In a life among the upland farms here in the Yorkshire Dales it’s easy to drift into a sense that the farming industry is made up of isolated, family-run set-ups; the Wellie-clad farmer caked in muck moving cattle and sheep from one field to another with a black-and-white dog. In reality, the farming industry, especially the agricultural variety, is very different – and is big business involving genetics, hi-technology, huge machinery… and tidy profits for the landowners who bow to the demands of the leading supermarkets. Some shoppers might look for labels portraying twee, idyllic farms to satisfy their consciences, other people will just pick up the cheapest item, but I wonder how many of us think about the exploitation of farm workers or the affect the super-farms are having on traditional farming? To get you thinking further, I recommend you read this thoughtful blog by Shaun Spiers of the CPRE: https://cpreviewpoint.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/the-dark-side-of-the-food-industry/
Foreign parts welcome
I enjoy forays into foreign parts such as Cumberland and Westmorland… Mallerstang and Wild Boar Fell, for example, are so grand you’d think you were in Yorkshire. So I was pleased to hear this week that the proposed extension of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which is to include some parts of those lovely regions, has come a step closer. Apparently there have been no objections to the proposal, so the authority can press on with their plans. Besides Mallerstang and Wild Boar Fell (pictured), the extended park will, from August 1, include Orton Fells, the northern Howgill Fells, Barbondale, Middleton, Casterton and Leck Fells, the River Lune and other fells west of the Lune.
I hope any early lambs are snuggled up in barns right now. Some proper snow hit the Ribblesdale from Wednesday onwards, with temperatures dropping well below freezing in the dales and on the fells.
On Wednesday I walked along the higher parts of Winskill Stones and watched the light changing rapidly as clouds blew across Ingleborough and Penyghent. Different cloud types traveled at various speeds, forming all sorts of visual layers. But it was too cold to hang around for long and I walked back down the minor road, passing this old limekiln of a type found all over the dales. I wondered how long it has been there – an OS map from 1847 notes its presence when the road between Langcliffe and Cowside was but a dirt track.
I wanted to be at the top of the dale early on Thursday but was worried about the state of the road after heavy overnight frost and further snow. I held back until nine-ish but even then the stretches around Ribblehead were still on the dodgy side. The Three Peaks bore the brunt of the snow; goodness knows what the temperature was like on the tops, but they looked magnificent and proud.
Later, the woodland on the trail between Clapham and Ingleborough cave sheltered me from the biting wind. Walking through a wood when it’s snowing and cold is relaxing; you feel protected, as though the trees are comforting arms around you.
Money grows on trees in the dales
This tree at Clapham possesses more money than I do. I’ve never understood why folk feel the urge to hammer coins into tree trunks and branches. According to theories dating back to the beginning of the 18th century, a person can rid themselves of an illness by jamming a coin into a wishing tree, the belief being that the tree would assume the illness. If a person pulled out one of the wishing tree’s coins then they would become ill. The tree must be in a critical condition by now but, hey, at least it’s wealthy.
Clapham is a fascinating village. The partly-man-made waterfall lies next to St James church which was founded in Norman times. The church and much of the village were burned down during a Scottish foray into the western dales during the early 14th century. The tower was probably erected after the battle but the rest of the church dates from the 19th century and is well worth a visit.
As from yesterday (Jan 16) I became eligible to apply for a bus pass. I’ve never been totally sure why this happens – is it because people in their sixties are assumed to be incapable of driving a car any longer, a menace to other drivers? Anyway, along with my senior railcard – which isn’t free but at £30 a year has already saved me a great deal of money – I will use ‘public’ transport as much as I can. I’m not certain how much of, or for how long, this transport will remain public with many vital bus routes threatened by under-funding. Living in a rural region, I imagine my routes and times will be pretty restricted. I will be studying timetables from now on and perhaps I’ll have to start a dalesbusblog to keep you informed (please don’t yawn, it’s rude).
Perhaps some country folk have too much time on their hands… and maybe that includes photographers, too! A gate on the track between Settle and Malham – just who among you takes a can of paint and brush with you when going on a walk?
This week’s major moan from the ‘news’: I’m a lot younger than Rupert Murdoch – how come I can’t land a millionaire ex-model who is 25 years my junior? I have my own publishing empire, too – you’re reading it.