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.
Looking over the western Dales from my perch at the trig point near Bowland Knotts I thought about the people I’ve known who are now sadly unable to enjoy such pleasures. It’s good for the soul to remind yourself every now and then just how lucky you are.
The moors up here can be bleak – and they were certainly cold the day I visited this week. But today the Sun is out, and at last there are signs of spring. I can hear peewits (lapwings) calling, back on the higher ground from the valley looking for nesting sites and mates. A less-travelled red grouse shrieks after being disturbed in the heather.
In the distance I can make out the snow-topped Lakeland fells, while directly across Wenningdale the guardians of the Dales line up in defiance: Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough, Penyghent and Fountains Fell. While supping tea from a flask I really appreciate what Nature has dished up for me this morning. Top photo: the view of Ingleborough and Whernside from near the trig point.
I watched this coot for a while at Helwith Bridge quarry. It swam into thicker reeds where a moorhen was minding its own business. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, much squawking and splashing of water before the coot took off and made an undignified landing at the other end of the pool.
I took this photo of Penyghent on my way to view the previously mentioned waterfall. I upped the contrast a bit and it now it looks more like a painting. I wish I had the patience (and talent) to sit there and sketch the scene.
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.
17 photos of Ribblesdale: snowdrops are fading from memory, daffodils are drooping, but blossom is bursting out all over the place. The swallows have returned, their energy lifting my spirits and livening the neighbourhood. Last year they nested under the eaves directly above my door, which meant daily removal of splatterings from the doorstep. The postman needed to be quick. I’m told there’s a possibility of snow next week, but it’s not unusual – snow fell briefly last April too.
The eastern slopes of Ribblesdale, where my village of Langcliffe sits, averages a gradient of about 1 in 7 (my own calculations so don’t quote me – it could be false news) from the River Ribble to the limestone outcrops some 750ft above. This means there aren’t too many flat strolls from home. My heart and lungs were working overtime one day this week as I struggled straight up the hill to the crags above the village. So, plenty of opportunities to stop and look back to admire the views. All Three Peaks can be seen from the crags, as are many of the small settlements scattered along the dale. Up here are several hidden little valleys, small plantations, limestone pavements and signs of ancient farming activity.
Lower down, in a field where lambs were playing in the sunshine, some lazy dog-walker had deposited a plastic bag of dog-poo. I’d only just read about horses being killed by choking on these bags and I wasn’t having any lambs suffering the same fate. The offending article is in my dustbin should anyone wish to claim it. Further up Ribblesdale at Helwith Bridge I watched a coot hen and its chicks venturing in and out of the reeds in the old quarry, while a pair of noisy tewits cavorted overhead. I love Nature at this time of year.
One cold, grey day I headed for the top end of Ribblesdale for a quick stroll around part of the Ingleborough Nature Reserve. All Three Peaks didn’t look particularly welcoming, but with politics dominating the TV back home, I’d still rather be struggling up those hills.
Many 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
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).
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!
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.
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.
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?
Ingleborough is once again the focus of my blog this week although it didn’t set out that way… A bit like the myths surrounding Giggleswick’s Ebbing & Flowing Well (mentioned in my blog of 06/03/16) the legend of Robin Hood’s Mill, just a couple of miles away, arose because of the area’s geology. Just off the Stackhouse road from Little Stainforth to Giggleswick, near the parish boundary, there is a hollow which according to local folklore was the site of Robin Hood’s Mill. The tale goes that Robin was a miller who worked all hours and even on Sundays. As a penance for working on the Sabbath, the weight of his clanking machinery sank further and further into the ground until it completely disappeared from sight. It was said that if you put your ear to the ground, you could still hear the millstones grinding deep below. Before the last war, cavers explored the hole and also heard the rumbling sound. Afterwards, the noise seemed to stop; it is likely that the noise was gurgling water and that the cavers’ excavations merely created more of a sound barrier.
These photos were taken close to the ‘mill’ last Sabbath while I was out working on photographing my patch – I wonder what fate awaits me.
The snow was still laying deep on the higher hills as I walked into Settle on Monday from Langcliffe. White-topped Ingleborough contrasted starkly against the greener lower dale.
The donkeys in a field above Settle are becoming local celebrities with many walkers heading up the steep gradient from Constitution Hill on the Malham trail using the sight of the animals as an excuse to stop and draw breath. They were sunning themselves against the wall. My comments on twitter and Facebook brought in hundreds of likes and retweets:
‘You see, young un, this is why we have front legs shorter than those at the back,’ says the top donkey.
‘But Mum, when I want to warm t’other side I fall over,’ replies the youngster.
On a clear day…
Later in the day I drove to Tatham Fells and then on to Kingsdale (first pic in blog) to view the majestic Ingleborough from other angles. The panorama from the Great Stone of Fourstones, just above Bentham, was the clearest I can recall seeing. The Three Peaks and Gragareth looked splendid but such was the clarity that the Lakeland Fells seemed within touching distance.
Back down in Ribblesdale I couldn’t stop myself taking yet another photo or two around St Oswald’s in Horton.
After a couple of days stuck mainly indoors I headed up to Ribblehead Quarry to stroll around part of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve. Yet another angle on Ingleborough showed some melting of the snow had taken place but you certainly wouldn’t describe it as spring-like! Whernside and Penyghent weren’t to be ignored, of course; the limestone pavement and quarry rocks provided interesting foregrounds.
The deaths this week of a former work colleague, followed by a cherished family member, has left me somewhat deflated. I was cheered a little by the sight of new life though in the local fields where lambs gambolled without a care in the world. So many new things to discover and adventures to be had. Oh to have that innocence of youth again. The lamb on the right reminds me of my own childhood – my mum was always having to sew knee patches on my trouser legs, too!
I’ve never heard such a racket in all my life. The noise from these sheep and lambs as they followed the farmer dropping off feed would have drowned out one of those pesky RAF jets that regularly fly over the dales. If you ever wanted an example of poor motherhood then here it was… the ewes had little apprehension over abandoning their lambs for a feeding frenzy, while the youngsters ran crazily around the field, bewildered and screaming for their errant parent! The scene reminded me of a wedding I’d been to where guests had waited ages for food, had a little too much to drink in the meantime, then suddenly converged on the buffet while the kids charged around the dance floor.
I flagged down a local farmer this morning to tell him that four lambs were in the middle of the road about half a mile away. He cursed and charged off so quickly on his quad bike that his shocked sheepdog passenger struggled to stay aboard. On this sunny but breezy spring day in Ribblesdale I had great fun photographing some of the other adorable lambs that hadn’t escaped from the confines of the fields. I’m not sure the chap in the third photo should be exploring such life experiences at his age… especially when his mum’s in the same field.
This will be the first Christmas for many a year that I haven’t kept a photographic diary to remember it by. My camera lies forlorn, awaiting repair or replacement. I’ve been out walking in Ribblesdale without my digital companion but the outings don’t seem the same, and without the excuse of stopping to take a picture the walks have seemed harder – or the fatigue might be down to festive excess. I talked to a farmer this morning who said he was bringing some pregnant ewes nearer the farm. Some will start lambing in around 5-6 weeks he said and there’s much harsh weather still to come. My photo was taken on a lovely mid March day without any hint of winter around – how nice it would be to be able to skip the next two months… but any money I can muster will be going on a new camera and not on a sunshine trip to the southern hemisphere.