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?
A Dales photo for each month during 2017. Looking back on a year’s wandering – fairly aimless wandering it must be said – and photographing around the western Dales this year, I hadn’t realised how much the sky had dominated so many of my shots. Clouds move swiftly in this part of the country as the breeze sweeps in from the Irish Sea and strikes the hilly barrier in its way. A stormy sky can turn clear blue in minutes – and the opposite can happen quickly too, to catch out the unwary.
Photos can often hide the truth – the top picture, taken above Giggleswick Scar, shows a lovely clear day looking down on Settle bathing in sunshine. But don’t be deceived, it was taken in January and believe me it was freezing up there that day.
This February shot shows snow on Penyghent and a steam special heading through Ribblesdale.
In March I watched this dramatic cloud formation above Kingsdale as it made its way from the north-west. Whernside bore the brunt of the bad weather it brought.
About as far as you get in the western Dales is Barbondale. This April day was full of light and shade.
The Sun in May is still fairly weak and I was able to point the camera directly at it for this shot of a distant Ingleborough from Winskill.
The weather was right for a stroll up Attermire Scar in June. This was the view looking north-west, showing the track to Malham by Jubilee Cave and the foot-hills of Penyghent and Fountains Fell.
Just as the sun was going down on a July day at Winskill, Ribblesdale. Distant Penyghent soaking up the last rays.
A typical August sky and a typical walled green lane. I was on my way from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to photograph the impressive Hull Pot.
A September shot of Settle. I chose this one for my yearly round-up not because of the great view of the town from Castleberg Rock but for the shape of the clouds above, which take you to the distant fells.
October brought some storms to the region. I was right on the edge of this particularly nasty one above Ribblesdale before making a hasty retreat back home to Langcliffe.
As autumn turned to winter I was lucky to grab this November shot on the track between Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Brackenbottom before the gold and brown tints disappeared.
I had to include a December shot of a snowy Penyghent, even though Ribblesdale didn’t have a white Christmas Day. This was taken from Selside.
Thank you for continuing to follow this blog during 2017 and I hope you have a fabulous new year.
Special equipment is being shipped into the Dales to prise pound coins out of Yorkshiremen’s palms. The old rounded £1 coins cease to be legal tender in mid October so I’m busily sticking my hands down the back of the settee and rifling through old jackets. Mind you, some old farmers up the dales are still holding on to ten bob notes. I was reminded this week of the round un’s demise in a Settle car park where a notice on a machine states they wouldn’t be accepted. I looked in my pocket and noticed all three pound coins I had were old versions. No way was I paying over the odds by using a £2 coin.
Parking fees not required for a morning walk up Horton Scar Lane to Hull Pot below Penyghent on Tuesday. The mist had lifted from the valley but in the distance I could see it clinging to the Ribble Valley. In the background the silhouette of Pendle Hill looked like a giant sleeping animal.
Hull Pot was almost dry, just a trickle of water from the lower fall echoing around the great chasm. No matter how many times I visit this place I’m always taken aback with its sudden and dramatic appearance. I certainly wouldn’t walk this way in the dark.
I followed the Three Peaks route to where it joins the Pennine Way. The views across Newhouses Tarn towards Whernside and Ingleborough (first pic in blog) were well worth the trek along the shale path. As I headed back towards Horton I tried to recall the number of old Dales buildings I’d seen along the route – it must have been ten or more. Such a shame.
Although all probably redundant nowadays it is sad to see so many in decay. They are part of the Dales furniture, as much as the walls, farms and tiny settlements. Grants for restoring traditional farm buildings in the area are available, via The Yorkshire Millennium Trust and Stories in Stone initiative, closing date 26th September. Visit http://ow.ly/aI4R30f5LH0
Farewell to greener Dales
I thought I’d capture a few trees before they lose their greenery. These were taken on the High Way between Langcliffe and Settle this week.
13 photos. The cackle of a stream over water-worn pebbles; hidden birds striking out perfect notes. The sight and smell of wild garlic; bluebells gently swaying in dappled sunlight. A Dales wood is a delight on such a day. The few people I meet are cheerful; happy to be out and about in this peaceful haven, forgetting the world’s troubles and its greedy fools.
At the start of the week I was contemplating changing the name of my blog to Scribble by the Pebbles, such was the lack of water in the Ribble and elsewhere in the Dales. Many stretches of the riverbed near my home could easily be walked across which is very unusual as this is an area where water has traditionally been collected for meadows and powering mills.
One day I popped over to Wensleydale to see how low Semerwater was looking. The two large boulders by the car park (top pic) were totally exposed. I took photos of the naked rocks for posterity. In fact, I got a bit carried away with camera clicking this week and had a job whittling down the choice for the blog so I’ll let the pics do most of the talking.
17 photos of Ribblesdale: snowdrops are fading from memory, daffodils are drooping, but blossom is bursting out all over the place. The swallows have returned, their energy lifting my spirits and livening the neighbourhood. Last year they nested under the eaves directly above my door, which meant daily removal of splatterings from the doorstep. The postman needed to be quick. I’m told there’s a possibility of snow next week, but it’s not unusual – snow fell briefly last April too.
The eastern slopes of Ribblesdale, where my village of Langcliffe sits, averages a gradient of about 1 in 7 (my own calculations so don’t quote me – it could be false news) from the River Ribble to the limestone outcrops some 750ft above. This means there aren’t too many flat strolls from home. My heart and lungs were working overtime one day this week as I struggled straight up the hill to the crags above the village. So, plenty of opportunities to stop and look back to admire the views. All Three Peaks can be seen from the crags, as are many of the small settlements scattered along the dale. Up here are several hidden little valleys, small plantations, limestone pavements and signs of ancient farming activity.
Lower down, in a field where lambs were playing in the sunshine, some lazy dog-walker had deposited a plastic bag of dog-poo. I’d only just read about horses being killed by choking on these bags and I wasn’t having any lambs suffering the same fate. The offending article is in my dustbin should anyone wish to claim it. Further up Ribblesdale at Helwith Bridge I watched a coot hen and its chicks venturing in and out of the reeds in the old quarry, while a pair of noisy tewits cavorted overhead. I love Nature at this time of year.
One cold, grey day I headed for the top end of Ribblesdale for a quick stroll around part of the Ingleborough Nature Reserve. All Three Peaks didn’t look particularly welcoming, but with politics dominating the TV back home, I’d still rather be struggling up those hills.
I received a card this week wishing me a Happy Yorkshire Christmas. It got me imagining Santa wearing a festive red flat cap, shouting ‘Ey up! Narthen! Sithee!’ as he travelled across the Broad Acres on a sleigh pulled by half a dozen whippets. Then I read somewhere that some chap was complaining about not seeing any sweeping plantations in the county where Yorkshire Tea is grown. I tweeted that despite the lack of tea-growing, folk can visit the forests of Pudsey where Yorkshire Puddings are scratched from the ground by specially trained ferrets. And that you can watch traditional divers off the coast of Scarborough who risk their lives searching the Great Yorkshire Reef for Yorkshire Mixtures. Yorkshire Parkin is still quarried from prehistoric deposits in Giggleswick of course. And Yorkshire Curd Tarts are produced in darkened sheds throughout the Yorkshire Dales by Yorkshire Women in pinnies mixing Yorkshire Water and Yorkshire Milk while supping Yorkshire Best Bitter. We’re short of nowt here.
I see that Giggleswick Quarry (that’s the limestone one, not the Parkin quarry) has been put up for sale. It will be interesting to see what happens to it – and what is allowed. I always thought that quarry owners in the Dales were supposed to restore any former workings once they’d been plundered, not just sell them off to the highest bidder for the new users to take on responsibility. So I looked on the Dales Environment Network website – it states:
‘We have an obligation to restore quarry sites once we have finished working them, and in the Dales we do so in partnership with a number of organisations such as the National Park Authority, Natural England, the Wildlife Trust and Dales Millennium Trust. Giggleswick quarry was closed in 2009, and is now undergoing the process of restoration. As with Old Ingleton quarry, we will be primarily relying on natural regeneration – however this is being supported by native tree planting and broadcasting of wildflower seed mixes across the site.’
So I’m left a little confused. Not being one of Her Majesty’s card-carrying investigative journalists any more, I won’t be following this up but wonder if anyone else has bothered to ask what’s happening? Perhaps the quarry owners have actually fulfilled their statutory obligations – I don’t know, but viewed from the path above, the quarry just looks like a big Yorkshire Hole.
One hole in the Dales is Birkdale Tarn – the third largest expanse of water in the Dales after Malham Tarn and Semerwater. At 1600ft it’s the highest of the three, best for solitude and hardest to photograph!
It’s a bit black ovver t’back o’Bill’s mother’s.
I couldn’t go a week without a photo of Winskill, could I? ….
Fabulous sky above Ribblehead Viaduct…
Small screens don’t do justice to panoramic views but I recommend looking at this one of the Howgills, taken a little while back, on a computer if possible.
Penyghent made but a brief appearance from under its shroud during the week…
Despite slipping and landing on my backside in the mud, a trip down to Stainforth Foss this week was worthwhile. The repaired packhorse bridge (top photo in blog) looked much better and the river was lively. Here are a couple more photos and video link.
Summer sauntered into Ribblesdale and the rest of the Dales this week, bringing colour and wildlife to enrich our already beautiful area. The number of natural wild flower meadows has decreased in the Dales over the previous 50 years or so with the changing of farming methods. Subsequently, the fields, although green and pleasant, have become less vibrant. But over the last decade efforts have been made to change this, and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust have contributed greatly with their Hay Meadows Project. Visit http://www.ydmt.org/programme-details-hay-time-14609 where you’ll find a selection of lovely walks.
In Ribblesdale I’ve been captivated by the fields of buttercups which have added an extra dimension to my landscape photographs. But if you look closer you’ll find some stunning wild flowers so typical of the limestone Dales. I’ve put a few together here, along with some flowers blooming around the village right now.
At Ribblehead on Tuesday I watched as a young family paddled in Cam Beck, and I recalled the time in my early teens when I would try to leap over the stream here. This is one of the Ribble’s main tributaries. The beck rises on Cam Fell – Cam meaning ‘a ridge of hill’ – which is crossed by the old Roman road from Ingleton to Bainbridge, once the main route over to Wensleydale before the road from Gearstones to Hawes via Newby Pass was built. On Bowen’s map of 1785 the Roman road was described as The Devil’s Causeway, the reason for this probably lost in history. The road passes Cam Houses, now considered a farmstead but which was once a hamlet housing several families. On one side of the settlement Cam Beck rises while on the other is the beginnings of the River Wharfe. One old story goes that a man from Ling Gill, near Ribblehead, who had lived into middle age with his mother, was looking for someone to look after his house after the old lady died. A friend at Gearstones suggested that he visited Cam Houses because he’d heard that a married man there was willing to sell his wife.
“What’ll ta pay for ’er?” the Cam man asked.
“Ah’s gitten five gold sovereigns,” said the Ling Gill man.
His offer was refused, so he promised to throw in a horse and cart with harness. Again his offer was refused, so he said he’d fill the cart with peat, and with that the deal was completed. It is said that the wife was quite happy with the outcome as ‘her purchaser was a good-looking man’.
On the dark side
I hope you are sitting down while reading this as I have to announce that I travelled through Lancashire this week. Wanting somewhere flat to exercise, I thought I’d try a couple of miles along the edge of Morecambe Bay at Hesk Bank. And it proved a treat in the sunshine, with grand views across the bay to Grange and the South Lakeland fells. The countryside and villages along the Lune Valley, the traditional border between the counties, look a treat at this time of year.
I also called in at Stocks Reservoir, Gisburn Forest (above). The water was very low and many of the walls of the drowned fields were once again visible. A peaceful place to listen to the lapping water and see and hear a great variety of birds.
Back in Ribblesdale
I’ve also spent quite a while trundling around my village of Langcliffe, capturing the first days of summer… there’s a selection, and I’ll leave the pictures to tell the story:
Ribblesdale is not going to be the usual magnet for trainspotters this year. Westcoast Railways’ Dalesman steam train was due to start running its regular trips on the line on 19th May. The company’s website contains this badly-worded statement: ‘Due to the continued closure of the Settle to Carlisle Line and that our efforts to find a suitable replacement route have been unsuccessful, we have to announce that the Dalesman trip for 2016 will unfortunately be cancelled.’ The Settle-Carlisle line is, of course, NOT closed – just a small section north of Appleby is being made safe after December’s floods – so it’s important that people continue to use the normal service.
In a bid to encourage passengers, from today a Day Ranger ticket will be available. This will reduce the cost of travel for many journeys on the world-famous railway. For details visit www.settle-carlisle.co.uk/
The photo was taken at Dent Station, this time last year.
Relaxing in Ribblesdale
With sciatica still plaguing me this week, the only walking I’ve managed is a couple of hobbles around my village of Langcliffe in Ribblesdale. The consolation is that there are a helluva lot worse places to be. It was whites v yellows on the mini football pitch on the ‘Green’. The churchyard was a mass of colours and wildlife, including this mistle thrush. When the blossom fully emerged the village looked pretty in pink. On the mill pond tiny ducklings were playful, then appeared scared witless as they lost sight of mum, giving off pathetic squeaks of panic. Stainforth Scar provided a fine backdrop.
Further up Ribblesdale
I took a short drive up to Selside one day where I managed a few shots of Penyghent and then on to Ribblehead for a cup of tea. However, by then the old ‘clutch leg’ was telling me it had had enough. I just pray that good weather hangs around until all my moving parts are fully operational again.
Politics and plans
Elections, voting systems and politics in general are not what my blog is about but I can’t help but add my two-penn’orth now and then, especially where Ribblesdale is concerned. Last week’s local council results for my ward, Settle & Ribblebanks, showed that 463 people voted for the Tory candidate; 641 didn’t vote for the Tory, so obviously the Tory was elected. A good 70 per cent turnout, too. The result reflects that of the last general election when the nation received a government which a minority voted for. Great system, uh?
While I’m on one, I’ve been trying to work my way through the ludicrously unwieldy Craven Local Plan which covers the contrasting areas of South Craven, through Skipton up the A65 to the rural western Dales. In some cases blindly following government dictats regarding local plans, councils have to report to their headmasters about how they are going to make developers and businesses stacks of money …, sorry, I’ll rephrase that: councils have to explain how they are going to make life better for us all over the next decades.
Most people who study this flawed and complicated master plan will be looking to see how it affects them close to home (as I did). One immediate reaction was that I couldn’t believe anyone who witnessed the last December’s major flooding of the area surrounding the river Ribble could contemplate building on land which for millennia has held back water, naturally slowing flooding further down the dale. Yet that is what is proposed for an area in Giggleswick and the edge of Settle. Flooding is just one part of the argument against proposals for that particular area (some of which have already been refused but seemed to have miraculously risen from the dead). I won’t expand here but urge you to spare a few minutes to visit www.rageo.co.uk Informal consultation into the Craven Local Plan draft was due to end on Tuesday, but will now run until the end of May.
Having quite a few ancient books cluttering up the house I often look through them for old photos of places around the dales. I like to visit those places to see how they’ve changed. With many of the scenes being in the National Park, there’s not always a lot of differences to be seen… above is a Langcliffe scene pictured 65 years apart. Below is Settle Cricket Club, the old photo taken in 1946 when a Yorkshire XI played against Settle, and the other one taken yesterday.
Seeing this new build on the edge of Settle while on a walk to Cleatop Park on Friday reminded me of an article I’d read about the housebuilding industry in this country. The government continually tells us that the country needs more housing yet Britain’s biggest developers are currently sitting on enough land to create more than 600k new homes. The top four companies – Berkeley, Barratt, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey – own 450k of these plots, and are hoarding £947m cash set aside to build the houses. Last year those four dished out £1.5bn to their shareholders (Berkley’s chairman netted a cool £23m himself). Yet according to CPRE developers are still looking to gobble up more of our precious green belt land. We need to put a time limit on these vultures – build on the land within six months or hand it back for less than the price paid, oh, and keep your grubby hands off our countryside.
Sadly, Otley-born cycling champ Lizzie Armitstead won’t be in day one of the Tour de Yorkshire race letour.yorkshire.com which ends in Settle on Friday (her race is elsewhere on Saturday). It is very likely that Lizzie’s distant ancestors came from the settlement called Armitstead in the parish of Giggleswick. The surname (as well as the alternative spelling of Armistead) is still common in these parts. This old photo shows the former Armistead shop by which the cyclists will pass on Duke Street, Settle. Today we find it strange to see the sale of tobacco and sporting equipment in the same shop. (See also my surnames column link above.)
Settle is certainly gearing up for the visit of hundreds of cyclists and spectators. Huge Hollywood-style lettering on Castleberg Rock reminds everyone where they are, and local shops, organisations and individuals have made a real effort to make everyone feel welcome. I’m not sure whether there was enough money or material to spell out GIGGLESWICK across the scar. The sprint race passes through that fine parish and I’m looking forward to seeing the cyclists tackling Buckhaw Brow.
I watched some very pleasant sunsets this week. Instead of focusing on the sun itself I thought I’d try to capture its late light on west-facing hillsides. Penyghent, Stainforth Scar, Moughton Scar and Crummackdale all took on a friendly fiery glow. Someone asked me the other day how the name Crummack originated. In 1190 it was recorded as Crumbok which stems from an ancient British word ‘crumbaco’ meaning crooked hill – so Crummackdale means ‘the valley of the crooked hill’.
When in Rome…
On Wednesday I went to Rome and saw Wham. Before you put me down as some kind of jet-setter with a dodgy taste in 80s music, I should clarify that Rome, Farther Rome and Upper and Lower Wham are tiny settlements on left of those zooming up Settle bypass towards the Lakes.
The lanes and paths in the area between Giggleswick and Gisburn Forest are a great place to explore. Good map reading skills are needed in some places as old signposts stating ‘Footpath’ (but no destination) often point across vast fields bearing no obvious sign of a path.
There were hazy views of Penyghent and Ingleborough to remind me that I was in the western Dales, but you can easily imagine being in the undulating Yorkshire Wolds. Unfortunately, the walk was spoiled for me when the line ‘wake me up before you go-go’ got into my head around Wham and stuck with me for the rest of the journey.
Just a gentle stroll in Thursday’s sun around Thorns Gill. The water was low and inviting; the pools the colour of Wainwright’s Gold beer.
Whernside, Ingleborough and Park Fell stood out against the blue sky, not yet in their green summer coats – the nights are still very cold here. There are signs, however, that some bushes and trees are starting to bud.
OK, just one more cute lamb shot and that’s yer lot this spring.
I started the blog telling you about Cleatop Park didn’t I? Well that was Friday. I love the views on this walk – the Ribblesdale panorama includes all three peaks (it’s the 62nd Annual 3 Peaks Race is next Saturday, by the way) – but my aim was really to try capture bluebells in the wood at Cleatop. Alas, too early; just a few brave souls peaking through here. I’ll be back to see them and the wild garlic.
I also had a delightful drive around Dentdale this week but I’ve already prattled on too much so I’ll save that for another blog.
A tourist went into a Yorkshire department store and asked where he could find towels. They gave him directions to the bird sanctuary.
Ingleborough is once again the focus of my blog this week although it didn’t set out that way… A bit like the myths surrounding Giggleswick’s Ebbing & Flowing Well (mentioned in my blog of 06/03/16) the legend of Robin Hood’s Mill, just a couple of miles away, arose because of the area’s geology. Just off the Stackhouse road from Little Stainforth to Giggleswick, near the parish boundary, there is a hollow which according to local folklore was the site of Robin Hood’s Mill. The tale goes that Robin was a miller who worked all hours and even on Sundays. As a penance for working on the Sabbath, the weight of his clanking machinery sank further and further into the ground until it completely disappeared from sight. It was said that if you put your ear to the ground, you could still hear the millstones grinding deep below. Before the last war, cavers explored the hole and also heard the rumbling sound. Afterwards, the noise seemed to stop; it is likely that the noise was gurgling water and that the cavers’ excavations merely created more of a sound barrier.
These photos were taken close to the ‘mill’ last Sabbath while I was out working on photographing my patch – I wonder what fate awaits me.
The snow was still laying deep on the higher hills as I walked into Settle on Monday from Langcliffe. White-topped Ingleborough contrasted starkly against the greener lower dale.
The donkeys in a field above Settle are becoming local celebrities with many walkers heading up the steep gradient from Constitution Hill on the Malham trail using the sight of the animals as an excuse to stop and draw breath. They were sunning themselves against the wall. My comments on twitter and Facebook brought in hundreds of likes and retweets:
‘You see, young un, this is why we have front legs shorter than those at the back,’ says the top donkey.
‘But Mum, when I want to warm t’other side I fall over,’ replies the youngster.
On a clear day…
Later in the day I drove to Tatham Fells and then on to Kingsdale (first pic in blog) to view the majestic Ingleborough from other angles. The panorama from the Great Stone of Fourstones, just above Bentham, was the clearest I can recall seeing. The Three Peaks and Gragareth looked splendid but such was the clarity that the Lakeland Fells seemed within touching distance.
Back down in Ribblesdale I couldn’t stop myself taking yet another photo or two around St Oswald’s in Horton.
After a couple of days stuck mainly indoors I headed up to Ribblehead Quarry to stroll around part of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve. Yet another angle on Ingleborough showed some melting of the snow had taken place but you certainly wouldn’t describe it as spring-like! Whernside and Penyghent weren’t to be ignored, of course; the limestone pavement and quarry rocks provided interesting foregrounds.
The deaths this week of a former work colleague, followed by a cherished family member, has left me somewhat deflated. I was cheered a little by the sight of new life though in the local fields where lambs gambolled without a care in the world. So many new things to discover and adventures to be had. Oh to have that innocence of youth again. The lamb on the right reminds me of my own childhood – my mum was always having to sew knee patches on my trouser legs, too!