My encounter with the Dales reds

Ten photos from the Dales and beyond this week. On Wednesday I recalled heading from Hawes to Snaizeholme while on duty for Dalesman. The red squirrel trail had just opened. It’s a fair old trek from Hawes railway station up to the viewing area and on that first visit in miserable weather I did wonder if a very fleeting glimpse of a distant red was worth the effort. I’ve been several times since – usually from a closer starting point – and been utterly enthralled. This week’s visit was the best so far. Not only were there many more reds scuttling about, but they were also more visitor friendly. I moved slightly away from the popular viewing area and stood quietly beside a fence, my right hand resting on a gate. I noticed some movement to my right and there was a young red sat on the fence just a few feet from me. I didn’t go for my camera but stayed very still. It continued towards me along the fence, ran over my hand and under my nose along the gate before jumping into the undergrowth. Two more chased each other at such a speed that neither me nor the camera could keep up – I have a lot of very blurred images to remind me of the experience. Top photo shows part of Snaizeholme Wood.

dales red
Not as blurry as the others…
dales geese
The noisy honking of Canada Geese echoes around Snaizeholme
dales jeep
Gradually merging into its surroundings in the Dales at Snaizeholme.

A day earlier I left the dales to meet some old friends over Huddersfield way. I enjoy the rugged Pennine moors and moody sky here – and my visits are made even more memorable when I see the town’s football team defy the odds to see off some of the league’s big spenders.

dales huddersfield
Not the dales… above and below, two views from Castle Hill as the light was fading

dales viaduct
A clear view of Dent Head Viaduct on Wednesday in the Dales
dales railway
Goods train passes down Ribblesdale beneath Penyghent, Wednesday
dales winskill
Subdued evening scene from Winskill this week.
In the middle distance is the farm famously sandwiched between the two sides of the M62 motorway as seen from Ripponden Road.

Tributes, towers and tales from the Pennines


Bill Mitchell’s funeral service at Skipton Parish Church on Monday proved to be a fitting send-off for a Dales icon. His children David and Janet spoke eloquently as they recalled life with their famous dad. He would have been very proud of them. After the service I thought I’d pay a private little tribute to Bill by visiting one of his favourite spots. I once asked him to tell me of his best-loved places in the Dales – a terrible question to ask, and one to which I usually give a very wishy-washy answer.thornsbridge He preferred peaceful out-of-the-way locations where he could contemplate life rather than those featuring great long hikes over mountains. He liked Cotter Force (pictured above) and other waterfalls, and also Thorns Gill, near Ribblehead, where I took a little wander on Monday afternoon. The beck was low and the trees were changing colour and losing leaves, which meant I could see more of the quaint old bridge.

When I joined Dalesman Publishing Company in 1993 Bill had retired from being editor of Dalesman and Cumbria magazines some five years earlier but he still contributed to them and for a while continued to edit from home another magazine which the company owned called Pennine Magazine, later to become Peak & Pennine. Alongside Bill I subedited and laid out the pages, the old fashioned way to begin with – cutting and pasting bits of paper for an outside typesetter to prepare for press.  Bill was very fond of the magazine. It gave him chance to write about areas and subjects not necessarily associated with the more rural dales region. His interesting and popular Milltown Memories articles stemmed from this. On Tuesday I had the chance of a whistle-stop tour of some of the areas featured in the magazine which sadly is no longer published.

The gritstone towns and villages clinging to the steep hillsides here are full of character. They sit in dramatic country where for centuries Man has tried, usually unsuccessfully, to tame  inhospitable land and conditions. The higher boggy moors of the South Pennines are really fit for nothing bar rearing game birds and a few hardy sheep. But it is the perfect place for collecting water, as witnessed by countless reservoirs which supply major industrial towns and cities of the north. They break up desolate landscape and provide some fine photography.
At Dovestone (pictured above), close to where the four counties of Yorks, Lancs, Derbyshire and Cheshire shake hands, the autumn colours brightened up for me what can sometimes feel to be a dark, claustrophobic – but exciting – landscape.

The sky and weather changes rapidly here on the high hills and this has proved inspirational for many leading artists, writers and poets. Holmfirth-based artist Ashley Jackson loves these moors and he has helped people visualise their beauty with the installation of metal frames around the district – see  I called to see one at Wessenden, a bleak spot on the edge of Saddleworth Moor, and after a brief stroll around the picturesque Digley Reservoir, it was up the winding route to Holme Moss, 1719ft  above sea level. Here another of Ashley’s frames (pictured above) highlights a wide-reaching and varied panorama of moorland, industry and history.

As if the hills aren’t already high enough in these parts, Man has decided to extend his reach even further. Holme Moss transmitter station stretches another 750ft high above the frame, while in the distance the giant TV mast of Emley Moor stands a whopping 1084 ft high with its tip almost touching 2,000ft above sea level. Tall wind turbines grab the considerable breezes to the south-east, while in the centre of the scene the grand Victoria Tower of Castle Hill is clearly visible. While I’m in full-flowing anorak mode, I can tell you that the tower is 106ft  high, which means that by standing at the top you are 1,000 feet, plus however tall you are, above sea level.
I drove down to the monument (pictured above) before dusk and although it wasn’t the clearest of evenings the 360 degree views were still a joy to behold. I then watched Huddersfield Town win 2-0 … also a joy to behold (but not as frequently available).

Being very busy for the rest of the week I’ve had little chance to do much more photography or walking, but strolling into Settle along the Highway on Friday I was rewarded with a view of some fine autumn colours.

Pleasing news this week is that the government have at last (it’s taken more than two years) decided on enlarging the Lakes and Dales national parks to bridge the gap between the two. Important places like Orton Fell, Mallerstang (pictured below) and the northern end of the Howgills will from next summer fall under the Dales authority. The government now has to find a way to pay for this extension at a time when they are slashing all park and local authority budgets. Will they eventually decide to sell off the Dales National Park to the highest bidder? Will my forecast in an earlier blog of there being a McDonalds or a Starbucks at the top of Penyghent one day become reality? Let’s hope they remember that the national parks were created to protect our countryside for future generations, not to solve financial cock-ups, or make someone a fat profit, or place in private hands.


Where the wind blows… and blows… and blows

castle hill

Whenever I’m around Huddersfield way and I have the time, I’ll nip up to the Victorian tower on Castle Hill and remind myself of the fantastic 360 degree view. Yesterday I noticed for the first time a wind farm on the south western horizon. The turbine blades ought to have been whirling round in demented fashion, as the wind on this exposed outcrop felt like gale force – alas, apparently you can have too much wind on a wind farm for a wind turbine to work. Could be a wind up of course. Certainly put the wind up me – nearly got blown over the edge.

castle hill windfarm

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