A bomb dropped on the Dales

dalesDales storm watch… my top photo shows the quickly changing scene over Ribblesdale from Winskill earlier this week. I’d hung around a while waiting for that strong shaft of sun to hit the farm. Moments later darkness fell upon the area and I scarpered down the hill to sanctuary back home. I quite enjoy being out in a summer storm in the Dales, as it refreshes the greenery, satisfies the thirsty trees and replenishes the rivers. But autumn storms feel more threatening, the winds are stronger and in my mind do no good for anything or anybody. I almost spat out my Yorkshire tea yesterday when I read somewhere that we should expect another ‘weather bomb’ this weekend. ‘A what? A (expletive) WHAT?’ I spluttered. I suppose I should start to accept that news nowadays is more about hyperbole and drama than pure facts. Is there some kind of directive going around newsrooms that the more shocked and startled readers/viewers/listeners are the more likely they are to be impressed with the output? Well, not in my house. It’s just weather for goodness sake, stuff that’s been happening since the world began. Sometimes the weather’s bad, and we feel sorry for those unfortunates who suffer from its consequences, but there’s no one up there deliberately dropping bombs on us – just yet.

Excuse the language… not sure if you will be able to read the writing on the paper sign on the board at Ingleton outdoor swimming baths, but that’s the water temperature in Yorkshire f-f-f-farhenheit.

Just before the storms ‘bombed’ us and whipped off all their leaves, I thought I’d best capture the trees around Langcliffe village green.

Continuing my quest to photograph as many Dales churches as possible, here are a few more:

St Andrew’s Slaidburn

St Mary’s Ingleton

St Michael & All Angels, Hubberholme.

A warm welcome at St John’s in Langcliffe.

Perhaps an appropriately sombre photo of the year’s final steam excursion up the Settle-Carlisle line. This one taken yesterday at Hellifield – a lovely old station and a Grade II listed building.

Old and new technology? Mobile phone meets Leander the engine.

I tried to capture some autumnal action at Settle United FC … I think I’ll stick to landscape photography.

Finally I was saddened to hear that after today Mike Harding is no longer to broadcast his fabulous folk music show from the Dales. He’s one of the best radio presenters I’ve ever listened to – straight-forward, amusing, no gimmicks, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He’ll certainly be missed on the airwaves in my house. http://www.mikehardingfolkshow.com

Dales Three Peakers deserve better

DalesI’ve seen a lot of bedraggled Dales Three Peakers this year. This summer has been a big disappointment especially for those who perhaps have planned for months if not years to take on the 24+-mile walk around Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. I regularly pass them at the top end of Ribblesdale on that horrible section of road walking between Ingman’s Lodge and the viaduct, when it dawns on them they’re nobbut a third of the way round. And again in Horton-in-Ribblesdale when they look a bit more relieved, if aching and blistered, as they head from the station to the cafe for their moment of triumph.

Dales Three Peaks: Top photo shows Ingleborough, above is Whernside, and below is Penyghent.

Around 30 years ago I completed the route with a lovely lady who had some health issues. We went at her pace and she was so proud to have completed the walk. The time was only about 20 minutes outside the allotted 12-hours for her to be able to receive a certificate but that didn’t lessen the sense of achievement. Well done to everyone who takes it on, especially this year.

We haven’t had many of those relaxing sunsets in the Dales this summer either – maybe the next month will offer more, and as I write the forecast for Bank Holiday Monday is good.

Nor have we seen much in the way of sharp contrasts and deep shadows – too much greyness around the Dales. Here are a few examples I’ve managed to capture.

Two friends travelled on the steam special which chugged up the dale on the Settle-Carlisle railway this week. They remarked that although the scene was grey as they passed through the dales the weather did improve further north. I captured the engine Leander pulling the train across Ribblehead Viaduct. More train pics here

From Batty Moss I zoomed in on Leander as it left its mark on Ribblesdale at Salt Lake Cottages before reaching the viaduct.

My thanks to those who pointed out that the larger of the yellow plants featured in last week’s blog was Senecio jacobaea – or ragwort to you and me. Normally you will see the plant as a much duller shade of yellow beside roads where it carries all the traffic filth, but no such pollution up here in the dales. I read up about the plant to satisfy my curiosity and learned there are many myths and falsehoods told about the plant. Yes it can be harmful to horses if eaten in large amounts but its reputation is not as bad as it has been painted – see http://www.ragwortfacts.com/ragwort-myths.html – and is very useful for pollinators.

Dancing the light fantastic in the Dales


For  folk like me who are now past their best-before date, the trek up from the Ribble in Settle to the head of Stockdale is a bit of a toil. The reward from some 1400ft of puffing and panting is this glorious view back down the dale, especially when the clouds are scudding by and the changing light is making patterns on the pastures. Ancient man would have looked upon great forests here as he made his way over to Malham beside the towering limestone knolls and scars created by the Craven Fault.
Light played a big part in my photography this week when I stayed local to Ribblesdale after having handed the car keys to my son. A couple of lovely sunsets and a lower sun brought about a subtle change to the dale after the harsher (albeit brief) summer brightness. Some of the hillside trees gave off an autumnal glow in the late sun. The evening sunlight also brought new tones to Langcliffe village green and surrounding buildings. The pictures tell the story far better than I can…



Another sign of autumn is the sight of people with plastic bags and baskets full of berries and other free wild booty… nothing wrong with this in moderation but I hope they save some for the birds and other wildlife that depend on Nature’s harvest.


The steam train season along the Settle-Carlisle Railway may have ended but along came two ‘specials’ this week, catching me somewhat by surprise. I saw the Galatea engine from the High Way into Settle and the Leander as I was walking along the lower main road to Langcliffe.



Shame, blame, radar, birds and trains

housebleaLast Sunday was one of those grey Dales days which have been all too familiar this summer. Nevertheless I drove to Ribblehead where often on a summer Sunday there can be more people than on Blackpool prom – but it wasn’t too bad. Knowing that a steam train was due to be heading back from Carlisle I walked up to Blea Moor until my head almost reached the height of the low cloud. Approaching Blea Moor signal box I recalled a diary piece I wrote around five years ago for Dalesman concerning the lonely house which is situated next to the box. It was in a poor state and the ‘garden’ was covered in tons of scrap metal – a real eyesore. This was the first impression many travelers got of Ribblesdale as they entered from the north-west and so the owner was asked to clean it up, which he did to a fashion. As seen in my pic above, It doesn’t look too good again today and the house seems deserted – a great shame.

saltpygHowever, looking back down the dale I managed to capture something more cheerful as a brief shaft of sunlight illuminated the valley while Penyghent remained shrouded in mist.

birdsbathI could hear the cat growling while he was sitting on the internal window ledge. This usually means there are birds outside which he can’t get at. Together we watched a group of sparrows and finches having a bath in the puddles –  but our thoughts about ‘capturing’ them differed somewhat.

traingiggIt’s steam train season here in Ribblesdale and during the peak summer period there can be five a week passing up and down the Settle-Carlisle railway. They attract people to the area and help keep the grand old line open. The politically correct may consider these great machines as eco-unfriendly. If they were running an hourly service every day of the year I might agree with them. But I’d still rather see one of these chugging up the dale than a hundred polluting cars any day. On Tuesday I captured this one as it was leaving Settle.

trainais1With a good forecast for Wednesday I’d planned to pollute the dales myself by driving over to Wensleydale through Mallerstangdale, then head back via Birkdale and Swaledale. Perfect timing saw me meeting another steamer on the line near Aisgill (above pic) where the line leaves Yorkshire and enters Westmorland. This is the final major climb for the train and a popular location for train buffs.

warningOn clear days the views as you climb the road out of Nateby are breathtaking. With the Eden Valley, North Pennines, Howgill Fells then bleak Birkdale and Ravenstonedale plus the uppermost reaches of Swaledale all visible, this journey is one of the best in the dales. In the distance can be seen the Air Traffic Control’s radar station on top of Great Dun Fell (2782 ft), in the North Pennines. The private road which ascends to the ‘giant golf ball’ is the highest surfaced road in England. Slightly further up the Pennine chain is Mickle Fell (2585 ft) whose summit is the highest point in Yorkshire (proper boundary).thwaite

Sadly I couldn’t manage the rest of Swaledale as the road was shut from near Thwaite (where I took the above pic) because of work on Usha Gap Bridge. Not for the first time a vehicle failed to negotiate the narrow bridge – and also Ivelet Bridge further down the road. These bridges weren’t built for big loads so the authorities need to do one of two things: forget about preserving the past and knock them down and build ones suitable for the 21st century; or ban unsuitable vehicles from the road. Knocking some common sense into drivers might also be a solution.

heronflightAfter being in the car for such a long period I needed a walk that evening and managed to capture this heron when it dashed passed me as I walked by the Ribble. Technically it’s not a good shot but it does show the superb aerodynamic nature of this ancient bird.

fieldlangThursday: the farmer created a new view on my regular walk by cutting one of his fields, while back in the village the memorial fountain was colourfully dressed for today’s VJ Service.

langmenflowLo and behold, I also encountered another train this time completely by accident. As I walked to the Hoffman Kiln in Langcliffe I saw photographers waiting for the arrival of the engine Galatea. The footpath is right next to the line and you can feel the ground rumble as the great monster gets up close and personal.

galatealangYesterday was a big day in the village as the efforts of talented locals were on view at the annual show. Sadly I was otherwise engaged but I did participate and was lucky enough to earn a first for three of my photos and a second for this black and white photo of New Street…langcliffeBW

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