17 Yorkshire Dales images this week. So, I made it to 65 – I can’t say unscathed, but here I am, now an Official Ancient Person, Silver Surfer or Grumpy Old Git – whatever you want to call us.
There was no big fanfare on my birthday no “whooping an’ a ‘ollering” as I escaped the shackles of work. I retired from full time employment five years ago to gently ease myself into a more sedate way of life in the Dales.
I read about this thing called ‘well-being’; that this was the secret of a long and satisfying retirement. The countryside, Nature, fresh air and peaceful surroundings help make up this ‘well-being’ thing, so I’m in just the right place here in the Dales. Perhaps I’ll still be posting a photographic blog (or whatever will replace the internet, computers and cameras) in 2053 when I hit 100.
To celebrate and enforce my ‘well-being’, I’ve put together a collection of photos showing just a few of my favourite Dales places. Top photo shows fields near Appletreewick. Above, sunset over Ribblesdale.
One favoured spot in Ribblesdale is Catrigg Force where I spent some time this week. The steep track out of Stainforth always leaves me breathless, but standing alone in this cathedral of falls is worth the toil. Now is a good time to visit – there’s usually plenty of water heading off the fells and the trees have yet to form that leafy canopy that can hide the main fall. Short video here pic.twitter.com/c9f845J4H8
Yes, I’m lucky to live in the Dales, but people in urban towns also deserve green spaces for their own well-being. Parks are for playing, relaxing and escaping – but right now they’re in crisis.
Cash strapped councils have been forced to slash the funding used to keep these public spaces alive. And now, one of the last pots of money our parks could rely on has also been axed. The Heritage Lottery funded parks programme has been scrapped, putting the future of our parks further at risk. In response, the Parks Alliance have started a campaign to make sure parks get this vital funding back.
You can help by signing this petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-heritage-lottery-funding-for-parks
A January day in the Dales can be surprisingly subtle. Yes, there are white-outs, blankets of grey rain as well as striking cold blue skies, but in among there are also plenty of conditions to satisfy those of a more arty nature.
Dales pasture news
You may remember a blog of mine from before Christmas in which I mentioned an appeal launched by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to buy Ashes Pasture at the top end of Ribblesdale. Well the trust have just heard from the Heritage Lottery Fund that their grant application was successful. So together with a contribution from the Garfield Weston Foundation and support received from trust members and the public, the fundraising target has been reached. They will now be able to safeguard and restore this fragile, important and rare habitat. Donations are still needed for the future – visit http://www.ywt.org.uk/node/24836
I’ve been reading a lot recently about research which proves that the closer you are to Nature or green spaces, the healthier you’ll be. Many of us have known that most of our lives without having some highly qualified research team tell us, but it is always worth a reminder. After too many days shackled to the house (voluntarily, of course – none of that kinky stuff here), and despite poor weather, I cheered myself up with a walk around Malham Tarn this week. I had the Tarn Moss boardwalk to myself. The bogland felt quite eerie with trees seemingly being gobbled up by the mire. All kinds of fungi and lichen look to be thriving, although I saw little of the wildlife or birds. I then walked to the Tarn where brief glimpses of sunlight reflected on the cold water. Just a 90-minute stroll in this part of the Dales, thinking about nothing but the Nature around me, left me feeling reinvigorated.
A couple of snow shots from the previous week which I didn’t have chance to post. Salt Lake Cottages stand out against the white background of Whernside, and Langcliffe village with the slightest hint of colour.
A video shot of this duck trying to walk on iced-up Langcliffe Millpond would have been better. Its cartoon walk, together with comic quacking and incredulous looks from the other duck amused me anyway.
My interview with Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess, appears in February’s Countryman magazine which is now on sale. Amanda is a remarkable young lady who with husband Clive and nine (at the last count) children live and farm at out-of-the-way Ravenseat in Birkdale. As I re-read the article I am reminded of a piece I wrote in Dalesman about another fine Yorkshire woman, Hannah Hauxwell. On the face of it they appear to be very different characters and their lives have certainly taken diverse paths. Hannah, before retiring, lived a solitary existence with just a few animals; Amanda, although isolated, is surrounded by her extensive family and hundreds of sheep and other animals. But they are similar in that both are strong willed and extremely hard working individuals, showing true Yorkshire grit. Both have beautiful complexions – that’s what clean Yorkshire air and clear Dales water does for you – with gentle mannerisms and caring attitudes. In my head I can still hear Hannah’s soothing tones, tinted with that North-East influence you find amongst those born near the Tees. Amanda, originally from Huddersfield, retains a hint of the West Riding in her speech which I recognise from my own childhood in the Heavy Woollen District. Both are completely unpretentious with a natural warmth, and I feel privileged to have met the two of them. Yorkshire women aren’t all Nora Batty stereotypes – they can be inspirational too. http://www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk
As relief from a spot of decorating, on Wednesday I drove through several Yorkshire Dales and up to Dent Station. Directly above me was as clear a blue sky I’d seen for ages, but looking towards the horizon the distant view was masked by a fine mist. The landscape west down Dentdale was still impressive but the bitterly cold wind meant I didn’t linger for long. Over the old Coal Road the views down Wensleydale, Mallerstang and Garsdale were similarly shrouded. I stopped off at Garsdale Station to pat my favourite metal dog, Ruswarp. He was still gazing out expectantly waiting for the return of his master. A quick stroll to Cotter Force proved as worthwhile as ever. The sound of tumbling water seemed to echo around like applause in a small theatre.
On Friday more blue sky in Ribblesdale tempted me out again. Penyghent and Fountains Fell looked great but further along the Silverdale Road I hit low cloud. I could hardly see 20 yards in front of me which meant the route along the narrow unfenced road and the steep descent into Halton Gill was interesting to say the least.
A stunning morning yesterday saw me at Helwith Bridge. The view along Ribblesdale from above the fishery was grand (see top pic). My old friend Penyghent looked like an iced cake. I imagine plenty of people were tempted to trek up the mountain but I was f-f-f-f-frozen – no way would I have gone up there, so it was back home for some proper cake.
Seven days ago I believed the Dales summer was all over and done with. So what a bonus to have a few pleasant days this week. I’ve been able saunter around the hills and dales with the fleece still tucked away in the bottom of my bag. One day I drove up lonely Kingsdale and pulled in to walk along the old track which leads over to Barbondale. I love the views from up here. Sitting at the top of High Pike at around 1600ft you can see over several dales and north-west to the Howgills. I was pleased the top photo came out as well as it did. The folding hills merge well with the rolling clouds which bubbled up like waves on the sea.
This carved stone sits in a field at a place on the OS map known as Foul Moss, just off the track. It is only a couple of hundred yards away from the County Stone, the point where Yorkshire, Lancashire and Westmorland all meet. If anyone knows the significance of this little stone and carving I’d be interested to hear from them.
Later I drove into Dent where I picked up a couple of stock pictures after stopping off at this waterfall in Deepdale.
Earlier in the week I drove up to High Birkwith at the top end of Ribblesdale for a circular stroll around Ling Gill National Nature Reserve. By ‘around’ I really mean right round the edge of the reserve for I wouldn’t contemplate clambering my way through the gill. By all accounts it is an almost primeval landscape of boulders and waterfalls, with dark and dank enclaves populated by rare plants. The short, steep-sided valley has remained virtually untouched from grazing animals and humans. Probably the best website I’ve seen for further details is http://oldfieldslimestone.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/ling-gill-limestone-wild-and-untamed.html
The walk, stretches of which were still a tad boggy, takes in part of the Pennine Way and also the Three Peaks route between Penyghent and Whernside. I never tire of the views around this part of the dales.
Half of last week’s blog disappeared into an internet black hole. Probably my fault. Here’s one you missed of a duck trying to explain the hokey-cokey…
There’s a fabulous 360-degree Dales view from Stone Rigg at the head of Barbondale. If ever you want to know why more parts of this area have been roped into the revised Yorkshire Dales National Park then this is the place to go. Standing on the small rocky outcrops at the top of Stone Rigg – just a short walk from the steep, narrow road from Dent – you see the Howgills to the north. The lower end of the Howgill range is already in the park but further north towards Ravenstonedale is rightly being included later this year. Swinging right you stare across at Aye Gill Pike and down Dentdale to Great Knoutberry, then on to the western slopes of Great Coum and Crag Fell.
At 180 degrees you’re looking down Barbondale itself with the steep side of Middleton Fell glaring down on your right. I’ve been here several times before and never tire of the all-round beauty. Further down the narrow dale heading towards Barbon is a little boundary stone which signals the end of the current park. The lower slopes of the dale become thickly wooded before it opens out to reveal some glorious views along Lunesdale.
Later in the week I also revisited another part of the new park, heading up Mallerstang and stopping off at the enigmatic 12th-century Pendragon Castle. The view down towards Wild Boar Fell was, as always, a pleasure to see.
From the castle it was on towards Nateby. Gypsies were camped ready for the final part of their annual journey to Appleby – it seemed an appropriate spot for their camp and surely much more of a pleasure for the horses than beside the busy A65 (where they’ve been causing enormous traffic jams). I love the journey between Nateby and Keld through Birkdale. Here is a very different Dales character to my normal Ribblesdale habitat: bleak and rough; fewer walls and tougher sheep. But you’re soon into a greener Upper Swaledale; enclosed by steep sides but gentler, with the young Swale dancing over exposed browned bedrock. A grand drive over Buttertubs Pass to Wensleydale, up Widdale and home via Three Peaks country of Ribblesdale. I might not be exercising my legs much at the moment but my eyes are certainly active.
I wonder, had Kirby Misperton fallen within their land, if the Dales National Park would have allowed last week’s fracking fiasco to happen? Seven councillors who are supposed to represent Yorkshire on matters of planning, ignored the 92 per cent of locals and instead pandered to what the government wanted them to do – a government which is currently keeping secret a report on whether fracking causes climate concern. Hell, even Lancastrian councillors had the sense to boot out the get-rich-quick fracking cowboys. Hang your heads, seven shameless Yorkshiremen.
Which brings me on to another whinge I have, stirred up by this week’s ‘news’. There’s a decline, says a study, in the humber of people using regional accents. It seems we are all starting to sound like we come from the south east. That certainly won’t do. And some teachers have been told to change the way they speak to children by cutting down on local accents. Sometimes I listen to people in their late teens/early 20s, using that very boring generic university accent, in which almost every sentence seems to end with a question mark, and I thank mi Mam n Dad for teaching me to speyk Yorksher.
Talking of moaning – an acquaintance was moaning about pot-holes in Ribblesdale’s roads the other week. This week he is moaning that ‘they’ are closing the roads throughout the region to mend those potholes. Now I’m moaning about him moaning.
Bridge of Sighs
I was very saddened to see that someone had a go at demolishing the pretty packhorse bridge over the Ribble at Knight Stainforth this week. Obviously, the person didn’t go out to deliberately wreck the ancient structure – whether it was caused by someone using a sat nav instead of a brain cell, or by careless driving, I don’t know. But it’s going to be costly to repair the National Trust-owned bridge. The original stonework is going to have to be recovered from the river before it is washed away, and the bridge will probably not look the same when rebuilt. It wasn’t meant to take motorised traffic. I realise this will inconvenience a few local users but I think the current diversion via Stackhouse Lane or Helwith Bridge should be made permanent and the bridge left for cyclists and pedestrians only. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that during the Bank Holiday weekend, which brings all kinds of folk to Stainforth Foss, we don’t see more damage or accidents.
It’s been a pleasure hobbling around Ribblesdale this week while spring really blossomed. By the Ribble in Langcliffe were thousands of rampant ramsons like riotious football fans charging down the packed terrace, hopping over the fencing and spilling on to the pitch.
Sitting here listening to the birds and a gently trickling river was simply beautiful. However, one youngster licking its lips as it approached me was a little disconcerting…
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.)
Every now and then I’ll do something very unYorkshire-like by stepping outside the county boundary. There’s some method in this madness … you see, I have a Senior Railcard and it is my duty as a Yorkshireman to make sure I get my moneysworth out of it. The nice man at Settle station worked out the cheapest way to get me to Scotland’s north-east coast town of Stonehaven and back – just £64 which is cheaper than it would have cost to buy petrol for the car journey. Despite being only 15 miles from the bustling city of Aberdeen Stonehaven is peaceful and picturesque and within walking distance of the impressive Dunnottar Castle. If you’re interested in my snapshots of the area click here.
From whichever way you reenter Yorkshire there’s always some landmark that confirms you’re back on home soil. From the north west by train it’s the highest point of the Settle-Carlisle line at Ais Gill for me. The Scottish coastline has some terrific scenery but I still adore traveling down Mallerstangdale, crossing into Dentdale and then emerging from Blea Moor tunnel into the land of the Three Peaks. The picture above is looking across to the Yorkshire side of Mallerstangdale beneath Great Shunner Fell.
I was back in time to celebrate Yorkshire Day in Ribblesdale where in Langcliffe we had a Jacob’s Join and sang the full version of Ilkla Mooar Baht ‘at. As I’m completely tone deaf I just drank beer.
The start of the week was dismal with little chance of photography due to the weather. I managed to spot a short-lived spell of light among the grey of Stainforth Scar (above), and noted that the weir on the Ribble (below) was a bit livelier than of late.
Yesterday afternoon the mill pond looked grand as it caught the sun. Shortly after taking the photo I was spotted by about 30 ducks that all started paddling frantically towards me. I made a hasty retreat as the hungry birds seemed determined to find something to nibble.
The brilliant flowerpot festival in Settle has attracted much interest this week but I wonder how many visitors lift their eyes to see this little chap (below). He has a cartoon pal nearby too, and they’re both on permanent display. I’m not telling you where they are, you’ll just have to come and find them.
Why do some drivers hurtle through the Dales like they’re on an audition for a Top Gear presenter slot? I was forced off a narrow lane by two idiots driving shiny new petrol-guzzling Range Rovers one day this week. They were obviously not the local farmers who once again have had to put up warning signs along the lovely road between Stainforth and Halton Gill. It should be obvious to most sensible people that farm stock (and children) wander around the countryside. And the views are fantastic – so why dash through like demented rats?
While not a rat – I’m not sure what it is actually (mink?) – this dead creature in a cage is perched on a wall near Giants Grave beneath Fountains Fell. I’m uncertain what point is being made by leaving it here for all to see. Perhaps someone in the know could enlighten me. It certainly met a gruesome end.
Nearby is something much more pleasant – Nature’s garden, a colourful limestone rockery and stream with Penyghent in the background. No need for a trip to the smoke to see those pretend – or should that be pretentious – gardens at Chelsea.
Kingsdale, where I visited on Wednesday, is short and sweet; a hanging valley swung like a hammock between Whernside and Gragareth. A narrow squiggly road runs beside Kingsdale Beck – a flow of water with a real identity crisis. It quickly assumes the name River Twiss before joining the River Doe at Ingleton; later it forms the Greta and then the Lune at Kirby Lonsdale before heading for the Irish Sea.
A couple of farms are the only signs of human habitation in the dale while four gates on the road between the head of the dale and neighbouring Deepdale help slow down any over-eager motorists. Here I go again… but why would anyone want to speed through this breathtaking countryside?
Leaving the loneliness of Kingsdale behind, the lush greenery of Deepdale opens up before you at the road’s 1570ft summit. I pulled in where a track leads over to Barbondale (a trip for another day) and now the camera goes into overdrive. The contorted Howgills (pictured above) to the west seem to grow with every step up the track. In front of me, Deepdale joins Dentdale on stage and the great mass of Aye Gill Pike provides the dramatic backcloth. The steep slopes of Deepdale Side and Whernside help shelter the scooped-out valley of Deepdale from the strong easterly winds. Farmers are busy making hay while the sun shines (not a euphemism for anything).
‘Must get myself a gate-opening passenger’ (again not a euphemism for anything seedy) I mutter after closing the fourth gate before winding slowly down the narrow road to Cowgill.
There are some interesting ancient bridges down this part of the dale, one near the Sportsman Inn which is in constant need of repair due to persistent misjudgements by motorists (yes, a further moan about them). Another bridge, near the tiny church which is worth a visit, contains a stone plaque which reads:
ED AT THE
CHARG OF TH
Either the original stonemason didn’t plan his work properly or later repairs have obscured part of the wording – but we get the gist.
In the late 1950s, early ’60s, along with many other boys, I would stand on a railway bridge and wait for a steam train to pass underneath. We’d get covered in smoke, steam and soot and that would be considered time well spent in the days before girls and t’ internet came along. To evoke those memories I stood on a bridge at Stainforth this week and waited eagerly for The Dalesman train. For any other sad fools like me, visit this link to see my very short video. https://youtu.be/H4Uc3Cv4CfU
I also managed to capture Galatea near Langcliffe to satisfy those who moaned about not having any train material in last week’s edition of my ‘wot I did on my hols’ summer blog.
Felt the urge to visit Dent today – I just fancied that lovely drive up Ribblesdale towards Hawes before dropping down into delightful Dentdale. I had lunch in this far-flung outpost of the West Riding and took a few stock pictures of the cobbled streets before heading over to Ingleton on the Kingsdale road. This must be one of the best roads in Yorkshire – despite its narrowness and there being several gates to open and close. (Note to self: get a mug, I mean companion, to come along next time.) The views are stunning and the waterfall, although gentle today, is an added bonus.
I’ve come across many quirky little places as I’ve wandered around the Dales. This unique scene shows a peculiar mix of dales landscape, industrial intervention, nature’s guile and man’s ingenuity. You’ll only come across this strange spot if you head up Littledale on the path from Ribblehead Viaduct to Bleamoor Tunnel. Victorian builders of the Settle-Carlisle railway created a channel to divert the stream; a tree managed to root itself in the minutest of cracks on the wall top; then recent wall builders decided the tree’s efforts should not be in vain and left it room to grow. Some folk find Man’s meddling with the countryside downright irritating, but now and then it can prove interesting and entertaining. Further along this track – the Craven Way – are some fabulous views over Dentdale. Walkers can also branch off up Whernside or follow the line of the tunnel to Dent Head from here.