degrees of frost had been registered.

Then, there is always a year when things were worse. In 1929, the Herald told its readers of a year in 1880 something when horse drew laden carts along the frozen surface of the canal and when the only known water supply in Skipton was from a tap in Primrose Hill.

OF interest is the recent changes to the Highway Code and complaining by some that it had not received enough publicity. Some organisations have expressed concern that whereas some will be aware of the changes, the vulnerable road users, that is, some motorists will be blissfully unaware , so leading to all sorts of road rage, and possibly worse, incidents on the roads.

Now, this is not beyond the realms of possibility; in my experience of walking, driving and riding horses along narrow, country roads, there is a variety of potential issues.

As a walker, I often come across other walkers who don’t understand you walk on the right, facing oncoming traffic, unless approaching a blind bend, or brow of a hill - its not rocket science, you need to make yourself as visible as possible to other road users, especially when you are more vulnerable than them, surrounded in metal.

Horse riders seem to get it, and do usually seem to wear high-visibility kit, certainly where I live anyway; cyclists and motorcyclists too - no, its the car drivers who are the most badly behaved I reckon, desperately trying to get to wherever it is they want to be as quickly as possible.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has welcomed the updates to the Highway Code but has called for a major education campaign to ensure that all road users are aware of the new rules and advice.

FINALLY, an update on my attempt to walk 2,000 miles in 2022. At the end of January, I had walked 162 miles - that is a few miles less than I need to do every month; but I reckon seeing as January was very dark and the weather less than hospitable, its not too shabby a total. February is going to be tricky, it also being a winter month and with short days, and a short month; I’m also doing proper walks too, not just walking up and down the stairs for an hour; I’ll just have to hope to catch up once the clocks go forward in March.

I shall be raising money for the Alzheimers Society, Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association and the Cave Rescue Organisation.