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?
I spotted this rare two-horned dinglewart tree serpent near Ingleborough during my break in the Dales this afternoon. Its tongue, horns, protruding fang, right eye and ear are clearly visible and you certainly wouldn’t want to come across one of these things in fading light. They feast on dinglewarts, an endangered species of small furry mammal which are now confined to this corner of Yorkshire and also a tiny section of Peruvian rain forest. Locals tell of an evil curse surrounding the slithering serpent:
If into the serpent’s eyes you stare,
Grey will become your head of hair.
And should the serpent not be fed,
Into cowclap you will tread.
I’ve already suffered that indignity this week and my hair couldn’t get much greyer so I scarpered quickly and took this photo of Ingleborough through autumn trees at St Leonard’s, Chapel-le-Dale.
Someone once told me that Hull Pot was the biggest natural hole in England… mind you, another person told me that Birmingham was the biggest hole in the country but they could have been alluding to something different. Without a person in the shot it’s difficult for viewers of the photo to imagine the scale of this chasm – which can come as something of a shock to the unwary as they march along the path from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Foxup beneath Penyghent. It’s around 90m long and 30m wide with sheer drops all round – and no warning signs. I thought the waterfalls might have been more impressive this morning after all the recent rain but it wasn’t to be, and I’ve yet to capture them in full flow. Today I headed back to Horton via the Pennine Way down Ribblesdale where the views across the valley were gorgeous. Here a cloud has just enveloped the top of Ingleborough.
As I was heading away from Ribblehead the other night after watching the sunset, this little train trundled very slowly across the viaduct. I’d heard some time ago that toxic waste is sometimes taken along the line from the north west. Can anyone fill in the detail? The truth is out there! Anyway, I thought it made a nice picture.
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.
Excuse me for this blatant self publicity… my latest book, Little Book of Yorkshire Curiosities, is now on sale. It’s part of Dalesman’s successful ‘Little Book’ series and the third I’ve compiled. This one’s full of strange curiosities, myths and legends about our great county… like the one about the bloke from Selby who sold his wife for a pint of ale, and the fact that the first Yorkshire pudding recipe was written in 1737. Amaze your friends and bore the pants off non-Yorkshire folk for only £2.99… you can buy direct from www.dalesman.co.uk/shop/the-little-book-of-yorkshire-curiosities or pick up at any half-decent bookshop. ISBN 9781855683174.
‘Best book I’ve ever read. Can I have that fiver now dad?’ – William Jackson
When I’m out and about with my Box Brownie (for those not old enough to know, this is a term for a basic camera, and not a nickname for a friend or in this case something to eat) I’m generally pointing it at the landscape. But sometimes the minor detail, which when all added together creates our fabulous Dales scenery, is worthy of attention. Zoom in on a small section of drystone walling for example and you can see art far superior to some of the pretentious guff on show in posh galleries. For the top photo I focused on a tiny section of an ancient footbridge over the beck at Cowgill, between Dent and Ribblehead. You quickly lose count of the number of species crowded together here but they successfully exist together in their little primeval ecosystem. Shame us humans seem incapable of doing the same.
A great idea by Ashley Jackson @AJacksonArtist see
#puttingyorkshireintheframe Where do you begin? Yorkshire has so many gob-smacking viewpoints and each dale has its own distinctive feel. How about some recognition for the minor dales like the three here… views down Silverdale, above Garsdale and from Kingsdale over Dentdale.
- Video: Artist puts Yorkshire in the frame (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
Thorns Gill was picture perfect this morning. Even though the grey mist hadn’t burnt off to reveal blue skies, it was warm and the scene was tranquil. I’ve been here when Cam Beck has been swollen by rainfall from the fells around Ribblehead and it has been dramatic to say the least. But today the sound of water trickling down the limestone gill was soothing and apart from a brief noisy squabble amongst the birds caused by a grey heron I could enjoy the peace. I don’t know exactly the age of the old packhorse bridge across this ravine but it’s probably been there since drovers brought stock up from Settle to the former market at Gearstones three hundred years ago. It seems to sit precariously – just held aloft by the science of arches – but it blends in perfectly. My earliest memories of Thorns Gill, with its erratics, caves and deep pools is from school visits in the 1960s when a certain PE teacher insisted we tried to jump across a section of the stream. If you failed you got wet. Excuse my bragging but I was the only one of my group who remained dry. If I tried it now I wouldn’t even make halfway and the ensuing tidal wave could flood Settle.