Mean, moody and magnificent – my description of the Dales this week (12 pics here). With many schools on half term, tourists have flooded into the area to boost the local economy and bring a bit more life into Dales villages where many houses are now second homes or holiday lets.
Camping and caravan sites have burst back into life … and visiting dogs have left their contribution, too. I’ve never seen so many little plastic bags full of you-know-what stuffed into walls and left beside paths.
Away from the crowds I strolled up lonely Kingsdale and explored the land around the Cheese Press Stone – I didn’t see a soul for almost two hours but I still came across several poo bags. Someone’s gone to the trouble of picking up their dog’s biodegradable droppings, placed them in an non-biodegradable plastic bag and cast them aside for wildlife to choke on. Unbelievable.
Glad I got that off my chest. But no doubt you’ll say – and I agree – there are one or two bigger issues for the world to think about at the moment.
Yes, I should be thankful for what I’ve got – the views from up above Kingsdale are superb; lots of different shapes and angles for photography even when the distant views haven’t got the clarity you’d hope for. Ingleborough, Whernside and Gragareth provide fantastic backdrops here; I couldn’t quite make out the Lakeland Fells today but the Bowland Fells stretched away into the murkiness.
I’ve seen moody mists, stunning sunsets and whopping whales (sorry, whopping was the only alliteration I could summon up for whales) around the Dales this week so here’s the rest of the photo diary:
A Dales photo for each month during 2017. Looking back on a year’s wandering – fairly aimless wandering it must be said – and photographing around the western Dales this year, I hadn’t realised how much the sky had dominated so many of my shots. Clouds move swiftly in this part of the country as the breeze sweeps in from the Irish Sea and strikes the hilly barrier in its way. A stormy sky can turn clear blue in minutes – and the opposite can happen quickly too, to catch out the unwary.
Photos can often hide the truth – the top picture, taken above Giggleswick Scar, shows a lovely clear day looking down on Settle bathing in sunshine. But don’t be deceived, it was taken in January and believe me it was freezing up there that day.
This February shot shows snow on Penyghent and a steam special heading through Ribblesdale.
In March I watched this dramatic cloud formation above Kingsdale as it made its way from the north-west. Whernside bore the brunt of the bad weather it brought.
About as far as you get in the western Dales is Barbondale. This April day was full of light and shade.
The Sun in May is still fairly weak and I was able to point the camera directly at it for this shot of a distant Ingleborough from Winskill.
The weather was right for a stroll up Attermire Scar in June. This was the view looking north-west, showing the track to Malham by Jubilee Cave and the foot-hills of Penyghent and Fountains Fell.
Just as the sun was going down on a July day at Winskill, Ribblesdale. Distant Penyghent soaking up the last rays.
A typical August sky and a typical walled green lane. I was on my way from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to photograph the impressive Hull Pot.
A September shot of Settle. I chose this one for my yearly round-up not because of the great view of the town from Castleberg Rock but for the shape of the clouds above, which take you to the distant fells.
October brought some storms to the region. I was right on the edge of this particularly nasty one above Ribblesdale before making a hasty retreat back home to Langcliffe.
As autumn turned to winter I was lucky to grab this November shot on the track between Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Brackenbottom before the gold and brown tints disappeared.
I had to include a December shot of a snowy Penyghent, even though Ribblesdale didn’t have a white Christmas Day. This was taken from Selside.
Thank you for continuing to follow this blog during 2017 and I hope you have a fabulous new year.
It’s been a funny old start to 2017 here in Ribblesdale and beyond. The weather has been neither one thing nor t’ other; I’ve not had much time for getting out and about, and in the world in general, us humans don’t seem to know how to cope with the messes we’ve got ourselves into. Still, plenty to look forward to this new year. Hopefully steam trains will soon be back on the Settle-Carlisle railway, my Huddersfield Town footie team will be promoted to the Premier League, and our unelected Prime Minister will have sorted out all the injustice in our country as promised. Well, anyway, there’s a fair chance we might get one of those three.
The more observant of you will have noticed I’ve switched ‘publication day’ for my blog from Sunday mornings to Monday. Two reasons for this: one, I seem to get more traffic to the site on a Monday, (probably because too many people spend time on t’ internet at their work computers than they do at home); and two, I’m able to make better use of my Sundays. Not that I really set myself deadlines in my retirement but it’s still a buzz to have a challenge. This week’s photos highlight the changeable conditions encountered in Ribblesdale since the start of the year. The top shot of Penyghent from Winskill is in black and white, but in real life it wasn’t much different.
A while back I took the camera for a drive in the Dales from Settle over to Malham, looking for some long-distance shots. It’s surprising – or maybe it isn’t surprising for those in the know – how different the scenery is along either side of the Craven Fault. These two photos were taken from locations quite close to each other, one looking over the once densely wooded expanse towards Pendle Hill; the other in the opposite direction across the limestone of Malham. The contrast is clear to see.
Last week’s successful hosting of the finish to Day 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire in Settle is still being talked about in glowing terms. To use the sporting vernacular, the town done good. A suggestion has been put forward that the Hollywood-style lettering should be kept clinging on to Castleberg Rock. Not so sure myself; I think storing the letters and dusting them down for special occasions is preferable. How long before a T or an E start to dangle at some ungainly angle or worse still drop off and give someone a nasty headache?
Back problems and sciatica ended any thoughts of me getting out and about in the much improved weather around the dales this week. Even just sitting at the computer is proving excruciating. Lack of sleep and being dosed up on painkillers have not helped the old creative juices flow either. So my apologies for this week’s abbreviated and uninspiring blog – fingers crossed my situation will improve over the next week. My thanks to friends, family and neighbours who have all offered help.
Sitting in the car is also painful, and I’m missing the drive up Ribblesdale to see the Three Peaks. Here’s how they look in my memory…
I heard a TV reporter, on probably her first visit to the area, describe Settle as ‘a sleepy little town in the Dales’. She was covering the Tour de Yorkshire on the day the media and cycling circuses (is that the plural?) descended on my part of Ribblesdale. ‘Sleepy’ Settle had woken up extremely early to the prospect of a media mosh pit in the market place and a lycra-clad army of warriors on wheels whooshing through the tiny main street, clearly breaking the 20mph speed limit while dozens of police just stood and watched. Over many weeks, various organisations, businesses, schools and individuals had been trimming the town for its 15 minutes of fame (and hopefully a much longer legacy) – and what a fantastic job they did. The Hollywood lettering on Castleberg Rock, the shop decorations and Giggleswick school’s brilliant landscape art being just a few of the worthy efforts. If you haven’t seen the Gigg art visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QOjxiXcFzg&sns=fb
I trudged up Buckhaw Brow to watch the cyclists flash by. I initially thought it was cruel to start the sprint at the top of a 12 per cent climb, but hey, these guys are masochists anyway so they probably got some kind of perverted pleasure from the pain. Frenchman Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) – pictured – was first to the sprint start near the top of Buckhaw Brow but he ended the race in Settle in 29th position – serves him right for showing off up t’ hill.
Of all the colourful action and crowd photos I managed to capture, my favourite photo of the day was this shot of former Tour de France stage winner Brian Robinson. The 84-year-old from Mirfield stopped (in a car entourage, not on a bike) at the start of the sprint to sign autographs and say hello to the hardy souls enduring the cold at this exposed spot. His delight and that of an admiring young fan is clear to see.
Walking back to Langcliffe from Buckhaw Brow via Giggleswick Scar I could see clearly how much snow remained on the high hills and I wondered how that would affect those taking part in the annual Three Peaks race the following day (yeah, really sleepy this area intit?). As it happened, around 700 athletes completed the course with Marc Lauenstein finishing at Horton in Ribblesdale in 2hr 48min 58sec – just three minutes outside the course record despite the freezing conditions. Mad as a box of frogs, the lot of them.
The already eroded course will have suffered greatly from yesterday’s pounding. I know the race organisers and others help a lot with path maintenance around Ribblesdale and the Three Peaks, and we all need to play our part. Some people could find irony in the fact that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) is organising a walk to raise money for vital work needed to care for paths being eroded by hikers. I’m sure the walk will do more good than harm! The YDNP is teaming up with the Heart Foundation charity for ‘A Day in the Dales’ centred on the Three Peaks. A selection of sponsored walks are being arranged for June 18 with all money raised being split between the charity and the Three Peaks Project. For more information about the events and entry forms visit http://heartresearch.org.uk/3peaks
Weatherwise we’ve had all four seasons during the week in the Dales – although we could perhaps have done with some thunder and lightning to complete a full set. On Tuesday I was driving down Ribblesdale and got a shot of Drybeck Farm and Penyghent (first pic in blog). Then around 7.45pm I just had to stop and capture fabulous late sunlight on St Peter’s, Stainforth. This Gothic revival church, consecrated in 1842, might not have the ancient history of neighbouring churches but certainly has a presence.
The snowfall got me looking back through my photo archive to see what was happening around this time in previous years. Last year I was enjoying the sun in Littondale where trees were budding well.
In 2014, April 29, notice the blossom and greenery at Dent.
The previous year I walked in T-shirt and shorts beside the Ribble from Helwith Bridge to Horton.
Mention of Dent reminds me that last week I had to leave out pictures of a steady stroll I had around Cowgill at the top end of Dentdale. The stream sometimes disappears out of sight here and you can walk up the river bed; at other times water rushes down from the surrounding hills to create a spectacular sight. The steep hillsides along with white-painted cottages give the area a Lake District feel. (Stupid auto correct keeps changing Dentdale to Dental and Cowgill to Cowgirl so apologies if I’ve missed any.)
Seeing this new build on the edge of Settle while on a walk to Cleatop Park on Friday reminded me of an article I’d read about the housebuilding industry in this country. The government continually tells us that the country needs more housing yet Britain’s biggest developers are currently sitting on enough land to create more than 600k new homes. The top four companies – Berkeley, Barratt, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey – own 450k of these plots, and are hoarding £947m cash set aside to build the houses. Last year those four dished out £1.5bn to their shareholders (Berkley’s chairman netted a cool £23m himself). Yet according to CPRE developers are still looking to gobble up more of our precious green belt land. We need to put a time limit on these vultures – build on the land within six months or hand it back for less than the price paid, oh, and keep your grubby hands off our countryside.
Sadly, Otley-born cycling champ Lizzie Armitstead won’t be in day one of the Tour de Yorkshire race letour.yorkshire.com which ends in Settle on Friday (her race is elsewhere on Saturday). It is very likely that Lizzie’s distant ancestors came from the settlement called Armitstead in the parish of Giggleswick. The surname (as well as the alternative spelling of Armistead) is still common in these parts. This old photo shows the former Armistead shop by which the cyclists will pass on Duke Street, Settle. Today we find it strange to see the sale of tobacco and sporting equipment in the same shop. (See also my surnames column link above.)
Settle is certainly gearing up for the visit of hundreds of cyclists and spectators. Huge Hollywood-style lettering on Castleberg Rock reminds everyone where they are, and local shops, organisations and individuals have made a real effort to make everyone feel welcome. I’m not sure whether there was enough money or material to spell out GIGGLESWICK across the scar. The sprint race passes through that fine parish and I’m looking forward to seeing the cyclists tackling Buckhaw Brow.
I watched some very pleasant sunsets this week. Instead of focusing on the sun itself I thought I’d try to capture its late light on west-facing hillsides. Penyghent, Stainforth Scar, Moughton Scar and Crummackdale all took on a friendly fiery glow. Someone asked me the other day how the name Crummack originated. In 1190 it was recorded as Crumbok which stems from an ancient British word ‘crumbaco’ meaning crooked hill – so Crummackdale means ‘the valley of the crooked hill’.
When in Rome…
On Wednesday I went to Rome and saw Wham. Before you put me down as some kind of jet-setter with a dodgy taste in 80s music, I should clarify that Rome, Farther Rome and Upper and Lower Wham are tiny settlements on left of those zooming up Settle bypass towards the Lakes.
The lanes and paths in the area between Giggleswick and Gisburn Forest are a great place to explore. Good map reading skills are needed in some places as old signposts stating ‘Footpath’ (but no destination) often point across vast fields bearing no obvious sign of a path.
There were hazy views of Penyghent and Ingleborough to remind me that I was in the western Dales, but you can easily imagine being in the undulating Yorkshire Wolds. Unfortunately, the walk was spoiled for me when the line ‘wake me up before you go-go’ got into my head around Wham and stuck with me for the rest of the journey.
Just a gentle stroll in Thursday’s sun around Thorns Gill. The water was low and inviting; the pools the colour of Wainwright’s Gold beer.
Whernside, Ingleborough and Park Fell stood out against the blue sky, not yet in their green summer coats – the nights are still very cold here. There are signs, however, that some bushes and trees are starting to bud.
OK, just one more cute lamb shot and that’s yer lot this spring.
I started the blog telling you about Cleatop Park didn’t I? Well that was Friday. I love the views on this walk – the Ribblesdale panorama includes all three peaks (it’s the 62nd Annual 3 Peaks Race is next Saturday, by the way) – but my aim was really to try capture bluebells in the wood at Cleatop. Alas, too early; just a few brave souls peaking through here. I’ll be back to see them and the wild garlic.
I also had a delightful drive around Dentdale this week but I’ve already prattled on too much so I’ll save that for another blog.
A tourist went into a Yorkshire department store and asked where he could find towels. They gave him directions to the bird sanctuary.
I spent a great deal of my working life looking at photographs, deciding which should appear in the publications I worked on. Often the decision was down to the story told by the photo rather than its artistic or technical merits. When all those points were satisfied in one shot the chances were I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for it. Now I’m retired but I still enjoy looking at photos. The internet provides a wealth of photographic material for me to view (get your minds out of the gutter, please!) but I also love visiting photo exhibitions where the art of printing and presenting also comes into play. On a very wet Wednesday I went to Wensleydale to see a photo exhibition by Selside photographer Hilary Fenten at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. She captures the essence of the Dales extremely well and obviously has a natural talent. Seeing such work helps inspire me with my own photography. The top picture showing Horton Scar Lane tells the story of Thursday – see later on in the blog.
The rain was pouring down in Hawes, as can be seen in this shot of the beck through the town centre.
And back home in Ribblesdale, this shot was taken with a shutter speed of 0.3000s which tells you how quickly the Ribble was traveling over Langcliffe Weir.
While the river was raging like a good un just a few yards away, Langcliffe Mill pond looked serene. Stainforth Scar in the distance had a cloud for a hat almost all day…
Many folk had a fine sunset on Wednesday but a combination of low cloud and fog here created a strange light and the chance to take a direct photo of the sun.
The previous day had seen clear blue skies as I strolled into Settle from Langcliffe via the high path. Grazing on the steep hills is donkey work, but the animal is perfectly developed for such land with its long back legs and neck.
I always think Castleberg rock provides a dramatic welcome to the town centre…
The forecasters predicted the rain would cease on Thursday afternoon so I planned a stroll up Horton Scar Lane from Horton village to see the water pouring into Hull Pot. The main waterfall was a great sight and there were smaller falls seeping out through the sides, making it look like a leaking dam about to burst. However, there wasn’t much of a collection of water in the bottom of this great hole so there must have been plenty of room underground to take it away down the hillside to eventually join the Ribble. I’ve witnessed water up to about halfway up the hole while other people tell me they’ve seen it full. It’s an awesome place and deadly if you are unaware of its presence on a misty day. At 300ft long, 60ft wide and 60ft deep, Hull Pot is thought to be the largest (natural) hole in England – although personally I think that title belongs to London.
I watched the cloud clear to reveal Penyghent but I wasn’t tempted to head up to the top – my excuse being it may well have started to get dark on the way back (honest).
The small wood near Ribblebanks at Langcliffe always puts on its coat of many colours around this time of year and is best seen from the opposite hillside above the railway line. The view over the stoneworks isn’t so pleasant but then this part of Ribblesdale, with all its natural resources, has always been home to industry with quarries, limeworks and mills providing employment for centuries.
Hallowe’en passed by quietly apart from when I was preparing for bed. I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw a grotesque grey-haired old man looking back at me. Where did my youthful looks go?
A major fault led to my best moments this week. I’m talking about the Craven Fault, caused by a prehistoric act of Nature which created some of the country’s most magnificent and intriguing landscapes. A walk following the fault-line from Clapham in the west to Grassington in the east would surely be one of the most spectacular trails in Yorkshire – over to you, trailblazers. I trod two sections this week – the first from near Feizor across to Giggleswick Scar where views down Ribblesdale and the floodplain early evening on Tuesday were exceptional.
On Friday I walked the Settle Loop – part of the Pennine Bridleway – which includes views of the fault-line over Malham and Malham Moor. For me though, the tiny valley of Stockdale provides one of the greatest panoramas. Heading from the Malham direction, the Settle Loop reaches the top of Stockdale and squeezes between the Rye Loaf Hill and the limestone scars of Attermire and Langcliffe. Here Warrendale Knots stand guard on the border between limestone and gritstone, and here the grand sweeping valleys of Ribblesdale and Airedale open up before you. Being there on a warm summer’s day certainly makes you feel glad to be alive.
(That’s not me in the picture – hope you don’t mind whoever you are.) Back to Sunday … after I’d written last week’s blog the day brightened up so I drove to Selside and a nice little photo spot near the start of the track to Alum Pot. Here Penyghent is perfectly framed by the trees which somehow grow from the limestone pavement. On Monday I strolled from the village up to Winskill to find that one of my favourite pointy-signpost-photo-foregrounds had been switched for a short stumpy little effort. I suppose it helps open up the view a bit but I like signs that have place-names on them. Perhaps the authorities have been instructed to remove all signs containing names because there’s an imminent invasion threat?
I got the rare urge to desert the Dales on Wednesday and use my senior railcard on a trip to York. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the holidaying population of the UK and beyond had decided on the same destination. As you’ll gather, I’m not one for crowds but the experience was bearable thanks to the many attractions of this magnificent little city, and I saw many sights and heard sounds I’d never normally come across back home …
With the sun still having its hat on yesterday I walked up to Castleberg Rock to take a panoramic view of Settle and Giggleswick. I made a very short video with my normal camera – something I’m not very good at, as you’ll see here …