Take HS2 south to see north’s assets

Ribble Penyghent

Ever wonder how the good folk living by the Ribble reacted in the 1870s on being told that a railway was going to be built along their peaceful dale? Most ordinary residents probably thought they didn’t have a choice in the matter and just got on with their lives. Today we think and react differently – but in the end, as in the Victorian era, our protests will more often than not go ignored. Those with money and power will have their way, as it seems with the proposed High Speed 2 railway scheme.

Countryside destruction

‘HS2 has come to symbolise a country run against the interests of the many and in the interests of the few.’ That’s a great sentence, sadly not one of mine, written by Patrick Barkham. It sums up my feelings about yet another ill-conceived fantasy project from which London will be the biggest benefactor. Latest estimates predict it will cost £57 billion – yes, fifty-seven-billion pounds, let that sink in – to cut 32 minutes off the journey between Birmingham and London. Our Northern Powerhouse (falls about laughing at the shallow attempt being made to deliver that promise) will eventually link in with this project (price yet to be properly determined) and – whoopee! – uncouth Yorkshire oiks like me will be able to take out a mortgage for a ticket and get to the capital to improve my flagging social status, some 45 minutes quicker. To achieve this, thousands of square miles of beautiful English countryside will be destroyed, wildlife habitats torn up, homes demolished and many a village life wrecked. Meanwhile, we are being fed a load of bull about job creation and that this super highway will bring great benefits to the north – don’t believe a word of it. Shareholders and contractors will make sacksful of dosh, most jobs will be temporary with workers being paid minimum wage, and I have yet to read one single persuasive argument showing how the North will benefit as a region.
Don’t get me wrong – I like trains, I think they are a sensible form of transport – but why not spend £57bn+ improving what we already have, by providing more local services or opening up old lines so that ordinary folk – not just the rich or businesspeople – can use and afford them? Patrick wrote a splendid monthly column for me when I was editor of The Countryman. Read his article on HS2 here http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/nov/17/hs2-the-human-cost-of-britains-most-expensive-rail-project
Also visit stophs2.org

Ribble gate

Last February near Fountains Fell

Museum asset stripping

I’ve visited the National Media Museum in Bradford dozens of times. I’ve taken children there, attended functions and exhibition openings. I’ve always been proud to have a ‘National’ museum on my doorstep. It even hosts the International Film Festival, promoting the city and Yorkshire further afield… well, it did, anyway. Museum officials have just announced they are abandoning the festival after 20 years and followed this by saying they were sending 400,000 unique photos from its impressive collection to be exhibited permanently in London.
So the asset stripping of the museum is well under way. To be discussed is the renaming and streamlining of the museum. One suggestion involves relegating it from the premier division of ‘National’ to (Division One) ‘North’. Eventually, I see the title becoming ’Yorkshire’, then ‘Bradford’, followed by ‘a rear room of an independent camera shop in Idle’. Pardon the pun but there’s been a total loss of focus here. If we can afford to host top-class exhibitions and museums in London why can’t it be done in the north? What’s next to disappear down south – the National Railway Museum?

Harking back

Ribble silverdale

Bad weather, extra freelance work and problems with contact points on a camera lens have conspired to curtail my own photography this week. So there are a few older photos included in this week’s blog. Make the most of them because I got a call from Boris Johnson who says he wants the best 20 per cent of them exclusively for visitors to look at in a trendy coffee house in the capital. The top photo in the blog showing Penyghent was taken this time last year. The one above shows the hill from t’ other side just a couple of days later.

A song for the Ribble

ribble pigeons

On Tuesday a cleaner at BT pulled out a plug so the vac could be powered up (I could be wrong there) and the internet went kaput. So, despite the howling gale, I went for a walk. Sadly, the path through Castleberg Wood to the rock overlooking Settle was closed due to a fallen tree, a victim of the strong winds. I headed back to Langcliffe beside the Ribble via Giggleswick and Stackhouse. These perching pigeons caught my attention: a music score with Stainforth Scar, as a backdrop. The ground was decidedly sticky and further rain over the next three days won’t have improved the situation. The walls of the older cottages like mine are becoming saturated so let’s hope for a prolonged dry spell very soon.

ribble ducks

I snapped this one quickly at the mill pond in Langcliffe and was surprised it turned out virtually black-and-white. I’ve not tampered with the photo at all. I do sometimes make adjustments to photos where I feel it is necessary – or just to amuse myself. Using Photoshop or other digital editors is no different from what used to happen in photographic darkrooms, yet for some reason viewers can get all hot and bothered by ‘touched-up’ photos. Some photographers are looking for an accurate representation of a subject; others want to add their own interpretation. Viewers can have an opinion on what’s been created but should remember that with ‘art’ there’s no right or wrong. That’s why we all have different artwork hung in our homes; why we decorate our walls differently or wear different styles and colours of clothes.

ribble honesty

This time last year: Just one set of footprints to the honesty box at Dale End Farm below Penyghent – mine. Which, I know, doesn’t prove that I paid. The picture got me thinking whether it would be worth putting an honesty box in the Houses of Parliament… but then again…


The train spotting fraternity were out in force up and down the Ribble yesterday hoping for a glimpse of the revamped Flying Scotsman and the internet and Facebook groups are plastered with photos of the iconic engine. So where are all my piccies of this great event, you ask? Sorry, but on a Saturday I have to indulge in my own anorakic passion – watching Huddersfield Town. I admit to the addiction, and I know that each time I watch them it takes years off my life. If you have a cure please let me know.

A bit of poetry by the great Bob Dylan came to mind after re-reading this week’s blog:

I like to do just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet,
But guarding fumes and making haste,
It ain’t my cup of meat.
Ev’rybody’s ‘neath the trees,
Feeding pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here,
All the pigeons gonna run to him.
Come all without, come all within,
You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.

County confusion? Not 'ere lad.


According to the Guardian, Yorkshire is ‘actually four counties’. I almost spat out my tea before I realised that I’d actually paid for it therefore it shouldn’t be wasted. So I flung my flat cap at the ferret instead. Calm down, I thought… if someone was to ask me anything about Middlesex what would I answer (is it a London suburb?). Yesterday I watched a swollen river Ribble flowing under the smart bridge at Paythorne (picture). This tiny village is in Yorkshire despite the fact a shabby sign nearby proclaims the area as being part of Lancashire. Recent winds have seen that sign take on a bit of a jaunty angle… poor workmanship – allowing Lancastrians to temporarily take care of this part of Yorkshire was obviously a big mistake.

Stop the train – it's madness

My hatred of the proposed High Speed Rail (HS2) link to London grows day by day. The plan has no business case, will wreck the environment and the lives of thousands of people on its route… and it could even bankrupt the country.
Yesterday Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced an amazing £9.9bn increase in the costs of the project, just hours after Chancellor George Osborne outlined £11.5bn of ‘essential’ cuts in his Spending Review.
The construction costs for Phase 1 will now cost £21.4bn, whilst Phase 2 will cost £21.2bn. These costs are already out of date as they are based on 2011 figures, with construction not due to start until 2017. Included in the £42.6bn is a £14.4bn contingency, which McLoughlin wrongly announced as being £12.7bn. DfT and HS2 Ltd officials have always said until now that the costs of HS2 would never increase because there was an £11.1bn contingency built into the previous cost.
Stop HS2 campaigner Joe Rukin said: “The casual way in which a 30% jump in the costs of HS2 has been announced by the Transport Secretary, which almost completely wipes out the cuts made in the spending review is unbelievable. We are now looking at a total cost of over £50bn on a train which will only benefit the richest in society.
“The DfT have always said the costs wouldn’t go up as there was an ample contingency built in, but now we know, like everything else which has been said about the case for HS2, that this was completely false. As Frank Dobson pointed out, there are still loads of items which have yet to be added into the costs and the costs for this project will only continue to spiral. To push ahead with HS2 blindly because it sounds like it must be a good idea is simply insane and a kick in the teeth to everyone affected by the cuts.
“The MPs who have voted for the blank cheque have only shown that they are totally out of touch with the common man, and HS2 Ltd have responded to the fact they are ten billion by saying they are ‘broadly within the envelope’. I don’t know what planet they are on, but I wouldn’t want to be picking up their stationery bill.”
Tell your MP to stop this madness now.

Countryside rip-up is a rip-off


The thought of ripping up thousands of miles of beautiful countryside, blighting properties, wrecking wildlife habitat and ancient woodland just to create a high-speed rail link to London (HS2) leaves this normally placid chap seething. That’s before I even mention the cost. As far as I can see the only benefit will be that you’ll be able to get far away from the capital a little bit quicker. If the hypothetical figures about creating thousands of jobs and how the North and Midlands will be so much better off actually comes off I’ll eat my flat cap. I’m not saying I don’t believe in railways, I just think we should be making better use of what we’ve got, improving stock, bringing back more local lines and increasing the number of people working on the railways.

I thought of this while I was struggling up a hill outside Horton-in-Ribblesdale last week. I made the excuse to stop to watch this train working down the Settle-Carlisle line beaneath Penyghent. The line is underused by the quarry owners who prefer to send huge clanking trucks through the villages. And there’s a perfectly good line from Lancashire that joins up with the Settle-Carlisle line at Hellifield… but there’s no passenger timetable for it. Tourists bringing business and prosperity to this to this part of the Dales have to take an hour or more detour.

I assume the locals and landowners were up in arms when the Victorians decided to rip up this bit of the countryside to build the Settle-Carlisle railway but now it’s here – thanks mainly to volunteers – we should be making the most of it instead of pandering to some political pipe-dream.

At large in Yorkshire

Up to retiring from my job as editor of the Yorkshire Dalesman magazine in November 2012 I wrote a weekly blog about my travels around the great county of Yorkshire. I always took with me my trusty Canon 300D to make a photographic record of my trips and tried to include some shots  – good and poor – in the blog. Readers got in touch from all over the world to thank me for showing them what Yorkshire is like or for reminding them ‘of the old place’. I’m hoping, if we ever get any decent photographic weather, to continue with the ‘service’ from this blog so please keep coming back to see where I’ve been… and get in touch if you’d like to see somewhere specific from God’s Own Country.
(I’m also freelance editor of The Countryman – a national magazine for lovers of the countryside – visit my blog via www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk . The new editor of Dalesman also publishes a fine blog via www.dalesman.co.uk )

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