Are there more ruins in the Yorkshire Dales than ever before? Are the traditional stone barns, walls and farm buildings which make the Dales unique gradually disappearing from our precious landscape? Who should be responsible for the upkeep of these iconic Dales features? Will their demise eventually affect tourism and thus local businesses and accommodation providers? Does anyone really care? Those thoughts crossed my mind this week during a short walk on which I came across several run-down buildings. Back home I looked through photos I’d taken over the last 12 months and counted more than 20 shots which included different Dales buildings that had seen better days. I’d not gone out specifically to capture the ruins, nor was my intention to put landowners to shame. I’d merely used the buildings as foregrounds or focal points for the pictures. Some of the buildings were once beautiful structures, architecturally perfect for their settings. They used locally sourced materials and were built by local craftsmen. Agricultural progress and changes have meant that in many cases the original uses for the buildings no longer exist. Many farmers can’t afford to maintain little-used buildings. The National Park’s rigid planning rules allow little by way of development in many cases. And anyway, some are in such out-of-the-way places that changing the use and improvement to modern living standards would be beyond the reach of all but the very richest people. I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that if nothing is done to stop our heritage from crumbling, the Dales of the future will be far less attractive for residents and visitors. There follows a selection of local Dales buildings captured by me over the last year. I should also say by way of balance that I have seen a few superbly renovated barns on my travels around the dales.
Excellent autumn light tempted me out into the Dales this week. I’ve been happy with the photographic results and, if my Twitter statistics are anything to go by, so have my followers. Then why do I feel a little down at the end of such a productive and enjoyable seven days?
Why? Because it’s becoming more apparent just how much the quality of our rural life is changing and how little the government seems to care about it.
There’s a new kind of industrial revolution going on in the countryside and it’s increasingly noticeable around the edges of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Humans have always exploited the countryside. Mills developed around natural water power while lead and coal mines along with stone, slate and limestone quarries have been regular features in the Dales for centuries.
Driving around now I see an ever-increasing number of wind turbines. This week I stopped to view the massive solar power station at Gisburn, where 20,000 panels have been installed across three fields. Many more will follow.
After bemoaning the fact that fracking had been allowed on the North York Moors a couple of months back, permission for fracking has now been granted down the road in Lancashire… despite the fact that the locals and the council didn’t want it to happen.
Further afield huge agricultural businesses are gobbling up small farms, turning millions of acres into featureless prairies or unnatural meat factories, ruining the countryside’s natural balance, destroying wildlife habitats and forever changing communities.
I live in a Dales village where the local primary school was closed a few years back – now we learn that the lovely school at Horton-in-Ribblesdale is seriously under threat. With it could go the life-blood and future of another rural community. Families will move out and the place will be filled with second-homeowners and holiday cottages. (Don’t get me wrong – those people are most welcome, but it is the community balance I worry about.)
Libraries and other local resources, including municipal parks, are also being abandoned by councils while funds for National Parks are being cut.
Yes, we must always look for solutions to problems concerning provision of food and power, but why must it be at the expense of our quality of life and the destruction of the things many of us hold so dear?
That’s ‘progress’ I’m told. Don’t fret youngsters, old dinosaurs like me will soon be extinct… unfortunately so will much of the countryside.
Talking of extinction, as I was heading home from Gisburn the other day I came across a farmer who was driving along a minor road, presumably next to his farm, in one of those golf-buggy-type-things. He pulled to the side of the road, grabbed his gun and fired it skywards. It was a tad disconcerting but something not to be too surprised at out in the countryside. I didn’t stop to find out what he was firing at, but I do hope it wasn’t a rare bird of prey – there have been too many reports of them being killed this year. That’s another sensitive rural subject concerning songbirds, farming and the hunting-shooting-fishing brigade – but enough ranting for one day… enjoy the photos.
Dales photos from this week
I took a few tentative steps outside Yorkshire this week. I must add a rider here: many of those steps were within the new Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary. You know what? It’s pretty good – Westmorland and Cumberland have quite a bit going for them. Just south of Appleby is the impressive Rutter Force which just sneaks into the recently extended park. The mill there is now accommodation, reached by a ford which even on a fairly calm day like this I wouldn’t cross in my little car.
Busy Appleby is just outside the Yorkshire park boundary but a fine place to visit – made even better by being reachable via the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Before this visit I hadn’t realised the extent Appleby had suffered from the last major flooding. Many riverside properties are still being renovated or drying out. Flood prevention schemes along the riverbank are being implemented.
Back in real Yorkshire
In amongst lengthy thunder and lightning storms this week there were a couple of decent sunsets. The shot below was taken at Winskill Stones above Langcliffe.
Heading out of Ribblesdale over Newby Head into Widdale you’ll find this old Yorkshire barn, now in a sorry state. I’ve noticed its gradual deterioration over many years travelling along this route and I guess there’s not much hope for it now.
Stuck at home during one of the many wet days this week I trolled through my photo archive to see if I could find an earlier picture of the barn but instead dug out several other shots of sad-looking farm buildings, all located in Ribblesdale. I hadn’t realised I’d taken so many – they do make interesting foregrounds, and subjects in themselves – nevertheless it’s a shame such fine structures have been allowed to fall into unusable condition. The reasons behind their decay are many and varied, and here in my little photo-blog is probably not the place for an in-depth report on the condition of buildings within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
I believe that my little cottage in Ribblesdale was once part of an 18th-century barn. It was converted into three small houses for mill or lime workers some time during the early 1800s … a good example of reusing old buildings to suit conditions at the time. Today, planning rules would be restrictive – especially within the National Park – and 21st-century needs would probably prove too disruptive for reusing the more isolated buildings. And many of our rural villages no longer provide work, schooling, shops, pubs etc to make it viable for the redevelopment of the more accessible deteriorating buildings. In urban areas these old structures would just be considered a hazard or an eyesore, bulldozed and the land bought by developers who will erect some boring ‘boxes’ thus lining their pockets with a fat profit.
I read an interesting blog on the subject of rural house building here https://cpreviewpoint.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/the-housing-bill-bad-for-villages/
I had to twice read this section to make sure I’d understood it correctly … “One senior Tory told me that no one has a right to live in a village any more than someone brought up in Mayfair has a right to live there. Someone may have grown up in a village and work in it, but if they cannot afford to buy a house in it, they should move to the nearest affordable town.”
In other words, if you’ve got money you can live where you want; it doesn’t matter whether your ancestors have lived there for generations or your family and friends still live there; it doesn’t matter if you can’t afford to travel to work or that there isn’t any transport… etc etc. So basically, he’s saying if you’re poor, you’re not allowed to enjoy a life in the countryside and must go live in a town.
Weather or not
I was due to show some friends the delights of the Dales during the week but the atrocious weather put a stop to that, and after their caravan almost blew over in a gale they abandoned ship and headed home. Hope this doesn’t leave a lasting bad impression on them, but we should realise it is winter, and that this is the Pennines not the Med. For their benefit here’s a few things they missed which are worth returning to see: above, Ashley Jackson’s frame at Brimham Rocks www.framingthelandscape.co.uk/ ; below Pecca Falls, Ingleton, the view from Buttertubs and from Winskill
We got into a discussion about dialect and agreed that when we are with close friends and family we often speak in a kind of lazy ‘shorthand’ which we all understand but probably wouldn’t use in general speech. So I set my friends this teaser to see if they could translate. I call it Yorkshire Teatime – a working class Yorkshire family discussion over the tea table. See how much you can read (it’ll blow the mind of any auto-correct software)…
Twin 1: Wotwehavinferusteamam?
Twin 2: Duwiattergerruzandsweshed?
Twin 1: Eh?
Twin 2: Avbinlaikinart.
Twin 1: Passustbutta.
Twin 2: Thamungerritthissen.
Twin 1: Giuzit.
Mam: Oowurreewi? Wurreeweeizsen?
Twins 1&2: Awwdad!
I might not always see eye to eye with some decisions and policies made by the National Park Authorities, but all in all I think they do a fine and very necessary job of safeguarding our countryside. I’ve certainly never viewed them as being extravagant or a total waste of taxpayer’s money – unlike, say, the House of Lords. (In 2014 the net operating cost of the outdated House of Lords was around £100m while that of the Yorkshire Dales National Park was nearer £4.5m – and not all paid for by the taxpayer.) The National Parks have already suffered massive cuts and are are now faced with even more. Staffing has been slashed by 20 per cent meaning among other things that right-of-way management, visitor facilities, car parking, toilets etc have all been hit. I know there are many other pressing matters to be concerned over, but does this government see the British countryside as just another asset which they can sell off to the highest bidder? The parks have been told to raise more money themselves … we interrupt this Blog for a short advertisement …
The McDonalds Yorkshire Dales National Park
Our walk-through diner on Penyghent now features the famous Barbequed Spare Ribble Platter. At our Dodd Fell branch you’ll find the McWensleydale Cheeseburger and our Snaizeholme McSquirrelnut burger for vegetarians. Our popular Sedburger Club Sandwich with our home-made Hawes Radish Sauce is popular at our Ingleborough branch. The Malham McMuffin with Maple Syrup will delight you at the new Cove Experience outlet. While our exciting Strawberry Strid Milkshake is free with every Wharfedale McWrap bought at our Bolton Abbey franchise located in the former priory. Admission fees apply.
The Yorkshire Dales … I’m Loving it.
I’ve taken more than 250 pictures this week so it’s been a bit tricky narrowing down a selection for the blog. I’ve even ventured slightly outside my normal patch of Ribblesdale into Sleddale, Wensleydale and Clapdale. No wonder I’m feeling a bit jet-lagged today … or maybe that’s more to do with the beer consumed while drowning my sorrows watching the Rugby Union. Rather than base my choice of pictures on technical prowess or prettiness, I tend to go for those which tell a story or remind me of the occasion, so professional photographers please look away now.
Last Sunday I did a lovely circuit from Langcliffe – these trees on the route at Stackhouse (top picture) will look superb in a couple of weeks – towards Feizor then back via Giggleswick Scar (pic of my boots from there pointing to Settle) . There were some terrific views, including Penyghent, Ingleborough, Settle and Stainforth Scar (2nd pic), despite an ever-present distant mist.
Monday I followed the ancient track from Horton to High Birkwith, returning along the surfaced road via Newhouses Tarn and the smart hamlet of Newhouses. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the clouds and vapour trails and today they mixed to form some interesting patterns in the sky.
I often wonder how many of those hundreds of Three Peakers who charge through this area in a bid to chalk off the mountains, actually stop and take in the extensive views from this side of the valley.
It had been many a year since my last visit to Aysgill Force in Sleddale so on Tuesday I returned to find it in a sedate mood. I recall it gushing like a mini Niagara last time, but today a steady flow, captured here without any clever time-lapse photography, seemed to perfectly match my mood. It was great too to see a red squirrel scurry along a fence – far too quickly for me to capture. Wensleydale looked gently rural, too, and I liked this farmer’s humour …
Scaleber Force also looked laid back in the evening. I’d gone out to capture a sunset from Stockdale but couldn’t resist a quick look at the falls above Settle. Then, looking west from Stockdale, the sun said a colourful farewell. Looking in the other direction, the limestone scars of Warrendale and Attermire took on a warm pink glow.
On Wednesday my intention was to head up to Ingleborough from Clapham. The walk started well as I took the route via Clapdale’s fortified farm (pictured below), part of which dates back to the 13th century. Some of the walls are said to be 5ft thick and built to ward off rampaging Scots. (Before any friends snigger, accusing me of avoiding paying the fee to walk through the estate grounds, I really was genuinely interested in seeing the building, honest.)
However, by the time I got to Gaping Gill having struggled up Trow Gill (below) my knees were giving me such pain that I decided it would be wiser to turn back than have to call out Mountain Rescue further up. The other picture is of an unnamed pot hole close to Gaping Gill looking towards Little Ingleborough.
Thursday morning I struggled to make it downstairs to brew my morning cup of Yorkshire Tea such was the stiffness in my knees. I decided there and then to curtail my walking for a few days, and I looked up the price of a teasmaid on t’ internet. Not on my pension. I did manage to pop out and capture this speckled wood butterfly sunbathing on the house wall and later enjoyed another fine sunset from Winskill.
I was back at Winskill yesterday to see if there was a temperature inversion shot to be taken over Ribblesdale. But it was the heavier stuff – fog drifted in very quickly – the two shots below were taken just five minutes apart. My own fog is beginning to lift now so I might go try out the old knees again today.
I just caught the remnants of a downpour crossing from west to east over Upper Ribblesdale today. Although there’s been a great deal of rain hitting the dale during the last couple of weeks, the natural flood plains and water courses have coped well and done the job they’re meant to do. Unfortunately this is not true for other parts of the country, especially in the South West. The weather there has been exceptional but also, irresponsible farming and building have added to the problems in some places. When will we learn that mankind will rarely get the better of Nature?
Do over-zealous planning rules restrict our individuality? Bit of an unusually deep question for me and my blog I know, but this was a discussion that cropped up following a glass or two of red recently. I’m all for preventing the building of a branch of Burger King at the top of Ingleborough but do we really need to gain permission from some bureaucrat to paint our front door red or our garden gate purple? Those of you from towns might wonder what all the fuss is about but if you live in the Yorkshire Dales you’ll know that planning rules can be a nightmare. I was in Shropshire recently – in a lovely area full of natural and man-made beauty – where several touches of individuality had created a quirky, interesting and vibrant place, and residents were rightly proud of their town. The woman who painted her house with spots did receive some negative comments from a few but the planners eventually agreed to allow the design. I imagine she would have been dragged through the streets by her hair and burnt at the stake in some dales villages. What do you think? Take the poll… I’ll not report you to the Thought Police.
It’s a shame you can’t hear this photo. I popped out for a bit of air at lunchtime, despite the rain, to see how Stainforth Force was looking. I could hear the mighty thundering of the Ribble from several hundred yards away; standing beside the fall it was deafening. Perhaps it doesn’t look so impressive in the photo but you have to remember that this is normally a short series of falls… at times today it look like one powerful cascade – and incredibly there were salmon trying to leap against the flow. Daft beggars.
The packhorse bridge here is one man-made structure no one could ever object to in the dales.
Walking above Ribblesdale this afternoon I realised that a degree in meteorology wasn’t necessary to deduce I was about to get an almighty soaking. So I took this photo, tucked the camera away in my bag and braced myself for the downpour. Head bowed I battled back to the car. The label on my cagoule says waterproof – but it doesn’t say leakproof. My drenching lasted less than ten minutes but the wetness stayed with me a hell of a lot longer. Strong winds soon blew the storm clouds up the dale and I hung around to see if the new light following quickly on behind would illuminate Penyghent from the west. It didn’t, but as can be seen in the other photo, the cloud clung to the peak, looking like smoke rising from a slow-burning peat fire. The scene may have improved later on but as I was starting to smell like a wet old dog I wasn’t hanging around to find out.