Such is life in Ribblesdale. I’ve gone from taking pictures of golden sunsets and striking autumnal colours to those of misty, snowy almost black and white shots all within a fortnight. It was very similar last year – take a look back at my blog posts for late November and early December 2015 and you’ll see.
Hot news once again this week regarding the future of Hellifield Flashes. The stretch of Ribblesdale countryside separating Hellifield and Long Preston alongside the A65, known for flooding and a vital home for thousands of wintering birds, has been a prime target for profit-hungry developers for more than 15 years. Plans for a ‘leisure complex’ have once again been submitted along with improbable promises of jobs for up to 500 people. Perhaps there will be hundreds of jobs (not necessarily new ones) while the place is being constructed, but once up and running I wonder how much employment will remain? I can also see a few individuals, like the owners of the local pub, chip shop and village store understandably rubbing their hands at the prospect of attracting more customers, but what of the quality of life for the majority of residents, the wildlife and those viewing the area from the surrounding hills? The plans have been submitted by Halton Homes of Bingley. Look on their website and you’ll see it states the Hellifield development is ‘coming soon’ – do they know something we don’t? Take a look too at their other ‘leisure’ development down the road at Pendle Chase which it describes as a ‘premium investment opportunity’. Years after planning was controversially granted for the Salterforth enterprise the place is still undeveloped. Make your own mind up as to who really benefits from such speculation and land grabbing then send your objections to Craven Council. Also visit https://www.facebook.com/saveourcravencountryside-108150632557939/
While I’m on one … Like many other people who care about quality of life and Nature I was appalled to see even more of Sheffield Council’s draconian tree removal this week. They say they must remove trees from streets because they can’t afford to pick up the bill for mending damage to pavements caused by tree roots. They claim it costs £50k a year (a figure I don’t believe given the growth rate of most trees). They say nothing about the value of trees, such as how they cut down pollution, how they shield traffic noise for residents and how they provide food and nesting places for wildlife – or how they just look nice, making places more pleasant to live in. I’m so lucky to live in my Ribblesdale village where trees are appreciated. Sheffield council has now killed more than three thousand trees. It’s okay though, the government has come up with £370m to tart up Buckingham Palace… well, that’ll keep Sheffield residents happy. Oh, and there’s millions for fancy new bridges in London and don’t get me started on the unimaginable amount of money being wasted on an unnecessary new train line for businessfolk to get to their London meetings half an hour quicker.
Best not devote the whole blog to misery … it’s good news that steam trains may be back on the Settle-Carlisle line by summer 2017 and that work on fixing the section of collapsed line at Eden Brow is well underway. And more good news … in only five weeks Christmas will be over with.
A lovely sunset tonight helps me celebrate my 100th blog on this site. I’m standing by the Ribble near Long Preston, the river flowing heavily yet quietly under the bridge, a couple of horses grazing unconcerned in the next field. Before writing this I scanned through the previous 99 blogs to see what subject had pulled in the most visitors. It was the one I wrote at the beginning of February; I didn’t think it was anything special until I noticed I’d written ‘it gave me the willies’. Really, do I have to mention a rude word to get noticed on t’ internet? Goodness knows how many hits I’ll get when I mention the blue tits in my garden.
I don’t often dabble in the black (and white) arts. I prefer my snaps to reflect Nature just as I find it. But while I was at Scaleber Foss above Settle in Ribblesdale this lunchtime I thought I’d take the above shot with black and white in mind – and it turned out okay although professional photographers might think differently. The water looks inviting in the shot below but I can tell you it was incredibly cold as it flowed off the limestone scars above. Scaleber Beck joins Long Preston Beck to meet the Ribble just below Long Preston village.
While I was driving home along the back road from Paythorne this evening, there was a rare break in the cloud… just enough time for me to capture this briefest glimpse of late sunshine over a flooded field above Wigglesworth. The River Ribble looked very threatening at both the Paythorne and Long Preston bridges after a weekend of heavy rain and snow further up the dale.
In my local churchyard of St Mary’s here in Long Preston, Ribblesdale, there aren’t many ‘grand’ tombstones – a reflection perhaps of the make-up of this once rural community. Nevertheless, the memorials in this small graveyard fascinate me, and over the years I’ve collected – photographically I should add – a great variety of them. This simple wooden cross is probably my favourite. In a shady spot it catches late afternoon sunshine. It’s obviously still maintained as even the best paint from the 1930s couldn’t have survived so many winters. On the Ancestry website I discovered that Richard, who was born in the village, was a sheep and cattle grazier and that he and his wife Jane had seven children. Every gravestone here has a story to tell; social history waiting to be unravelled.
This shot is looking back at yesterday’s location – Giggleswick Scar is middle right looking down on Settle – and was taken from Hunter Bark this morning just before heavy clouds moved in. Hunter Bark is the name of the highest point on the ancient track over the hills between Long Preston and Settle in Ribblesdale. If you start from Long Preston railway station you’ll climb a steady 1,000 feet to the trig point on Hunter Bark where you’ll be rewarded with a superb 360 degree view of the region. On the ascent from the village you’ll also see the mazy path the meandering River Ribble makes as it snakes down the dale, as well as the hazy mass of Pendle Hill dominating the distant horizon.
It’s not so long ago that the government’s major political push concerned letting local people decide on local matters – it was called Building the Big Society wasn’t it? I presume from the decision last week to allow the construction of yet more housing in my village of Long Preston in Ribblesdale that the Big Society idea has now been abandoned.
Residents didn’t want any more housing, the Parish Council were against the development and the Highways Department objected to plans for the site. However, the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s appeal inspector, Norfolk-born musician William Weston, gave the go-ahead for the development.
Well, at least the park authority can can say to the faceless Whitehall bureaucrats ‘look what good boys and girls we are, we’ve ticked one of your required boxes’ and provided some ‘much-needed’ and also ‘affordable’ housing.
Hands up anyone who knows what ‘affordable’ means in the context of housing.
The site on Green Gate Lane lies within the Long Preston Conservation Area and I have to admit it is currently a little run down, but that in itself doesn’t necessarily mean it must be turned over to a developer who then makes a fat profit at the expense of a lot of misery to others.
We are talking here of 13 houses – maybe not a lot for a town but a fair percentage of a small village – perhaps 300 extra cars journeys per week down a single track lane which joins on to School Lane (self explanatory) then on to the busy A65 (which in Long Preston alone feeds 30+ direct vehicular accesses).
The cottage on the left of my photo at the junction between School Lane and Green Gate Lane was partly demolished by a wagon trying to negotiate a left turn a couple of years ago.
The authority claims there isn’t enough housing in the National Park yet hundreds of properties in Long Preston and elsewhere in the Dales are second homes or holiday lets. Local estate agents are packed with houses for sale. And what is the point of building more houses when there have been very few new jobs created in the vicinity for donkey’s years, and also the schools and authorities are scratting round for funds and resources. I know first hand that slow internet connections in the Dales drastically prohibit the creation of new businesses for employment.
I get the feeling that the park cares little for Long Preston – you’ll not see one of those quaint little sheep motifs signifying you’re entering the National Park in this village, despite Long Preston being the park’s ‘gateway’ from Lancashire.
I wonder what the planners’ decision would have been had someone applied to turn the site into a horse riding centre – or even a ‘horse hotel’ for the newly designed Pennine Bridleway which passes close by – which would certainly have benefited the community? Or how about a proposal for a youth centre or hard-play area for local children? Unfortunately these wouldn’t have ticked any boxes.
The thin edge of the developing wedge was pierced into Long Preston a few years back and it is now pushing open the door even further. I’m no NIMBY, I care about fair play and this Dales community.
Up with the birds this morning, I decided to stroll round the village taking photos of some of the trees as they enjoyed the early sunshine. (Apologies to the lady just opening her bedroom curtains – I REALLY was taking pics of the trees… I’ll see you again in court.) St Mary’s churchyard in Long Preston looked particularly stunning, especially this sycamore. What a fabulous way to start the day.
So say the lyrics of some song sung by someone I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up. I’ve felt the same melancholy looking out of my windows this week so I tracked back through my photo archive to see what the weather has been like at this time of year over the last decade. This picture is one from 2010 – taken because I thought I saw the face of a cat in the sky. I hadn’t been drinking, honest. I used the photo in a blog I did for Countryman magazine at the time and several readers wrote in to say they spotted it too… can you?
The photo was taken at Bookilber, above Long Preston in Ribblesdale