Spectacular Dales show without Ant and Dec

DalesThe Dales shower didn’t bother me; I wasn’t cold. There was no fierce easterly wind biting as it did last week. I stood on Winskill Stones and watched a perfect semi-circle rainbow form above Ribblesdale. There was a dusty mist in the valley, dark streaks of rain drifted into the distance as the shower passed through. A grey veil hid Ingleborough’s flat summit.
The underside of heavy cloud to the west was tinged purple by the glow of a magnificent setting Sun. Just for a few minutes I forgot about problems caused by humans and marvelled at the wonder of a far superior Nature. Too briefly, shades of gold and red filled a stage in the sky. A beautiful Saturday night performance played for the benefit of many but attended by few. And people say they’ll miss Ant & Dec.


A friend asked me to settle an argument about where the River Ribble starts. I’ve been through this before via the blog, with me spouting some high and mighty claptrap about it never starting or finishing, as it is just rain water which heads to the sea, evaporates and falls again.
Not satisfied with my theory I was told to point to a place on a map. Annoying my pal further I insisted that there isn’t one particular source. There are so many tributaries, some just starting out as trickles of water off the highest fells or from springs dotted around the dale.
I’ve read a dozen books in which the authors have put forward arguments for different ‘sources’. There’s a spot on Cam Fell where water can either go east through Wharfedale or west through Ribblesdale; water from Batty Moss can head off to Morecambe Bay via Chapel-le-Dale or join the Ribble for a longer journey west. From up around Newby Head and surrounding fells, water can head down into Wensleydale to the Ure or find its way via various gills to help form the Ribble. Even the mass of Park Fell and Ingleborough on t’ other side of the dale can lay claim to providing a ‘source’ for the Ribble.
The people at the Ordnance Survey aren’t much help, either. On a Dales map from the mid-1800s (reproduced here) is marked a spring, and beside it is printed ‘Ribble Head’. Later editions of the map don’t include this. In fact, the terms River Ribble and Ribblesdale do not appear on the later versions of the OS map until various water courses have joined forces near Selside.
We ended up agreeing there are bigger things to worry about in life, like whose round it was.

DalesI have a treasured signed copy of Bill Mitchell’s book, Summat & Nowt, which is looking a bit tatty now having been read half a dozen times and referred to on numerous more occasions. I’d already known and worked with Bill for about five years when in 1998 he dropped off copies of that newly published book at the Dalesman office. He liked to pop in to talk of journalistic matters and be reminded what life was like ‘at the coal face’, as he would say.
The book has a chapter called The Long Drag, which is culled from a book he wrote of the same name. It’s a lovely piece on the Settle-Carlisle Railway – not about the intricate technical details the train buffs prefer, or a dry account of its construction and history – but of the characters who brought the line to life. The drivers, signalmen, station masters, tea lady – and a host of other volunteers who dragged the line through its darkest days.
So this week it was a great pleasure to be invited to the unveiling of a plaque at Settle station to commemorate Bill’s contribution to the railway. His son David and daughter Janet gave moving accounts of their dad’s affliction: Settle-Carlilitis. Photo shows David and Janet beside the plaque (yes, it was cold, Janet).

Talking about the Ice age … here’s a good example of how those vertical cracks form and destabilise rock faces (near Ribblehead):

Some more shots taken on a freezing trip around the former quarry at the top of Ribblesdale:

Further into the Dales: I had a quick trip down Widdale into Wensleydale early in the week – stopped to capture snow blowing up Burtersett High Pasture:

Another shot of Ribblehead Viaduct:


Heads up for Dales sky; MP or NMP?

Dales rainbowingleWe all love looking at the Dales. But this week I raised my eyes a little higher to take in the natural wonders up above. Incredibly, the first two photos in this week’s blog were taken just 8 minutes apart. The stormy ones below of a shower passing over Ingleborough were taken in Chapel-le-Dale. Then I captured the rainbow on another side of Ingleborough when I stopped along the old Ingleton to Clapham road.

Dales shower

Dales rainbow2

Dales ingle2

Earlier in the week I was loitering around Winskill Stones, as you do, just waiting for the sunset when the sky turned pink – and yellow – and blue – and all sorts of colours in between. It was cold and spectacular, both looking west towards sunset and north to Penyghent where the clouds took on the general hue. Beautiful.

Dales pink2

Dales sun2

Dales pink

Conditions were such a contrast to this week last year when we witnessed some of the worst flooding in the Dales for many years. I dug out these photos I took looking down Ribblesdale from Giggleswick Scar to remind me of how widespread the floods were – and how Nature had created flood plains for such events.

Dales storm

Dales storm2

Lights of a different kind caught my attention in Settle. The town is looking very festive at present and one shop window almost had me feeling quite Christmassy. Snow on the ground and a child wrapped up in winter gear with nose pressed up against the glass might just have swung it, but fortunately I was able to continue on my way in my usual grumpy humbug manner.

Dales lights1

Dales lights2

Dales shop

MP or NMP (Not My Problem)

Never would I want to be an MP. But if I was, I would always aim to give an honest opinion on any subject that affected or concerned my constituents. Unfortunately, my own MP, Julian Smith, doesn’t seem to be of the same mind. This year I have written to him on a few matters including fracking and more recently concerning the proposed closure of Horton-in-Ribblesdale school. Each time I have received predictable replies stating his party’s policies or completely washing his hands of the issues I raise. I wanted to know HIS opinions. I wanted to know whether I could trust HIM to act on behalf of constituents, no matter what their political persuasion might be or whether his party had a view on the subject or not. He is a party whip and scared stiff of rocking the Tory boat. In my eyes that is not properly serving the people who pay his wages. Regarding the school closure he writes ‘this is a matter for North Yorkshire County Council’. I knew that, Mr Smith … but are YOU in favour of or against the closure? Are YOU concerned about the future of Dales villages and what are YOU doing about it? What are YOU doing to ensure Dales children and families are being best served by the education authority? Will YOU back your constituents who are rallying against the closure and put pressure on the council? Always toeing the party line might enhance an MP’s career prospects within the party but will it gain any respect amongst constituents?

Dales in print

On Thursday it was good to see David and Janet Mitchell at my favourite Settle venue, The Folly. They were promoting the new Dalesman book Bill Mitchell’s Yorkshire, which I can highly recommend – see reviews. I also had two articles published this week – one in Down Your Way concerning the Forget-me-Not Fund’s war time Christmas parcels. The other appears in The Countryman and concerns countryside connections uncovered while researching family history. The Countryman article features my photo of the lovely Dales church of St Mary’s, Long Preston.

Dales cman_0212

Floods, pixies, rainbows and poor development


floods top

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.

floods lake ribble

floods waterfallAlso 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.

floods new tarn

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.

floods pixies

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.

floods bridge

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.

floods boss

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.

floods calm

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.

floods rainbow


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).

Dales light show – part two



Here’s the rainbow talked about in my last blog. You may not be able to see in this small copy of the photograph but on the left is part of a ‘double’ rainbow – a reflection of the strong rainbow on the raindrops. The other photo shows a ray of late sunlight flitting down Kingsdale with Ingleborough and rain clouds in the background.

%d bloggers like this: