I went memory jogging in the Dales this week. I didn’t plan to – it just happened. As I was driving out of Hawes up the Fleet Moss road which links Wensleydale with Wharfedale a flashback to the 1970s occurred. I recalled the day when four of us were in an old Morris Minor heading up this road. The car was struggling on the long ascent so two of got out and walked up the rest of the hill. We were never far behind the car on our trek to the top.
This is Sleddale, is one of the short narrow dales I like, squeezed between Dodd and Wether fells with just a few habitations at the top end. Hard to believe there was once coal mining and lime burning going on here. I parked the car at the junction with the Roman Cam Road which runs up from Ribblehead and carries on to Bainbridge. The newly tarred road here looks and feels out of place, like someone’s used an indelible black marker across a Turner painting. The surfaced lane terminates at the isolated settlement of Cam Houses. On the western side of the moor are fabulous views across to Whernside and Ingleborough. From Cam Houses to Gearstones the track is rough but has been smoothed out somewhat to facilitate the transportation by wagons of tons of wood. Sitka spruce was planted in Cam Wood during the late 1960s ‘as an investment opportunity’. Around a quarter of the site will remain to help maintain a red squirrel population.
While here I witnessed the beginning of the Dalek invasion of the dales. Looks like they are making their way towards Wharfedale and have already exterminated a few sheep. One of the Daleks seems to have slipped on some sheep muck – perhaps their assault on the world is doomed for failure? Picture above shows the view the Daleks have of Wensleydale.
After wandering around with my head in the clouds for a while (see first photo in blog), looking at the changing light across Wensleydale, I trundled down through Oughtershaw and stopped by the infant River Wharfe to look up at Cowside Farm, pictured below along with my old pic from 2008. Back in 2008 I visited the then derelict farm before writing about an appeal in Dalesman aimed at raising funds for its restoration. The Landmark Trust co-ordinated the appeal and the farm reopened in 2011 as a splendid self-catering spot – see details here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q6BVOnpbsU
After a couple of snaps in Langstrothdale I had a wee stop in Buckden where again my memory was jogged. I’d spent several weekends in the 1970s at Buckden House (and also the Buck Inn and the George at Hubberholme; oh, and the White Lion at Cray … not to forget the Fox & Hounds at Starbotton. I think we also enjoyed a few pints in Kettlewell, too… anyway, I digress) I was on an Outdoor Activities course. I was pleased to see the big old house still buzzing with youngsters being introduced to the dales. I’d also spent a few bob on Mars Bars and Skittles at the old Post Office/village store in those days. I notice it is now for sale for anyone with half a million to spare. While here I also recalled a time even further back when I cycled up to Buckden and the dales from the Heavy Woollen District. The old picture isn’t of that visit but you get the idea.
Strangers in the dales
Through Wharfedale I turned off to Arncliffe and a reminder of the time at the Falcon Inn where I remember a couple of tourists staring mouths agape at being served beer from a jug. From cosy Arncliffe the road to Malham via Darnbrook transports you into a sparse, rugged and spectacular environment. Here strangely named places such as Scoska, Brootes, Clowder, Studdleber and Yew Cogar add to the aura. After I dropping down the Alpine-style road to Darnbrook and along the pastures I stopped in a passing place to let a car, well … pass. The young driver wound down the window and asked where the nearest city was. The expression on my face and high-pitched reply of ‘CITY?’ obviously alerted him to his mistake and he changed his query to ‘town’. A young girl in the passenger seat asked if they were in the Yorkshire Dales. I was a bit lost for words, to be honest. I named a few villages which received blank looks, then mentioned Grassington to which someone in the back seat acknowledged vague recognition. I then looked at the inexperienced driver and pointed to the narrow road behind me on the hillside with its 1 in 4 incline and hairpin bends and said ‘Are you sure you want to go up that?’ Anyway, there was nothing on the news later that day about missing day-trippers.
You can see the road from Darnbrook if you look closely at the picture, behind the sheep playing ‘king of the castle’.
I can’t think what reminded me of satyrs chasing nymphs, must have been some spam email I received. Anyway, the thought brought to mind the ebbing and flowing well at Giggleswick (bear with me). I’ve read somewhere that this phenomenon was created when a nymph who was being chased by a satyr prayed to the gods for help. They turned her into a spring of water, which still ebbs and flows with her panting breaths. Right, yes, of course they did. However, the well at the foot of Giggleswick Scar was once a big pull for Victorian tourists and other more ancient visitors to the Settle area. Nowadays you risk your life if you want to see the phenomenon, as it’s on the edge of the Buckhaw Brow road down which traffic speeds up to 60mph within inches of the well. I chose a quiet time to take this picture so you don’t have to get run over. It still ebbs and flows – not as much as it once did … I’m not going into a lengthy explanation here about the science behind it but you can find out more at
Thursday morning was cold and frosty. I had a short walk across Moorhead Lane from the Silverdale Road above Stainforth over towards Helwith Bridge. The distant views down Ribblesdale with Pendle in the background were a little misty but to the north-west Ingleborough was clear. There were plenty of lapwings fussing around a field where the farmer had been muck spreading. I thought I heard a curlew, which would have been my first this year, but I didn’t spot it. They usually know when spring is on its way, but I still think winter will have sting its tail.
I couldn’t let the blog go with a photo of Penyghent which looked fabulous again the blue sky this week. Shot taken from Selside.