A sea of buttercups forming lazy waves caught my attention. Young trees were showing off new clothes, and birds flitted busily and noisily along the hedges and walls. Standing there in this mini paradise I wondered whether the young man who callously murdered and maimed in Manchester had ever witnessed the delights laid out in front of me. Would he have nurtured the same hatred inside him if he’d been given the chance to see and feel first hand the beauty of Nature here in this countryside? Had he grown up with a vision of this different world in his head would he have taken on such evil advice? None of us knows the answer. What I do know is we continue to fill young people’s heads with violence and depravity via TV and internet; we play out futile and barbaric scenarios and conflicts on gadgets. Many of the younger generation are now learning about ‘life’ through manufactured media – and a distorted, corrupt and perverted media at that – or on soulless city streets. Government continues to drive children away from the countryside by closing village schools and local amenities; cutting funds for outdoor activities. Youngsters are corralled into urban ghettoes. I’m not claiming that places like the Dales hold all the answers to our problems, of course not. The peaceful world I’m so fond of won’t stop human bigotry or greed, or the acts of lunatics, but it can help to teach fresh perspectives and open the mind. I held my own silent moment for those unfortunate, innocent victims who have now been deprived of the kind of days in the Dales I’ve enjoyed this week.
Knowing I was heading off for a couple of days in London – yes, you heard correctly; me, deserting Yorkshire for more than a few hours (but don’t worry, I’ll be there with 40k other Tykes supporting Huddersfield Town at Wembley) – I’ve been gorging myself on the Dales all this week. So much so in fact I’ve too much to show in this blog so I’ll save some for next week.
I had a crackpot idea on Thursday, the hottest day in the Dales since records began (fake news that). I decided to walk beside the Swale – still very low at the time but no doubt swollen since Saturday’s storms – then up the hill to Crackpot. I probably walked less than 4 miles but was still exhausted because of the heat. The views up and down this part of Swaledale were superb and I took far more photos than would be considered normal.
I think I developed an RSI problem with my camera clicking finger while photographing the Dales this week. Trying to capture what I believed would be the last of the best autumn colours I’ve driven many a mile through many a dale and taken many a picture. I won’t bore you with the full collection but here are some highlights plus a quick rant. The top photo is my favourite of the week. On Monday, reaching the highest point of Buttertubs Pass coming from the Swaledale end, this view opened up. It’s a bit of an unsteady hand-held zoom shot showing a distant Ingleborough, Widdale and hills in between. The light autumn mist in the dales and a mild pink sky created a beautiful sight. Better seen first hand than on a screen.
Dales town disgrace
At first I thought they were a Trick or Treat prank. But no, they were still in place the following day – I’m talking about those ghastly luminous yellow double-lines that now disgrace Settle’s lovely town centre. I’m in favour of preventing stupid parking but this vandalism is well out of proportion. They are garish, ugly, unwelcoming and urban. They can be seen from the surrounding hills and the Dales National Park, and probably from the Moon. I’ve been to other popular country places where a subtle thin line with appropriate notices about parking restrictions have satisfied the law, suited the town’s character and appeased the residents. Had some yobs daubed such graffiti in the town there would have been an almighty Halloween witch hunt. Which bureaucrat sanctioned this unsightly mess and why? Sorry about that Daily Mail reader rant but I really do find this particular excessive painting offensive and unnecessary.
(Bear with me during this lengthy blog – the sun’s gone in now and I’m reminiscing for my own amusement about the week just gone)
Two fine days in a row last week – or, what we in these parts call summer – saw me out and about with the camera once again. The pastures beneath Stainforth Scar shone like gold lamé carpets. They brought out the poet in me and I penned the following verse – but re-reading it now I wish the poet had stayed inside and had another glass of something strong. Choose me! Choose me! Plead the buttercups to a bee. Come by! Come by! Hears the languid butterfly. Hopeful hosts of gold — Such a sight to behold.
Further up the dale, Dry Beck Farm, which I must have photographed a hundred times, lured me in once more. I made a mental note to put together some kind of time-lapse sequence showing the shot through the seasons … one of those jobs I’ll probably never get round to. There’s a splendid beech tree in one of the fields – its fresh foliage looked vibrant against the meadows, limestone walls and bright blue sky.
Horton was busy with Three-Peakers – must be the time of year for charity fundraisers. Even fans of my footie team, Huddersfield Town, had groups out on the fells raising cash to help deprived youngsters in the Kirklees Community. I thought of those walking the 24 gruelling miles to raise a few pounds to help the under privileged while their idols were idling away their time on a beach somewhere earning up to £??k a week.
I stopped near Selside, close to the spot – a notorious bend on a hill – where a motorcyclist had sadly died after crashing into a road sign just a few days earlier. Last year a few hundred yards away, I came across another accident where a biker was killed. Dales roads weren’t meant for thrill seekers. I mentioned this on Facebook where locals added words of sadness for those involved, their own grief at witnessing and encountering these scenes, and also their annoyance at not being able to get home because of the road closure.
I’m not sure what the collective noun for train photographers is (an Orak, perhaps?) but when I saw a gathering at Ribblehead I presumed something important must be imminent. Here it is. Anyway, nice view of Whernside. I took in the exhibition at Ribblehead station while I was there – I’d been before but failed to notice the stained glass windows on previous visits. There are several depicting old railway names and emblems plus this one which lines up nicely with Ingleborough.
I motored on through Widdale which seems to be rapidly losing its clothes. the pine and spruce forests planted during the last century are gradually all being replaced by the kind of tree species that once thrived here before Man brought his hatchet into the dale.
Hawes was waking up when I travelled through on Thursday, even the ice cream sales had not begun but the parking chaos had; delivery trucks haphazardly abandoned amongst dirty farm Landrovers and unwary tourists looking for a free spot. The first bus full of grey-haired visitors was attempting to barge its way through to Wensleydale Creamery.
My mission was to try get a decent picture of the Buttertubs. The pass was quiet apart from the sheep who despite having hundreds of square miles of perfectly good moorland to wander over, prefer to meander aimlessly down the middle of the road. The mums appear unkempt at the moment with their fleeces falling apart at the seams. Their ’teenage’ lambs stay a few paces behind looking embarrassed and thinking ‘Is she really going out looking like that? I hope I don’t see any of my friends’.
I was lucky to grab one of the few parking spots at the Buttertubs which were dark and cool and had only a minor fall of water echoing in its depths. I always fear for the road’s foundations here as it spans the chasms but perhaps it’s best not to ponder too long and instead head down into Swaledale. I’ll have to try again at Buttertubs as the pics didn’t turn out too well.
Muker was thrang as Throp’s wife; I was passing through to capture the hay meadows and barns. Mainly comprising buttercups and daisies at this time of year the pastures were nevertheless a beautiful sight which I never tire of seeing. Made a mental note to come back shortly for a greater variety of plants.
Parking near Low Row, I headed for the river on the Crackpot road where I once again gazed enviously at a lovely row of cottages which overlook the Swale and the smart bridge. There’s a delightful path (partially blocked at present due to work by Yorkshire Water) which runs beside the river. The path actually goes along the top of a wall for a 100 yards or so. I felt as though I needed one of those vehicles ahead of me warning oncoming traffic of a ‘wide load’. I’d no need to worry as I didn’t see another soul for the next hour. There’s a nature trail here; flora and fauna abound, there were rabbits, too, and I heard all kinds of birds accompanied by the sound a low, brown river cackling over rocks and mini falls.
There was a small market in Reeth and every parking spot with a mile radius seemed to be taken, even on the village greens. It’s a pleasant village but I needed a bit more solitude today and headed for one of the glorious passes between Swaledale and Wensleydale.
Don’t ask me to pick a favourite road between the two dales because they are all spectacular. On Friday I took the one from Grinton over to Redmire. The lonely isolated grouse moors are certainly not where I’d choose to be on a winter’s night but this day a wonderful place to get out of the car and sit, look and listen to the cries of curlew and lapwing cries and the wind rushing through the heather which was still brown but showing signs of budding in sheltered area.
The previous day I’d taken on the pass between Askrigg and Muker/Gunnerside where I came face to face with a car on a 1 in 4, 45 degree bend. The other driver looked terrified so I reversed blindly, praying there was nothing following. Last year I took the Satron road – more of a track really but it is surfaced – which runs parallel to, and joins on to, this one. It’s not signposted and feels like a private road to a farm but it is a public way (I think!). It’s scary and you require a gate-opening passenger and someone to mop your brow. The views of Wensleydale dropping into Askrigg are vast and I was lucky to capture a glimpse of Semerwater across the wide valley.
Heading back to Ribblesdale I was tempted to park up for a walk to Snaizeholme and see if the red squirrels would come out to pose for me but it was getting late. When I returned home my neighbour’s clematis was basking in the late evening light … sadly, I’ve not seen much of the sun since.
Had a lovely day in Swaledale yesterday ending with a walk around Richmond. Tour de France cyclists were rushing dementedly through the dale like they were being chased by some unseen force. It’s one thing doing this when the roads are closed to traffic but they’re asking for trouble when plodders like me are gawping at the scenery and stopping every five minutes to take photos. Fortunately, no mishaps this time.
Driving through Swaledale this morning I doubted there was a better place I could possibly be. I travelled up Ribblesdale, in amongst the Three Peaks, before heading over Buttertubs Pass and negotiating my way around sheep that had serious suicidal tendencies (they were sunbathing in the middle of the road). Almost got run over myself while taking some photos of the meadows near Gunnerside (shame the Kings pub has now closed). Then, in sharp contrast to the neatly walled enclosures of the dale, it was over the wild open heather moorland to Redmire in Wensleydale and back home via Bolton Castle and Hawes. Yorkshire writer Alfred J Brown (1894-1969) once wrote: ‘One of the charms of the Yorkshire Dales is that they are all characteristically different, like lovely sisters of the same family.’ Nicely put.