Dales vampires and brass monkeys (14 pics)

Just as I find satisfaction in kicking my way through autumn leaves, I get the same childish thrill crunching along on a frosty Dales track. Cracking the small iced up puddles (after admiring their wondrous patterns) and feeling the crispness of the frozen grass under my boots, while being well togged up of course, is still a delight. I know, I know, I should really leave those lovely ice patterns for others to enjoy, but I’m just a big kid. Such conditions were plentiful in the Dales this week …

As you drive out of Settle over the top of Buckhaw Brow, just after the old road veers off towards Feizor, there’s a pull-in on the right. I remember many years ago tramping through the small wood here with friends who said there was good climbing to be found. I’m not the climbing sort and didn’t partake other than a bit of line holding. I can’t remember if climbing was allowed there at the time – perhaps I was also the lookout for approaching landowners. Anyway, despite passing this place hundreds of times over the years, this week I took a little saunter through that wood for the first time since those carefree days. It’s a tricky place to walk but there are surprises along the way. The caves are well documented (do a search for ‘caves Buckhaw Brow’) for those who like that kind of thing. I also saw many signs that climbing still takes place here. If you look closely on this photo you can make out hooks on the overhang.

Banks are closing down at a rapid rate throughout the Dales- yet another blow for rural communities around the country. Still, it’s not a new thing … this one in Dent, which I photographed on Monday, closed in 1972!

Dales churches

St Andrew’s, Dent, dates back to the 12th century, was rebuilt in 1417, restored in 1590, and again in 1787. A further restoration was carried out in 1889–90.

There’s a gravestone by the church porch which is said to be the final resting place George Hodgson who died in 1715, aged 94. Local legend has that if you saw George’s ghost around the churchyard in the moonlight then you would quickly die. Dent’s God-fearing folk decided he was probably a vampire and that his body should be exhumed from its original grave and placed by the church door. It is said that on exhuming his body, George’s hair and nails had grown and his skin was a glowing pink. Just to make sure he was dead a stake was thrust through his heart. His ‘new’ gravestone appears to have a hole in it, in case an extra stake is ever needed. Those misery guts who like to pour cold water over such fanciful tales say the gravestone is a gatepost that has been reused, and the hole is simply part of the mechanism. I say let’s dig up the old beggar and ask him.

I couldn’t go to Dent and not take a photo of the Adam Sedgwick memorial – especially when there are no cars or people around.
One pleasant Dales sunset this week; I didn’t know the bird was on the photo until after downloading.


I was reminded of brass monkeys yesterday when I saw Langcliffe’s festive tree during the freezing temperatures.

Where you send a Yorkshire convict (14 pics)

YorkshireIf I was ever banished from Yorkshire for some heinous crime – such as criticising Geoff Boycott, cooking Lancashire hotpot, or opening my wallet in public – then I’d like to be transported to Kirkby Lonsdale. In fact, many places in Westmorland would suit me as a Yorkshire convict. Even when I travelled through on a dull, unphotogenic day recently there was plenty to admire in this borderland which changes landscape character from gentler dales to rugged Lakeland fells.

Looking east from Kirkby Lonsdale.

Anyway, I’m happy to remain in the White Rose county, and I have no intention of breaking in Yorkshire laws at present. We in the western Dales missed the worst of the county’s snowfall this week but by gum it were parky. With plenty of blue sky around I got some nice shots on my local travels (top shot shows Penyghent from the churchyard of St Oswald’s, Horton-in-Ribblesdale), and I enjoyed a couple of splendid sunsets.

Frost on the gate, Penyghent in background
Not a clear-blue-sky shot on this day along Chapel-le-Dale but the light on the limestone made it worth pulling over for a quick photo.
These two pictures were taken from the narrow back road between Buckhaw Brow and Feizor. Top one shows how Feizor is snuggled beneath the limestone hills. The other shows a distant Penyghent above the limestone escarpments.

My photo doesn’t do this scene justice. There was some lovely late sun on the eastern slopes of Ribblesdale near Helwith Bridge, and the moon shone brightly in a clear sky. Below, the following day ended in colourful fashion above the village rooftops.

Yorkshire Dales churches

This week’s church is St Oswald’s at Arncliffe. There has been a church here, beside the River Skirfare in Littondale, since the early 1100s. The earliest building was demolished in the 1400s and a new one built. There have been many alterations since, but the tower remains from that 15th-century rebuild.

The next four shots were taken around Langcliffe on a cold and frosty morning…

Finally, I can officially mention Christmas now that Settle lights have been switched on. Please shop close to home and support your local businesses. http://www.settle.org.uk


There’s not a hotter otter in the Dales

dalesRain, floods, freezing temperatures, snow, cloudy skies and clear skies – yes, a typical weather week in the Dales. But what perked me up was the sight of an otter on Langcliffe mill pond early Thursday morning. It wasn’t long before the sighting became hot news – more than 5,000 viewed my (poor) photo posted on Twitter, and many folk headed to Langcliffe Locks to get a view of the otter. I wondered if the otter had found its way to the pond as respite from the flooding river. Neighbours tell me they later saw it back by the riverbank. Although otters are quite a common site for some folk, in all my years observing the Ribble I’ve never come across one on this stretch. It will be welcomed by many wildlife groups but I dare say some anglers – and fish – won’t be too impressed by its presence. Three shots of it swimming in the mill pond:

Around Ribblesdale
Minor flood on the Highway between Langcliffe and Settle.
While trying to shield the camera from rain I just about managed to capture part of a rainbow at Settle weir.
Angelic waterfall at Ribblehead quarry. The top photo in blog was also taken from the quarry and shows clouds swirling around Ingleborough on Saturday.
Dales appeal
This photo of Whernside was taken on Friday before the snow. The path under threat is towards the left of the picture.

There were quite a few Three Peakers heading out yesterday morning, taking on the 24-mile challenge in snowy conditions. It shows that whatever the weather there will always be folk tramping the footpaths between Penyghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. This week, ‘Pitch in for Whernside’ was launched by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority as part of the British Mountaineering Council’s ‘Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million’ fundraising campaign. The aim is to raise £46,000 to help strengthen the Bruntscar path on Whernside where the steepest section is becoming increasingly eroded, undermining the local ecology and creating an ever-widening scar on the side of authority’s highest hill. Last year £17,042 was raised to pay for flagstones on the Swine Tail path on Ingleborough. Further details here:

Penyghent in Saturday’s snow, taken from Helwith Bridge.

Dales churches

This week’s church is St Mary’s at Kirkby Lonsdale which although in Westmorland is now part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, so there. A lovely church dating back to Norman times, it has lots of quirky and interesting architectural features – both inside and around the churchyard – and is well worth a visit.

A colourful Dales Highway
Everyone seems to take this kind of picture so why not me? The walk along the Highway into Settle from Langcliffe proved to be colourful trip.

Dales dilemma and autumn glory

DalesThere are 12 Dales photos in this week’s blog. Yep, not just the one shown above. I had a message from someone who has been seeing notifications about my blog for over a year, saying that she’d only just realised there were actually many more photos to view if she clicked on the appropriate link. Clicking on the website link also shows other goodies. Enough of this self-promotion… it’s been a mixed weather week in the Dales but sometimes the light at this time of the year makes you appreciate oft-visited local scenes even more.

DalesI’ve taken countless pics from Winskill, like the top photo showing Penyghent, and the one above of the farm, Smearsett Scar and Ingleborough. But I can’t stop myself from going back to see the scene in different light and conditions. The view is only a few minutes from home – and I can be quite lazy at times. Here are three more taken from the road between Langcliffe and Malham during the same late afternoon light:


Dales planning dilemma

There’s an interesting planning application being put forward in my village of Langcliffe. The owners of Bowerley, a large Victorian mansion which now houses privately owned and rented accommodation, want to build a subterranean eco-friendly house on – or should that be under – part of the 3.2 acre garden to live in during their retirement. It’s an interesting concept for this part of the Dales and throws up something of a dilemma for planners. Although just outside the main village which is inside the National Park, Bowerley is still in a conservation area. Subterranean eco-friendly housing usually means plenty of aluminium and glass so I wonder how this fits into the definition of ‘conservation’. The applicants say the house won’t be visible other than from a distance at the other side of the valley – and from passengers on the Settle-Carlisle Railway. There are no protected trees under threat and as far as I am aware no great-crested newts live there. I have no problem with seeing something from the 21st century in the mix of buildings and I’m all for eco-living, as long as there isn’t a negative impact on surroundings or neighbours. I do wonder if being underground so close to the Settle-Carlisle the earth will move for them when the Flying Scotsman hurtles past?

I needed to pop over to Hawes this week but it wasn’t the most photogenic of days. But I did capture the beck, church (see further below) and Gayle Mill.

Nearer home I took these showing ancient field systems, a view up Ribblesdale and a fine tree silhouette:

Dales churches

Two more Dales churches this week: St Wilfrid’s in Burnsall has a lovely setting beside the river Wharfe. There’s been a church here since at least 700AD. The present Grade I Listed building shows additions and alterations from the 13th through to the 19th century.

St Margaret’s church in Hawes is Grade II Listed and was built in 1851. It replaced an older chapel of ease. Most photos you’ll see of it feature the slab path to and from Gayle. So, here’s another:

Where time stands still in the Dales

dalesOf all Yorkshire’s Dales, Kingsdale probably makes me feel the most relaxed. It’s such a peaceful place; small but perfectly formed. Kingsdale doesn’t belong in the 21st century and is much the better place for it. With Gragareth rising steeply on the west and Whernside to the east, this most secluded of dales can seem very lonely on a darkening winter’s eve. But on bright autumnal days with sun shining on the limestone, and glistening on the beck as it cackles over water-worn pebbles, Kingsdale is heavenly.

dalesI have a well-read phamplet that was printed by the Craven Herald in the 1930s, called Kingsdale the Valley of the Vikings. It was written and published by Frederic Riley of The Book Stores, Settle. In it are many photos of scenes which if I captured again today would not look any different whatsoever.

dalesOne day this week I parked in a lay-by on the narrow road from Thornton-in-Lonsdale to Dent where there is a classic view of Kingsdale. Should I head to the west of the dale and walk up the steep path through loose rocky limestone, or go east up the gentler slopes of Twisleton Scars? Thinking that my old knees would handle the latter much more comfortably I headed for the path up which I’d not been for more than 40 years, towards Whernside. Years ago, probably during a Duke of Edinburgh Awards hike, we’d camped in Ingleton and walked up Twisleton Scar and along the spine of Whernside (pictured above) before camping again somewhere near High Birkwith. No such trek today as I wandered around the fabulous limestone pavement where a few stunted trees leaned with the prevailing westerly wind towards Ingleborough. Here, odd weathered stones balance precariously which along with the trees present some classic (or should that be clichéd?) shots of the surrounding dales landscape. A lovely walk with extensive views over Wenningdale towards the Bowland Fells.

My granddad’s brother, Reuben Hepworth, survived the horrific battle fields of Flanders only to be killed in action exactly one month later on 11th December 1917 while on duty in Italy. He was just 24 and single. His mother Hannah, already a widow and with four children, received £105 10s 2d in April 1920 when the government finally sorted out his will. While we rightly remember those who died fighting for their countries we should also bear in mind the trauma felt by families back home.
I have Reuben’s Memorial Plaque – sometimes known as the Death Penny or Dead Man’s Penny. They were issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of service personnel killed as a result of the war.

A couple of shots from around Langcliffe in Ribblesdale taken on another bright day this week.

Like me, you were probably totally surprised to hear this week that some rich people get richer by avoiding tax. What shocking news. They’ll be telling us next that there are people on benefits who shouldn’t be – and folk driving round in cars that haven’t been taxed. Ah well, life just wouldn’t be the same in Little England if we couldn’t go ‘tut-tut’ about something, would it?

I captured a couple of shafts of light while on the Silverdale Road from Stainforth – one beneath Penyghent and the other on trees near Stainforth.

Dales churches

This week’s church is in the Mallerstang valley in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. St Mary’s chapel at Outhwaite has been around since the 14th century. The small low building contains a 13th century bell. Above the porch is a stone recording the restoration of the church by Lady Anne Clifford, who owned the nearby Pendragon Castle and lived in Skipton Castle, no doubt avoiding tax.

Why Ribblesdale is the place for colour and giants

RibblesdaleThere’s still plenty of colour to enjoy here in Ribblesdale – especially on those infrequent bright autumn days. Without a car for much of the week I stayed local, which is no great hardship in this part of the Yorkshire Dales. Photos show the trees and landscape around Langcliffe and Stackhouse.



Ribblesdale giant

It’s not often that Ribblesdale’s skyline changes its appearance. But during the week this oversized Meccano-type construction (below) took shape next to the cricket ground in Settle. No, it’s not Headingley’s new ground being constructed in the wrong place, it’s for more housing. Visible from all around the surrounding landscape it looks more suitable for high-rise office block construction in Leeds than for anything in this little rural town. Hopefully the resulting building will not be as conspicuous.

I did manage a quick walk around part of the Ingleborough nature reserve at Ribblehead one day – Whernside (below) looked splendid but I bet it was very cold on the tops.

Coffee causes chaos

I’ve never been a big fan of coffee – don’t care for the taste or the fact it stops me from dozing off. The trend for walking around the streets clinging to a cup of coffee leaves me baffled – especially when I see the carrier struggling to use a mobile phone at the same time. I’ve never understood why someone would want a cup of coffee while out shopping either – I just want to get as far away from the supermarket as soon as possible and back home for a nice cup of tea – in a proper mug. And I think some of the people I’ve seen and heard complaining about the coffee machine being broken in Settle Booths would be better off having less of a caffeine stimulant, not more. Anyway, the real reason for this elongated gripe is the amount of discarded cups – and other food or drink containers – littering our streets, especially those items which can’t be recycled. Apparently 2.5bn throwaway coffee cups are dumped in the UK every year – and less than 1 per cent of these are recyclable. Some environmentalists are suggesting a surcharge for using takeaway cups, along with a host of other measures. Why not just stop making cups that can’t be recycled? The same with plastic bottles, bags and other stuff which clog up rivers and oceans – we lived perfectly well before all this ‘convenience’ rubbish came along.

This week’s Dales church is just outside Ribblesdale near the source of the Aire at Kirkby Malham. The original St Michael’s was thought to have been built as early as the 7th century. It was completely rebuilt in the 15th century and restored in 1881. Also pictured below is the church’s famous Watery Grave. The story is that Colonel John Harrison and his wife Helen were so often separated by water during his career in the forces that Helen said they should be separated by water in death. When she died the grave was built over a small stream that ran through the graveyard, and she was buried on one side. However, when the colonel died, impenetrable rock was discovered so he was buried with his wife after all. It seems that wives don’t always get their own way.

Finally, can anyone tell me how Eggshell Lane in Clapham got its name?

Golden dales, treasured memories

dalesSunset at the end of a bright autumnal Dales day … is there anything to match it (other than a Dales sunset during spring, summer and winter, that is)? The skies were clear and blue over Ribblesdale on Friday but I waited until the sun started to dip behind the western slopes before heading out for a walk. Golden light created glowing red and mellow yellow as it shone on recently discarded leaves and those still clinging to ancient trees along this track out of Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

Barns and walls take on a softer glow on the road to Brackenbottom (below).

Long shadows on the meadows near Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
Deep shadows. Looking across Ribblesdale to a cloud-topped Ingleborough.
Almost the last of the bright light illuminates Penyghent.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week flicking through the pages of a brilliant new website set up by the Yorkshire Dales Society, or Friends of the Dales as they are now known. It records the history and heritage of North Craven area and is a portal to an array of catalogues, collections and archives. From its home page: “The website has been developed through the Capturing the Past project, which is part of Stories in Stone, a scheme of conservation and community projects concentrated on the Ingleborough area. The scheme was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.” Well worth a visit … but be warned, you’ll be on there for hours: http://www.dalescommunityarchives.org.uk

Some more shots from around home in Ribblesdale: cottages on Langcliffe Green, High Way between Langcliffe and Settle, Penyghent wearing a new hat …

Many of you will have already seen the following old photo of Settle but I thought it was worth a reminder – if just to see all the washing hung across the Shambles. At the risk of breaking copyright laws, it is a photo I took of a Francis Frith picture which appears in the book, Rural Britain, Then & Now by Roger Hunt (published by Cassell in 2004). I’m hoping that as I don’t make any money from my site and the fact I’m publicising the book for free this might save me from being charged for its use. Not all sites or publications show such courtesy (comment aimed at those who without permission have recently raided the blog and used my stuff!).

In my nostalgia column in November’s Countryman magazine (now on sale) I write about memories of Mischief Night – for any youngsters who have accidentally stumbled across this blog, Mischief Night was in the days before Trick or Treat was washed up on our shores from across the Atlantic. Ask your granddad what he got up to.

More Dales churches

This week’s Dales churches are both in Giggleswick, the ancient St Alkelda and the Gothic style Victorian chapel of Giggleswick School.

Now please excuse me as I go try to tell my central heating system that twice a year in Britain we try to convince the rest of a bewildered world we are in charge of time and we’ll do what we want with it.

A bomb dropped on the Dales

dalesDales storm watch… my top photo shows the quickly changing scene over Ribblesdale from Winskill earlier this week. I’d hung around a while waiting for that strong shaft of sun to hit the farm. Moments later darkness fell upon the area and I scarpered down the hill to sanctuary back home. I quite enjoy being out in a summer storm in the Dales, as it refreshes the greenery, satisfies the thirsty trees and replenishes the rivers. But autumn storms feel more threatening, the winds are stronger and in my mind do no good for anything or anybody. I almost spat out my Yorkshire tea yesterday when I read somewhere that we should expect another ‘weather bomb’ this weekend. ‘A what? A (expletive) WHAT?’ I spluttered. I suppose I should start to accept that news nowadays is more about hyperbole and drama than pure facts. Is there some kind of directive going around newsrooms that the more shocked and startled readers/viewers/listeners are the more likely they are to be impressed with the output? Well, not in my house. It’s just weather for goodness sake, stuff that’s been happening since the world began. Sometimes the weather’s bad, and we feel sorry for those unfortunates who suffer from its consequences, but there’s no one up there deliberately dropping bombs on us – just yet.

Excuse the language… not sure if you will be able to read the writing on the paper sign on the board at Ingleton outdoor swimming baths, but that’s the water temperature in Yorkshire f-f-f-farhenheit.

Just before the storms ‘bombed’ us and whipped off all their leaves, I thought I’d best capture the trees around Langcliffe village green.

Continuing my quest to photograph as many Dales churches as possible, here are a few more:

St Andrew’s Slaidburn

St Mary’s Ingleton

St Michael & All Angels, Hubberholme.

A warm welcome at St John’s in Langcliffe.

Perhaps an appropriately sombre photo of the year’s final steam excursion up the Settle-Carlisle line. This one taken yesterday at Hellifield – a lovely old station and a Grade II listed building.

Old and new technology? Mobile phone meets Leander the engine.

I tried to capture some autumnal action at Settle United FC … I think I’ll stick to landscape photography.

Finally I was saddened to hear that after today Mike Harding is no longer to broadcast his fabulous folk music show from the Dales. He’s one of the best radio presenters I’ve ever listened to – straight-forward, amusing, no gimmicks, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He’ll certainly be missed on the airwaves in my house. http://www.mikehardingfolkshow.com

Dales the place to be whatever the weather

dalesWhat a wet week in the Dales. But there are a lot worse places to be when it’s chucking it down, so mustn’t grumble. One of my favourite perching places is on Bowland Knotts where the Western Dales can be seen in all their glory. On Tuesday, while sitting on this gritstone outcrop at around 1400ft above sea level, I took this layer-cake of a photo. The Lakeland Fells weren’t visible this time but the Three Peaks were.

dalesThe above photo shows bleak Clapham Common from the same spot. Clapham is a few miles away but the smallholders from the parish were (maybe still are?) allowed to graze their stock here. The area was probably once forested and as I sat here I thought this would be the perfect kind of land on which to plant much-needed native trees.

With forests on my mind I drove down to Gisburn Forest and Stocks Reservoir for a few more photos and a stroll through the woods where the colours are rapidly changing.

Hoping in vain for another day without rain, later in the week I headed up Wenningdale to High Bentham and attempted the town’s Heritage Trail. A couple of miles in I had to turn back such was the rain and boggy ground. Another one to add to the list of dry-day walks.

Referendum for Yorkshire?

Talk this week about Yorkshire becoming a self-governing country got me
wondering if all of us who voted to remain in Europe would also vote for our county to remain in GB should there ever be such a referendum. What would our stance be over immigrants from Lancashire and the North East? There would be no problem about passports for Yorkshire folk, as we never leave the county anyway, but would we allow people from London and the South East safe passage through to Scotland for their skiing or golfing trips, or even let them cross our air space? The Dalesman has a test to see if you qualify as a Yorkshire person – take it here. Ashamedly, for a former editor of the magazine, I only got 11/12 (I know nothing about films – had that question been about Yorkshire football I’d now be a fully qualified Tyke. More revision required.).

Last Sunday there were some brief moments of sunshine in the dales. Stackhouse in Ribblesdale looked a picture (above). Below is the river Ribble at Langcliffe.

The Ribble was a bubbling cauldron at Stainforth Foss one evening this week. I tried to capture the violence and chaos – and a rainbow.

Also, here’s a short video of the scene…

Dales churches (again)

Adding to my collection of Dales churches are these two – St Leonard’s at Chapel-le-dales and St Batholomew’s at Barbon.

A short haul for a long Dales view

dalesFor a hill whose summit is just under 1,200ft above sea level, Smearsett Scar offers the kind of 360 degree view of the Dales usually reserved for walkers venturing a thousand feet higher. All the Three Peaks, Fountains Fell, Pendle Hill, the Bowland Fells and much more are visible. On very clear days you can probably make out the west coast.

Top picture shows views over Moughton Scar and Crummckdale towards Ingleborough. Above, the view south west over Pot Scar.
Looking up Ribblesdale to Penyghent; below the view of Warrendale Knotts.

The intricate limestone pavement of Moughton Scar stands out, and the green valleys of Crummack, Wenning and Ribble look gentle and welcoming. This small Ribblesdale peak, part of a short limestone ridge including Pot Scar, provided me with my only real exercise this week. A friend tells me he once spent a wonderful, clear, summer’s night at the top – it certainly wasn’t during this year’s brief summer.

Smearsett Scar seen from the back road between Helwith Bridge and Stainforth. Below, gulls enjoying refreshments in fields below the scar.

More Dales churches

As I trundle around the Dales I often stop off to photograph local churches. I’m not a religious person but enjoy church architecture and history. And during several decades of delving into my family’s past I’ve spent many an hour tramping through graveyards looking for clues.
This week I briefly crossed into Lancashire from the western Dales to visit St Peter’s at Leck, where there’s been a church since the early 1600s.

Today’s building (above) is a relatively modern affair, having been rebuilt in 1913 following a fire, but it is still a grand sight in this quiet backwater off the main road to and from the Lakes. Leck Fell and nearby Gragareth are two hills I’ve never ascended but I seem to recall potholing trips around the area as a more adventurous youth.

Just a couple of miles away, switching from the Diocese of Blackburn to that of Leeds – both sounding incongruous for this part of the country – is St Oswald’s at Thornton-in-Lonsdale. Like at Leck’s church (and dozens more around the North) it seems to have links with the Brontes. There’s been a church here since pre-Norman times, but also similarly to St Peter’s it was gutted by fire (in 1933). The church was rebuilt in a Gothic style and looks splendid set in a well-kept churchyard. Sitting here I imagined this (and the neighbouring pub of course) being welcome sanctuary for those who travelled the lonely high pass from Dent through Kingsdale.

Not moonshine

I didn’t manage to snatch a shot of the Harvest Moon – we’ve had some cloudy nights in our part of the Dales this week – but I did capture some lovely evening sunlight around Ribblesdale.