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:
(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.