Future generations of visitors to the Yorkshire Dales may well miss out on seeing typical buildings like Garth House near Horton (above). Its roof is caving in and the walls are feeling the strain of facing up to centuries of rough moorland weather. I don’t know how long it’s been left to crumble (or if there are any plans for it), but I read that within living memory haymakers would swim in the nearby Ribble after a hard day working in the fields around Garth House.
There are hundreds of similar irreplaceable abandoned vernacular buildings scattered around the Dales, left to go to ruin because farmers have no use for them or can’t afford their upkeep; and planning restrictions often mean they can’t be developed for residential use.
Mind you, anyone wanting to renovate Garth House will need to be railway enthusiasts as the Settle-Carlisle line runs just a few yards away. I walked by the building recently on my way to see Flying Scotsman (below) tootle past. Garth House was there long before the railway was built in the 1870s but I don’t suppose the Victorians cared a jot about spoiling anyone’s peaceful Dales existence.
There have been some cracking days by the Ribble since my last blog and I haven’t needed to travel very far from home to capture some stunning Dales scenery…
Another year passes by – and so quickly, too – here in the Yorkshire Dales. An outsider looking in via occasional visits might think very little changes in the Dales, and they are comforted by that thought. But those who have lived here many years have a different perspective.
Yes, there are still the beautiful rivers, waterfalls and hills (‘Nobbut gurt mounds o’ muck’ as one old Dalesman once stated), but Dales life has altered a great deal over the last few decades.
Village schools are closing at an alarming rate; local shops and businesses have gone; there are fewer jobs, bringing about the dispersal of many long-established families. Their homes are being bought by commuters, holiday-let owners and as weekend retreats (that’s not a dig at those people, by the way, as without them some villages would probably have closed down altogether).
Ancient agricultural buildings are being left to decay as farmers no longer have use for them, can’t afford their upkeep or are refused permission to sell off or develop the barns as homes. Bus and train services are poor, as is broadband in many areas.
But would I prefer to live in a large town or city? Not on your Nellie! (Apparently this expression stems from rhyming slang, originally ‘Not on your Nellie Duff’ – rhymes with puff – meaning breath of life. Your education is incomplete without this knowledge.)
Back in the Dales soon!
My nearest hospital is a 45-minute drive away, a journey I’ve had to make several times over the last few months for treatment on kidney stones. How something so tiny can cause so much pain and leave a person so debilitated is astounding, but hopefully I will be heading up and down the Dales again shortly.
Photos in this final blog of the year show some of the places I’ve been missing, but which I’ll be re-visiting during 2019.
Dales photo opportunities have been rare for me recently but I have managed a couple of quick forays up Ribblesdale. As is usual in the Dales, the colour and appearance of trees can change quickly as the wind from exposed fells whistles from all directions through the valleys, and the temperature away from the towns drops rapidly. There are pockets of trees all around this sheep-munched region so autumn in the Dales is still a joy. Top photo shows Stainforth Scar as seen from the road to Knight Stainforth.
The other week I stopped off at Hellifield Flashes to pay my respects after being shocked by the decision of Yorkshire Dales National Park and the RSPB to withdraw their objections to totally inappropriate development plans for the area. Thankfully the CPRE and local campaigning groups haven’t similarly turned their backs. At a planning meeting this week the council didn’t come to any firm decision and said they ‘wanted to walk the area’. You’d have thought that after umpteen years of receiving planning requests for this green space they would have done that already. https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/saveourcravencountryside-108150632557939/
I attended the launch of a booklet called ‘Fifty Years On – Securing North Craven’s Heritage’, at the Folly in Settle last week. In his introduction to the publication playwright Alan Bennett comments: “The planning process is still weighted against conservation with the proposed development at Hellifield Flashes a good example. The planning set up is weighted in favour of a developer who, faced with opposition, can submit an amended plan as often as is required with the opposition eventually worn down and the developer winning by process of attrition.”
I’m not being NIMBY about this, but looking at the number of housing developments and applications being submitted for our region it’s obvious that developers are seeing this edge of the National Park boundary along the A65 and Settle as being an easy and profitable area – and that Craven Council are more than happy to tick off a few boxes of targets set by a distant and uncaring government. ‘Nobody wants a suburban Craven’ says Alan – I’m not sure about ’nobody’, Mr Bennett.
The splendid booklet celebrates 50 years combined work by the Settle & District Civic Society, North Craven Heritage Trust, North Craven Building Preservation Trust and Museum of North Craven Life. It is available from the Folly in Settle and other outlets.
Being confined to quarters for longer than usual I’ve watched a bit more television than normal and come to the conclusion that the majority of programmes are not aimed at me. I’ve never managed to watch a whole Strictly or Big Brother; or anything that contains wannabes or celebrities (what is a celebrity? I thought a celeb was someone I would recognise – but apparently not). I don’t do soaps at all (I use them now and then). There is one TV programme about people watching TV programmes and loads more where we witness people cooking meals, baking cakes or painting their houses. Programme announcers drive me mad with their smirky tone and drawn-out last syllables. When it comes to adverts I’m not the type of person to be persuaded to buy my insurance by a stuffed mammal or an opera singer; and don’t get me started on what is described as ‘The News’. Then there are those annoying programmes where they tell you what’s coming up beforehand, tell you again before every ad break, then give us a reprise of what happened before the break because we’re not capable of remembering what we were watching three minutes ago. I realise that many people who work full time need to switch on their tellies and ‘switch off’ their minds but… please let me back out into the Dales.
Great to see that the Blue Plaque Society will recognise the achievements of icon of the Dales Bill Mitchell with the unveiling of a plaque (7th December 2018) at Skipton Parish Church Primary School. Bill was a pupil there and the idea of a plaque was put forward by Bill’s son David who said:
“My father dedicated himself to writing about Yorkshire for over 60 years. He was editor of the Dalesman for twenty years and wrote over 200 books as well as hundreds of articles. He delivered innumerable talks and conducted countless interviews with Yorkshire characters. Many are contained in the WR Mitchell Archive, available online. Yorkshire TV marked his retirement with a programme about his life, narrated by Alan Bennett. He received an MBE in 1996 and was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Bradford. He was the first patron of the Yorkshire Dales Society. September 2009 saw him voted ‘Greatest Living Icon’ for the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In April 2014 he was voted 33 in a poll to find the 75 Greatest Icons of Yorkshire. Much much more is covered in his Wikipedia entry. There cannot be many parts of our great county that haven’t been touched by his magical presence. My sister and I are very proud of him”.
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.)
“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
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.
Ahh, spring in Upper Ribblesdale. As I write, snow flakes are doing a drunken dance, not knowing which direction to take next. The village looks like a Christmas card, and I have to conjure up a vision of the surrounding hills because they’re shrouded in cloud, or should that be clouded in shroud. Let my photo diary record that this is all the fault of the Russians. They seem to be getting the blame for everything at this moment in history, so why not the weather? I’d best not go all political here. I was around when Russia got it the neck during the Cold War, today I have a war against cold around my neck. Top photo shows Penyghent just before the latest snow Ribblesdale.
I watched some new-born lambs looking distinctly miserable in temperatures that with added wind-chill dipped as low as -12 in Ribblesdale this week.
The bathroom needs a lick of paint. Unenthusiastically, I dug out a half-full tin of emulsion and a brush from the cupboard under the stairs. Of course, everything had to be removed from the abyss before I found said items at the back. I took them to the bathroom, wondering if I formally introduced them to the walls, would they strike up an instant rapport and just get on with the job themselves. As I turned to fetch a dust-sheet, sunshine burst through the bathroom window. Within minutes I was driving up Ribblesdale, camera by my side. The tin of paint and brush are still on the bathroom floor, walls remain unpainted. I’m presuming they didn’t form any kind of relationship. Perhaps they just need a little more time to get to know each other better.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Many, many welcomes,
Ever as of old time,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
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
Somebody famous once wrote, ‘There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather’. I suppose that could well be a motto for landscape photographers and artists. As long as you are still able to get out and about, different and difficult conditions offer new opportunities – even on familiar territory. I hope my selection of photos this week of mainly local (to me) places, which I’ve pictured many times before, prove the point.
I’ve no idea how many photos I’ve taken of the Three Peaks – they seem to put on a fresh dress every time I travel up Ribblesdale.
Cold weather stations
Two stations on the Settle-Carlisle line: Ribblehead with Park Fell in the background, and Garsdale, where Ruswarp patiently awaits his owner.
Whenever I take this shot of Brokken Bridge in Clapham – this one snapped on Friday – I’m reminded of the late Bill Mitchell. Bill and his family would have been celebrating his 90th birthday this week. A few years ago he and I cheekily knocked on the door of Fellside (the top house of the row to the left). We announced that we both edited Dalesman and that Bill had worked from this house when it was the magazine’s headquarters. Thankfully the owners recognised Bill and let us in to enjoy some of his reminiscences.
This Ribblesdale view at Helwith Bridge always reminds my of a Welsh mining valley. The 19th-century quarry workers’ cottages at Foredale were the setting for a cracking film released in 2013 called Lad: A Yorkshire Story. Staring down at them from the other side of the valley is Penyghent – many a mini blizzard on the top there this week.
Thanks to one of my neighbours thinking about the birds during cold weather I’ve been able to take a few more wildlife photos from the comfort of home. Taking photos through double-glazing can prove difficult but this doesn’t spoil my enjoyment. I think this is a female blackbird but I’m sure an expert will let me know if I’m wrong.
When the distant Dales are inaccessible due to the weather (for those of us without a suitable vehicle) it’s good to know that the local area has enough to keep me and the camera occupied. The trio of Ribblesdale villages – Langcliffe, Stainforth and Horton – can usually satisfy my photographic needs. You wouldn’t know it, looking at the shot, but conditions for the above photo of Stainforth Force were treacherous – the field was badly rutted and solid, and the roads and rocks were iced over.
Think of the birds
Don’t forget to look after the birds during freezing conditions. These two in a neighbour’s garden came for some fruit and nuts I’d left out (excuse the fuzziness – photo taken through double glazing!).
Dales tax proposal
Sadly, there were just a couple of children at the switch-on of Langcliffe’s tree lights on Monday. A couple of generations ago the village at this time of year would have been alive with children playing in the snow and getting excited about Christmas.
On the same day as the switch-on I read a report about attracting families to the Yorkshire Dales National Park in which the authority outlined a proposal to increase by ‘at least five times’ the council tax on second homes in the park.
I don’t think the authority believe (at least I hope not!) that this will provide the whole answer to the problem of finding rural housing for young families. The bigger picture shows a lack of suitable employment, poor public transport, too few local schools, too many restrictions on building conversion and planning, a lack of local shops and amenities, poor access to digital communication and mobile signals, etc.
Will financially punishing those who already have second homes solve much? It might in future put off all but the richest buyers who see a second home as an investment or pension, but I can’t see such penalties freeing up that many homes. Many Dales cottages are too small for families anyway – if second-homers didn’t buy them, the smaller buildings would probably be left to decay or be bought up by holiday-let companies for a reduced price.
Perhaps more incentives should be offered to those selling Dales properties? How about bigger rewards for estate agents or sellers who complete deals with local families? Or why not make it more difficult for second-homers to bequeath properties to offsprings who have no intention of moving into the area, with a stipulation they first have to offer homes to local families?
The report will be debated at an authority meeting on 19 December. If the YDNPA approve it, the proposal will then be put to the five local district councils. http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/living-and-working/other-services/press-office/news/recent/report-consider-five-times-council-tax-for-second-homes
This week’s church is St Chad’s at Middlesmoor in Nidderdale. Although the present Grade 2 listed building dates from 1866, there has been a place of worship here for centuries. Inside the church is an old preaching cross said to be Anglo Saxon, and is inscribed ‘Cross of St Ceadda’ (Chad). For me, the best thing about this church is the fantastic view down upper Nidderdale from the graveyard …
Tis the season to be jolly well moaning about gritting. Thankfully, in retirement I don’t have to worry about the drive to work every morning, which even along a main vital road like the A65 can often be treacherous. There has been a spate of accidents on this vital arterial route this week, leaving many locals bemused as to why the road wasn’t suitably treated. It’s not like the councils east and west of the border weren’t warned about the possibility of problems with black ice.
Talking of ice – is there really any need to dismantle a farmer’s wall to chuck stones onto the Langcliffe Mill pond to test the ice?
If I was ever banished from Yorkshire for some heinous crime – such as criticising Geoff Boycott, cooking Lancashire hotpot, or opening my wallet in public – then I’d like to be transported to Kirkby Lonsdale. In fact, many places in Westmorland would suit me as a Yorkshire convict. Even when I travelled through on a dull, unphotogenic day recently there was plenty to admire in this borderland which changes landscape character from gentler dales to rugged Lakeland fells.
Anyway, I’m happy to remain in the White Rose county, and I have no intention of breaking in Yorkshire laws at present. We in the western Dales missed the worst of the county’s snowfall this week but by gum it were parky. With plenty of blue sky around I got some nice shots on my local travels (top shot shows Penyghent from the churchyard of St Oswald’s, Horton-in-Ribblesdale), and I enjoyed a couple of splendid sunsets.
Yorkshire Dales churches
This week’s church is St Oswald’s at Arncliffe. There has been a church here, beside the River Skirfare in Littondale, since the early 1100s. The earliest building was demolished in the 1400s and a new one built. There have been many alterations since, but the tower remains from that 15th-century rebuild.
The next four shots were taken around Langcliffe on a cold and frosty morning…
Finally, I can officially mention Christmas now that Settle lights have been switched on. Please shop close to home and support your local businesses. http://www.settle.org.uk
Sunset at the end of a bright autumnal Dales day … is there anything to match it (other than a Dales sunset during spring, summer and winter, that is)? The skies were clear and blue over Ribblesdale on Friday but I waited until the sun started to dip behind the western slopes before heading out for a walk. Golden light created glowing red and mellow yellow as it shone on recently discarded leaves and those still clinging to ancient trees along this track out of Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week flicking through the pages of a brilliant new website set up by the Yorkshire Dales Society, or Friends of the Dales as they are now known. It records the history and heritage of North Craven area and is a portal to an array of catalogues, collections and archives. From its home page: “The website has been developed through the Capturing the Past project, which is part of Stories in Stone, a scheme of conservation and community projects concentrated on the Ingleborough area. The scheme was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.” Well worth a visit … but be warned, you’ll be on there for hours: http://www.dalescommunityarchives.org.uk
Some more shots from around home in Ribblesdale: cottages on Langcliffe Green, High Way between Langcliffe and Settle, Penyghent wearing a new hat …
Many of you will have already seen the following old photo of Settle but I thought it was worth a reminder – if just to see all the washing hung across the Shambles. At the risk of breaking copyright laws, it is a photo I took of a Francis Frith picture which appears in the book, Rural Britain, Then & Now by Roger Hunt (published by Cassell in 2004). I’m hoping that as I don’t make any money from my site and the fact I’m publicising the book for free this might save me from being charged for its use. Not all sites or publications show such courtesy (comment aimed at those who without permission have recently raided the blog and used my stuff!).
In my nostalgia column in November’s Countryman magazine (now on sale) I write about memories of Mischief Night – for any youngsters who have accidentally stumbled across this blog, Mischief Night was in the days before Trick or Treat was washed up on our shores from across the Atlantic. Ask your granddad what he got up to.
More Dales churches
This week’s Dales churches are both in Giggleswick, the ancient St Alkelda and the Gothic style Victorian chapel of Giggleswick School.
Now please excuse me as I go try to tell my central heating system that twice a year in Britain we try to convince the rest of a bewildered world we are in charge of time and we’ll do what we want with it.