During the long, hot summer of 1976 the Yorkshire Dales were my playground. I was 23, fit and energetic and starting to create a career in journalism. Move on some 42 years to another sunny summer, and here I am: overweight, fond of an afternoon doze and I’m a pensioner – but at least the Dales remain my playground.
While idling my time away on the slopes beside Ribblehead Viaduct one day last week, waiting to photograph a steam train crossing the mighty structure, I thought about how the place had changed since the 1970s. Yes, the topography is pretty much as it was back then but the atmosphere is very different.
Today I walked up the track towards Blea Moor alongside people who were wearing flip-flops. The recently extended car parking areas were full to the brim. A group on a sponsored Three Peaks hike ploughed through the sightseers. A small helicopter landed and took off again ten minutes later. A chap tried out his new drone (unsuccessfully).
Two noisy Chinook helicopters made their way over the Dales like annoying flies, circled over the viaduct then headed back over Cam Fell. Flashes from mobile phones greeted their arrival and departure.
I’d arrived to my spot early to find a good uninterrupted view of the viaduct with Ingleborough in the background. Two minutes before the train was due a family of four plus a loose and inquisitive dog plonked themselves right in my sight-line. The Dales were never so in the 1970s, or perhaps in those days it was me who was being the nuisance?
I’ve taken so many photos since my last blog – even a cartload of snaps from a few days in the Scottish Borders around Kirk Yetholm at the end of the Pennine Way – that I’ve had difficulty narrowing down the selection. Anyway, here I share a few. The top pic shows the view from above Buttertubs Pass back towards Ingleborough.
What, no train photos? Fear not, train buffs, I will be putting up special page for you when I get a spare moment. Meanwhile, here’s a moody Ribblehead Station.
I’ll not bore you with my snaps of the Scottish Borders but here’s one from a garden in Yetholm Town … it’s not gnomal, is it?
I took a few tentative steps outside Yorkshire this week. I must add a rider here: many of those steps were within the new Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary. You know what? It’s pretty good – Westmorland and Cumberland have quite a bit going for them. Just south of Appleby is the impressive Rutter Force which just sneaks into the recently extended park. The mill there is now accommodation, reached by a ford which even on a fairly calm day like this I wouldn’t cross in my little car.
Busy Appleby is just outside the Yorkshire park boundary but a fine place to visit – made even better by being reachable via the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Before this visit I hadn’t realised the extent Appleby had suffered from the last major flooding. Many riverside properties are still being renovated or drying out. Flood prevention schemes along the riverbank are being implemented.
They like to take care of their trees in Appleby – this one has a nice woolly coat to protect it from the strong north-easterlies.
Back in real Yorkshire
In amongst lengthy thunder and lightning storms this week there were a couple of decent sunsets. The shot below was taken at Winskill Stones above Langcliffe.
Last Sunday was one of those grey Dales days which have been all too familiar this summer. Nevertheless I drove to Ribblehead where often on a summer Sunday there can be more people than on Blackpool prom – but it wasn’t too bad. Knowing that a steam train was due to be heading back from Carlisle I walked up to Blea Moor until my head almost reached the height of the low cloud. Approaching Blea Moor signal box I recalled a diary piece I wrote around five years ago for Dalesman concerning the lonely house which is situated next to the box. It was in a poor state and the ‘garden’ was covered in tons of scrap metal – a real eyesore. This was the first impression many travelers got of Ribblesdale as they entered from the north-west and so the owner was asked to clean it up, which he did to a fashion. As seen in my pic above, It doesn’t look too good again today and the house seems deserted – a great shame.
However, looking back down the dale I managed to capture something more cheerful as a brief shaft of sunlight illuminated the valley while Penyghent remained shrouded in mist.
I could hear the cat growling while he was sitting on the internal window ledge. This usually means there are birds outside which he can’t get at. Together we watched a group of sparrows and finches having a bath in the puddles – but our thoughts about ‘capturing’ them differed somewhat.
It’s steam train season here in Ribblesdale and during the peak summer period there can be five a week passing up and down the Settle-Carlisle railway. They attract people to the area and help keep the grand old line open. The politically correct may consider these great machines as eco-unfriendly. If they were running an hourly service every day of the year I might agree with them. But I’d still rather see one of these chugging up the dale than a hundred polluting cars any day. On Tuesday I captured this one as it was leaving Settle.
With a good forecast for Wednesday I’d planned to pollute the dales myself by driving over to Wensleydale through Mallerstangdale, then head back via Birkdale and Swaledale. Perfect timing saw me meeting another steamer on the line near Aisgill (above pic) where the line leaves Yorkshire and enters Westmorland. This is the final major climb for the train and a popular location for train buffs.
On clear days the views as you climb the road out of Nateby are breathtaking. With the Eden Valley, North Pennines, Howgill Fells then bleak Birkdale and Ravenstonedale plus the uppermost reaches of Swaledale all visible, this journey is one of the best in the dales. In the distance can be seen the Air Traffic Control’s radar station on top of Great Dun Fell (2782 ft), in the North Pennines. The private road which ascends to the ‘giant golf ball’ is the highest surfaced road in England. Slightly further up the Pennine chain is Mickle Fell (2585 ft) whose summit is the highest point in Yorkshire (proper boundary).
Sadly I couldn’t manage the rest of Swaledale as the road was shut from near Thwaite (where I took the above pic) because of work on Usha Gap Bridge. Not for the first time a vehicle failed to negotiate the narrow bridge – and also Ivelet Bridge further down the road. These bridges weren’t built for big loads so the authorities need to do one of two things: forget about preserving the past and knock them down and build ones suitable for the 21st century; or ban unsuitable vehicles from the road. Knocking some common sense into drivers might also be a solution.
After being in the car for such a long period I needed a walk that evening and managed to capture this heron when it dashed passed me as I walked by the Ribble. Technically it’s not a good shot but it does show the superb aerodynamic nature of this ancient bird.
Thursday: the farmer created a new view on my regular walk by cutting one of his fields, while back in the village the memorial fountain was colourfully dressed for today’s VJ Service.
Lo and behold, I also encountered another train this time completely by accident. As I walked to the Hoffman Kiln in Langcliffe I saw photographers waiting for the arrival of the engine Galatea. The footpath is right next to the line and you can feel the ground rumble as the great monster gets up close and personal.
Yesterday was a big day in the village as the efforts of talented locals were on view at the annual show. Sadly I was otherwise engaged but I did participate and was lucky enough to earn a first for three of my photos and a second for this black and white photo of New Street…