Mean, moody and magnificent – my description of the Dales this week (12 pics here). With many schools on half term, tourists have flooded into the area to boost the local economy and bring a bit more life into Dales villages where many houses are now second homes or holiday lets.
Camping and caravan sites have burst back into life … and visiting dogs have left their contribution, too. I’ve never seen so many little plastic bags full of you-know-what stuffed into walls and left beside paths.
Away from the crowds I strolled up lonely Kingsdale and explored the land around the Cheese Press Stone – I didn’t see a soul for almost two hours but I still came across several poo bags. Someone’s gone to the trouble of picking up their dog’s biodegradable droppings, placed them in an non-biodegradable plastic bag and cast them aside for wildlife to choke on. Unbelievable.
Glad I got that off my chest. But no doubt you’ll say – and I agree – there are one or two bigger issues for the world to think about at the moment.
Yes, I should be thankful for what I’ve got – the views from up above Kingsdale are superb; lots of different shapes and angles for photography even when the distant views haven’t got the clarity you’d hope for. Ingleborough, Whernside and Gragareth provide fantastic backdrops here; I couldn’t quite make out the Lakeland Fells today but the Bowland Fells stretched away into the murkiness.
I’ve seen moody mists, stunning sunsets and whopping whales (sorry, whopping was the only alliteration I could summon up for whales) around the Dales this week so here’s the rest of the photo diary:
Looking over the western Dales from my perch at the trig point near Bowland Knotts I thought about the people I’ve known who are now sadly unable to enjoy such pleasures. It’s good for the soul to remind yourself every now and then just how lucky you are.
The moors up here can be bleak – and they were certainly cold the day I visited this week. But today the Sun is out, and at last there are signs of spring. I can hear peewits (lapwings) calling, back on the higher ground from the valley looking for nesting sites and mates. A less-travelled red grouse shrieks after being disturbed in the heather.
In the distance I can make out the snow-topped Lakeland fells, while directly across Wenningdale the guardians of the Dales line up in defiance: Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough, Penyghent and Fountains Fell. While supping tea from a flask I really appreciate what Nature has dished up for me this morning. Top photo: the view of Ingleborough and Whernside from near the trig point.
I watched this coot for a while at Helwith Bridge quarry. It swam into thicker reeds where a moorhen was minding its own business. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, much squawking and splashing of water before the coot took off and made an undignified landing at the other end of the pool.
I took this photo of Penyghent on my way to view the previously mentioned waterfall. I upped the contrast a bit and it now it looks more like a painting. I wish I had the patience (and talent) to sit there and sketch the scene.
Of all Yorkshire’s Dales, Kingsdale probably makes me feel the most relaxed. It’s such a peaceful place; small but perfectly formed. Kingsdale doesn’t belong in the 21st century and is much the better place for it. With Gragareth rising steeply on the west and Whernside to the east, this most secluded of dales can seem very lonely on a darkening winter’s eve. But on bright autumnal days with sun shining on the limestone, and glistening on the beck as it cackles over water-worn pebbles, Kingsdale is heavenly.
I have a well-read phamplet that was printed by the Craven Herald in the 1930s, called Kingsdale the Valley of the Vikings. It was written and published by Frederic Riley of The Book Stores, Settle. In it are many photos of scenes which if I captured again today would not look any different whatsoever.
One day this week I parked in a lay-by on the narrow road from Thornton-in-Lonsdale to Dent where there is a classic view of Kingsdale. Should I head to the west of the dale and walk up the steep path through loose rocky limestone, or go east up the gentler slopes of Twisleton Scars? Thinking that my old knees would handle the latter much more comfortably I headed for the path up which I’d not been for more than 40 years, towards Whernside. Years ago, probably during a Duke of Edinburgh Awards hike, we’d camped in Ingleton and walked up Twisleton Scar and along the spine of Whernside (pictured above) before camping again somewhere near High Birkwith. No such trek today as I wandered around the fabulous limestone pavement where a few stunted trees leaned with the prevailing westerly wind towards Ingleborough. Here, odd weathered stones balance precariously which along with the trees present some classic (or should that be clichéd?) shots of the surrounding dales landscape. A lovely walk with extensive views over Wenningdale towards the Bowland Fells.
My granddad’s brother, Reuben Hepworth, survived the horrific battle fields of Flanders only to be killed in action exactly one month later on 11th December 1917 while on duty in Italy. He was just 24 and single. His mother Hannah, already a widow and with four children, received £105 10s 2d in April 1920 when the government finally sorted out his will. While we rightly remember those who died fighting for their countries we should also bear in mind the trauma felt by families back home.
I have Reuben’s Memorial Plaque – sometimes known as the Death Penny or Dead Man’s Penny. They were issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of service personnel killed as a result of the war.
Like me, you were probably totally surprised to hear this week that some rich people get richer by avoiding tax. What shocking news. They’ll be telling us next that there are people on benefits who shouldn’t be – and folk driving round in cars that haven’t been taxed. Ah well, life just wouldn’t be the same in Little England if we couldn’t go ‘tut-tut’ about something, would it?
This week’s church is in the Mallerstang valley in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. St Mary’s chapel at Outhwaite has been around since the 14th century. The small low building contains a 13th century bell. Above the porch is a stone recording the restoration of the church by Lady Anne Clifford, who owned the nearby Pendragon Castle and lived in Skipton Castle, no doubt avoiding tax.
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!
Standing on top of Great Stone of Fourstones, which marks the Yorkshire border with that other county whose name escapes me, you can enjoy one of the best ‘driveable’ views of the south-western dales. The Three Peaks, Gragareth, Howgills and the distant jagged teeth of the Lakeland Fells are laid out before you. The 16ft-tall glacial deposit is the only one of four large stone outcrops remaining on this spot on Tatham Fell, near High Bentham – the others probably having been broken up for buildings and tools. I wanted a view but not a trek on Wednesday and this monolith once again proved an ideal location. With a 200mm zoom lens I was able to make out the layered-cake effect of Ingleborough and capture Whernside looking particularly dominant above Twisleton Scar.
After writing last week’s blog on Sunday I wandered up Ribblesdale and on to Stainforth Foss where dozens of people were on salmon-leap-watch. I wondered whether there would be any conflict here today, as just a few yards down river from the falls were two anglers … salmon fishing? Poaching? I didn’t stop to find out, but headed further downstream to Langcliffe where the colours on the riverbank and millpond stood out starkly against a drab sky.
I reckoned this week would be one of the best for capturing the changing colours and I was right. On Monday I took a stroll around Malham Tarn – almost ignoring the tarn and concentrating on the surrounding bogland, shrubs and trees. The last time I’d been in this woodland I’d been startled by a deer but there was no sign this time.
The blue sky came out later and I got some good shots of the eastern side of Penyghent. I was also able to snatch some great scenes around home later that day in the evening sun.
St John the Evangelist in Langcliffe might not have the history or ancient architecture of older dales churches but it is certainly a pretty Victorian building within well-kept grounds and it looks a picture when caught in the evening sun.
At this time of year I like to raise my eyes above the area’s wonderful landscape and take in the ever-changing autumn sky. It’s been a treat this week with a variety of clouds, shades, and sunsets. On Friday I sat above Winskill and watched an invasion of aliens beaming up all before them … I woke up Saturday morning with ‘REJECT: Beyond Best Before Date’ stamped across my forehead.
Yesterday, after strolling by the Ribble in some glorious changing light, I drove up to the old road between Settle and Feizor to watch the sunset. I also waited as long as I dare for an unsteady hand-held night shot, to capture an outline of Ingleborough.
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.
I’ve been tweeting more than blogging recently, for no other reason than to judge reaction. Results to follow! Having to sum up a mood or express a feeling in a restrictive tweet is perhaps a good exercise but it’s impossible to put across any kind of personality – in my view anyway. This lunchtime I traveled the lonely road from Tosside over to Bentham. There was no sunshine and the views didn’t stretch far but the mood was captivating. Looking out from Bowland Knots the recognisible shapes of Ingleborough, Whernside and Gragareth provided a fine silhouette. I’m going to have to start inviting some patient soul out with me on my meanders around the Dales; this seat just begs for an occupant looking wistfully out over the moors. I’ve tried using the camera’s delay-timer in the past, and dashing to an appropriate spot myself, but I always seem to ruin the shot.
Clear blue skies tempted me into clambering up the rocky western side of Kingsdale this morning. The views were fantastic. I went as far as the Turbary Road, an ancient track which locals once used to collect peat from the slopes of Gragareth. To the west I could pick out Morecambe Bay across the Lune Valley, and the snow-topped southern fells of the Lake District. Just off the main track are these erratics known as the Cheese Press Stones where I ate my pressed cheese sandwich while staring towards Ingleborough and Whernside.
It’s that time of year when I make my first sighting of the greater-spotted caravaner (tardus progressio) along the A65 near home. On Bank Holidays I tend to dip into my repertoire of back roads in order to find a quiet drive, a short walk and a nice pint. Good Friday was far from good on the main Dales roads so I ventured off the main route to the Lakes, down to Bentham and followed the narrow road over the moors to Slaidburn. I took in the scene over the Three Peaks and Gragareth from that enormous and weird Great Stone of Fourstones (pictured) before tackling the winding way over the tops. In places, roadside snowdrifts hung precariously over the car roof, while on the bleak moors the fierce wind had created crazy snow patterns amongst the tufts and the walls. A sharpish walk beside the river in Slaidburn helped ease the guilt of spending most of the day on my backside then it was off to Tosside for a welcome pint.