Why the Dales are top of the pops

I see that several of my favourite areas of the Dales are featured in the list of Britain’s top 100 walks. Many of the 8,000 people who contributed to the list have walked in my footsteps. It’s good to see the promotion of a healthier lifestyle, and when it benefits local traders, accommodation providers and publicans etc, then so much the better.

Earlier in the week Ingleborough looked like it had been ‘lime-washed’. The walk from Clapham up to Ingleborough summit features in the top 100 walks list – you wouldn’t have got me up there on this day for all the tea in Yorkshire.

My small gripe about the list is that most of the walks are already popular and the publicity is likely to attract thousands more boots over those same paths. I wonder how many walkers (or TV programme makers for that matter) will be willing to pay for the upkeep of those over-used routes.

Another of the favourite walks is the Ingleton Falls route. Picture shows Pecca Falls.

Before you have a go at me, I know that in a way my blog and other writing down the years has also contributed to attracting more tramping of the fells – I’m not being hypocritical, I have given (and still give) money towards path repairs and Mountain Rescue charities in the Dales.


Since slipping on icy steps a few weeks ago and injuring my left hip and knee I’ve not done much strolling, so thank goodness I also have a car to get me around the dales. Top photo in the blog shows Penyghent from near Brackenbottom. To complete the Three Peaks trio here’s a wintry looking Whernside and Ribblehead Viaduct.

Looking from Horton-in-Ribblesdale across the quarry workings to Ingleborough.

I’m saddened to hear this week of the death of the inspirational Hannah Hauxwell (91). I only met her briefly at some ceremony or other. Being involved with Dalesman at the time I asked if she and her neighbours up in Baldersdale still considered themselves as Yorkshire folk (since the political boundary changes in 1974). Hannah replied firmly that they always thought of themselves as Yorkshire and felt no association with Durham. I hope everyone born on the south side of the Tees still thinks the same. Hannah was a lovely lady unspoilt by all the attention she received.

I watched the sun go down from the old back road between Clapham and Ingleton on Wednesday. The golden glow belies the fact it was below freezing thanks to a strong westerly wind.

I must add my congratulations to everyone involved with Langcliffe Community Gardens on winning the Greener Craven Award category of Craven Community Champions. A great effort by those neighbours of mine who got involved. Plenty of snowdrops to admire in the local churchyard, too:

The Snowdrop

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid,
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!

Fans of steam trains make sure you buy a copy of this month’s Countryman magazine (now in the shops) in which I reminisce about the golden age of railways. The Settle-Carlisle and Keighley & Worth Valley lines are included. http://www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk
In February’s Down Your Way magazine I write about the surname Loftus/Lofthouse. http://www.downyourway.co.uk


Inspirational Yorkshire women

My interview with Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess, appears in February’s Countryman magazine which is now on sale. Amanda is a remarkable young lady who with husband Clive and nine (at the last count) children live and farm at out-of-the-way Ravenseat in Birkdale. As I re-read the article I am reminded of a piece I wrote in Dalesman about another fine Yorkshire woman, Hannah Hauxwell. On the face of it they appear to be very different characters and their lives have certainly taken diverse paths. Hannah, before retiring, lived a solitary existence with just a few animals; Amanda, although isolated, is surrounded by her extensive family and hundreds of sheep and other animals. But they are similar in that both are strong willed and extremely hard working individuals, showing true Yorkshire grit. Both have beautiful complexions – that’s what clean Yorkshire air and clear Dales water does for you – with gentle mannerisms and caring attitudes. In my head I can still hear Hannah’s soothing tones, tinted with that North-East influence you find amongst those born near the Tees. Amanda, originally from Huddersfield, retains a hint of the West Riding in her speech which I recognise from my own childhood in the Heavy Woollen District. Both are completely unpretentious with a natural warmth, and I feel privileged to have met the two of them. Yorkshire women aren’t all Nora Batty stereotypes – they can be inspirational too. http://www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk


Yorkshire amanda
Amanda Owen and two of her younger children at her Ravenseat home
Isolated Ravenseat

As relief from a spot of decorating, on Wednesday I drove through several Yorkshire Dales and up to Dent Station. Directly above me was as clear a blue sky I’d seen for ages, but looking towards the horizon the distant view was masked by a fine mist. The landscape west down Dentdale was still impressive but the bitterly cold wind meant I didn’t linger for long. Over the old Coal Road the views down Wensleydale, Mallerstang and Garsdale were similarly shrouded. I stopped off at Garsdale Station to pat my favourite metal dog, Ruswarp. He was still gazing out expectantly waiting for the return of his master. A quick stroll to Cotter Force proved as worthwhile as ever. The sound of tumbling water seemed to echo around like applause in a small theatre.

View from Dent Station
Garsdale Station with Ruswarp
Cotter Force

On Friday more blue sky in Ribblesdale tempted me out again. Penyghent and Fountains Fell looked great but further along the Silverdale Road I hit low cloud. I could hardly see 20 yards in front of me which meant the route along the narrow unfenced road and the steep descent into Halton Gill was interesting to say the least.

Day of contrasts. Heading along Silverdale Road into the fog.

A stunning morning yesterday saw me at Helwith Bridge. The view along Ribblesdale from above the fishery was grand (see top pic). My old friend Penyghent looked like an iced cake. I imagine plenty of people were tempted to trek up the mountain but I was f-f-f-f-frozen – no way would I have gone up there, so it was back home for some proper cake.

Snow on Winskill Stones ,Ribblesdale

A Yorkshire gem and Yorkshire gold

Yorkshire BaldersdaleMany years ago I had the pleasure of a brief meeting with Yorkshire woman Hannah Hauxwell, just long enough to realise what a genuinely lovely, down-to-earth lady she is. I also remember having tea and biscuits with former Dalesman Bill Mitchell and his wife Freda at their home in Giggleswick while they chatted enthusiastically about their trips to Baldersdale to visit Hannah at her home, Low Birk Hatt Farm.
I see this week that the farm, bought from Hannah in 1988, is now up for sale again. In Hannah’s day the house was cold and damp with no running water. Her comfortless existence had millions of viewers engrossed through a series of Yorkshire TV documentaries.
While editing Dalesman I wrote a piece about the Durham Wildlife Trust creating Hannah’s Meadow nature reserve (http://www.durhamwt.com/reserves/dwt-reserves-list/hannahs-meadow-nature-reserve/) on part of the land she farmed. I visited the meadow and walked around Baldersdale – and yes, it is in Yorkshire, just on our side of the Tees. In reality, Hannah wasn’t as isolated as the documentaries made out – but hey, we’re talking TV here – with a few scattered farms just a short walk from her house, but I can still imagine how lonely and desolate it must have felt during harsh winters. At the top of the page is a photo I took at the time, looking over the reservoir – Hannah’s smallholding – which will cost £590k if you’re interested – is on the left. www.robinjessop.co.uk

Yorkshire lamb

One for the family album – I saw this couple on my short walk on Monday. I’ve not got out much this week due to a back problem. Goodness knows how I strained it – vacuuming is about the most strenuous thing I do nowadays (so, obviously, I’ve stopped doing that particular chore for the moment and even the cat is complaining about all the pet hairs).

Yorkshire Whernside
Handy foreground – Whernside on the left, Ribblehead Viaduct to the right of the tree

There are some very nice blog-readers and other people who follow my facebook and twitter posts who say how much they enjoy my photos and suggest I should put them in a calendar. Having spent more years than I care to remember during my working life sifting through thousands of photos and producing calendars I can say with certainty this is not something I will be rushing into. There is very little, if any, financial reward in producing or contributing to calendars. And considering the time photographers have to spend waiting for the right conditions, traveling to the best spots after buying very expensive equipment, most of them will barely meet ‘living wage’ standards.
I’ve heard about several companies and organisations who ask the public to send in their photos for inclusion in calendars, some of which are intended to raise money for charity – and good luck to them. Most amateur photographers won’t worry about there not being any payment, and will be happy just to see their snaps and name in print. However, I do urge folk to look at the small print before submitting anything. You may well find that you are agreeing to the use of your work by these organisations (and any parent companies) whenever, wherever and for as long as they want without it costing them a penny. You may happy for your local church or a charity you care about to do this, but will you feel the same if a large corporation takes advantage of your precious work to further their own profit-making enterprises? If that also doesn’t bother you, then think about all those professional photographers struggling to earn a living because companies are getting all those photos for nowt!

Yorkshire Ingleborough
Moody Ingleborough seen from the ancient settlement

Countless times I’ve seen on maps and driven by – and even walked close to – an ancient Yorkshire settlement which once existed on a limestone plateau on the eastern side of Chapel-le-Dale between Ribblehead Viaduct and Ingleborough. So this week I veered off the main path to take a look. You can’t see much of the settlement itself, and the interesting bits are fenced off and overgrown, the evidence of ancients lying tantalisingly under the soil. But you can certainly get a feel for the place. It’s protected by Nature to the east and has the advantage of good views in all other directions so that any invaders could be quickly detected. All kinds of trees have sprung up in unlikely places amongst the limestone, and oddly-shaped boulders add to the sense ofother-wordlyness – and provide some great foregrounds for photos of Whernside, Ingleborough, Twisleton and Ribblehead.

Yorkshire Ribblehead

Yorkshire gold

Yorkshire sign

On a short drive one day, the Yorkshire Dales National Park sign caught my eye near Austwick – pure gold, you could say. Further down the Lawkland road I thought this ivy-clad tree would make an interesting black-and-white shot.

Yorkshire Lawkland

Settle is currently being trimmed up in preparation for the big Tour de Yorkshire bike event which comes to town on the 29th (http://www.visitsettle.co.uk). Even some of our roads have been resurfaced – is that just a coincidence?

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