Why my art lies in the Yorkshire Dales

dalesYorkshire Dales: 13 new photos here. I can find art that appeals to me almost anywhere I go in the Dales. The top picture is my kind of art – not the calibre of photography, which leaves rather a lot to be desired, but the view; Humans and Nature acting as one to create a beautiful experience. Okay, not to everyone’s taste, I know. But when you take the time to stop and frame a small part of the Dales landscape you can sometimes find a masterpiece. The scene is in Little Stainforth, a couple of miles up the road from my Ribblesdale home.

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Art turned out to be a bit of a theme this week. Last Sunday after the deluge I travelled out of Settle to Scaleber Force (pictured above) which was looking and sounding dramatic. Besides taking a few predictable shots of rushing water I closed in for a couple of more artistic shots. I’m getting daring in my old age.

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The sky cleared over the Dales the following day, tempting me out for a drive over to Littondale. Penyghent looked a picture and Belted Galloway cattle, looking like escaped pandas, provided an interesting foreground.

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Daffodils soaked up the sun in Langcliffe churchyard and on the village green.

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dalesIn 2010 I represented Dalesman at the opening of the Coldstones Cut sculpture (partly pictured above) near Pateley Bridge. Here, urban meets countryside, tourists meet workers. It’s an unusual space which challenges the senses. I went back there this week for a reminder of this unique piece of Dales art. To the east Nidderdale’s glorious landscape stretched out; burning heather sent smoke across the otherwise clear blue sky. Turning north, Great Whernside carried snow on its shoulders while to the west quarry workers were digging deeper and deeper into the Dales. Looking south the great golf balls of Blubberhouses early warning site were keeping an eye on Mr Trump’s imaginary enemies.

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By ‘eck it wor a pull up that ‘ill on mi bike…
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View of Penyghent from Helwith Bridge in Saturday’s sunshine

During my career I was fortunate to edit Countryman magazine which champions the country’s glorious countryside and rural way of life. I left the magazine in the capable hands of fellow Yorkshireman Mark Whitley, who has this month produced a special issue celebrating Countryman’s 90th anniversary. Free with the magazine is a reproduction of the first issue published back in 1927 – well worth a read. http://www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk

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A couple of shots from dusk in Langcliffe, Saturday

Dales sunrise or sunset? You choose

dales sunrise

This isn’t the crispest shot I’ve ever taken – a hand-held zoom in poor light – but a beautiful reminder of exactly what I saw as I drove along the Settle to Malham road in the Dales before people began to fill up the day. The photo was taken at 5.45am on Friday near the brow of the pass between Ribblesdale and Malhamdale. The temperature gauge in the car read -1 deg. Facing me, a glorious blood-orange horizon with a tiny strip of the tarn sparkling out of the gloom. I motored on and stopped at the tarn to watch the sunrise.

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Gradually the colour of the surrounding hills began to redden. Although the tarn remained shaded from the rising sun for a while, the water weakly reflected the hue of the transforming hillsides; the lake was still and cold. The peaty ground crunched gently as I walked around the tarn’s edge. The previous day’s puddles wore a thin veil of ice.
A curlew called and a pair of peewits were up, whirring about above my head. Four geese in an unruly line barked like dogs, their conversation echoing round the natural bowl as if in an empty swimming pool. There was a faint rustling then a flash of colour as a grouse scuttled off just two yards from my feet. A nervous lone rabbit scanned the scene before hopping it. In the adjoining field a group of sheep remained seated on their warm patches of moor, chewing and wondering whether it was time to get up. Black silhouettes of cattle stood on a dark distant hill like a hastily arranged background for a school play.

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Suddenly, the bright new sun popped up from behind a thicket on the horizon. I couldn’t look at it without damaging my eyes but I pointed the camera in the general direction and hoped for the best. Once again the Sun  had successfully made its way up Mastiles Lane from Wharfedale and was about to head over the hill to Ribblesdale.

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I left the dreamy scene and drove slowly back towards Langcliffe, watching the dales country waking up as the sun followed me home, first lighting up the eastern side of Penyghent and Plover Hill.

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The higher slopes of the distant Ingleborough were next to be illuminated, then the western slopes of Ribblesdale: Little Stainforth, Smearsett Scar. Giggleswick Scar swapped a miserable grey coat for a nice creamy number.

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I’ve taken many shots of the setting sun from Winskill Stones but this young light is very different – harsher. Now, in spring, each day the sun shines here the scene becomes greener and fresher.
Is the sunrise better than the sunset in the dales? From a photographic point of view I have no preference – they’re just different. Philosophically, is the birth of a new day with its promises and hopes preferable to the death of the day which may have brought us joy and good memories, or perhaps stress and sadness? Sunrise every time for me this time. What do you think?  Below is a sunset photo of Ribblesdale taken last week.

dales ribble sunset
Since semi-retirement I’ve changed my sleeping habits by going to bed and also rising later than I used to. On work days I would regularly roll out of my pit at 6am – I think it stems back to early teenage years …Dad got up at 5am to go to t’ mill, and he would wake me so I could do my morning paper round before school. Perhaps we should all wake up at dawn, shake hands with the Sun and say ‘thanks for providing another day’.

Folly exhibitions

I visited one of my favourite buildings, The Folly in Settle this week to see the two latest exhibitions. Many locals were there talking to each other about how the town used to be. The ‘Back in Settle’ exhibition is a collection of old photos from the area inspired by a Facebook group set up by Mick Harrison https://www.facebook.com/groups/backinsettle/

dales Medal
‘1916: Chronicles of Courage’ is the third in The Folly’s series of World War One exhibitions and highlights the part local dales people played in the war. Not long ago I researched the part my own family played in the war. This large bronze medallion – a Dead Man’s Penny, as they were known – was given in honour of one of my granddad’s brothers (he didn’t have a wife or any children) and it is now in my possession. There were more than 1,355,000 plaques issued – a sobering thought.
For more details of the exhibitions visit http://www.ncbpt.org.uk/folly/

Dales weather

Yesterday morning I was admiring the pink blossom sprouting on a neighbour’s tree under a warm blue sky; in the evening I witnessed some very sad daffodils, their heads hanging low under the weight of heavy snow. That’s dales weather for you.

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Ingleborough: peak viewing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ingleborough donkeys

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.

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Back down in Ribblesdale I couldn’t stop myself taking yet another photo or two around St Oswald’s in Horton.

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More dramatic

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.

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New life

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!

ingleborough lambs

Ribblesdale buildings, 3 Peaks priorities, service with a smile

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It’s another soggy Sunday in Ribblesdale. On this day last week I was heading out up the dale in sunshine under a bright blue sky. Viewed from the western flanks, the pastures in the valley bottom looked almost summery. My stroll took me through Little Stainforth – or Knight Stainforth (I’m never sure which title the locals prefer) – where the white-painted old hall always catches my eye. Approached via the minor road from Giggleswick, the building looks impressive lit up by the winter sun.

ribblesdale - stainforth

I often blog about the old barns, churches and farmhouses here in Ribblesdale but there are also many fine larger buildings belonging to ancient families and landowners. In his epic series of books, The Buildings of England, Nikolaus Pevsner picks out my favourite Settle building, The Folly. He describes it in his rather pompous manner as being ‘a large, remarkably ambitious town-house … its details are in many ways capricious and wilful’. Of Langcliffe Hall he states, ‘The outer surround no doubt by the same workmen as the Folly. Very curious, somewhat viscous forms’.
He’s quite rude and dismissive of Stainforth Hall which he says is ‘A somewhat bleak, three-storeyed house of the late c17’. If he’d bothered to investigate a little further he would have found lots more interesting facts which extend the building’s history way back to Norman times. If you want a proper description of the place log in to www.knightstainforth.co.uk (and also visit the splendid new eating place opposite the hall – www.theknightstable.co.uk).
Another favourite old building of mine lies further up the dale above Selside – Lodge Hall, or Ingman’s Lodge, a large farmhouse dated 1687. Unfortunately, this grand old structure is deteriorating, and it is on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ list. As you drive up and down the dale you can see many other beautiful roadside buildings, typical of the Yorkshire dales. But when you step out on foot along the old packhorse tracks even more gems can be seen. I hope to feature further fine Ribblesdale buildings when/if the weather improves.

High value in Ribblesdale

Nowadays I’m not very good with heights. I’m ok on the tops of Yorkshire’s hills, but ask me to go up a long ladder or a swaying tower and I’d soon feel the old legs all-a-wobble. I probably couldn’t skip across Striding Edge like I did in my twenties, that’s for sure. These thoughts came to me this week as I read of the new tower being built in Brighton – well, it’s not fair that southerners have to sully themselves by having to head north to Blackpool is it? The new i360 structure will take people up 450ft for a view along the south coast. It is predicted that ‘passengers’ will pay around £15 a ride and the cost of the construction is already topping £46m. I’ll stick to the local views, thanks. Castleberg Rock in Settle stands around 700ft above sea level, its construction cost nowt and it is free to use – and the panoramas are better than those around Brighton… in my humble opinion, of course.

ribblesdale track

I tried but failed to grab a twilight picture of a track near Langcliffe this week. I didn’t get the foreground lighting right but it might appeal to some.

buttertubs

No problem with the lighting on my little jaunt over Buttertubs on Monday, but by-hecky-thump it wasn’t half cold. I posted the normal view looking up Swaledale on t’interweb during the week, so here’s one looking t’other way.

Peaks & Scones

This week I received a polite reminder that my subscription to the Friends of the Three Peaks is due. Run in association with the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the Friends project undertakes a lot of work in and around Ribblesdale. Three Peaks Ranger, Josh Hull, tells of work carried out over the last few months: ‘This year on the Three Peaks at lot has been done. In major projects we have laid 100m of flags on Whernside, 160m on Ingleborough and re-laid another 250m of sinking flags on Whernside (which have been in for around 20 years!). In other general work, 3 wooden ladder stiles have been replaced with stone steps stiles, installed approximately 15 new cross drains, 100m of subsoiling on Whernside summit and over 1.5km of ditching.’ More details here
http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/looking-after/howyoucanhelp/friends-of-the-three-peaks

ribblesdale feizor

I had some good sightings of two of the peaks on Thursday when I followed the Pennine Bridleway from Helwith Bridge to Feizor. A lovely walk in sunshine with great views all round – including Ribblesdale to Penyghent, and over Wharfe village to Norber and Ingleborough. From the brow were far-reaching views over Feizor, Wenningdale and beyond.

ribblesdale ingleborough

Tea & scone at Elaine’s Tearooms was, as always, gorgeous. Call me old fashioned if you must, but how refreshing it is to see smiling, cheerful, helpful staff like those at Elaine’s. Maybe it’s born or bred into country folk to be welcoming. Not long ago I ordered my tea and scone in a well-known outlet on the outskirts of Manchester. I tried to connect with the person serving me but she was obviously carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and couldn’t be bothered with me, the customer paying her wage (and the scone was stale as well).

Setting the tone

Are you are scone as in tone, or a scone as in long, person? The ‘tone’ version was always considered posh where I grew up but then I am a pleb and my working-class background often surfaces. This little ditty was part of my upbringing and you’ll probably only understand it if you had a similar childhood:
We’re down in t’ coyle ‘oyle
Weer t’ muck slarts on t’ winders
We’ve used all us coyle up
And we’re rait down t’ cinders,
But if bum bailiff comes
Ee’ll nivver findus
Cos we’ll be in t’ coyle ‘oyle
Weer t’ muck slarts on t’ winders.