Shadows of the sun herald spring’s slow return in the Dales

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“In like a lion, out like a lamb” has always seemed a pretty straightforward proverb - when March starts, it’s still winter, and by the end of the month spring has arrived

But March can often be a mardy time of year when you’re never quite sure what the weather is going to do from one day to the next. It’s beautifully illustrated in this striking photograph that captures the dappled sunlight as it dances across the fields near Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale, with the last of the melting snow capping the hilltops in the distance.

Spring’s early bluster tends not to last too long, though, and there are few better places from which to enjoy its slow release than in this verdant corner of the Yorkshire Dales.

As well as the dry-stone walls and weather-beaten barns that are such an intrinsic feature of the Upper Wharfe Valley, there are snaking riverside walks and fellside woodlands.

The quiet country lanes and peaceful villages make this area of the Dales popular with cyclists, but it is arguably best explored on foot.

The Dales Way, which follows the river all the way from Kettlewell to Buckden, is reasonably level and suitable for most people.

For the determined fell walkers there are the higher peaks like Buckden Pike or Old Cote Moor, while for those who simply want to enjoy a more genteel afternoon stroll there are a plenty of less taxing walks along the River Wharfe.

Upper Wharfedale is also home to some of the most impressive, and important, wild flower meadows in the country around Yockenthwaite. Primroses, bluebells, cowslips and early purple orchids grow here in the grassland amongst the trees, which will just about be coming into leaf.

If spring is a picture book then Wharfedale is the ideal place to soak up its natural wonders. This holds true for the summer months as well, but that, as they say, is another story.

Technical details: Picture taken on a Nikon D800 camera with a 80-200mm lens at 86mm with an exposure of 1/320th sec at f20 and ISO of 640.