10 Dales photos here. Earlier in the week I was staring down Chapel-le-Dale. It was hazy in the distance – and hazy in my head. I was overlooking the Old Hill Inn (see pic below) and thinking, I’m sure it was just called the Hill Inn when I went there in the 1970s, but I suppose even pubs get old.
I’ve not been inside for donkey’s years; if I do it’ll probably ruin the nostalgia. Back in the seventies it was full of walkers, climbers and cavers – and we drank lots of beer; there was nothing else on tap. If we were lucky there might have been a packet of crisps to share. I remember dozens of wet hiking socks and boots drying by the open fire.
Daft cavers and climbers would test their skills by traversing the exposed internal stone walls like gigantic spiders, making their way to the outside loos. I don’t remember there being a closing time but somehow we (usually) ended up in our tents in the neighbouring field.
Occasionally a guitar would appear and a bout of folk singing would break out; but the music genre depended very much on the clientele – my group of rowdy outdoor activities types, for example, preferred bawdy rugby songs.
The pleasant weather had me out on a few local strolls to capture the colour, flora and wildlife …
In other news: I’ve reluctantly switched from Yorkshire Tea to PG Tips and will remain that way until Yorkshire Tea remove plastic from their tea bags. So there.
My contributions to May’s Countryman and Down Your Way magazines include memories of the old kitchen ranges, a round-up of conservation news, and a look at the surname Holmes. Please support local magazine publishers: dalesman.co.uk Latest magazines available in most newsagents and supermarkets.
Just a couple of short Dales trips squeezed into this busy week. One fine morning I had a walk up to Norber Erratics, a place I first visited on a school field trip some 50 years ago. There’s always a different rock shape to photograph on these boulder-strewn slopes, but this time I concentrated on the views. (11 pics)
And once again I called in on that lovely off-shoot of Ribblesdale, Chapel le Dale. Here you can wander along (and off) the old Roman road without needing a great deal of energy as it follows the flat valley bottom. I branched off to God’s Bridge where the beck, when low, reappears after a stretch underground. With Ingleborough towering on one side and vast limestone scars accompanying you on the other (first two pics below), this is a fabulous part of the Dales.
Ancient Dales tradition
I didn’t know until recently that each year at one minute past midnight on March 31, an age-old tradition is carried out in my village of Langcliffe in Ribblesdale. The fountain in the village centre was once a well, around which a Pagan ceremony is thought to have been carried out. Although exact details have been lost in the mists of time, the ritual has something to do with the alignment of the moon and an mysterious boulder which once covered the site of the well.
Legend has it that if the shadow cast on the boulder by the first moon in April does not align properly with an ancient ley-line heading in the direction of Ingleborough, then bad luck would befall the villagers.
During the thirteenth century the boulder was moved by invading Scots as an act of defiance against the English. After the stone’s removal, the village – apart from the home of Langcliffe’s eldest resident – was inexplicably burnt to the ground. Some claim that Samson’s Toe at nearby Winskill is the actual rock.
As time went on and the village was rebuilt, the rock was replaced by a cross, and more recently by the stone memorial we see today. It now falls upon the oldest surviving member of the family with the longest lineage in the village to check the line of the moon’s shadow using a sacred yew branch, or ‘Prolifola’ (from the Old Norse word meaning ‘preserving life’), and to warn residents of any misalignment and thus of their impending doom.
Thankfully, there is still reading material around that isn’t politically biased or in the hands of corrupt owners. Magazines you can read, save, re-read years later and flick through without having to stare at a screen, remember a password or recharge a battery. While the aim of writing this blog is to give my brain cells a little work-out and to share Dales views, I still look forward to writing occasional magazine columns. So here’s a blatant plug for two pieces I have in the April issues of Countryman and Down Your Way. In the former I look back at what happened in 1958 when apparently we ‘never had it so good’. And this month’s Surname File in Down Your Way looks at the Yorkshire name Ledgard.
The long days this week have created some great lighting for photography in the Dales. The best times have been in the evenings – which has was good for me as I’ve had a busy time during the day at my computer. Locally I’ve driven the short distances to Kingsdale, Chapel-le-Dale, Crummackdale, Silverdale and Littondale – and of course Ribblesdale. The Three Peaks proved once again to be perfect subjects as they caught the late sunshine. They seem to be dozing like three sleepy cats after a hard day’s play, keeping their distance from each other but still having a wary eye on what’s going on. Fantastic, too, to see people enjoying the extra daylight – I’ve encountered road cyclists, walkers, runners and on Thursday evening around the massive bulk of Ingleborough, mountain bikers and paragliders. (A strange aircraft with propellors flew low over the top end of Ribblesdale as I drove home on Thursday evening. Even I don’t take pics while driving – so did anyone else capture it?). The top shot I’m calling ‘playing with light’. It shows patchy late evening sunshine over Ribblesdale. Other evening shots are spread throughout the blog.
One of my favourite pastimes is watching other folk work while I laze about doing nowt. I was leaning on a wall one day this week near Austwick, admiring the Dales view; nearby, two chaps were putting up a timber fence around a small thicket. I couldn’t tell what wood was being used but it reminded me of an old country proverb I once included in Countryman magazine www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk when I was editor. It went something like: ‘If you build a fence of elm you can forget it for 20 years. If you build it with oak, you can forget it’. A timely reminder that what we do today affects what we’ll need to do in the future.
It’s been a week for contemplating life hasn’t it? While sitting on a small hill during a short spell of sunshine in the Dales on Friday evening I watched several sheep wandering aimlessly around a field. Which one was leading the gang was hard to fathom; maybe they all believed the one with the dodgy hairdo, or the one with the loudest baa as they intimated that the grass was greener through the open gate. The ewes didn’t question the leaders and led their young into the unknown, never thinking the leaders could be telling lies or just having their own interests at heart. They didn’t seem to have a plan as to what to do once through the gate – I do hope there wasn’t a cunning fox waiting for them all on the other side. I didn’t hang around to see.
Doggy do in the Dales
Now that it seems we officially exist in an intolerant society I feel happier about having a moan about certain dog owners. I’m sick of finding these bags of dog crap all over the Dales, at the sides of paths or jammed into drystone walls. I’m sure I’ve seen a lot more crap about since we voted to come out of Europe (that’s a lie, by the way, but it seems lying is acceptable nowadays, too).
This sign near Penyghent Farm on the wonderful Stainforth to Halton Gill road, says: ‘The Countryside Stewardship Scheme – Part funded by the European Communities’. I wonder if there’ll be a sign here in future saying ‘Left to rot after England turned its back on the European Communities and went bankrupt’?
At the moment I, along with many experts (whom I listen to and believe, Mr Gove), don’t feel very optimistic about what will happen to our countryside or local wildlife and heritage projects once the exit from Europe kicks in. During the referendum campaign leave leaders either lied through their back teeth or genuinely just guessed when asked about what would happen to the countryside after leaving. Currently I can’t see where money will come from given the predictions of economic gloom, yet I’ll bet that pet vanity projects like HS2, which revolve around London and which will rip up the countryside for no good reason, will somehow survive.
I have a habit of saying stuff that shows my age. This week I said to a youngster (someone under 30), ‘What’s the recipe today, Jim?’ – a phrase which anyone over 60 will probably recognise from radio of the past, but to which the person listening to me responded quizzically by saying that she was not called Jim.
I was very pleased to see the initial plans for The Folly in Settle on Monday. It’s vital that this unique building is kept in good order, is utilised by the community and helps attracts visitors to the Dales town. The Folly’s development will help boost the local economy and provide another welcome focal point. All they’ll need to make the plans come true is some funding … oh, wait a minute though.
I’m pleased to see that from tomorrow (27 June) train services on the Settle-Carlisle line are to be extended to run as far north as Armathwaite instead of the current terminus of Appleby. The existing train times between Leeds and Appleby will continue with revised timings for journeys between Appleby and Armathwaite. There will be a number of changes to the bus connections so passengers should check the updated timetable before travel. www.settle–carlisle.co.uk/ Remember, the original purpose of building the line was to access Scotland – this could be handy in the future if there’s an exodus from England to Scotland – let’s hope that repair work on the track north of Armathwaite is completed before the Scots shut the border.
(Don’t worry, friends and family who voted to leave – my bitterness will eventually subside. And I understand clearly that besides the racists and far right who want to take over the country as a dictatorship, there were other factions adding support to the leave campaign – such as disenchanted people wanting to teach Cameron & Osborne a lesson; those who think they are being told what to do by Jonny Foreigner and don’t like it; and people who think the EU is a useless bureaucratic mess and want out. Unfortunately, when all that support was added together, the combined vote was claimed as a victory by a bunch of hapless liars and bigots who don’t want to understand the bigger picture.)
I’m working on a new feature for The Countryman called Classic Countryman in which I will reproduce some fine writing from the magazine’s archive. One series I’ve enjoyed researching is titled ‘Why I live in the country’ written by well known people in the 1930s. They talk about ‘getting away from the madness of the city’ and enjoying the ‘peace and quiet’. For me the main reason ‘Why I live in the country’ is being able to absorb views such as these looking over northern Ribblesdale this morning. You just don’t need any fancy words, do you?
So say the lyrics of some song sung by someone I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up. I’ve felt the same melancholy looking out of my windows this week so I tracked back through my photo archive to see what the weather has been like at this time of year over the last decade. This picture is one from 2010 – taken because I thought I saw the face of a cat in the sky. I hadn’t been drinking, honest. I used the photo in a blog I did for Countryman magazine at the time and several readers wrote in to say they spotted it too… can you?
The photo was taken at Bookilber, above Long Preston in Ribblesdale
Up to retiring from my job as editor of the Yorkshire Dalesman magazine in November 2012 I wrote a weekly blog about my travels around the great county of Yorkshire. I always took with me my trusty Canon 300D to make a photographic record of my trips and tried to include some shots – good and poor – in the blog. Readers got in touch from all over the world to thank me for showing them what Yorkshire is like or for reminding them ‘of the old place’. I’m hoping, if we ever get any decent photographic weather, to continue with the ‘service’ from this blog so please keep coming back to see where I’ve been… and get in touch if you’d like to see somewhere specific from God’s Own Country.
(I’m also freelance editor of The Countryman – a national magazine for lovers of the countryside – visit my blog via www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk . The new editor of Dalesman also publishes a fine blog via www.dalesman.co.uk )