Idylls, ideas, ideals and idiots

Ribblesdale hardrawlandAfter some poor weather I was desperate to get out of the house. So on Tuesday evening I drove through Ribblesdale, over Newby Pass to Wensleydale. The earlier rain had lifted the river Ure and adjoining becks so I thought two popular waterfalls might be worth visiting. Cotter Force (below) was shaded and mysterious, but pleasant, while nearby at Hardraw (above) the water clattered noisily into the great chamber of the scar. I was alone at both places and came over all poetic…

Cotter Force
Soothing sound
Quiet dale
Cackling water
Sweet cascade.
Languid heron
Patient angler
Lurches skyward
Seeing stranger.

Hardraw Force
Noisy neighbour
Violent slapping
Never ending
Diving splashing.
Green Dragon
Wood burning
Breathing fire
Landlord earning.

Ribblesdale cotter1

The Green Dragon remains an atmospheric pub despite some odd extensions and additions on the adjoining land. I don’t remember it costing £2.50 to enter the waterfall grounds the last time I was there, but I don’t begrudge the money to visit such a spectacular place. Many years ago when we camped nearby as youngsters we would walk through the churchyard to enter the great echoing theatre through which the beck flows, saving ourselves a thrupenny bit.
Short shaky video here

Ribblesdale hardrawsplash

Ribblesdale pyglight
I just had to stop by the roadside to capture the black cloud heading towards Penyghent on the Silverdale road on Wednesday evening. The light was really dramatic. I was in two minds whether to use Photoshop to delete the telephone wire but then I thought it added something to the picture.

Ribblesdale stainforthlane
On the Silverdale road near Stainforth

Ribblesdale at its best

There’s a short, flat, circular walk of just a couple of miles or so around Horton-in-Ribblesdale which takes in one of my favourite sections of the Ribble. At this time of year the tree branches hang low over the water, their vivid green leaves shading the slow moving river from the evening sun.

Ribblesdale river

A fish momentarily popped its head from the clear brown water to catch a midge, causing an elegant ripple – which of course I missed capturing on camera as I sat admiring the tranquil rural scene.

Ribblesdale pygriver

There are some great views of Penyghent to be had across the dale from this short section of the Ribble Way. There’s an abundance of wild flowers in the riverside meadows, and unusual plants I wish I knew the names of growing along the water’s edge.

Ribblesdale peace

In a meadow across the other side of the wooden footbridge two children ran freely, laughing as they chased each other along the grassy path, their father following on with an obedient dog. It was a scene straight from one of those middle class books from which teachers taught us to read in the 1950s –  idyllic summers, a fresh unblemished countryside, well-dressed, perfectly behaved children… a million miles from my earliest years in a West Riding milltown.

I wondered whether those children in Ribblesdale on Thursday will ever realise how lucky they were right then. At that very moment in France a murderous monster not deserving of the title of human being was starting out on a hideous plan to kill innocent men, women and children no matter what their nationality, colour or faith.

Ribblesdale hortonchurch
A few Three Peaks finishers were dotted around Horton, sitting discussing their achievement or removing steaming boots. Others were putting up tents or enjoying a pint. Evidence that farmers had been busy lay all around and their neat rows cut of meadow provided a different foreground to Penyghent.

Ribblesdale hortonfield

The trickle of traffic through Ribblesdale was brought to a standstill as a flock of sheep were cajoled along the road, noisily bleating their annoyance at being removed from their comfortable surroundings.

Ribblesdale wideload

Serious Euro debate?

Earlier in the week I overheard a couple of elderly ladies talking while standing at the veg stall in Settle market. “I’ll be glad when they get rid of these silly metric thingies now we’re out of Europe,” said one. I couldn’t tell whether she was jesting or if she had actually voted to leave the EU because she can’t get to grips with metrification. (By the way, ladies, the EU did not ‘force’ metrification on the Brits as some Brexit liars had us believe – but I’m not going on the journey again… in miles or kilometres.) Which brings me to the point of this rant: I picked up a walks pamphlet the other day which gives all the heights in metric and all the distances in imperial; I also came across a driving booklet which gives stopping distances in metric only and speeds in mph only … and then shopkeeper’s wonder why old blokes like me just point at a lump of cheese and ask for ‘a fiver’s worth of that stuff’.

Ribblesdale thistles
Thistles added a touch of colour by the Ribble yesterday. Below, a family gathering on Langcliffe mill pond last evening.


The Charms of Ribblesdale (with barns and bunnies)

By Ribble’s stream I’ll pass my days,
If wishes aught avail;
For all that mortals want or praise
Is found in Ribblesdale.
So goes the first verse of Novello’s madrigal, The Charms of Ribblesdale. (I’d love to hear it sung so if anyone knows of a recording please let me know.) The poem’s sentimentality may be a tad OTT but I did feel the need to sing the dale’s praises myself on Monday. Wandering alone – give or take a few dozen sheep – around the deserted settlement of Thorns I wondered why anyone would ever want to leave such an idyllic spot. After just a short ascent from the crumbling buildings glorious views of the dale open up – without the effort and toil of struggling up one of the peaks. parkI continued a little further along the Ribble Way which heads from Thorns towards High Birkwith. Within half a mile of Thorns is another derelict building, Back Hools Barn (note to self: find out about that name!).
One sheep on lookout duty at the door alerted a gang of other sheepish looking characters obviously up to no good inside. They scarpered as I took a nosey at the rotting wooden partitions and beams. The stone doorways and window lintels were nicely carved and a mason’s mark showed he was proud of his work.
Barns and walls are the furniture of the dales and, despite being man-made, without them the whole area would be less appealing. Back in 2006 the National Park did a sample survey which showed that 58 per cent of all traditional farm buildings were in a state considered unfavourable. Of 310 such sites surveyed in Ribblesdale 32 per cent were classified as poor or worse (ruinous or demolished) while 37 per cent were classified as good or excellent. Of the rest, 17 per cent had been converted to residential use and 14 per cent were classed as fair. I’d be interested to know what the figures now show.
On a wet day this week I looked back through some of last year’s photos and posted on Twitter and Facebook this sunset on Ingleborough. It caused quite a stir and brought me more’ likes’, ‘favourites’ and ‘retweets’ than I’d ever got before. Funnily enough, I think my previous ‘best’ was of a similar light on Penyghent. I would go for a hat-trick with a shot on Whernside but its position at sunset is not as favourable – perhaps a sunrise would suffice if I can be bothered to crawl out from under the duvet early enough.
On Thursday I set off on a gentle circular walk from Helwith Bridge beside the river to Horton, intending to return below the quarries to Foredale. However, a sign informed me that part of the return route was closed for the rest of the year – which seemed a bit draconian just for a couple of hundreds yards of path. Curiosity didn’t get the better of me this time but I might do some discrete investigation at a later date. The little bunny on the other side of this dramatic ‘no entry’ sign either can’t read or is a bit of a rebel.
Foredale’s row of cottage with unforgiving background always reminds me of a Welsh mining scene or a landslip disaster waiting to happen. It’s not like that at all really and if you haven’t seen the film Lad: A Yorkshire Story which is shot in this area, I recommend you do so immediately.
The railway line was busy during my walk – goods going up and steam coming down.
The river certainly livened up as the week wore on, and after last night’s storms today the sun is out once again. And so am

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