Fire-breathing monsters in Ribblesdale

ribblesdale - coverdale

I love maps. From where I’m typing this in my Ribblesdale cottage I can see about 20 of them, balancing precariously on a shelf. I have an 1841 tithe map of Langcliffe framed and hung on a wall. I often read maps instead of a books; I’m forever scouring them for new features or to compile fresh walks. There’s probably a polite name for someone with such an obsession. But I wonder if the end of the large folded paper map is upon us. I hope not. This week the OS were trying to flog a new deal for online mapping for smartphones. You can get unlimited mapping plus a host of other clever do-dahs for an annual fee. I can’t afford a smartphone or indeed yet another annual fee, so when I’m out in the Dales I’ll continue to bumble along in my quaint old-fashioned way – so I hope they are kept up to date. One day last summer I was out on the moors above Dent, sitting on a rock, eating a sandwich and reading a map. A couple of hikers approached me and asked for guidance because their gizmo had ‘died’. Smug, is how I would describe my mood that day. They were foolish not to take a proper map – no batteries required.

Ribblesdale mayhem?

ribblesdale - train

In last week’s blog I went off on one about HS2 and how the high-speed railway will destroy much countryside just to cut a few minutes off a journey. I compared my anger to that of people of Ribblesdale when the Settle-Carlisle line was cut through the dale. Out of interest (it was raining again) I pored over a pre-railway OS map of the route – published in 1842. As much as I admire the engineering feat needed to take the railway through some very tricky parts of Ribblesdale, its construction must have caused mayhem. And let’s face it, as much as many people enjoy seeing the big old steam locos chugging up and down the line today, residents at the time would have dreaded the great fire-breathing monsters spewing out filthy smoke and making a noise like a herd of rampaging elephants. The incline from Settle to Ribblehead passes over some tough terrain – everything from solid rock to boggy marshes. Much of the work was done manually as the line inched up Ribblesdale; so hats off to the poorly-paid workers whose section is still providing services.
The same can’t be said about the route further north, near Appleby, where ground saturated by unprecedented rainfall has become unstable. The line could be closed for several months for repairs. I hope this doesn’t put passengers off coming to Ribblesdale or using the line between Leeds and Appleby. http://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk
I hope too that there is a good service available by April 29 when the Tour o’ Yorkshire (I’m refusing to use the ‘de’ – what’s it got to do with the French?) comes to the area. There will be a public meeting at Victoria Hall, Settle, on Monday Feb 29 (6pm) to discuss local plans.

ribblesdale - snowdrops

Lovely to see snowdrops appearing around the village once again. Their brief show is said to herald the arrival of spring. I suspect as usual in these parts that their appearance is premature.

ribblesdale - watlowes

I snatched an hour or so out on the fells above Malham one bright breezy day this week. Hardly a soul to be seen as I wandered along the Pennine Way between Watlowes valley and the Tarn, normally quite a busy trail at the weekend. Note to self: do this walk in the morning so as not to get the dark shadow on the west slope of Watlowes. The Tarn took on a deep dark blue hue when viewed from a little knoll just off the path.

ribblesdale - malham tarn

Mind clearing

When my head is full of all sorts of daft stuff I’ll often drive the car over to Halton Gill on the Stainforth road to try clear my mind. There are only half a dozen farms from one end to t’ other along the seven miles or so. The landscape and views are breathtaking. I get out of the car, mooch about, find a new spot from which to take a photo, or as on Friday sit and stare at two daft beggars cycling up that incredibly steep hill from Halton Gill.

ribblesdale - haltongill
The light changed rapidly as the clouds scuttled across lovely Littondale. For a few seconds the tiny hamlet was bathed in sunshine. Behind it, the domineering moors switched from moody browns to inviting orange, while the tops kept on their dreary, misty hats.
The smaller, less populated dales have always appealed to me – Kingsdale, Coverdale, Raydale, to name but three – and they’re all firmly on my to-do-again list in spring. The top picture in the blog was taken from Coverdale, looking back down the valley towards Wharfedale. Here’s one looking across Kingsdale.

Ribblesdale - kingsdale

Well, it’s St Valentine’s Day again and in true Yorkshire bloke fashion I say ‘thank goodness I don’t have anyone to waste mi brass on’. I expect all my cards and gifts will arrive via a fleet of home delivery vans tomorrow, it being Sunday today.

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