A Dales dawdle drive is something I enjoy greatly during retirement. My son, who runs a business in which he needs to travel the Dales roads daily, curses folk like me. His cab van fills with words I certainly didn’t teach him when he gets stuck behind the doddering old Dales dawdle driver. Set off earlier and enjoy the view I tell the impetuous youth.
If I’m not feeling too cantankerous I will pull over on seeing a ‘worker’ wanting to pass, as I did for white van man along the narrow road between Halton Gill and Arncliffe on a bright February day this week. Sadly, the Queens at Litton wasn’t open on that morning saunter along lovely Littondale.
Earlier I (yet again) called in at Stainforth to admire the ancient packhorse bridge (top photo in blog). I’ve been visiting this spot for more than fifty years now and never tire of it.
Looking back through photos from previous years I notice a few fabulous Febs, but last year I see snow in Ribblesdale during the month, while in 2016 the first week of March is a fair covering of the white stuff. I wonder if this year will be the same?
There is an abundance of snowdrops this year as well as crocuses and even daffs. Pink blossom is sprouting on a neighbour’s tree and the birds are getting excited. If you’re reading this in southern England you’re probably muttering ‘so what?’. I can tell you that here in the Yorkshire Dales it is unusual for February. My photos show bright blue skies, mellow sunsets, and grass much greener than normal for this time of year.
Lovely Dales church
I like the church of St Oswald at Arncliffe with its fifteenth-century tower. There’s been a church on the bend of the River Skirfare since Saxon times. One of its bells dates from around 1350. Sitting in the churchyard among the snowdrops and ancient trees, watching the river rattle by, it is easy to see how nineteenth-century author Charles Kingsley was inspired to write ‘The Water Babies’ while on a visit here.
The Falcon wasn’t open either so I head over the steep switchback via Darnbrook and by Malham Tarn back to Langcliffe. A delightful Dales dawdle drive.
I received a card this week wishing me a Happy Yorkshire Christmas. It got me imagining Santa wearing a festive red flat cap, shouting ‘Ey up! Narthen! Sithee!’ as he travelled across the Broad Acres on a sleigh pulled by half a dozen whippets. Then I read somewhere that some chap was complaining about not seeing any sweeping plantations in the county where Yorkshire Tea is grown. I tweeted that despite the lack of tea-growing, folk can visit the forests of Pudsey where Yorkshire Puddings are scratched from the ground by specially trained ferrets. And that you can watch traditional divers off the coast of Scarborough who risk their lives searching the Great Yorkshire Reef for Yorkshire Mixtures. Yorkshire Parkin is still quarried from prehistoric deposits in Giggleswick of course. And Yorkshire Curd Tarts are produced in darkened sheds throughout the Yorkshire Dales by Yorkshire Women in pinnies mixing Yorkshire Water and Yorkshire Milk while supping Yorkshire Best Bitter. We’re short of nowt here.
I see that Giggleswick Quarry (that’s the limestone one, not the Parkin quarry) has been put up for sale. It will be interesting to see what happens to it – and what is allowed. I always thought that quarry owners in the Dales were supposed to restore any former workings once they’d been plundered, not just sell them off to the highest bidder for the new users to take on responsibility. So I looked on the Dales Environment Network website – it states:
‘We have an obligation to restore quarry sites once we have finished working them, and in the Dales we do so in partnership with a number of organisations such as the National Park Authority, Natural England, the Wildlife Trust and Dales Millennium Trust. Giggleswick quarry was closed in 2009, and is now undergoing the process of restoration. As with Old Ingleton quarry, we will be primarily relying on natural regeneration – however this is being supported by native tree planting and broadcasting of wildflower seed mixes across the site.’
So I’m left a little confused. Not being one of Her Majesty’s card-carrying investigative journalists any more, I won’t be following this up but wonder if anyone else has bothered to ask what’s happening? Perhaps the quarry owners have actually fulfilled their statutory obligations – I don’t know, but viewed from the path above, the quarry just looks like a big Yorkshire Hole.
One hole in the Dales is Birkdale Tarn – the third largest expanse of water in the Dales after Malham Tarn and Semerwater. At 1600ft it’s the highest of the three, best for solitude and hardest to photograph!
It’s a bit black ovver t’back o’Bill’s mother’s.
I couldn’t go a week without a photo of Winskill, could I? ….
Fabulous sky above Ribblehead Viaduct…
Small screens don’t do justice to panoramic views but I recommend looking at this one of the Howgills, taken a little while back, on a computer if possible.
Penyghent made but a brief appearance from under its shroud during the week…
Despite slipping and landing on my backside in the mud, a trip down to Stainforth Foss this week was worthwhile. The repaired packhorse bridge (top photo in blog) looked much better and the river was lively. Here are a couple more photos and video link.
There’s a fabulous 360-degree Dales view from Stone Rigg at the head of Barbondale. If ever you want to know why more parts of this area have been roped into the revised Yorkshire Dales National Park then this is the place to go. Standing on the small rocky outcrops at the top of Stone Rigg – just a short walk from the steep, narrow road from Dent – you see the Howgills to the north. The lower end of the Howgill range is already in the park but further north towards Ravenstonedale is rightly being included later this year. Swinging right you stare across at Aye Gill Pike and down Dentdale to Great Knoutberry, then on to the western slopes of Great Coum and Crag Fell.
At 180 degrees you’re looking down Barbondale itself with the steep side of Middleton Fell glaring down on your right. I’ve been here several times before and never tire of the all-round beauty. Further down the narrow dale heading towards Barbon is a little boundary stone which signals the end of the current park. The lower slopes of the dale become thickly wooded before it opens out to reveal some glorious views along Lunesdale.
Later in the week I also revisited another part of the new park, heading up Mallerstang and stopping off at the enigmatic 12th-century Pendragon Castle. The view down towards Wild Boar Fell was, as always, a pleasure to see.
From the castle it was on towards Nateby. Gypsies were camped ready for the final part of their annual journey to Appleby – it seemed an appropriate spot for their camp and surely much more of a pleasure for the horses than beside the busy A65 (where they’ve been causing enormous traffic jams). I love the journey between Nateby and Keld through Birkdale. Here is a very different Dales character to my normal Ribblesdale habitat: bleak and rough; fewer walls and tougher sheep. But you’re soon into a greener Upper Swaledale; enclosed by steep sides but gentler, with the young Swale dancing over exposed browned bedrock. A grand drive over Buttertubs Pass to Wensleydale, up Widdale and home via Three Peaks country of Ribblesdale. I might not be exercising my legs much at the moment but my eyes are certainly active.
I wonder, had Kirby Misperton fallen within their land, if the Dales National Park would have allowed last week’s fracking fiasco to happen? Seven councillors who are supposed to represent Yorkshire on matters of planning, ignored the 92 per cent of locals and instead pandered to what the government wanted them to do – a government which is currently keeping secret a report on whether fracking causes climate concern. Hell, even Lancastrian councillors had the sense to boot out the get-rich-quick fracking cowboys. Hang your heads, seven shameless Yorkshiremen.
Which brings me on to another whinge I have, stirred up by this week’s ‘news’. There’s a decline, says a study, in the humber of people using regional accents. It seems we are all starting to sound like we come from the south east. That certainly won’t do. And some teachers have been told to change the way they speak to children by cutting down on local accents. Sometimes I listen to people in their late teens/early 20s, using that very boring generic university accent, in which almost every sentence seems to end with a question mark, and I thank mi Mam n Dad for teaching me to speyk Yorksher.
Talking of moaning – an acquaintance was moaning about pot-holes in Ribblesdale’s roads the other week. This week he is moaning that ‘they’ are closing the roads throughout the region to mend those potholes. Now I’m moaning about him moaning.
Bridge of Sighs
I was very saddened to see that someone had a go at demolishing the pretty packhorse bridge over the Ribble at Knight Stainforth this week. Obviously, the person didn’t go out to deliberately wreck the ancient structure – whether it was caused by someone using a sat nav instead of a brain cell, or by careless driving, I don’t know. But it’s going to be costly to repair the National Trust-owned bridge. The original stonework is going to have to be recovered from the river before it is washed away, and the bridge will probably not look the same when rebuilt. It wasn’t meant to take motorised traffic. I realise this will inconvenience a few local users but I think the current diversion via Stackhouse Lane or Helwith Bridge should be made permanent and the bridge left for cyclists and pedestrians only. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that during the Bank Holiday weekend, which brings all kinds of folk to Stainforth Foss, we don’t see more damage or accidents.
It’s been a pleasure hobbling around Ribblesdale this week while spring really blossomed. By the Ribble in Langcliffe were thousands of rampant ramsons like riotious football fans charging down the packed terrace, hopping over the fencing and spilling on to the pitch.
Sitting here listening to the birds and a gently trickling river was simply beautiful. However, one youngster licking its lips as it approached me was a little disconcerting…
I was annoyed that I couldn’t get to Malham to capture the rare sight of water tumbling over the Cove last weekend. The road from home to Malham was blocked, and with floods all around Settle I didn’t want to risk a longer journey. Settle bypass was also closed and the alternative route through town and up Buckhaw Brow was under water in parts. I did walk up to Giggleswick Scar and snapped the water lying in the Ribble valley floodplain. The former Giggleswick Tarn (top pic) also made a rare appearance. In 1863 a chap called Joseph Taylor came across a medieval dug-out canoe while carrying out drainage works on the site of the former Giggleswick Tarn — just thought I’d tell you.
Also making a comeback was a stretch of water beneath Stainforth Scar near Langcliffe, and a waterfall down the scar — not quite as spectacular as the one at Malham Cove but a rarity all the same.
While I was scuttling about around the old tip beneath Stainforth Scar, trying to find a decent spot to take the waterfall photo, I spotted this tiny fungus growing on the tip of a fence post. Nature never ceases to amaze me. I swear I noticed a couple of tiny dancing pixies but I put that down to the previous night’s red wine.
You will have noticed that I’m slightly better at photographing things that stay still for long periods. For three days this week I visited the millpond at Langcliffe Locks trying to capture a spectacular kingfisher which I first glimpsed on Tuesday. There was another flash of blue, inches above the water, on Thursday but I was too slow to get a picture. Friday I loitered around again but didn’t see it. I was distracted briefly by a squirrel scampering across a wall but once more I was too slow focusing on the speedy little beggar. Later it popped up on fence just after I put the camera away. It was definitely smirking.
While in Stainforth I nipped down to the Foss which was in an excited mood; a thunderous, boiling cauldron in fact, as the Ribble swept through like a tidal wave first beneath the ancient arches of the packhorse bridge and then over the deep, rocky precipice.
The river was much calmer on Friday after its exertions of the previous few days. I often wonder why the Ribble rushes so much in these parts — you’d think it would saunter through Yorkshire and push on as quickly as possible through Lancashire.
Yesterday we were hit by snow and yet more rain. You’ll be starting to think this blog is just about the weather, but it really has dominated life recently in the dale and beyond. At least some rainbows around Ribblesdale helped briefly brighten the place up. The Christmas lights in Settle are also cheering — let’s hope the weather doesn’t totally ruin the year’s best week for local traders.
Like most people — at least those living north of the M62 — my thoughts have been with those affected by the storm and floods in the North West. Sometimes there’s not a lot we can do about taming Nature and we just have to cope with it — as the good folk of Cumbria seem to be doing: help if you can… http://www.cumbriafoundation.org
Understanding flood plains and leaving them well alone is, however, something people CAN control. Yet a recent report by Greenpeace states that almost half of those areas fast-tracked for new housing development by the government are on floodplains. On top of this, the number of staff in the floods and coastal erosion risk management section of the Environment Agency has been reduced dramatically in the past three years, along with the agency’s funding. Trying to solve one problem by creating another is very poor management of the country’s affairs.
It seems that I am one of the few people in the world without a smart phone. I’m really old fashioned and still use a computer (one of those things that sit on a desk with a big screen – you remember them, don’t you?). It appears that the flipbook of Ingleton I produced for last week’s blog doesn’t work too well for those who prefer squinting at a tiny screen and swishing it around in circles to avoid reflections. So I’ve produced a more ‘mobile-friendly’ version here…
For anyone who has more money than sense and owns one of those watch-screen-thingies then… tough, get out more and go see Ingleton for yourself (smiley do-da wotsit here).
I’ve written previously about wishing that my blog visitors could hear the thundering sound of the Ribble at Stainforth Force in Ribblesdale in the Yorkshire Dales… well here’s your chance. I was messing about with the movie feature on my camera and came up with a short 30 second sequence. There’s a wobbly bit halfway through when the camera strap got caught on the tripod (novice error apparently) but you get an idea of the sound made by the water as it rattles down the limestone. The falls had calmed down today after the deluge of the last few days and therefore the sound was not as wild as I’d previously heard. Unfortunately WordPress charge $60 a year to allow videos on their pages so I’ll have to divert you to another place…
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.
Thorns Gill was picture perfect this morning. Even though the grey mist hadn’t burnt off to reveal blue skies, it was warm and the scene was tranquil. I’ve been here when Cam Beck has been swollen by rainfall from the fells around Ribblehead and it has been dramatic to say the least. But today the sound of water trickling down the limestone gill was soothing and apart from a brief noisy squabble amongst the birds caused by a grey heron I could enjoy the peace. I don’t know exactly the age of the old packhorse bridge across this ravine but it’s probably been there since drovers brought stock up from Settle to the former market at Gearstones three hundred years ago. It seems to sit precariously – just held aloft by the science of arches – but it blends in perfectly. My earliest memories of Thorns Gill, with its erratics, caves and deep pools is from school visits in the 1960s when a certain PE teacher insisted we tried to jump across a section of the stream. If you failed you got wet. Excuse my bragging but I was the only one of my group who remained dry. If I tried it now I wouldn’t even make halfway and the ensuing tidal wave could flood Settle.