Dales in mad March and democracy (14 pics)

A Dales March can roar in like a lion and leave like a lamb, as the old saying (roughly) goes. This year March didn’t really know what it was supposed to be doing: pretty much like the government really. Sadly, the shutter broke on my overworked old camera so I’ve not been able to capture so much of this changeable weather’s effect on the Dales.

One day there’s snow on the Three Peaks, another day gale-force winds charge down Ribblesdale. The river almost burst its banks at one point and there were also some T-shirt days to boot. Top photo: not the best shot I’ve ever taken but I just liked the stark contrast in the dale around Horton-in-Ribblesdale on the day.

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The other 2 of the Three Peaks with their snowy caps on.

Whenever it snows during spring I think of the Dales hill farmers. Their job is tough enough at lambing time without having to cope with freezing conditions and difficulty getting around the fells.

In her book, Yorkshire Heritage, Marie Hartley writes about one of the isolated farms at Ravenseat. The place is better known nowadays thanks to the well-documented lives of that lovely couple Clive and Amanda Owen and their large flock of children. (See my post http://www.jacksoneditorial.co.uk/2017/01/). Marie Hartley talks about the place during the 1930s when one stormy night a family living there had to take a poorly child by sledge to the main road and then on to Kirkby Stephen. Sadly the young girl died shortly afterwards.

We take so much for granted today: phones, 4x4s, helicopters, Mountain Rescue, etc. The Dales can be a treacherous place to get stranded. One evening this week I was driving back from the top end of Ribblesdale in a snow/sleet storm. Windscreen wipers were in manic mode. Suddenly the road was completely white. I could see no tyre tracks in front of me and nothing in the gloom behind. It reminded me of how quickly conditions can change and how vulnerable you can feel here – even in ‘spring’.

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On a sunnier day I popped over to Malham and walked to Janet’s Foss and Gordale. The white-painted shop is what many people remember from their childhood visits to the village.
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I had another fine-day stroll around Wharfe near Austwick. The blossom was out and it felt like proper spring … until the snow came.
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Again, not a brilliant photo but I liked seeing the pony with the sun on its back at Wharfe (below).

Take care, son

Before retiring I worked with Tony Husband – a brilliant cartoonist who is also involved with dementia care. This poem, which always makes me shed a tear on reading, is from his lovely and thoughtful little book Take Care, Son: The Story of My Dad and His Dementia. You can get it on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Take-Care-Son-Story-Dementia/dp/1472115562 or from book shops for under a fiver – and it is worth double that amount.

Democracy? What democracy?

There are a lot of people banging on about democracy at the moment. Many believe that because they shout the loudest they have some kind of democratic right to have things their own way. They then cry foul when those supposedly democratically elected don’t ‘represent’ them.

Because of our voting system, we don’t live in a ‘dictionary-defined’ democracy. That’s why MPs will never truly represent the majority of people. For example, in the last election the Greens got 512k votes but just 1 MP, whereas DUP received only 292k votes but 10 MPs. The Lib-Dems got nine times that number of votes but only 12 MPs.

In the ill-conceived EU referendum, leave got 17.4m votes, remain received 16.2m while 13m didn’t vote at all. So when people say ‘the majority of Brits wanted to leave’, that’s not strictly true is it?

The voting and political system in this country needs bringing into the 21st century; Westminster needs turning into a museum and some of its dusty inhabitants should be mothballed. Rant over.

Evening light on rushes at Helwith Bridge.

‘And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
Among the rocks and winding scars;
Where deep and low the hamlets lie
Beneath their little patch of sky
And little lot of stars:’
Wordsworth

It looks like the end of a warm day up on Winskill – but actually it was freezing.

Inspirational Yorkshire women

My interview with Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess, appears in February’s Countryman magazine which is now on sale. Amanda is a remarkable young lady who with husband Clive and nine (at the last count) children live and farm at out-of-the-way Ravenseat in Birkdale. As I re-read the article I am reminded of a piece I wrote in Dalesman about another fine Yorkshire woman, Hannah Hauxwell. On the face of it they appear to be very different characters and their lives have certainly taken diverse paths. Hannah, before retiring, lived a solitary existence with just a few animals; Amanda, although isolated, is surrounded by her extensive family and hundreds of sheep and other animals. But they are similar in that both are strong willed and extremely hard working individuals, showing true Yorkshire grit. Both have beautiful complexions – that’s what clean Yorkshire air and clear Dales water does for you – with gentle mannerisms and caring attitudes. In my head I can still hear Hannah’s soothing tones, tinted with that North-East influence you find amongst those born near the Tees. Amanda, originally from Huddersfield, retains a hint of the West Riding in her speech which I recognise from my own childhood in the Heavy Woollen District. Both are completely unpretentious with a natural warmth, and I feel privileged to have met the two of them. Yorkshire women aren’t all Nora Batty stereotypes – they can be inspirational too. http://www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk

 

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Amanda Owen and two of her younger children at her Ravenseat home

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Isolated Ravenseat

As relief from a spot of decorating, on Wednesday I drove through several Yorkshire Dales and up to Dent Station. Directly above me was as clear a blue sky I’d seen for ages, but looking towards the horizon the distant view was masked by a fine mist. The landscape west down Dentdale was still impressive but the bitterly cold wind meant I didn’t linger for long. Over the old Coal Road the views down Wensleydale, Mallerstang and Garsdale were similarly shrouded. I stopped off at Garsdale Station to pat my favourite metal dog, Ruswarp. He was still gazing out expectantly waiting for the return of his master. A quick stroll to Cotter Force proved as worthwhile as ever. The sound of tumbling water seemed to echo around like applause in a small theatre.

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View from Dent Station

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Garsdale Station with Ruswarp

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Cotter Force

On Friday more blue sky in Ribblesdale tempted me out again. Penyghent and Fountains Fell looked great but further along the Silverdale Road I hit low cloud. I could hardly see 20 yards in front of me which meant the route along the narrow unfenced road and the steep descent into Halton Gill was interesting to say the least.

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Day of contrasts. Heading along Silverdale Road into the fog.

A stunning morning yesterday saw me at Helwith Bridge. The view along Ribblesdale from above the fishery was grand (see top pic). My old friend Penyghent looked like an iced cake. I imagine plenty of people were tempted to trek up the mountain but I was f-f-f-f-frozen – no way would I have gone up there, so it was back home for some proper cake.

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Snow on Winskill Stones ,Ribblesdale

Snow, a storm and a Dales star

dales ribbleHalf a dozen dales, a destructive storm, snow and a TV star … it’s been a funny old week. 14 pics to enjoy. My camera captured the last of autumn’s colours down by the Ribble (top pic). My cottage roof captured the worst of the storm, with several tiles being dislodged. Fortunately the storm and the worst (or the best, depending on your point of view) of the snow dispersed later in the week so I was able to keep a date with the ‘Yorkshire Shepherdess’ Amanda Owen on her isolated farm at Ravenseat.

Being short of time today I’ll let the photos and captions tell the story.
PS: A dales date for your diary… meet David and Janet Mitchell at The Folly, Settle on Tuesday Nov 29, 10am-4pm to help celebrate the launch of the new Dalesman book, Bill Mitchell’s Yorkshire.

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Snow-capped Penyghent seen in the distance from the mill pond at Langcliffe

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Late colours on the mill pond. 

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A cold start to the day in the Dales… frost on the higher trees and a lively River Ribble rushing by some late autumn colour.

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Before the storm – plenty of blue sky above Langcliffe. The snow line was just a couple of hundred feet away on this day.

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Giggleswick Chapel looking like a Victorian postcard.

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The sad sight of disappearing snowmen at Winskill. All that work just melting away.

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A classic dales view. Looking across Ribblesdale from Winskill to a snowy Ingleborough.

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Two views of Penyghent. Looks inviting but with icy winds blowing, the temperature up at the top was well below freezing – not that I went up to find out.

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Further north in the dales – Wainwath Falls near Keld in Swaledale.

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Looking across a frozen dales landscape from Buttertubs Pass. The sky seems to blend into the icy landscape.

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View from Buttertubs looking back towards Ingleborough.

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Ravenseat, the isolated Dales farm of author, shepherdess, supermum and now TV star Amanda Owen and her husband Clive and their nine children. I interviewed Amanda for an article due to appear in February’s Countryman magazine.