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…
Dales photo opportunities have been rare for me recently but I have managed a couple of quick forays up Ribblesdale. As is usual in the Dales, the colour and appearance of trees can change quickly as the wind from exposed fells whistles from all directions through the valleys, and the temperature away from the towns drops rapidly. There are pockets of trees all around this sheep-munched region so autumn in the Dales is still a joy. Top photo shows Stainforth Scar as seen from the road to Knight Stainforth.
The other week I stopped off at Hellifield Flashes to pay my respects after being shocked by the decision of Yorkshire Dales National Park and the RSPB to withdraw their objections to totally inappropriate development plans for the area. Thankfully the CPRE and local campaigning groups haven’t similarly turned their backs. At a planning meeting this week the council didn’t come to any firm decision and said they ‘wanted to walk the area’. You’d have thought that after umpteen years of receiving planning requests for this green space they would have done that already. https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/saveourcravencountryside-108150632557939/
I attended the launch of a booklet called ‘Fifty Years On – Securing North Craven’s Heritage’, at the Folly in Settle last week. In his introduction to the publication playwright Alan Bennett comments: “The planning process is still weighted against conservation with the proposed development at Hellifield Flashes a good example. The planning set up is weighted in favour of a developer who, faced with opposition, can submit an amended plan as often as is required with the opposition eventually worn down and the developer winning by process of attrition.”
I’m not being NIMBY about this, but looking at the number of housing developments and applications being submitted for our region it’s obvious that developers are seeing this edge of the National Park boundary along the A65 and Settle as being an easy and profitable area – and that Craven Council are more than happy to tick off a few boxes of targets set by a distant and uncaring government. ‘Nobody wants a suburban Craven’ says Alan – I’m not sure about ’nobody’, Mr Bennett.
The splendid booklet celebrates 50 years combined work by the Settle & District Civic Society, North Craven Heritage Trust, North Craven Building Preservation Trust and Museum of North Craven Life. It is available from the Folly in Settle and other outlets.
Being confined to quarters for longer than usual I’ve watched a bit more television than normal and come to the conclusion that the majority of programmes are not aimed at me. I’ve never managed to watch a whole Strictly or Big Brother; or anything that contains wannabes or celebrities (what is a celebrity? I thought a celeb was someone I would recognise – but apparently not). I don’t do soaps at all (I use them now and then). There is one TV programme about people watching TV programmes and loads more where we witness people cooking meals, baking cakes or painting their houses. Programme announcers drive me mad with their smirky tone and drawn-out last syllables. When it comes to adverts I’m not the type of person to be persuaded to buy my insurance by a stuffed mammal or an opera singer; and don’t get me started on what is described as ‘The News’. Then there are those annoying programmes where they tell you what’s coming up beforehand, tell you again before every ad break, then give us a reprise of what happened before the break because we’re not capable of remembering what we were watching three minutes ago. I realise that many people who work full time need to switch on their tellies and ‘switch off’ their minds but… please let me back out into the Dales.
Great to see that the Blue Plaque Society will recognise the achievements of icon of the Dales Bill Mitchell with the unveiling of a plaque (7th December 2018) at Skipton Parish Church Primary School. Bill was a pupil there and the idea of a plaque was put forward by Bill’s son David who said:
“My father dedicated himself to writing about Yorkshire for over 60 years. He was editor of the Dalesman for twenty years and wrote over 200 books as well as hundreds of articles. He delivered innumerable talks and conducted countless interviews with Yorkshire characters. Many are contained in the WR Mitchell Archive, available online. Yorkshire TV marked his retirement with a programme about his life, narrated by Alan Bennett. He received an MBE in 1996 and was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Bradford. He was the first patron of the Yorkshire Dales Society. September 2009 saw him voted ‘Greatest Living Icon’ for the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In April 2014 he was voted 33 in a poll to find the 75 Greatest Icons of Yorkshire. Much much more is covered in his Wikipedia entry. There cannot be many parts of our great county that haven’t been touched by his magical presence. My sister and I are very proud of him”.
Half 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.
Such is life in Ribblesdale. I’ve gone from taking pictures of golden sunsets and striking autumnal colours to those of misty, snowy almost black and white shots all within a fortnight. It was very similar last year – take a look back at my blog posts for late November and early December 2015 and you’ll see.
Hot news once again this week regarding the future of Hellifield Flashes. The stretch of Ribblesdale countryside separating Hellifield and Long Preston alongside the A65, known for flooding and a vital home for thousands of wintering birds, has been a prime target for profit-hungry developers for more than 15 years. Plans for a ‘leisure complex’ have once again been submitted along with improbable promises of jobs for up to 500 people. Perhaps there will be hundreds of jobs (not necessarily new ones) while the place is being constructed, but once up and running I wonder how much employment will remain? I can also see a few individuals, like the owners of the local pub, chip shop and village store understandably rubbing their hands at the prospect of attracting more customers, but what of the quality of life for the majority of residents, the wildlife and those viewing the area from the surrounding hills? The plans have been submitted by Halton Homes of Bingley. Look on their website and you’ll see it states the Hellifield development is ‘coming soon’ – do they know something we don’t? Take a look too at their other ‘leisure’ development down the road at Pendle Chase which it describes as a ‘premium investment opportunity’. Years after planning was controversially granted for the Salterforth enterprise the place is still undeveloped. Make your own mind up as to who really benefits from such speculation and land grabbing then send your objections to Craven Council. Also visit https://www.facebook.com/saveourcravencountryside-108150632557939/
While I’m on one … Like many other people who care about quality of life and Nature I was appalled to see even more of Sheffield Council’s draconian tree removal this week. They say they must remove trees from streets because they can’t afford to pick up the bill for mending damage to pavements caused by tree roots. They claim it costs £50k a year (a figure I don’t believe given the growth rate of most trees). They say nothing about the value of trees, such as how they cut down pollution, how they shield traffic noise for residents and how they provide food and nesting places for wildlife – or how they just look nice, making places more pleasant to live in. I’m so lucky to live in my Ribblesdale village where trees are appreciated. Sheffield council has now killed more than three thousand trees. It’s okay though, the government has come up with £370m to tart up Buckingham Palace… well, that’ll keep Sheffield residents happy. Oh, and there’s millions for fancy new bridges in London and don’t get me started on the unimaginable amount of money being wasted on an unnecessary new train line for businessfolk to get to their London meetings half an hour quicker.
Best not devote the whole blog to misery … it’s good news that steam trains may be back on the Settle-Carlisle line by summer 2017 and that work on fixing the section of collapsed line at Eden Brow is well underway. And more good news … in only five weeks Christmas will be over with.
A short 12-photo blog this week as I was only able to grab a couple of strolls down Ribblesdale. My aim was to snatch some of the changing colours in the dale and around the village (Langcliffe pictured above). Fortunately there were some vivid moments when the sun shone briefly but strongly to add more interest to the scene.
Over the years of living in Ribblesdale I’ve learned the ideal times to visit certain locations for the best conditions. I love the light on the western flanks of Penyghent in the hour before the sun goes down. The colours differ depending on the time of year and the strength of the sunshine. The clouds also play their part in painting the scene. Sitting in a lay-by on the Little Stainforth road above Helwith Bridge you can watch the evening light over Penyghent and also see the sunset over Proctor’s Scar to the west.
In the early afternoon, a walk by the Ribble can be a delight as the light catches the leaves in the ancient riverside woods and on the trees clinging to Stainforth Scar.
I did venture briefly outside Ribblesdale. While I was in Kirkby Stephen I took a detour to visit the charming village of Barbon. The current church of St Batholomew hasn’t a long history but is lovely and in a beautiful setting. I was lucky to catch it in some glorious light.
Standing on top of Great Stone of Fourstones, which marks the Yorkshire border with that other county whose name escapes me, you can enjoy one of the best ‘driveable’ views of the south-western dales. The Three Peaks, Gragareth, Howgills and the distant jagged teeth of the Lakeland Fells are laid out before you. The 16ft-tall glacial deposit is the only one of four large stone outcrops remaining on this spot on Tatham Fell, near High Bentham – the others probably having been broken up for buildings and tools. I wanted a view but not a trek on Wednesday and this monolith once again proved an ideal location. With a 200mm zoom lens I was able to make out the layered-cake effect of Ingleborough and capture Whernside looking particularly dominant above Twisleton Scar.
After writing last week’s blog on Sunday I wandered up Ribblesdale and on to Stainforth Foss where dozens of people were on salmon-leap-watch. I wondered whether there would be any conflict here today, as just a few yards down river from the falls were two anglers … salmon fishing? Poaching? I didn’t stop to find out, but headed further downstream to Langcliffe where the colours on the riverbank and millpond stood out starkly against a drab sky.
I reckoned this week would be one of the best for capturing the changing colours and I was right. On Monday I took a stroll around Malham Tarn – almost ignoring the tarn and concentrating on the surrounding bogland, shrubs and trees. The last time I’d been in this woodland I’d been startled by a deer but there was no sign this time.
The blue sky came out later and I got some good shots of the eastern side of Penyghent. I was also able to snatch some great scenes around home later that day in the evening sun.
St John the Evangelist in Langcliffe might not have the history or ancient architecture of older dales churches but it is certainly a pretty Victorian building within well-kept grounds and it looks a picture when caught in the evening sun.
At this time of year I like to raise my eyes above the area’s wonderful landscape and take in the ever-changing autumn sky. It’s been a treat this week with a variety of clouds, shades, and sunsets. On Friday I sat above Winskill and watched an invasion of aliens beaming up all before them … I woke up Saturday morning with ‘REJECT: Beyond Best Before Date’ stamped across my forehead.
Yesterday, after strolling by the Ribble in some glorious changing light, I drove up to the old road between Settle and Feizor to watch the sunset. I also waited as long as I dare for an unsteady hand-held night shot, to capture an outline of Ingleborough.
Wednesday: Checked the weather via my iPad. Taken aback to see a great big exclamation mark in a triangle with WARNING written underneath in large capital letters. My first thoughts were of nuclear clouds raining down those nasty radioactive thingies. Should I stock up on food for the cat? Have I time to build a shelter? Is my will up to date? Then I saw ‘Yellow alert’. Phew! Perhaps I have a few hours to prepare to face the approaching catastrophe. I read a little further about mankind’s impending doom: rain. Rain? I read it again. It’s going to rain. I live in the Dales, in the north of England, of course it’s going to rain. That’s what it does here … on a regular basis. We have rivers, and streams, and waterfalls … they exist because of the rain. I tossed the iPad aside in disgust and pondered why ‘they’ have to make everything into such a drama, another soap opera. I put on my waterproofs (like you do when it rains) and ventured out to witness the predicted scenes of nightmarish destruction and see how the masses were facing up to this Armageddon…
One of my favourite places after a ‘little downpour’ is on the foothills of Penyghent along the Silverdale Road to Halton Gill around Giant’s Grave. As you walk across one of the fields here you can hear – and feel – the water rumbling its way through underground caverns before it rushes out to fill the normally placid beck. Above the road, Penyghent was hiding behind a curtain of cloud.
Down in Stainforth the swollen beck submerged the stepping stones, while at the Foss any hopes salmon had of making their journey up to the spawning grounds today were thwarted by this torrent. A short video here https://youtu.be/Jze79UvfCP0
A Stainforth chap, who knows I live in neighbouring Langcliffe, spotted me loitering suspiciously in his village and asked to see my passport. I said I’d applied for it and it was obviously lost in the post. I was allowed in temporarily – you can’t be too careful about border crossings nowadays. For his benefit I’ve rewritten an old Dales verse, reminding him that we in Langcliffe are indeed worthy visitors on his turf:
There are things they do at Stainforth,
In Settle and Horton too,
That we who live in Langcliffe
Would rather die than do.
With Giggleswick’s behaviour
We don’t see eye to eye,
for the moral tone of Langcliffe
Is very, very high.
My photo diary allows me to compare the seasons year on year. Locally, October so far hasn’t been much different from last year. I took the top photo in the blog on 12 October 2014 on The Highway, between Langcliffe and Settle, and the scene was similar when I walked along this quiet back-road yesterday (excluding the anonymous models whom I thank for making that picture more interesting).
I also grabbed some smart sunsets in 2014, and last Sunday the sky drew me out again for a little wander around Helwith Bridge. At first I couldn’t decide if above me were vapour trails leading to and from Manchester Airport but I learned later that they were clouds, possibly Cirrus Radiatus. There have been some great atmospheric conditions in the dale…
We interrupt this blog for an important public announcement
[Insert large exclamation mark inside triangle here] WARNING LYCRA ALERT
It’s been announced that Settle will be one of six host towns in next year’s Tour o’ Yorkshire (what’s all this ‘de’ nonsense? We’ll be eating garlic next). Do not enter the town next April if you are allergic to Lycra or offended by people wearing skin-tight luminous clothing. Please don’t stare at their nether regions as it only encourages them.
The weirs at Langcliffe (pictured below) and Settle looked much calmer yesterday than they had done earlier in the week, and I’m told that salmon have now been seen heading upstream.
Even the footballers donned autumn colours for their match by the Ribble in Settle.
Sadly, events this week have been over-shadowed by the death of friend and former work colleague Bill Mitchell MBE. He died peacefully in hospital on Wednesday night aged 87. Bill contributed to Dalesman Publishing Company (later Country Publications) for more than 60 years, doing everything from delivering copies of magazines to editing them, as well as writing books. When he retired as editor in 2008 he continued to write (more than 200 books in all) from his home in Giggleswick and freely gave talks and lectures. Many of his early interviews and recordings are in the process of being digitised for future generations to enjoy and learn from (www.settlestories.org.uk) and an archive of his work and collections is stored at Bradford University.
Bill was a modest man; he won many awards and accolades but I don’t recall him ever mentioning them in my company. He didn’t write for vanity or to amass wealth – he just wanted to record life as it really happened. When I sat with him for tea and biscuits – before his lovely wife Freda died it was gorgeous home-made cakes and tea – he would take me through a maze of stories, anecdotes and one liners, often with broad Yorkshire phrases thrown in for good measure. The stories never centred around him, they were about the people he’d met, the places he’d been, Nature, life and tradition. The mark of a good editor and writer is the ability to know and supply exactly what the reader wants. Bill achieved this in an unfussy, informative and entertaining way. He will never be replaced and I feel privileged to have known him.
The picture is one I took of Bill when we visited the original home of Dalesman in 2008. He’s stood on Brokken Bridge in Clapham. The top house of the row on the left is Fellside, which the magazine’s founder, Harry Scott, rented and used as a home and office from 1939 to 1955. The owners kindly let us in, and Bill reminisced about his time there.