April hues, ewes and awws in the Dales

It’s the end of April, a third of the way through the year – where has time gone? Seems like only yesterday I was thinking about snowdrops not making it through a layer of snow. Now already the daffodils are on their way out and the lambs are growing up. Soon the flower meadows will be bursting with colour here in the Dales. I seem to be getting old very quickly nowadays so my vow is to get out and enjoy the landscape; smell the flowers and listen to the birds as much as possible as spring turns into summer.

I hadn’t much chance to get out with the camera this week but here’s a medley of April photos showing how different the month can be. The first two pictures were taken during ‘this week’ a year apart. (Top near Moughton Scar, the other showing Ingleborough.)

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Warrendale Knotts (above) one evening this week, and Halton Gill (below) last week.

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
– Robert Frost, 1926

april
Two evening scenes from Horton-in-Ribblesdale taken this week. That’s Penyghent in the background on the shot below.

Do I ever travel ‘abroad’ to take photos, you ask. Well yes, of course – I took these at one of my favourite places outside the Yorkshire Dales: the NE coast around Bamburgh and Lindisfarne. I love the Yorkshire coast too, but the vast skyscapes and the unspoilt Northumberland beaches with their dramatic castles and history take some beating.

So we go to the polls again next week, once more trying to convince ourselves that we live in a democracy; that the ‘will of the people’ will triumph; that our cross on a bit of paper will bring us nearer to the Utopia we crave. Will you vote for a political party, no matter who the candidate might be? Or vote for someone who is actually looking to care for your corner of the country? I’d like to see local council elections stripped of all political labelling and backing; and for council chambers to cease trying to be mini-Houses of Parliament where party policies and in-fighting become more important than actual local issues.

april
Typical Dales April: above, Penyghent from the road to Halton Gill from Stainforth in glorious sunshine last week; below, this week Whernside hidden by low cloud as a goods train passes over Ribblehead Viaduct.

April
April ewes, ears and awws.

Doing well being in the Dales

17 Yorkshire Dales images this week. So, I made it to 65 – I can’t say unscathed, but here I am, now an Official Ancient Person, Silver Surfer or Grumpy Old Git – whatever you want to call us.
There was no big fanfare on my birthday no “whooping an’ a ‘ollering” as I escaped the shackles of work. I retired from full time employment five years ago to gently ease myself into a more sedate way of life in the Dales.
I read about this thing called ‘well-being’; that this was the secret of a long and satisfying retirement. The countryside, Nature, fresh air and peaceful surroundings help make up this ‘well-being’ thing, so I’m in just the right place here in the Dales. Perhaps I’ll still be posting a photographic blog (or whatever will replace the internet, computers and cameras) in 2053 when I hit 100.


To celebrate and enforce my ‘well-being’, I’ve put together a collection of photos showing just a few of my favourite Dales places. Top photo shows fields near Appletreewick. Above, sunset over Ribblesdale.

View down Wharfedale from Conistone Pie; below, Man turns the rocks into houses – Halton Gill.

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Malham Cove when the tourists have gone home; below, Dentdale.

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Hardraw Force in Wensleydale; below, Moughton Scar, as approached from Ribblesdale.

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Ingleborough seen from Kingsdale; below, Nidderdale seen from Greenhow.

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Light and shade above Arncliffe; below, spring at Gunnerside in Swaledale.

One favoured spot in Ribblesdale is Catrigg Force where I spent some time this week. The steep track out of Stainforth always leaves me breathless, but standing alone in this cathedral of falls is worth the toil. Now is a good time to visit – there’s usually plenty of water heading off the fells and the trees have yet to form that leafy canopy that can hide the main fall. Short video here pic.twitter.com/c9f845J4H8

Catrigg Force; below, stopping for breath on the track from Stainforth to Cartrigg to look back on Smearsett Scar.

Yes, I’m lucky to live in the Dales, but people in urban towns also deserve green spaces for their own well-being. Parks are for playing, relaxing and escaping – but right now they’re in crisis.
Cash strapped councils have been forced to slash the funding used to keep these public spaces alive. And now, one of the last pots of money our parks could rely on has also been axed. The Heritage Lottery funded parks programme has been scrapped, putting the future of our parks further at risk. In response, the Parks Alliance have started a campaign to make sure parks get this vital funding back.
You can help by signing this petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-heritage-lottery-funding-for-parks

View from Simon’s Seat, Wharfedale; below, looking over Rowleth up Swaledale; last photo shows lovely Littondale.

Why seeing red in the Dales is vital

Dales arncliffe2Bright red telephone boxes in the Dales, like this one at Arncliffe, need to be preserved. Too many of the old pay-phones all around the countryside are being disconnected and removed. In the Dales some have been developed into tiny book-swap-shops, art galleries etc, and in the Lake District I’ve even seen one turned into a fish tank. I’m not just some old fart wanting to wallow in nostalgia. I can see the logic behind getting rid of some urban boxes but in the countryside where mobile reception is poor, or where walkers and campers have no way of recharging their mobiles’ batteries, the old red boxes can help save lives. I read this week that Keswick Mountain Rescue Team are asking people to help keep a kiosk at Seathwaite on a popular route to Scafell Pike. Surely the saving of just one person during the whole life of a phonebox is more important than the minutest of dents made in the profit margins of a communications giant like BT? Comments can be made at:
http://planning.allerdale.gov.uk/portal/servlets/ApplicationSearchServlet?PKID=148110

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Another shot of the kiosk in Arncliffe.

I popped into Arncliffe this week during a superb Dales drive from Langcliffe in Ribblesdale, over the Silverdale road to Halton Gill and down Littondale. From there I doubled back along the dodgy road via Darnbrook to Malham Tarn. Then it was back to Langcliffe via Cowside and Winskill. Here’s a selection of pics on the journey…

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Looking back over Arncliffe from the Darnbrook road
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Looking towards Penyghent from the Silverdale road at Dalehead Farm.
Dales silverroad
Further along the road to Halton Gill at the ‘backside’ of Penyghent.
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The breathtaking Dales view down Littondale. One of my favourites.
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I like it so much here’s a black and white shot.
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Little Halton Gill snuggles between Littondale’s steep hills.
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The beck at Arncliffe.
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There are some fascinating tombstones at St Oswald’s church, Arncliffe.
Dales stocks
Bring back the village stocks, I say. Not enough time for me to list who I’d throw rotten tomatoes at. Arncliffe.
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It’s not always as tranquil as this in the Dales – the river Skirfare near St Oswald’s in Arncliffe.

Whenever I drive through Rathmell in Ribblesdale, as I did one day this week, I wonder about the origins of the term ‘Reading Room’. I realise it is the equivalent of a village hall but why was it so called? Is it a Dales thing?

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Dales plumpewes
I don’t know what happens at the treatment works by the Ribble here in Settle but those ewes certainly look to be thriving on it.

Sitting ducks

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Team photo: Millpond Ducks FC first XI line up for their latest match in Langcliffe.

Changing Dales

Dales locks
Yesterday I thought I’d take one more summer shot at Langcliffe Locks before the trees change colour.
Dales claphamfalls
Earlier in the week I dropped in at Clapham Falls where there was already more than a hint of autumn.

Fire-breathing monsters in Ribblesdale

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I love maps. From where I’m typing this in my Ribblesdale cottage I can see about 20 of them, balancing precariously on a shelf. I have an 1841 tithe map of Langcliffe framed and hung on a wall. I often read maps instead of a books; I’m forever scouring them for new features or to compile fresh walks. There’s probably a polite name for someone with such an obsession. But I wonder if the end of the large folded paper map is upon us. I hope not. This week the OS were trying to flog a new deal for online mapping for smartphones. You can get unlimited mapping plus a host of other clever do-dahs for an annual fee. I can’t afford a smartphone or indeed yet another annual fee, so when I’m out in the Dales I’ll continue to bumble along in my quaint old-fashioned way – so I hope they are kept up to date. One day last summer I was out on the moors above Dent, sitting on a rock, eating a sandwich and reading a map. A couple of hikers approached me and asked for guidance because their gizmo had ‘died’. Smug, is how I would describe my mood that day. They were foolish not to take a proper map – no batteries required.

Ribblesdale mayhem?

ribblesdale - train

In last week’s blog I went off on one about HS2 and how the high-speed railway will destroy much countryside just to cut a few minutes off a journey. I compared my anger to that of people of Ribblesdale when the Settle-Carlisle line was cut through the dale. Out of interest (it was raining again) I pored over a pre-railway OS map of the route – published in 1842. As much as I admire the engineering feat needed to take the railway through some very tricky parts of Ribblesdale, its construction must have caused mayhem. And let’s face it, as much as many people enjoy seeing the big old steam locos chugging up and down the line today, residents at the time would have dreaded the great fire-breathing monsters spewing out filthy smoke and making a noise like a herd of rampaging elephants. The incline from Settle to Ribblehead passes over some tough terrain – everything from solid rock to boggy marshes. Much of the work was done manually as the line inched up Ribblesdale; so hats off to the poorly-paid workers whose section is still providing services.
The same can’t be said about the route further north, near Appleby, where ground saturated by unprecedented rainfall has become unstable. The line could be closed for several months for repairs. I hope this doesn’t put passengers off coming to Ribblesdale or using the line between Leeds and Appleby. http://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk
I hope too that there is a good service available by April 29 when the Tour o’ Yorkshire (I’m refusing to use the ‘de’ – what’s it got to do with the French?) comes to the area. There will be a public meeting at Victoria Hall, Settle, on Monday Feb 29 (6pm) to discuss local plans.

ribblesdale - snowdrops

Lovely to see snowdrops appearing around the village once again. Their brief show is said to herald the arrival of spring. I suspect as usual in these parts that their appearance is premature.

ribblesdale - watlowes

I snatched an hour or so out on the fells above Malham one bright breezy day this week. Hardly a soul to be seen as I wandered along the Pennine Way between Watlowes valley and the Tarn, normally quite a busy trail at the weekend. Note to self: do this walk in the morning so as not to get the dark shadow on the west slope of Watlowes. The Tarn took on a deep dark blue hue when viewed from a little knoll just off the path.

ribblesdale - malham tarn

Mind clearing

When my head is full of all sorts of daft stuff I’ll often drive the car over to Halton Gill on the Stainforth road to try clear my mind. There are only half a dozen farms from one end to t’ other along the seven miles or so. The landscape and views are breathtaking. I get out of the car, mooch about, find a new spot from which to take a photo, or as on Friday sit and stare at two daft beggars cycling up that incredibly steep hill from Halton Gill.

ribblesdale - haltongill
The light changed rapidly as the clouds scuttled across lovely Littondale. For a few seconds the tiny hamlet was bathed in sunshine. Behind it, the domineering moors switched from moody browns to inviting orange, while the tops kept on their dreary, misty hats.
The smaller, less populated dales have always appealed to me – Kingsdale, Coverdale, Raydale, to name but three – and they’re all firmly on my to-do-again list in spring. The top picture in the blog was taken from Coverdale, looking back down the valley towards Wharfedale. Here’s one looking across Kingsdale.

Ribblesdale - kingsdale

Well, it’s St Valentine’s Day again and in true Yorkshire bloke fashion I say ‘thank goodness I don’t have anyone to waste mi brass on’. I expect all my cards and gifts will arrive via a fleet of home delivery vans tomorrow, it being Sunday today.

Bronte shame, sailor’s trousers, embarrassing falls and yet more flooding

 

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The weather gods granted me a day out on Wednesday – as my mum used to say, there was ‘enough blue sky to knit a pair of sailor’s trousers’ — so I enjoyed a drive and short walk along and beside the Stainforth to Halton road in the morning, then a trip to Malham from Langcliffe in the afternoon. Penyghent looked resplendent – seen above from Dale Head – while at the Giant’s Grave there was still plenty of water around to creatrockfalle a splash or two. Here the water can take several different directions, filling huge potholes before eventually finding a way down Penyghent Gill and into Littondale.

In the upright photo showing the moors above Halton Gill in the distance, is evidence of a recent rockfall probably caused by the storms. The tree hangs on precariously.

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Farms along Henside Road from Cowside to Arncliffe via Malham Tarn are often cut off during winter. I recall Bill Mitchell writing a piece for Dalesman about a family stranded at Capon Hall Farm for several weeks during the bad weather of (I think) 1962. Here’s one of the farms, with Malham Tarn visible in the background. There was a light sprinkling of snow/slush around the higher moors on Christmas Eve but nothing to bother these hardy farmers too much … yet.

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I like seeing the fields above Malham, and the limestone of the cove, in the early evening sun when most of the tourists are making their way home. The animals graze peacefully and the whole scene takes on a more pastoral feel.

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Embarrassing Falls

The heavy rain has reintroduced many waterfalls which are usually only observed when the underground channels are full. The historic view of water tumbling over Malham Cove last week is a prime example, but there have been many other reappearances too throughout the Yorkshire Dales. This one on the Horton side of Selside doesn’t often teem over the top. It’s a fine little fall which according to the Ordnance Survey doesn’t have a name. Ended-on-my-arse-here Falls would be appropriate, for me at least. Muddied and briefly embarrassed, hoping that no one witnessed my mishap, I walked towards High Birkwith and back along the Pennine Bridleway.

embarrassing falls

On returning home this little chap was waiting for me. He posed for one picture on a neighbour’s bench, then flew off. I haven’t seen him since – perhaps his mission is to say hello to everyone in the dale over the Christmas period.

robin

Even more rain towards the end of the week meant extended time on the computer or watching some mind-numbingly tedious Christmas TV programmes, usually involving ‘celebrities’ – most of whom I’ve never heard of. Can we look forward to a series titled ‘Celebrities on Benefits’. Only a joke, before people write in. It’s no laughing matter being unemployed and anyway, whingeing about TV seems churlish considering what happened yesterday. The floods in the north have caused devastation and severely disrupted the lives of many thousands of people. I had to curtail my journey down the Aire Valley yesterday – I had never seen it so badly flooded – and I was lucky to get back up to Ribblesdale before the roads were closed or impassable. My heartfelt sympathy to everyone affected. Sorry, Mr Cameron, you’re going to have make yet another journey oop t’north for a photo-shoot to show the nation what a caring PM you are.

Bronte shame

Bronte panopticon

A few miles from Ribblesdale is the once-deserted hamlet of Wycoller which contains a partly ruined hall, thought to be the setting for Ferndean Manor – the home of Rochester in the Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre. The place underwent a bit of a revival a while back but is now under threat again, along with the Wycoller Country Park (pictured above at the Panopticon) and the Bronte Way footpath. All are under the care of Lancashire County Council, but it is now planning to completely close down the management, maintenance and ranger service. If this happens visitors may no longer be able to see the great aisled barn or use the countryside activity centre. The visitor toilets will close and the privately run cafe and shop are unlikely to survive. Wycoller hamlet is one of the area’s prettiest destinations, attracting thousands of Bronte fans, and is served by dozens of volunteers. It is managed by a countryside ranger with a modest budget, so any cost savings from closing it down will be negligible. I first became interested in the area’s literary connections and fascinating countryside some forty or so years ago, and believe it would be a shame if this key part of the Bronte heritage was lost forever. If you agree sign this petition or contact the council https://t.co/dbEffg09af

Ribblesdale images

The second instalment of my ‘Year in Ribblesdale’ picture gallery shows snaps taken between May and August inclusive. The choice was difficult as there were some lovely days during spring and summer. September to December photos follow next week.

Steamy memories, upsetting sights, gates and idiot drivers

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?lambsroad

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.

mink?
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.
streampyg
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?
kingscloudhowgillwide
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.
farmdeep
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:
THIS
BRIDG REPER
ED AT THE
CHARG OF TH
WEST RIDING
D 1702
Either the original stonemason didn’t plan his work properly or later repairs have obscured part of the wording – but we get the gist.
cowbridge
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.

galatea

Nothing buddha best in the Dales

penyghent_plover

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…

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A touch of frost and a load of bull in the dales

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The seven-mile drive from Stainforth in Ribblesdale to Halton Gill in Littondale was a delight this morning. There was just a touch of frost remaining in Silverdale (through which the road runs) as the sun began to peek over the top of Fountains Fell and light up the eastern flank of Penyghent. The picture is taken from just above Halton Gill looking down Littondale towards Arncliffe. I hope you realise I risked my life just to bring you this photo –  there was an enormous bull beside the road where I pulled in. Luckily, I think his main interest was in eating to regain his strength after having a ‘busy’ night on the moor.

Putting Yorkshire in the Frame – 3

littondale

Lovely Littondale seen from above Halton Gill. I can sit here for hours watching as the clouds paint a changing picture without me having to do a thing.

Blowing away the cobwebs in Silverdale

If you get the chance, drive along the road between Stainforth and Halton Gill. This Silverdale which joins Ribblesdale with Littondale around the east side of Penyghent – there are some fabulous views. Went there late afternoon when I spotted some blue sky. By gum it were fair windy but at least the cobwebs were blown away after I’d had four hours of dealing with Countryman emails. Here are some pics from the first half of the journey – the sheep mistook me for the farmer and they got a bit miffed when I didn’t feed them.

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penyghent

sheep