So, a month of strolling and taking pictures in the Dales has gone by without a blog from me. It’s not been easy – I’ve been dying to show off about living in such a beautiful place and the Nature I’ve seen as the Sun threw wide its arms, saying ‘come on lad, fill thi booits’.
Even the milk-bottle legs got an airing (allowing all manner of flying objects to help themselves to a Jackson blood-fest).
Within a 25-mile radius of home the Dales have provided relaxing walks and waterfalls, stunning sunsets and glorious sweet meadows to melt the senses. The camera has worked overtime and illustrates the wonderful Yorkshire Dales through pictures much better than I can with words.
Trains in the Dales
Nature in the Dales
More Dales scenes
I also visited Appleby Horse Fair earlier in the month. Some locals complain about the annual fair while others are happy to make a bit from increased visitor spending, renting camping space and charging for parking. As a visitor I only see a snapshot of the event, of course, but it seemed well policed and had plenty of RSPCA officials on hand. I wasn’t around to clear up any mess though. For a short slideshow visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSu-Ypcw0zM
I could have filled the blog with many more June shots but you’d have probably fallen asleep … here are three shots taken at sunset from Winskill, Ribblesdale, looking towards Ingleborough, to help you snooze.
Let me take you on a little drive around the western Dales. On the one clear day this week I drove along the back roads of Wenningdale from Settle to the Great Stone of Fourstones (pictured below), above Bentham, with the hope of taking some long-distance shots of the Three Peaks and perhaps even the southern fells of the Lake District. Although there was plenty of blue sky above, there wasn’t the clarity. I did manage these photos of the Dales and beyond:
From that amazing boulder I drove on to Thornton-in-Lonsdale and through lonely Kingsdale (top photo in blog). Apart from a gang of cavers trooping up to Yordas I didn’t see another soul for miles. Driving the steep single track road towards Dent always makes the heart beat a little faster. For most of the way you’re praying there’s nothing coming in the other direction; that the mist doesn’t come down; or in my case hoping that gawping too long at the view doesn’t mean I miss a tight bend in the road.
I double-check my handbrake every time I get out of the car to open and shut the gates along here. A little stroll up the old quarry road towards High Pike is always worthwhile. The views down Deepdale, Dentdale, towards the Howgills and north-western dales are rewarding.
There is a magical little waterfall as you descend into Deepdale – it’s unnamed on the OS map.
Instead of continuing to Dent I took the back-road to Cowgill – apparently I couldn’t have done this the previous day because of flooding. Every time I drive along this lane, passing Whernside Manor, I remember the creepy stories I’ve read of the mansion’s past. Tales of slavery and ghosts, and people being chained up in the cellars can be found on the internet if you’re interested. Believe what you want, but when one site describes Whernside hill as being part of the Howgills, you do start to question the depth of research.
After more stops for photos of the river Dee (below) and the old buildings at Stone House (above), where Dent marble was once produced, it was under the Settle-Carlisle railway at Dent Head Viaduct and on to Ribblehead, before turning down to Settle under the familiar gaze of Penyghent.
What a difference a Dales day makes
The trip was a contrast to the previous day when I’d driven on t’other side of Penyghent towards Halton Gill from Stainforth. Typical of this part of the dales, water was pouring off the sodden fells, filling the becks and waterfalls which feed Penyghent Beck before splashing down into Littondale. I was wet but the noise and the freshness were exhilarating:
The clouds opened up briefly to reveal a surprising vivid sunset last night. I didn’t have time to pop up to higher ground but these from around the village show the intensity of the colours – no filters used here.
The dales took a back seat this week as I’ve been working on a project with my son. So it felt grand to take a short break one afternoon for a trip in the sun between Ribblesdale and Littondale. Penyghent, Plover Hill and Fountains Fell all looked glorious from the narrow Silverdale Road before clouds eventually descended and turned the scene grey.
The fascinating area around Giant’s Grave, where water for Penyghent Gill springs from any number of mysterious underground caverns through holes in the dishevelled looking rocks, was bursting with colour.
I believe the bright yellow plant is mountain saxifrage but I welcome any other suggestions from better educated botanists. It can be found all around the dales and contrasts well against the higher fells where the heather is becoming more and more purple. Littondale was as always picture perfect…
I timed my walk last Sunday with the arrival of Flying Scotsman near Langcliffe on the Settle-Carlisle line. It really looks a big beast close up.
I spent my childhood in Yorkshire’s Heavy Woollen District and despite residing for much longer here in the Dales there are certain words and phrases I still use from those early years that give away my past. Not that I’ve ever tried to hide my upbringing in the working class mill-town area of the county of which I am very proud, but whoever you are and wherever you are from you will usually retain some of the local lingo. I brought up the subject of different dialects and sayings within Yorkshire when I edited Dalesman, and boy did it open a can of worms. Correspondence about certain words is probably still continuing many years on. I was reminded of all this during the week when I went into a local bakery and without thinking asked for teacakes. It’s not the first time I’ve done this and regretted it. I was brought up to believe a teacake was a plain, white, flat-ish, light, round of bread about the size of an adult hand. None of your bread cakes, balm cakes, stotties or whatever other fancy name you want to give them. And where I came from if you wanted one with fruit in it you asked for a currant teacake. Simple job then, but not now, not here in the Dales anyway. In the shop I’m questioned, slowly, like I’m some kind of half-witted alien until I end up just pointing to what I want, paying up and leaving the shop red-faced.
My surnames page is proving really popular with visitors from all over the world. Is your surname there yet?
In the Yorkshire Dales there are lots of places where you can ‘have five minutes’. I used to get so frustrated as a youngster when my parents wanted to ‘have five minutes’. This usually meant stopping something interesting or exciting and doing nothing other than having a cuppa and sitting still. Boring. Nowadays in my ancient state I love ‘having five minutes’, sitting on some rocky outcrop and staring at the Dales landscape, watching the clouds pass by and listening to the birds. As in the past, the five minutes often become ten and more. Just a short walk from home, above Winskill Nature Reserve, is a favourite place of mine for ‘having five minutes’. From here you can see the Three Peaks and Fountains Fell, look up, down and across Ribblesdale. To the south west is Warrendale Knotts, Attermire Scar and the Bowland Fells. By your feet the limestone pavement shelters beautiful tiny plants and insects typical of the Yorkshire Dales … a big, wide world and another miniature one side by side. Top photo: a good spot for ‘having five minutes’ – at the head of Barbondale where the Howgills and Dentdale add to a spectacular view.
Ever wonder how the good folk living by the Ribble reacted in the 1870s on being told that a railway was going to be built along their peaceful dale? Most ordinary residents probably thought they didn’t have a choice in the matter and just got on with their lives. Today we think and react differently – but in the end, as in the Victorian era, our protests will more often than not go ignored. Those with money and power will have their way, as it seems with the proposed High Speed 2 railway scheme.
‘HS2 has come to symbolise a country run against the interests of the many and in the interests of the few.’ That’s a great sentence, sadly not one of mine, written by Patrick Barkham. It sums up my feelings about yet another ill-conceived fantasy project from which London will be the biggest benefactor. Latest estimates predict it will cost £57 billion – yes, fifty-seven-billion pounds, let that sink in – to cut 32 minutes off the journey between Birmingham and London. Our Northern Powerhouse (falls about laughing at the shallow attempt being made to deliver that promise) will eventually link in with this project (price yet to be properly determined) and – whoopee! – uncouth Yorkshire oiks like me will be able to take out a mortgage for a ticket and get to the capital to improve my flagging social status, some 45 minutes quicker. To achieve this, thousands of square miles of beautiful English countryside will be destroyed, wildlife habitats torn up, homes demolished and many a village life wrecked. Meanwhile, we are being fed a load of bull about job creation and that this super highway will bring great benefits to the north – don’t believe a word of it. Shareholders and contractors will make sacksful of dosh, most jobs will be temporary with workers being paid minimum wage, and I have yet to read one single persuasive argument showing how the North will benefit as a region.
Don’t get me wrong – I like trains, I think they are a sensible form of transport – but why not spend £57bn+ improving what we already have, by providing more local services or opening up old lines so that ordinary folk – not just the rich or businesspeople – can use and afford them? Patrick wrote a splendid monthly column for me when I was editor of The Countryman. Read his article on HS2 here http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/nov/17/hs2-the-human-cost-of-britains-most-expensive-rail-project
Also visit stophs2.org
Last February near Fountains Fell
Museum asset stripping
I’ve visited the National Media Museum in Bradford dozens of times. I’ve taken children there, attended functions and exhibition openings. I’ve always been proud to have a ‘National’ museum on my doorstep. It even hosts the International Film Festival, promoting the city and Yorkshire further afield… well, it did, anyway. Museum officials have just announced they are abandoning the festival after 20 years and followed this by saying they were sending 400,000 unique photos from its impressive collection to be exhibited permanently in London.
So the asset stripping of the museum is well under way. To be discussed is the renaming and streamlining of the museum. One suggestion involves relegating it from the premier division of ‘National’ to (Division One) ‘North’. Eventually, I see the title becoming ’Yorkshire’, then ‘Bradford’, followed by ‘a rear room of an independent camera shop in Idle’. Pardon the pun but there’s been a total loss of focus here. If we can afford to host top-class exhibitions and museums in London why can’t it be done in the north? What’s next to disappear down south – the National Railway Museum?
Bad weather, extra freelance work and problems with contact points on a camera lens have conspired to curtail my own photography this week. So there are a few older photos included in this week’s blog. Make the most of them because I got a call from Boris Johnson who says he wants the best 20 per cent of them exclusively for visitors to look at in a trendy coffee house in the capital. The top photo in the blog showing Penyghent was taken this time last year. The one above shows the hill from t’ other side just a couple of days later.
A song for the Ribble
On Tuesday a cleaner at BT pulled out a plug so the vac could be powered up (I could be wrong there) and the internet went kaput. So, despite the howling gale, I went for a walk. Sadly, the path through Castleberg Wood to the rock overlooking Settle was closed due to a fallen tree, a victim of the strong winds. I headed back to Langcliffe beside the Ribble via Giggleswick and Stackhouse. These perching pigeons caught my attention: a music score with Stainforth Scar, as a backdrop. The ground was decidedly sticky and further rain over the next three days won’t have improved the situation. The walls of the older cottages like mine are becoming saturated so let’s hope for a prolonged dry spell very soon.
I snapped this one quickly at the mill pond in Langcliffe and was surprised it turned out virtually black-and-white. I’ve not tampered with the photo at all. I do sometimes make adjustments to photos where I feel it is necessary – or just to amuse myself. Using Photoshop or other digital editors is no different from what used to happen in photographic darkrooms, yet for some reason viewers can get all hot and bothered by ‘touched-up’ photos. Some photographers are looking for an accurate representation of a subject; others want to add their own interpretation. Viewers can have an opinion on what’s been created but should remember that with ‘art’ there’s no right or wrong. That’s why we all have different artwork hung in our homes; why we decorate our walls differently or wear different styles and colours of clothes.
This time last year: Just one set of footprints to the honesty box at Dale End Farm below Penyghent – mine. Which, I know, doesn’t prove that I paid. The picture got me thinking whether it would be worth putting an honesty box in the Houses of Parliament… but then again…
The train spotting fraternity were out in force up and down the Ribble yesterday hoping for a glimpse of the revamped Flying Scotsman and the internet and Facebook groups are plastered with photos of the iconic engine. So where are all my piccies of this great event, you ask? Sorry, but on a Saturday I have to indulge in my own anorakic passion – watching Huddersfield Town. I admit to the addiction, and I know that each time I watch them it takes years off my life. If you have a cure please let me know.
A bit of poetry by the great Bob Dylan came to mind after re-reading this week’s blog:
I like to do just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet, But guarding fumes and making haste, It ain’t my cup of meat. Ev’rybody’s ‘neath the trees, Feeding pigeons on a limb But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here, All the pigeons gonna run to him. Come all without, come all within, You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.
I didn’t know until this week that someone could become a ‘honorary Yorkshireman’. The old notion that unless your Yorkshire lineage stretched back as far as the Viking invasion you were, and always will be, considered as an offcumden, seems to have been chucked out with the bath water. On Monday, a bloke called Gary Barlow was awarded the distinction of Yorkshireman at what appears to have been a very un-Yorkshire-like OTT event put on by the Welcome to Yorkshire tourist organisation. Apparently, this Barlow fellow was once part of a popular beat-combo ensemble called Take That, and his credentials for being upgraded from Ordinary Cheshire Chap to Honorary Yorkshireman is due to him writing songs about our Calendar Girls. Now I’m not knocking Welcome to Yorkshire, who do a splendid job promoting the county, but I wonder if they are overstepping their jurisdiction here. Just who has the right to declare someone as being ‘Yorkshire’? And surely a pie and pea supper followed by a bingo session at a village hall would have been a more appropriate occasion to bestow such recognition? I wonder if Mr Barlow (Hon Yks) is now advocating a change of name to ‘Teck That Pal’?
Top picture: a giant caterpillar crawls out of the mist over the Settle landscape this week.
I attended the memorial service to a real Yorkshireman on Tuesday when the folk of Settle and district paid their respects to the late Bill Mitchell at St John’s. Bill attended the chapel for many years and was also a lay Methodist preacher in the district. The place was packed – he will certainly be missed in these parts but thankfully he leaves a great legacy.
I was itching to get out into the Dales by Thursday, and with the forecasters saying there could be some sunshine in the morning I found myself heading up Penyghent early doors. Just a quick trip up-and-down the pointy bit, starting from Dalehead Farm on the Stainforth to Halton Gill road. The forecasters didn’t mention there would be intermittent sun/cloud, which led to scene changes happening every few minutes. I got all the way to the top without meeting another soul, and ate my chocolate digestives alone beside a very windswept and mist-covered trig point. Neighbouring Fountains Fell was completely enveloped by cloud, while the view down Ribblesdale offered little by way of photography. You can just about recognise distant Littondale in the above picture during a brief cloud break-up.
In his lovely book, Summat and Nowt, Bill Mitchell says Penyghent from this angle looks like a marooned whale. He continues: “From the west it takes on the appearance of a recumbent lion with splendid mane. The nose-end enhances the view from the Ribble bridge between Settle and Giggleswick. A local philosopher spent so long contemplating this view that someone asked him what great thoughts had been going through his mind. He replied: ‘I was just thinking how much Penyghent resembles an upturned pudding dish’.”
I sometimes see the great hill as a partly-eaten layer cake. On Friday it looked like icing sugar had been sprinkled over (above). Last weekend those Met Office types had predicted snow on them thar hills by the end of the week. There was the aforementioned light coating on Penyghent and also on Whernside, but nothing on Ingleborough by the time I drove down Chapel-le-Dale.
Regular readers will know of my fascination for changing light in the Dales – and are probably fed up to the back teeth with me mentioning it – however, my passion was satisfied once more near Ingleton as the clouds parted and the landscape around Twisleton Scar briefly lit up. The spectacle is difficult to capture on a still photo and I wish I’d set the camera to video mode:
I continued my journey home through Clapham along the old back road to find the village’s normally sedate falls sporting a whole new persona following the heavy rain. This time I did switch to video – there’s a 23-second movie here: https://youtu.be/r_gqtnNMke0
If you can’t be bothered with going to Youtube for a video then here’s a still…
As I take in the beauty and peace of the Dales countryside I often wonder who will look after it for future generations, thus allowing them to do likewise. Judging by the actions of some fellow human beings recently, I can’t help but think we are still too primitive a species to be left in charge of this beautiful, fragile planet. We kill each other indiscriminately instead of adequately pooling wealth, resources and knowledge; we exterminate plants, birds and animals which keep Nature in balance; we continually destroy and exploit natural assets for selfish gain. Does anyone actually know what – if there is one – the long-term goal is for humanity? Sometimes it’s difficult not to feel depressed about such issues. Thankfully I’m lucky enough to live in a peaceful part of the world and still have the freedom and ability to enjoy and appreciate its precious gifts.
Meanwhile, the rain continues to pour down here in Ribblesdale. Time to put on the waterproofs and see how my part of the world is coping…
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.
Managed to drag myself up Fountains Fell early this morning. First time I’d been up the 2000-footer in around 40 years. I needed plenty of photo stops on the way up. The boggy uneven plateau is just as I remembered it; completely inhospitable and dangerous in low cloud or rain but today conditions were near perfect. The summit is a few hundred strides from the Pennine Way as it heads from Malham to Penyghent. The views were good round 360 degrees but it was the sky that caught my eye for this shot taken from the top looking towards Ribblesdale.
The western edge of Yorkshire missed out on yesterday’s sunshine and bright blue skies but today more than made up for it. Penyghent and Plover Hill proved picture perfect as I drove along the Silverdale road from Stainforth in Ribblesdale to Halton Gill. There were great views down Littondale and even that boggy lump of Fountains Fell looked inviting. To top it all the setting sun is glorious as I type – and is being lapped up by the buddha statue in my kitchen…
Regular visitors to the blog will have realised by now that I’m fond of (won’t admit to being obsessed with) weather watching in the Dales. Especially at this time of year, the light show can change by the minute. The above picture taken this morning captures the sun bursting out over the Settle area of Ribblesdale in the distance. Mid ground, above Stainforth, are threatening clouds; some mist clings to wooded ravines and very cold rain is falling. Meanwhile, I’m standing near Dale Head Farm on the Silverdale road in a tiny shaft of weak sunlight. To my left and right, out of shot, much of Fountains Fell and Penyghent is hidden under low cloud. Love it.