Death, ducks, daring and dereliction in the Dales

Frosty in Ribblesdale this week – Penyghent from Selside

It’s always great seeing the lovely northern Dales on Channel’s 5’s documentary about Amanda & Clive Owen’s family at Ravenseat. This week we were told about their intention to convert derelict Smithy Holme farm (I took the photo below in May 2014). There are lots of stories told about the farms and old pits in this area at the very top of Swaledale and Birkdale.

Smithy Howe bought by Amanda Owen
Smithy Holme


A neighbouring farm is Hoggarths, but this was once situated on the other side of the river in Great Ash Gill before the great flood of July 1899. The original farm housed William and Elizabeth Kilburn and their daughters.

William had just arrived home from fetching a cart load of coal from Tan Hill pit. A storm started and they heard water rushing down the hillside, into which the house and barn had been built. The family headed upstairs but as the water reached the height of the doors on the lower floor, the desperate family smashed a landing window and escaped onto the hillside.

When the storm subsided, William found his horse still tied up in the stable with only its head sticking out above the mud. Their dog had slipped its lead and headed for neighbouring Stonehouse Farm, while a puppy was found straddling a mangle in the yard. Two pigs were swimming, exhausted, in a sty – and the family’s coal had been completely washed away. The farm was almost a ruin.

Fortunately, they also held Ellers farm so had somewhere to stay. It is said that crockery from the house was found several miles away downstream. Stone from old lead mining buildings were used to build the new Hoggarths. The mine had an engine house which contained a cage for miners to descend to the workings. One night a poacher was chased over the moor here. He thought he would jump into the cage to hide – unfortunately, the cage was already at the bottom and he fell to his death.

Hoggarths Bridge, which crosses the young Swale here, was washed away in the 1899 flood which caused massive problems for the area’s residents. July in the Dales, eh?.

I love this time of year in Ribblesdale and I can sit for hours watching the lambs daring each other into some kind of mischief. The village has been coloured yellow as daffodils and primroses took over.

There’s a duck on the roof!
the little girl shouted in excitement and awe.
It’s a mallard, I said, sounding rather aloof.
No! said the girl with dismissive reproof
It was definitely a duck what I saw.

I got some strange looks from a group of youngsters when I stopped at a junction in the car. They saw (and probably heard) me singing (trying, anyway) along to Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf. I was 15 when the song was first released – fifteen is a very impressionable age to be. I never really fulfilled any wild ambitions. Although … I read recently that old people like me shouldn’t be using mobile phones, wearing jeans or growing long hair. I do all those things now so maybe at 68 I’m just reaching my ‘wild’ stage. I also play air guitar to Status Quo (when I’m on my own) and sometimes I stay up until 10.30pm.

There has been some fine evening light and sunsets over the last month. Above, Penyghent seen from Helwith Bridge. Below, looking west from Austwick.

On seeing this skull near Selside I was reminded of a tale told by Bill Mitchell. He often talked and wrote about Edith Carr, who with her late husband farmed at Capon Hall near Malham Tarn. Edith moved to my village of Langcliffe where she displayed a sheep’s skull in her garden. She told Bill that one day while out walking with her daughter Anne in the 1980s, they found the skull and noticed that the burn mark on the horn was RC – the mark of her husband Robert Carr. The skull must have been laying around for 40+ years at the time it was discovered. She remembered that Robert had been very upset when the animal had vanished during the bad winter of 1947.

If you’d like a longer read about my latest family tree discoveries I’ve reproduced an article I wrote for a recent edition of Dalesman – see Me and Alfred the Great.

Memories of O level geology and plans for post-lockdown (11 photos)

My first visit to Norber erratics took place more than 50 years ago – a geology field trip from school, if my memory serves me correctly. At the time, I probably didn’t appreciate this glorious view over the tiny hamlet of Wharfe. The road winding up the centre of the dale leads from Austwick to Helwith Bridge, and I’ve started many an enjoyable walk from that road: up Crummackdale, Moughton Scar, Oxenber & Wharfe woods, and more. PS I somehow managed an O level in geology which remains one of my top ten lifetime achievements.

Train crossing Morecambe Bay with the Lake District beyond.

When lockdown is over I aim to travel by train from Giggleswick to Settle. The two railway stations – just one-and-a-quarter miles apart – are not directly linked by rail, and my journey will take all day. My plan is to travel from Gigg to Carlisle via Lancaster and Barrow, then back to Settle, a total distance (by rail) of around 150 miles. The trip will take me through some glorious countryside, across Morecambe Bay and up a glorious coastal route past some stunning Lakeland scenery to the Scottish border, returning through Cumbria and the Dales on the impressive Settle-Carlisle line. I will need an old geezer’s rail pass, a bagful of butties, and a flask of tea (or perhaps something a little stronger). Okay, so it’s not exactly an intrepid macho hiking expedition through the Scottish Highlands, which some folk may be planning on their return to freedom, but I’ll need to get warmed up first after many months on the couch.

The beach at Bamburgh.

As much as I love the Dales, I also enjoy visiting most of the British coastline. Seascapes can be as dramatic and beautiful as landscapes; clouds – and moods – as changeable as those above our mountains.

Evening light on the Norfolk coast.

Although I was very disappointed about leaving the EU, as a big tea drinker I was delighted to learn that I was at least going to be able to enjoy a new cuppa…

I’ve now had just one haircut in 12 months. I’m starting to look like one of those sad has-been 1970s rock band bass guitarists who appear on TV documentaries to talk about the group that became world famous after he left them.

This month has already thrown some miserable weather at us, but these two February pics from previous years have brought some stunning sunsets.

Please look out for the February issue of Dalesman in which I have written a piece about my family history which includes some startling revelations. If you can’t get out to buy a copy, take a look at http://www.dalesman.co.uk for a great delivery offer.

February view of Whernside across Chapel-le-Dale.
War poster on display at Ingrow railway museum on the Worth Valley line. Couldn’t be more appropriate for today.
Not the usual view of High Cup Nick but I liked the sky on this day a few years back.
Through the round window … the Leeds-Liverpool canal near Bradley in Airedale.

Reasons to be cheerful in the Yorkshire Dales

As the Sun sets on another year – a pretty awful one for most people – at least I can flick through my photo diary and take comfort from the fact that the local Dales landscape and Nature have provided me with many high points.
I’m a lot more fortunate than millions of others. How lucky I am to live in a small village in the Yorkshire Dales and not trapped in a tiny flat in some high-rise city building. This part of Ribblesdale has just moved into tier 3 but I can still exercise locally and enjoy sights and sounds in some gorgeous countryside.

Although stretching my camera’s magnification to the limit and being held by an unsteady hand, this picture of Penyghent remains one of my favourites. It was taken in May a few years back. The shadow across the centre highlights the Craven Fault line, the border between the limestone uplands and the more fertile valley.


I thought I’d use this end of year blog to post a selection of photos which I don’t think I’ve published either here or on other social media. The places will be familiar, though, as they are within a few miles of home – regular ports of call as I stroll and drive aimlessly around the dale.

Ribblesdale
Looking over Gauber towards Park Fell and Ingleborough.


My dodgy knees prevent me from tackling longer walks and more difficult ascents nowadays, but there’s still plenty of scenery for me and my camera to enjoy.
I started to make a list of some of my favourite things about living in upper Ribblesdale – it turned out to be a lot longer than my Christmas shopping list …

Wild flowers, the curlew calls;
high peaks and waterfalls.
Drystone walls, abandoned barns;
charming churches, ancient farms.
Skies threatening or clearest of blue;
sculptured clouds, changing hue.
Sunsets and sunrises, a golden glow;
trees tall or gnarled, bent like a bow.
Hedges and bushes with colourful berries;
hidden paths where no one hurries.
Birds with attitude, sweet songs they sing;
painted butterflies, bees on the wing.
Lambs playing in packs until dusk;
their mothers fretting while mowing the grass.
The river Ribble when slow and calming;
or rushing by, impatient, alarming.
Quirky hamlets asleep so it seems;
cottages huddle, crooked doors, curved beams.
Steam engines huffing, causing a fuss;
respectfully crossing that great colossus.
Autumnal tints the woodland bring;
buttercup meadows, welcoming spring.
Signposts and stiles, all sizes and shape;
walkers instructed to ‘Please Shut the Gate’.

Distant Ingleborough and Crummackdale.
Stackhouse seen from Langcliffe.
Malham Tarn.
Penyghent from two angles.
Looking west from Smearsett Scar.

I’ve just completed a first Christmas alone (which was actually fine, but it’s not the same without the warmth of a family around you). But I have plenty of photographic reminders of our festive past. I found this picture of my son taken around 25 years ago, dressed in his new Huddersfield Town shirt. I had to clear every bit of furniture to accommodate that train set. It might have been extremely early Christmas morning but I enjoyed playing as much as he did.

Have a better new year and thanks for reading the blog

Autumn fashions – Dales style (12 photos)

View over Giggleswick from Langcliffe

Beautiful autumn colours last far too briefly in the Dales. It’s as though Nature is embarrassed by us seeing her removing her summer clothes. A touch of frost in the valleys, or a chilling northeasterly wind, is enough to rid trees of the covering they’ve proudly displayed during the previous months. Fortunately, here in Ribblesdale I don’t have to travel far to enjoy autumn’s glowing glory. There are many pockets of woodland on the dale-sides and along the river bank. Trees and bushes feature prominently in our villages, and the higher fells display heathery hues and colourful grasses and mosses where the sheep don’t graze.
I hope you enjoy some of this year’s autumn collection…

Above and below, scenes from Langcliffe
By the Ribble (above) and the weir at Langcliffe.

Autumn light over Stainforth

Stainforth Scar
Horton-in-Ribblesdale
Above and below, the mill pond at Langcliffe.
Looking over the Green at Langcliffe.
I wonder if I’ll ever find that pot of gold?

Dales doors and unwelcome guests

I thought I’d better tap in a few words just to let blog readers know I’m still plodding on. There’s not been much ‘plodding’ around the Dales on foot, or out with the camera for me since lockdown but unlike many town and city dwellers, at least I have my local countryside to enjoy.

We’re certainly living in strange times with a pandemic and a political coup going on, but thankfully the landscape of the Yorkshire Dales remains pretty much the same as it has been for centuries. Don’t ask me why, but over the last few months, I’ve been taking more notice of Dales architecture. Not just the 5,000 miles of walls and countless barns that identify this part of the world, but also the doors, lintels, date-stones, and gates many of which are unique to the Dales. Here are a few examples I’ve ‘collected’:

Dales buildings
Dales building
Dales buildings

The walker sees so much more than the motorist – and the motorcyclists who seemed to have swarmed around the Dales more frequently since early July. I’ve nothing against the sensible bikers (don’t laugh – I owned a Honda 125 in my youth) but too many put their own and other people’s lives at risks on tricky roads they don’t know too well. Although over the decades the road from Settle to Ribblehead through Ribbledale has been widened in many places for lorries transporting lime and stone, it is still not suitable for fast traffic. I’m old enough to remember traveling the road in the 1960s before it was straightened out in a few places. Prior to the construction of the mini-bypass, winding your way through Stainforth was a nightmare.

During July farmers were busy in the fields, creating winter feed for their animals and I managed to capture a couple of shots of them at work. The long days and a short spell of sunshine have helped them gather in quite a bit, but damp weather can be disastrous.

Summer evenings became quieter in August. Wildflower meadows should be filled with clouds of butterflies and the buzz of bees, but devastatingly, we’ve lost over 97% of them in the UK. We CAN reverse the decline, but this can’t be done without help. Visit: http://ywt.org.uk/wildlife-recovery-fund

BREAKING I finally got my hair cut. I could have insulated my loft with the cuttings. The barber charged me £1 for a face mask. The previous day I’d bought 50 masks for £17 to use in my son’s cleaning and laundry business. You might see me selling masks from a stall outside the barber’s for 50p each.

My lad’s business depends on tourists, and after three months with zero income, the visitors came flocking back after July 4 to help him keep going. The majority of guests to the Dales are well behaved and considerate, but we’ve noticed an increasing number of disrespectful types compared with last year. Some are behaving like dogs being let off leashes; they’ve no care for the countryside or those who live here, or try to run a business … litter, parking … oh, don’t get me started.

You’d think in times of hardship that local people and businesses would help each other – and in the majority of cases, they do. However, some business owners are not so thoughtful. My son did a lot of work for Great Harlow Lodges of Clapham in March. Despite emails, phone calls, and letters he has not been paid. The matter will be passed on to a debt collection agency. It’s not much money for the owner of the company but a lot for my son. I saw yesterday that the same people are advertising for others to do work for them. My advice to anyone interested is to ensure you get paid upfront.

On a more cheerful note … a few local images:

Langcliffe
Mill pond at Langcliffe
The Ribble at Langcliffe
The Ribble at Horton in Ribblesdale
Mighty Stainforth Scar

I’ve added the names Faber, Hardcastle, Surtees, and Jubb to the Yorkshire surnames file – http://www.jacksoneditorial.co.uk/yorkshire-surnames/

Hungry birds, hairy pensioners, headless corpses and a chuffing Scotsman

Langcliffe
The Yorkshire Dales village of Langcliffe sitting beneath limestone scars in Ribblesdale.

Since my last blog, my hair has grown a lot and I’ve baked two lots of bread and a batch of scones. Even the birds turned their beaks up at my first loaf. The second one was a little more edible, but considering the length of time it took me to prepare and bake, and the carnage left to clean and tidy up afterward, I won’t be attempting a third loaf. The scones were edible if a little deflated. I love scones but even I got fed up with them after the tenth one. No wonder I’m piling on weight. I tried to convince myself this was because of the amount of hair on my head, which is now as long as it was during my Hippy days of the 1970s.
Oh, and during the good weather I did manage some splendid walks from home, so I do have a few new photos to show. The top photo was taken on my way up Giggleswick Scar on the opposite side of the dale.

Settle
Settle seen from Giggleswick Quarry.
quarry
Giggleswick Quarry. Workings stopped here 12 years ago and the site was sold in 2019. I have no news yet of developments. In the distance is Pendle Hill.

Before the lockdown we used to curse about the time we had to wait at the checkouts at our local supermarket, now we bleat at having to queue outside waiting to get in. A former neighbour spotted me in the queue the other day and decided we should carry out a conversation despite us being four metres apart. The person between us appeared distinctly awkward but definitely unwilling to give up her position to allow the conversation to continue in a slightly less public manner.

Winskill view
I can never resist capturing this scene when I’m up the road from my home. View over Winskill to Ingleborough.

Most conversations now seem to take place digitally. However, I’ve had a break from social media recently, just taking occasional peeks at my accounts but not back-tracking. So if anyone has been expecting a response from me, I apologise – you’ll have to message me directly, email or phone Why not write me a letter? A postcard would be nice.

Ribblesdale

In the shade of the hawthorn tree pictured above, which looks splendid in its spring clothes, is a simple plank bench. There’s probably been a seat here for many years, sited on an old track up the hill from Langcliffe to Winskill. It’s a handy resting place before tackling the path’s steep section, and gives you a chance to sit and admire a fabulous view up Ribblesdale (pic below shows part of what’s on offer).

Ribblesdale

If you’re still stuck at home you might have time to read this tale from the Dales, one of many I’ve picked up during my years traveling the region and working as editor of Dalesman.

Nidderdale
The view across Scar House reservoir towards Dead Man’s Hill

There are no modern roads between Horsehouse in Coverdale and Middlesmoor in Nidderdale – a distance of just over five miles as the crow flies. The shortest route by car is nearer 27 miles. Between the two dales is a mighty ridge which for much of its length rises between 1,600-2,000ft high and is bleak uncultivated moorland. It generally marks the border of the south-eastern end of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Today, on the Nidderdale side of the ridge lie Angram and Scar House reservoirs holding vast amounts of water to be used by the citizens of Bradford. For hundreds of years before this top end of the valley was dammed in the 1920s, animal dealers crossed this barren barrier on their way from the north, as far as Scotland, to trade in the West Riding.
There is still an ancient track between Horsehouse and Middlesmoor, settlements that were handy stopping-off points for the jaggers, as the packmen were called. Midway between the two places, just on the Nidderdale side, is Lodge. Now a farm, it was in the early 1700s a remote inn run by a mother and her daughter.
The inn would have been a welcome sight for the men after tackling the long steep hill from Coverdale, battling against the worst Dales weather and the rough terrain. Unfortunately for some of those weary travelers, their journeys – and their lives – would end in this miserable place in mysterious and macabre circumstances.
There are a few versions of the story of what happened to the poor souls, some perhaps being over-embellished during the last 300 years. Several of the packmen became well known after traveling the same route for many years. So locals started asking questions when some of them failed to turn up. It became more apparent that something was amiss when the wives of three Scottish packmen headed south to find out why their husbands had not returned home.
They discovered that the men had been seen at Horsehouse but not in Middlesmoor. It had also been noted that the Lodge innkeepers suddenly seemed more prosperous, and that farmers in the area were using Scottish ponies, and that their wives were wearing Paisley shawls, having been sold to them by the ladies of the inn.
Following a search of the area (now known as Dead Man’s Hill) near the inn, three headless bodies were found buried in shallow graves. The story goes that the two women got the men drunk and cut off their heads. Some say the bodies were discovered by travelers only when they spotted the packmen’s abandoned sheepdog digging at the burial site.
What happened to the culprits is not clear. One version says they were taken to Pateley Bridge where they were tried and hung. Another claims that the pair were found to be witches who turned to stone on the hills. Known as Jenny Twigg and daughter Tib (below), the pair of stone sentinels stand isolated, overlooking the bleak moorland of upper Nidderdale.

The lambs and sheep have kept me amused on my local walks…

sheep
Does my bum look big in this?

Sadly no trains yet so here’s one from last year at Settle station.

Flying Scotsman
Flying Scotsman on the Settle-Carlisle line.

Restricted Dales travel – even for royals like me

Well, that was a weird month, wasn’t it? I can’t come on here this time and brag about all the wonderful places I’ve visited and photographed recently around the Yorkshire Dales. Where I live is great, and I count my blessings that I don’t live in a city, but I still have the desire to get out and see, listen to, smell and feel different places.

Put a compass on a map and draw a radius representing an hour’s return walk from your house, and you’ll soon realise the restrictions we’ve been under. (Younger readers: maps and compasses are old fashioned tools, look them up in a book – ‘What’s a book, Granddad?’ – sorry, I mean visit Wikipedia.)

The bank of ramsons (wild garlic) beside the Ribble in Langcliffe gets more impressive every year. I seem to remember there being many more bluebells in this little wood in the past, so perhaps the ramsons have pushed them out.

Fortunately, the River Ribble is within permitted reach for me, although it has been very low recently, and last week it resembled an abandoned quarry. In fact, I watched someone quite easily walk across the rocky bed to the other bank without getting their feet wet. I thought it was taking social distancing a bit too far, I was about 100 yards away.

I can just about manage a walk to Stainforth and back within the hour, depending on the number of camera halts needed. A same-day Settle return (with pensioner pass) is easily within reach. A trek up to Winskill Stones tests my stamina. My lack of exercise (and extra pounds) is starting to tell.

lambs
Exhausting, this lockdown malarky.

On the upside, lockdown has given me more time to investigate my family tree, something I started doing some 40+ years ago and which I’ve flitted in and out of ever since. A while back I discovered that my lot linked into a knighted Yorkshire family. During my latest investigations, I was able to follow this line even further, and it took me way back to the ancient kings of the north. The tree even ties into that of the current royal family. It seems that the Queen’s 28xgreat-grandparents were also my 31xgreat-grandparents and that we’re both related to Alfred the Great who lived in the second half of the ninth century. This is a satisfying discovery but shouldn’t be too surprising apparently, as it is thought that millions of today’s Brits are related in some way to our ancient royals. Finding the path back to them is the hard bit. I shan’t be waving serenely from my battered Polo to any passing subjects just yet.

St John’s, Langcliffe.

I’ve been flicking through hundreds of old photos in my archive so that I can post a pic a day on Twitter and Facebook during the shutdown. My Daily Dales postings have helped me pass the time away. My thanks go to those who up to yesterday had clocked up nearly 90k visits on Twitter in the last 28 days, and also to my faithful family and friends on Facebook who are reacting well, too.

Hunter’s Stone, Coverdale.

While rooting through my collection, I came across the above photo taken in 2013. The old stone sits lonely and exposed at the head of Coverdale just before Park Rash, the steep winding road that links Wharfedale with Coverdale, descends into Kettlewell. The tiny road was nothing but a track until the 1950s when it was first coated in tar, but it had been a monks’ way before that, and also a drovers’ road. It is believed that Iron Age people worked their way up here too, as evidence of extensive fortifications can be found (Ta Dike) across the brow of the hill. Back to the old stone, which is called Hunter’s Stone. It contains a small cross and was originally erected to guide monks traveling from Coverham Abbey to Kettlewell where they held land and took sheep to market. Local legend has it that every time the clock struck twelve at Hunter’s Hall, a few miles down the dale, the stone turned around. Hunter’s Hall is now called Coverhead Farm. Just a little bit further down Coverdale is West Close, which I’m told was once called Sod Hall. Shame they changed the name; it seems quite appropriate for today.

Lovers’ Lane, Langcliffe?

This weekend we rightly recognise the sacrifice made on our behalf by those who lost their lives in WW2. But I admit to feeling a little uncomfortable when people talk too much about ‘celebrations’ and ‘parties’ for VE Day. Remembrance and commemoration are more appropriate when thinking about humanity’s biggest catastrophe. Worldwide, 60 million people died during the war – take that figure in; it’s the equivalent of the whole population of the UK.

dandelion
Help our pollinators.

Dandelions are such useful plants for our pollinators – and therefore humans – so we shouldn’t kill them while in flower. The green in the village hadn’t been cut for some time and was covered in daisies, dandelions and clover: perhaps not too good for playing football but excellent for bees and butterflies… and it looked good, too – but perhaps only in mind, as the green has now been shorn and the bees and butterflies must now find their nectar elsewhere.

Dales Meadows, Madness and a March Mellow

There’s no point me prattling on about what a mad March it has been. I turned 67 at the start of the month and can’t remember a more strange time to be alive. Although, I do have recollections of 1962-3 when winter seemed to go on for ever. There was an ice slide which we kids created that lasted from December into March. They had to extend the football season then, and it looks like that will now happen again except for entirely different reasons.

Top and above, meadows and mist in the late sunshine near home.


At the time of writing, the Dales countryside is open but judging by the ridiculous number of people who decided to spend their unexpected ‘holiday’ here over the last few days, I’m wondering if the government might well now crack down on travel. I’m all for people taking a walk, getting fresh air and enjoying the scenery, but let’s be sensible about it. All the usual Dales tourist hotspots were heaving with people – bigger crowds than at many football matches I’ve been to (but then I do support Huddersfield Town). The ice-cream even set up in Horton. Come on, folks. This is deadly serious. As some of you know, my son runs a cleaning-caretaking business and despite the fact that much personal hardship will follow, and the threat of losing customers, he has decided to cancel all bookings for the time being to help stop the virus from spreading.

Isolation at the deserted village of Thorns, near Ribblehead.

So much for me not prattling on … anyway, the photos I’ve put together here were all taken on solo trips, during quiet times, close to home and far from the madding crowds…

Ancient Thorns Bridge; below, the 24 arches of Ribblehead Viaduct – all the photo needs is a train.
This distant shot of Penyghent looked a lot better in real life than on screen. You’ll just have to believe me.
Another technically poor shot of Penyghent but I couldn’t resist the light seen from several miles away at Ingleborough Nature Reserve.
Hard to believe that the above and below photos of Penyghent were taken just 48 hours apart.
Classic view of Ribblesdale from Winskill. Always worth a look.
The colour of the sky tempted me out of the house around 6pm the other evening for a few shots around Langcliffe.
Dales
Embracing the mellow sun. St John’s, Langcliffe.

A Walk at Sunset

When insect wings are glistening in the beam
Of the low sun, and mountain-tops are bright,
Oh, let me, by the crystal valley-stream,
Wander amid the mild and mellow light;
And while the redbreast pipes his evening lay,
Give me one lonely hour to hymn the setting day.

William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878)

Yorkshire surnames here

A stormy relationship with the Yorkshire Dales

I thought I’d better post my latest blog before the current storm blows my roof off and leaves me homeless. I already have some loose slates (no personal quips, please, I’m talking about my house) so a few more hefty gusts and the whole lot could go. The recent bombardment of stormy winds, sleet, snow and oodles of rain has not put me off living in the Dales though. The Three Peaks are continually changing their tops. Some days, I’ve not been able to see those tops except for tantalising glimpses as low cloud brushes by, other times they’ve been covered in frost, snow and even sunshine.

Peak 1: Yes, we even had sunshine over Penyghent.

Too much of our lives is spent on Twitter, Facebook or whatever virtual way of life floats your boat. I’ve been trying to cut back on digital time recently. The Dales have always provided me with a better means of escape; they remind me that Nature drives forward and doesn’t look back. Wildlife – plants, and animals other than humans – tackle the next challenge regardless of opinions. We’re supposed to be more advanced and superior, but plants and other animals have been around much longer than us, have learned to survive better than us, and I reckon they’ll be around long after we’ve tried our damnedest to wreck the lives of other humans – and our planet.

Peak 2: Whernside looks a lot bigger from this angle; looking over Ingleton.
Peak 3: Moody (and cold) around Ingleborough as seen from the nature reserve.

Here in Ribblesdale, I’ve enjoyed seeing the steam train specials back on the Settle-Carlisle line. They create great theatre and are a welcome addition to the attraction of the Dales. While waiting on a freezing late afternoon at Ribblehead for a Dalesman steam special the other day, I thought about how the few inhabitants of this isolated part of Upper Ribblesdale might have felt when their land was being sliced through by Victorian entrepreneurs eager to build the line and make some money.

A dramatic entrance at Langcliffe.


Today, we have HS2 constructors churning up ancient woodland, wrecking wildlife habitats, ruining people’s personal spaces and blighting properties for the sake of knocking a few minutes off journeys to and from London. It’s an extremely expensive vanity project through a country in which some inhabitants are having to use food-banks to feed their children. The money could be spent on social housing and creating a better local transport network – for example, making better use of structures already in existence such as the Settle-Carlisle line.
I don’t suppose I’ll be around when (if) the HS2 route reaches Leeds. If I am, no doubt it’ll still take me longer to get from Langcliffe to Leeds or Manchester than the rest of the journey to London, so I’ll stick to shuffling up and down Ribblesdale in a storm-powered wheelchair.

Alberta returning to Settle over Ribblehead Viaduct.

I read recently that many Londoners, fed up with paying a fortune for a tea in the capital have ‘discovered’ that it’s cheaper to live up t’ North. Well, who’d-a thowt it? A little warning to anyone thinking of moving to my spot in Ribblesdale: you can’t always get a mobile signal here and you’ll need a big coat.

Settle after the first storm.
Late pitch inspection at Settle United FC.
Some waterfalls are rarely seen except after or during storms – this one at Lower Winskill seems to be wanting to get back up the hill.

Some might find this a strange thing to say, but I have no problem with businesses and factories setting up in the Dales. They bring employment and revenue into our small towns and villages; they help fill our properties and bring families into the area. But what I don’t like is when those businesses don’t respect the surroundings or neighbours, or have complete disregard for landscape and wildlife …

PS: When I die, I want the Huddersfield Town FC team to lower me into my grave so they can let me down one last time.

There are now 136 names in my Yorkshire Surnames file – see if your name appears here

The decades come and go but the Dales remain the same

Yorkshire Dales photography

I’ve just realised that tomorrow (barring some monumental mishap during New Year’s Eve celebrations) I will be witnessing my eighth decade. Hell, that makes me feel old. From the 1950s to the 2020s each decade has been different on a personal and also on a wider level. How quickly those ten-year blocks of time have passed by.

Yorkshire Dales photography
Moody around Ribblehead in early December


I wonder if living in the Dales makes you feel as though times have not changed as much as if you had spent most of your days in a big city? The landscape around here hasn’t altered a great deal throughout those decades. Generations of sheep have chomped away at the Dales pastures and kept it looking pretty much as it was a century ago. There’s been some new building here and there, but overall the face of the Dales has aged a lot better than my own.

Yorkshire Dales Photography
Looking over Kingsdale to Ingleborough.


Waterfalls here in Ribblesdale continue to cascade as they always have, holding my attention as much today as they did fifty years ago. I stare at the majesty of the Three Peaks in wonder as much now as I did when I first saw them as a youngster. I walk the same paths – which, like me, are a bit more eroded and weather-worn. And I enjoy the changing Dales as the seasons pass by; spring, summer, autumn and winter all displaying their unique qualities on the landscape.

steam trains on the Settle-Carlisle
Flying Scotsman making a flying visit to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.


Since my last blog in November, we seem to have had all four seasons here in Ribblesdale. I hope my photos give you a flavour of what we’ve witnessed.

Ingleborough with Falls Foot landslip clearly visible.

I’d actually written a wordy rant for this month, covering my feelings about the state of the country, its political leaders and those unelected (British) right-wingers who are taking over. But I decided to keep my thoughts bottled up, and instead to take a step back, enjoy the Dales a bit more and watch The Repair Shop as often as possible. They are such nice, polite people aren’t they? I’m voting for them in the next election.

Sunrise in Langcliffe when the snow made a fleeting visit.
sunset Dales
There have been a few spectacular sunsets this month.
St Andrew’s in Dent.

I recently read a leaflet that stated it’s okay to have sex at 65. So if you’ll excuse me now, I’m just popping round to number 65 …