Memories of O level geology and plans for post-lockdown (11 photos)

My first visit to Norber erratics took place more than 50 years ago – a geology field trip from school, if my memory serves me correctly. At the time, I probably didn’t appreciate this glorious view over the tiny hamlet of Wharfe. The road winding up the centre of the dale leads from Austwick to Helwith Bridge, and I’ve started many an enjoyable walk from that road: up Crummackdale, Moughton Scar, Oxenber & Wharfe woods, and more. PS I somehow managed an O level in geology which remains one of my top ten lifetime achievements.

Train crossing Morecambe Bay with the Lake District beyond.

When lockdown is over I aim to travel by train from Giggleswick to Settle. The two railway stations – just one-and-a-quarter miles apart – are not directly linked by rail, and my journey will take all day. My plan is to travel from Gigg to Carlisle via Lancaster and Barrow, then back to Settle, a total distance (by rail) of around 150 miles. The trip will take me through some glorious countryside, across Morecambe Bay and up a glorious coastal route past some stunning Lakeland scenery to the Scottish border, returning through Cumbria and the Dales on the impressive Settle-Carlisle line. I will need an old geezer’s rail pass, a bagful of butties, and a flask of tea (or perhaps something a little stronger). Okay, so it’s not exactly an intrepid macho hiking expedition through the Scottish Highlands, which some folk may be planning on their return to freedom, but I’ll need to get warmed up first after many months on the couch.

The beach at Bamburgh.

As much as I love the Dales, I also enjoy visiting most of the British coastline. Seascapes can be as dramatic and beautiful as landscapes; clouds – and moods – as changeable as those above our mountains.

Evening light on the Norfolk coast.

Although I was very disappointed about leaving the EU, as a big tea drinker I was delighted to learn that I was at least going to be able to enjoy a new cuppa…

I’ve now had just one haircut in 12 months. I’m starting to look like one of those sad has-been 1970s rock band bass guitarists who appear on TV documentaries to talk about the group that became world famous after he left them.

This month has already thrown some miserable weather at us, but these two February pics from previous years have brought some stunning sunsets.

Please look out for the February issue of Dalesman in which I have written a piece about my family history which includes some startling revelations. If you can’t get out to buy a copy, take a look at for a great delivery offer.

February view of Whernside across Chapel-le-Dale.
War poster on display at Ingrow railway museum on the Worth Valley line. Couldn’t be more appropriate for today.
Not the usual view of High Cup Nick but I liked the sky on this day a few years back.
Through the round window … the Leeds-Liverpool canal near Bradley in Airedale.

A Dales spring in the step (14 photos)

dalesThere aren’t many flatish, longish, riverside-ish walks in the upper Dales. Here the becks and rivers are generally young and rash, heading energetically down the hillsides. They provide us with some picturesque waterfalls and quick scrambles, but not many easy, level strolls. One exception is beside the River Dee, near Dent, where I visited this week. (Not the top pic – see later.)

A pleasant figure-of-eight route uses part of the Dales Way long-distance walk. There are good views of Dent (above) and the surrounding hills, and thankfully for my creaking knees, no gradients to speak of along the way. The sound of water cackling over stone, frantic calling between ewes and lambs, and birds being busy doing what birds do in spring made this a very pleasant couple of hours.

Just thought I’d throw this pic in to show that the Dales isn’t all about drystone walls – here near Dent the art of hedge laying can be seen.

I read this week that one Yorkshire pensioner shoots wild birds in his back garden because he “dislikes being disturbed” by their singing. He wouldn’t be very happy round my way at the moment as the swallows are returning after their winter hols abroad. I can’t imagine a world without birdlife. If it is irritating noise he dislikes I suggest he takes the gun down to … probably best not to continue on this line of thought.

From Dent I drove through the Dales calling at Sedbergh, Hawes and Askrigg – stopping off to photograph ponies in front of the Howgills, Cotter Force (above) and St Oswald’s in Askrigg (below). The church is Grade I Listed, dating from the fifteenth century with evidence of earlier building. Afterwards I just had to stop to capture a very different but just as architecturally important Dales barn beside the Ure in Wensleydale (top picture in blog).

I also had a quick trip one evening to Malham where some macho outdoor types were climbing bare-chested above Watlowes. I can think of more relaxing ways of getting a tan.

Photographic highlight of my week though was a trip on Friday evening to Morecambe. Despite living in the Dales, the bay is less than 30 miles away. Seen from the shoreline, the Lakeland Fells were just a grey-blue silhouette across the water. I headed home via the Trough of Bowland, stopping off at Jubilee Tower on Quernmore to witness a superb sunset.

Ribblesdale, of course, provided more spring joy. A short evening wander up the narrow road to Little Stainforth opened up this lovely pastoral scene (below). I’ve taken dozens of photos this week but I don’t want to be that bloke who bores you with his tedious, endless holiday snaps (oops, too late!) so I’ll save some for another day.

Back in Langcliffe, the annual imprisonment of naughty daffodils is taking place …

I was driving back from Malham to Settle at dusk when this strange flying machine buzzed overhead – so low, I expected to hear an almighty crash from over the horizon. Does anyone have any ideas about what it is and why it almost took the aerial off my car roof?

Ribblesdale-by-the sea: a welcome distraction

ribblesdaleRibblesdale isn’t too far from the sea. From several lofty points in the region you can see Morecambe Bay and every so often I feel in the mood to leave the grassy limestone features of Ribblesdale for some seascapes and to breathe in some salty air. My week started on a low point when I had to have my 16-year-old cat put down. The farewell to him on the vet’s table will remain in my memory for ever. Afterwards, I set off driving and ended up in Grange-over-Sands where I’ll bet there were plenty of retired ladies called Doris but the storm of the same name had not yet arrived. Back in Ribblesdale Penyghent went through several changing moods during the week, and helicopters buzzed overhead either picking up distressed hikers or dropping off hardcore for paths. The top photo was taken from Dale Head Farm on the Silverdale road shortly before stormy weather descended.

Three shots taken in Grange-over-Sands showing the moody lighting over Morecambe Bay, and the onset of spring in the sheltered park. The park lake is home a huge variety of ducks and birds and is well worth a visit..

Locally I had a couple of short wanders around Austwick and Clapham which, despite it being half term for many schools, were remarkably quiet. Holidays might well be the only time we see children in Dales villages in the future, with under-funded councils seemingly determined to shut down small schools. Sadly, it seems life is gradually being squeezed out of many rural areas. Communities need to take control – Clapham Village Store is a good example of positive action.

Plenty of snowdrops by the falls and beside the beck in Clapham

Classic Clapham: Brokken Bridge (shame the car spoils the pic).


No takers for the swing at Flascoe clapper bridge, Austwick

Song of the Dales


It was a joy to see and listen to the curlews up on the moors between Ribblesdale and Silverdale late this afternoon. the curlew spends summer in this area before following the Ribble to Morecambe Bay in late summer There were quite a few peewits too and I saw one defending its nest against a ragged looking sheep which had wandered too close. This was the best shot I could get of a curlew with my hand-held lens.

Pressed cheese and icy toppings

cheese press

Clear blue skies tempted me into clambering up the rocky western side of Kingsdale this morning. The views were fantastic. I went as far as the Turbary Road, an ancient track which locals once used to collect peat from the slopes of Gragareth. To the west I could pick out Morecambe Bay across the Lune Valley, and the snow-topped southern fells of the Lake District. Just off the main track are these erratics known as the Cheese Press Stones where I ate my pressed cheese sandwich while staring towards Ingleborough and Whernside.

Nature the artist


There’s no more talented artist than Mother Nature. Nothing is man made in these shots, nor is there any excessive Photoshop manipulation – just natural light and the colours of late evening on the west coast, looking across Morecambe Bay. In the top picture the South Lakeland Fells are barely visible and the tide is on its way in. The sunset below is a little further down the coast at Hexham which, let’s be honest, is not usually known for its natural beauty. The first and only time I’d been to the port previously was in the mid seventies to catch a ferry to the Isle of Man. If you visit on a clear day you’ll see an enormous offshore wind farm that would have been pure science fiction in the seventies.


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