Hidden Ribblesdale, bridging north-south divide, dales immigration issues

Ribblesdale viaduct

Ribblesdale calls me… having been tied up with other matters, and also due to yet more poor weather, I’ve not been able to take the camera for a walk much this week. But on Tuesday I wrapped up well for a trip to the head of the dale. The Three Peaks were all hidden under their cloud-caps, but the sun did make a brief appearance to light up Chapel-le-Dale. Ribblehead viaduct looked majestic against the backcloth of an ever-changing, moody sky. It would have made the perfect setting for a TV drama … (I didn’t see it – some folk tell me I didn’t miss much).

ribblesdale whernside

Hidden Whernside

Doing the Boot-Boots Hop

While I was parked at Ribblehead, scoffing the chocolates I’d stuffed in my pocket from a seemingly endless bag received at Christmas, I laughed to myself as I watched a couple who had parked next to me doing the Boot-Boots Hop. That’s the name I give to that silly little dance attempted by walkers who open the boot of their car and try to don their walking boots. We’ve all done it: hopping, balancing, gripping on to our walking partner or to some section of car so as not to get wet feet or pick up grit under your socks (which becomes a constant nightmare as you walk – do you, like me, shake your foot about like someone with a nervous tick to try shift that tiny annoying piece of grit until finally, half an hour later, give in and take off your boot to eject the blithering thing?). Worse still, the Boot-Boots Hopper slips down the slope because when they backed into the parking spot they ended up too close to a ditch. I hope the couple didn’t see me smirking.

Bridge over the Thames

You might, like me, not be too interested in what Boris and his cronies are up to in London. Well, while we in the north are struggling to get round the place because of damaged and collapsing bridges due to flooding, in the capital they’re well on with planning the ‘London Garden Bridge’. This will be a pleasant not-so-little bridge spanning the Thames, dressed up like something from Chelsea Flower Show. The website https://www.gardenbridge.london states it will cost £175m to deliver the project. Around 65% of the capital costs to build the bridge will be fundraised from the private sector. More than £145 million has been pledged already and there is a business plan to cover the £2 million annual maintenance and operations costs. Transport for London and the Government have together contributed £60 million in total. It’s unbelievable that more than £200m can be whipped up for such a vanity project.

ribblesdale thames

This is a Yorkshire bridge over the Thames in Giggleswick – before anyone writes in and says this is the Tems, not the Thames, I direct you to early Ordnance Survey maps which clearly states the latter spelling. Perhaps someone in London later thought Giggleswick was getting a bit too big for its boots and ordered a spelling change.

ribblesdale chapel

I bought a small pamphlet/book about Giggleswick from those doyens of Ribblesdale history, Phil and Rita Hudson of Settle – a very interesting guide to the ancient township. It contains a walk around the village and details of some fascinating architectural features. On Wednesday I did the walk and added an extra mile or so. On this view of Settle’s situation in Ribblesdale you can see the rooftops of the houses sitting snugly beneath the massive limestone scars, with Castleberg Rock in the middle right. The school chapel, which took four years to build and was opened in 1901, dominates Giggleswick’s skyline from many a different angle.

ribblesdale settle

On Friday, snow hit Ribblesdale from Selside northwards and on higher ground. Penyghent was shrouded in cloud for most of the day but I just grabbed this shot from Winskill Stones in the late afternoon as it briefly emerged:

ribblesdale penyghent

Ribblesdale immigration issues

A few years ago, for an article I was writing about family history, I had my DNA tested. Turns out I’m descended from an immigrant, probably from somewhere in Scandinavia. I have a ‘mutation’ (I know, you already thought that) in my genes which developed thousands of years ago and is found mainly in people from Denmark and in Sweden at frequencies above 30% of the population in those countries. In England this mutation is found in 15% of the population and is most prevalent in northerners. It is possible that my lot hired a longboat about 1600 years ago, and on seeing Yorkshire thought ‘that’ll do’ and decided to set up home here. I drift down this line of thought after being challenged by a Wensleydale chap last week who on hearing me speak said, “Tha’s net fro’ rahnd ’ere, es ta?”
I told him I was born in the Heavy Woollen district of Yorkshire but had lived most of my life around the Craven and Ribblesdale areas. “Thowt so,” he said dismissively. I felt a bit miffed – is Yorkshire such a big place, I thought, that I’m considered a foreigner in my own back yard? I now wonder whether had I told him my male line in Yorkshire goes back to at least 400AD, and perhaps earlier, that he would have been more accepting? Anyway, I bet he was descended from some marauding Scot.

Footnote: when I scribbled a couple of weeks ago about the poor quality of country and wildlife TV programmes, I most certainly wasn’t including anything by David Attenborough. Watching in wonder and listening to the 89-year-old talk with such authority in his Great Barrier Reef series this week reminded me of how spoilt people of my age are to have grown up with such a wonderful ‘teacher’ and presenter.

Flood lessons, forgotten lanes, fireworks and Ribblesdale photos


The former newsman in me said I ought to go find some dramatic flood shots last week, but then I thought that would only be adding to the misery of the situation. Flooded fields, gushing rivers and waterfalls are often witnessed here in Ribblesdale but further down the valleys, as all that water looks for a way back to the sea, many homes, businesses and lives can be ruined as a consequence.

In Nature, every action causes a reaction. When us humans mess with Nature, be it through greed or naivety, we generally cause mayhem somewhere down the line. Hopefully, a lesson is being learned about what causes flooding besides awful weather: the value of flood plains and why they shouldn’t be built upon; the erroneous river-banking to increase landownership; the cutting down of trees which absorb water; the bad management of moorland; the slashing of funds needed for proper river dredging, etc. Our obsession with cars doesn’t help – we build roads without adequate consideration for natural water flow, create enormous car parks; remove gardens so cars can be parked… the list goes on.

In 2012 I wrote a Diary piece in Dalesman following some more dreadful flooding in Hebden Bridge – here’s an extract:
“ … many residents are partly blaming the management of the nearby Walshaw Moor where it is claimed that excessive burning of the blanket bog has been taking place. The estate owners, [headed by Boundary Mills businessman Richard Bannister] have also created new tracks through the 6,000ha estate which has increased the flow of water down the hillside. Sphagnum moss, Nature’s ‘sponge’ which slows the water coming off the moor, is rapidly disappearing as the estate owners try to create a habitat for red grouse which are then shot.
“The management of this estate has caused Natural England to raise serious concerns in recent years. However, in March, without a clear explanation, Natural England reached an agreement with the landowners over the estate management and dropped legal proceedings, including a prosecution on 43 grounds of alleged damage.
“Residents have set up a Ban the Burn campaign and are asking for support. They say: “We are aware that this is not just a local issue and it is not just about flooding. Sphagnum mosses are the main peat forming species providing vital carbon sequestration and carbon storage, but damaged UK peatlands currently release almost 3.7 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent per year of more than all the households in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds combined.”

Three years on the battle to see sense continues, and the unfortunate residents of Calderdale are still suffering. This isn’t just me having a go at rich folk again. We could all do more… by protesting against stupidity and greed and offering practical help: simple things like helping rid your local beck of rubbish, keeping drains clear of leaves and other debris, making sure your garden has grass, trees and plants and not just covered with impervious Tarmac or decking. Rant over.



The promise of blue sky tempted me out on Tuesday. Mist hung around the tops of the Three Peaks (Penyghent below) as I drove through Ribblesdale to Dentdale. The simple old road bridge over the beck is dwarfed by the viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle line at Cowgill. I turned up the steep, Third-World-road between Dent and Garsdale railway stations where the views in all directions are wonderful. I couldn’t imagine making a living on these wild, boggy moors – it seems some have tried and failed. Returning home via Appersett, which had been cut off by flooding the previous day, a patch of blue sky briefly lit up Stags Fell as though nothing untoward had happened over recent times.



A couple of centuries ago, the main road from Settle to the west went through Giggleswick, Lawkland and on towards Austwick and Clapham. These places are now all bypassed by bigger, faster roads. The old lanes and off-shoots provide a pleasant drive or walk in lovely countryside completely missed by the majority of motorists to this part of the Dales. Those who travelled the ancient route by horse and cart centuries ago would have probably stood mouth agape at the sight of the mainly Elizabethan Lawkland Hall (a private residence with a fascinating history). Visit www.hha.org.uk/Property/568/Lawkland-Hall


My route was only just clear of water problems as I carried on through Austwick (pictured), and on to the hamlet of Wharfe (first photo in blog). The road back to Ribblesdale via Helwith Bridge was impassable the previous day because of flooding.


The following day I ascended – on foot – the steep slope from my house to Winskill Stones. It’s only a mile, but after eating and drinking excessively since my last trip up that hill I needed several ‘photo halts’. The light in the north-west was weird, probably something to do with incoming storm, while above and behind me was a bright blue sky.


A classic Winskill shot beckoned as that gallant tree, seemingly sprouting impossibly from the limestone, and Lower Farm standing out like a beacon set the scene.


Descending back down the side of Stainforth Scar looking towards Settle I saw that the mysterious vanishing tarn was back again. Geological features, ancient field patterns, the rolling Ribble and distant Langcliffe Mill show the development of this area.


Impressive as they were, I felt a tad miffed watching London’s extravagant fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Knocking on £2m spent on 11 minutes, during which time half of London’s population stood with camera phones pointing towards the sky, taking blurry pictures that will end up looking like the remnants of a three-year-old’s birthday party spread. £2m can be raised for the capital’s hedonistic event but ask for brass for London’s homeless or the North’s flood victims and people look the other way. Call me a party-pooper if you want, but I’m sure we used to enjoy NYE just as much before all this excess.

Ribblesdale photos

For my final photo round-up of the year I’ve chosen from pictures taken between September and November inclusive. I’ve not included December as most can be viewed in recent posts. Have a happy new year and thanks for dropping by.

A wet week, but who cares – London’s okay

ribbleheadTrain tannoy: “Ladies and gentlemen… as we cross the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, on your left you will see absolutely nothing; on your right, there is a very wet bloke with a camera.” Walking round Ribblehead when the rain is traveling sideways, you quickly learn which items of your gear warrant an all-weather tag. I hope Santa is well prepared, because there’s going to be a lengthy ‘I want’ list from me. My ‘fully waterproof’ bag ended up with a puddle in it – at least I can confirm the bottom doesn’t leak. (By Friday many trains along the Settle-Carlisle route were cancelled due to flooding. At one point in the Eden Valley the river was over a mile wide.)


A brief respite from the rain on Friday tempted me out to do a little long-exposure photography – not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but a useful skill to learn properly. There was probably a bit too much water, flowing too quickly, down Clapham Falls to get a satisfactory ‘silky’ effect. But while in the village I couldn’t stop myself taking the stock photo across old Brokken Bridge. This scene always makes a good in autumn or winter photo.


This tiny waterfall in the former quarry at Ribblehead appears quite angelic and there’s even a shrouded figure merging. I did the short ‘green’ walk around the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve (which includes the quarry). Although the tops of Ingleborough and Whernside were shrouded in cloud, Penyghent could still be seen beyond Gauber and Colt Park.


I was so bored during the poor weather this week that I actually started to sort out a cupboard where books and other bits had been tossed when I first moved into the house. I soon stopped though when I came across a 1920s guide book to Ingleton. It’s a fascinating window into life ninety years ago. In those days tourists flocked to this part of the world mainly by rail and charabanc – but increasingly by road, as reflected by the adverts and editorial. There were once two railway stations  serving the village – one, run by Midland Railway company, was where the village community centre now is in the car park, and the other was at the Thornton side about a mile away, operated by London & North Western. At one time, to change trains from one operator to the other, passengers could pay a penny fare to cross the viaduct between the two stations and enjoy the view.
You can view the whole leaflet by clicking on the link below. (Press esc to return to this page if viewing on computer.)

If you’re on a mobile click here to view the Ingleton Guide

NB I have tried to check copyright details on this publication. The publishers, Ingleton Advertisers Association, no longer exist. If anyone knows of a copyright holder please let me know and I will gladly acknowledge them.


Yesterday afternoon I took an exhilarating short walk with Desmond (the storm, not a new friend) around Langcliffe. I thought, once you’re wet it doesn’t really matter does it? The route of my regular jaunt by the Ribble is usually alongside the river bank… there appeared to be this small puddle in the way so I gave it a miss.

Having my regular walk disrupted is, of course, a minor inconvenience compared with the problems being caused by Storm Desmond. Some of the flooding in the region and further north is catastrophic for many people and will affect their lives for many months, if not years. The government is willing to spend millions every night on bombing Iraq and Syria in the belief this will protect us against terrorists, but it has actually held back money for properly protecting some towns and villages in the North West from flooding. But then again, it wasn’t London under attack from Mother Nature was it, just those uncouth tribes of the North.



Talking of uncouth, I’d like to say to an old friend that his suggestion for the origin of the name Braithwaite Wife Hole, is totally wrong and uncalled-for. My thanks to those others who tried to decently explain the sinkhole’s name mentioned in last week’s blog. In what must be one of the longest book titles going (‘A descriptive tour and guide to the lakes, caves, mountains and other natural curiosities in Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire and a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire’) John Housman, writing in 1800, calls it Barefoot-wives’ Hole. This name is also found in West’s Guide to the Lakes, 1778/1821 and on old maps dating as far back as 1760. A map of 1890, however, shows the name has been changed to Braithwaite Wife Shake Hole. Just like with many place-names and surnames, early scribes often misunderstood local terms and accents when it came to writing down terms that had previously been passed down through generations of verbal history, so perhaps the original name will remain a mystery – unless you know differently.

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