There’s no point me prattling on about what a mad March it has been. I turned 67 at the start of the month and can’t remember a more strange time to be alive. Although, I do have recollections of 1962-3 when winter seemed to go on for ever. There was an ice slide which we kids created that lasted from December into March. They had to extend the football season then, and it looks like that will now happen again except for entirely different reasons.
At the time of writing, the Dales countryside is open but judging by the ridiculous number of people who decided to spend their unexpected ‘holiday’ here over the last few days, I’m wondering if the government might well now crack down on travel. I’m all for people taking a walk, getting fresh air and enjoying the scenery, but let’s be sensible about it. All the usual Dales tourist hotspots were heaving with people – bigger crowds than at many football matches I’ve been to (but then I do support Huddersfield Town). The ice-cream even set up in Horton. Come on, folks. This is deadly serious. As some of you know, my son runs a cleaning-caretaking business and despite the fact that much personal hardship will follow, and the threat of losing customers, he has decided to cancel all bookings for the time being to help stop the virus from spreading.
So much for me not prattling on … anyway, the photos I’ve put together here were all taken on solo trips, during quiet times, close to home and far from the madding crowds…
A Walk at Sunset
When insect wings are glistening in the beam Of the low sun, and mountain-tops are bright, Oh, let me, by the crystal valley-stream, Wander amid the mild and mellow light; And while the redbreast pipes his evening lay, Give me one lonely hour to hymn the setting day.
Summer in Ribblesdale is almost over but I look forward to autumn and the changing colours. The dale is blessed with a good covering of native British trees. Set against the grey backdrop of limestone scars which mellow in the autumn sunshine, they will provide many memorable moments.
Settle is becoming more and more vibrant. The flowerpot festival and folk weekend along with the success of Settle Stories and improvements to the Folly and continued excellence at Victoria Hall have helped attract more visitors. Local shops pubs and accommodation providers all benefit so a ‘well done’ from me to all those involved.
I travel to Horton-in-Ribblesdale virtually every day now, helping my son who has a business based there (http://www.cravencleaningservices.co.uk). This summer has seen an incredible number of walkers arriving in Horton to tackle one or all of the Three Peaks. Weekends have seen the tiny village jammed full of cars and large groups of walkers bedecked in T-shirts proclaiming the charities who will benefit from their efforts.
I’ve absolutely nothing against these good folk testing themselves against the Dales landscape as long as they are properly equipped and prepared. But I do sometimes wonder why they all find it necessary to start from Horton. When the first Three Peakers blazed the trail they actually caught the train to Clapham and walked up Ingleborough first. Starting at Ribblehead or Ingleton are also options. And if you just want to do Penyghent, then Helwith Bridge and Dale Head are both excellent starting points.
There’s one bit of Yorkshire I’ve gone right off. I’ve been trying to get through to the Yorkshire Bank helpline for 4 days now. If I hear that guitar loop or the Scottish lady telling me I’m in a queue just once more I’ll throw the phone into the Ribble. I can’t currently access my online banking account because they’ve changed the logging-in procedure. They’re sending a passcode to a phone number – except the phone number isn’t mine. Go into the local branch and give them what for, you say? What local branch? The nearest one up to last month was 15 miles away but Yorkshire Bank’s now closed it, so the next nearest one now means a round-trip of 52 miles. A while back I was told I should get the bank’s mobile app so I can bank ‘anywhere, anytime’. That’s a laugh – I can’t get a mobile signal in my rural home. And anyway why should I buy a mobile phone and spend money phoning the bank so they can make staff redundant and close down convenient town centre premises? I read this weekend that 28 percent of the population don’t have mobiles and 18 percent don’t access the internet. That’s a big chunk of the population who are badly catered for by banks. I suppose I’ll be labeled a dinosaur, but being a fully paid-up old fart I don’t care what people think. A bit like the banks really. I’ve been with the Yorkshire for more than 40 years now but I’m afraid that particular relationship will soon be coming to an end. But maybe they’re all as bad?
Thousands of visitors head to the Yorkshire Dales as an escape from their workplace and urban life. It’s easy to forget that the Dales is actually an industrial area too. There are many relics of industry scattered around the hills and valleys, such as lead mines and limekilns. There is still large-scale quarrying being carried out just up the road from me here in Ribblesdale. Agriculture is an industry, too – and so is tourism. More Dales folk are involved in tourism than anything else today. Shops, pubs and accommodation providers not only benefit the visitors but offer employment and opportunities for locals too.
My son, fed up with zero-hours contract jobs, and extremely reluctant to head to the dole office, decided to go it alone and start a care-taking and cleaning business. The venture is growing and he in turn is now providing employment for cleaners wanting work in this part of the Dales. http://www.cravencleaningservices.co.uk
There are problems though, as with many rural areas, such as poor broadband and mobile networks and a lack of affordable start-up units.
Happy birthday Dalesman
Last week I also visited the village where another successful business began – Clapham, the original home of Dalesman, my former employer. The magazine celebrates its 80th ‘birthday’ this month and it amazes me to think it was only 54 years old when I joined. Working for the publisher helped cement my love of the Dales landscape, its people and traditions. I wish Dalesman every success for the future in what is a changing marketplace. http://www.dalesman.co.uk
I’ve not posted many pictures over the last month on the blog or on Facebook and Twitter, even though the camera’s been well used. I had a flick through what I’ve taken, choosing what I thought might be of interest. I selected more than fifty so I’ve had to whittle the selection down even further. Hope you enjoy this short trip around Ribblesdale.
This week a peewit (tewit, lapwing – whatever you want to call the bird) swirled around just above my head as I walked through the disused quarry which is now part of the nature reserve at Ribblehead. It screeched at me for being too close to its nest. Not my fault the daft bird built the blooming thing so close to the permitted path.
The 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.
I 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:
Somebody famous once wrote, ‘There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather’. I suppose that could well be a motto for landscape photographers and artists. As long as you are still able to get out and about, different and difficult conditions offer new opportunities – even on familiar territory. I hope my selection of photos this week of mainly local (to me) places, which I’ve pictured many times before, prove the point.
I’ve no idea how many photos I’ve taken of the Three Peaks – they seem to put on a fresh dress every time I travel up Ribblesdale.
Cold weather stations
Two stations on the Settle-Carlisle line: Ribblehead with Park Fell in the background, and Garsdale, where Ruswarp patiently awaits his owner.
Whenever I take this shot of Brokken Bridge in Clapham – this one snapped on Friday – I’m reminded of the late Bill Mitchell. Bill and his family would have been celebrating his 90th birthday this week. A few years ago he and I cheekily knocked on the door of Fellside (the top house of the row to the left). We announced that we both edited Dalesman and that Bill had worked from this house when it was the magazine’s headquarters. Thankfully the owners recognised Bill and let us in to enjoy some of his reminiscences.
This Ribblesdale view at Helwith Bridge always reminds my of a Welsh mining valley. The 19th-century quarry workers’ cottages at Foredale were the setting for a cracking film released in 2013 called Lad: A Yorkshire Story. Staring down at them from the other side of the valley is Penyghent – many a mini blizzard on the top there this week.
Thanks to one of my neighbours thinking about the birds during cold weather I’ve been able to take a few more wildlife photos from the comfort of home. Taking photos through double-glazing can prove difficult but this doesn’t spoil my enjoyment. I think this is a female blackbird but I’m sure an expert will let me know if I’m wrong.
16 Dales photos here. Did you feel the season turning this week? Is the central heating back on? When September opens the door to let in autumn we all feel the draught. It did lead to some lovely evening light on Wednesday around my Langcliffe home in the Dales, and I was able to take the camera out for a stroll …
Back in the mid to late 1960s when I was a teenager I often visited Stainforth Foss at this time of year. We either stayed in The Hut or camped in the field where it is housed as we undertook the Duke of Edinburgh Award. ‘The Hut’ was the nickname WRCC’s Outdoor Education Centre set up in the early sixties which you can still see in a field above the Ribble. It looks a bit forlorn and underused nowadays but the Foss still draws in visitors. While I was there one evening this week a young family were staring at the falls waiting to see salmon leaping. Doing my best impression of that old country character from TV, Jack Hargreaves, I told them it was probably a little bit early for the fish to be jumping. Just then up popped a salmon. I skulked away embarrassed, still mumbling about it being early.
Of course I didn’t catch it on camera. I also struggled to snap one of the many rainbows created by the combination of water and evening sunshine. There was a dead lamb floating in the Ribble by the old packhorse bridge, perhaps caught out by the heavy rain we’d had earlier in the day – the river rises quickly here.
Train of thought
I was waiting for this steam train to arrive at Ribblehead. It was raining and the west wind was blowing strongly in this exposed part of the Dales. The tops of Whernside and Ingleborough were covered in cloud and there were few people about given the time of year. Even the hardy train buffs were absent. Bill Mitchell once described this area as having a ‘frontier feel’. In his book, Summat and Nowt, Bill tells of the time in the 1950s when ‘the station had a harmonium in the waiting room and a wind-vane on the roof – the station combined its railway role with that of a church and weather station’. In 1954, 109 inches of rain were recorded here.
There’s an easy pleasant walk of only a couple of miles I do which takes in the pretty little waterfall, above, of Wharfe Gill Sike (off the road between Austwick and Helwith Bridge). From there I follow the path through Wharfe. The hamlet has some lovely old Dales buildings and residents like this horse, which insisted on showing me its ‘best side’.
You’ll not find the name Beacon Scar on a modern OS map of Ribblesdale despite the place being higher and more significant than many of the surrounding named hills. Go back to the 1800s when they were fond of lighting beacons and you’ll find the hill on maps, 1,426ft above sea level beside Warrendale Knotts on the edge of Stockdale near Settle. Presumably the good folk at Ordnance Survey thought there were too many ‘Beacons’ around the north so they decided to cull a few.
They did however note that it was in such a strategic position that they placed a trig point where the ancient beacon would have been. If you stand there, looking west, you’ll note you are lined up almost in a straight line across Ribblesdale with Smearsett Scar and Ingleborough (see pic above) which also have trig points and were once beacon sites – and ideal places for warning locals of invading Scots in days gone by. The 360-degree view from Beacon Hill is superb. There’s a short video of it here if you’re interested. https://youtu.be/kQQwk7PebPM It wasn’t the clearest of days when I went up there on Monday and you’ll note the furthest fells are melting away a little.
I’ve bumped into a lot of chuffing train enthusiasts on my saunters around Ribblesdale this week, as there’s been a lot of steam action on the Settle-Carlisle line. Here are a few of the shots I’ve taken:
I see Tan Hill pub is for sale at £900k. When it was up for grabs in 2008 it was on the market for £1.1m although I don’t know what it eventually sold for. Pictures show the place some 50 years apart.
If you haven’t yet tried Ribblesdale’s newest Coffee House at The Folly in Settle then I can highly recommend it (they also do tea for tea freaks like me). https://www.facebook.com/follycoffeehouse/?rc=p Mind you, all the cafes and pubs in Settle are worth a visit – but don’t attempt to do them all in a day, you’ll put on two stone such is the quality of available cakes. Some of the creations for this year’s Flowerpot Festival are also impressive – another reason to visit the town. I hope to bring photos of the festival next week.
Away from the madding crowd in Ribblesdale
Yesterday I managed to squeeze in a stroll around one of my favourite spots, Thorns Gill and the derelict settlement of Thorns at the head of Ribblesdale. Ribblehead, looking more like Blackpool prom on a Bank Holiday Monday, is nobbut half a mile away yet there I was completely alone for an hour in this beautiful glen with its waterfalls and fascinating rock formations.
Sheep don’t often pose for me but I think this one’s a bit of a diva …
A neighbouring cat gives me the eye for disturbing the peace. I wonder if cats dream in black and white?
During the week I also post shots and opinions on Twitter. Visit @paulinribb
15 Dales photos here – agricultural show or shopping mall? – glory of Ribblesdale – trainy days – Dales art – Malham magic and tasteless stupidity. Above is one of my favourite Ribblesdale views taken from Giggleswick Scar this week. On the horizon is Pendle Hill.
Biggest doesn’t always mean best. Take the Great Yorkshire Show, for example. Yes it’s the largest agricultural event in the country and a tremendous showcase for the county and its farmers. I went on Thursday but can’t say I really enjoyed the day. Too commercial for my liking – and too many people. More than 40,000 trying to force their way around what is in effect an enormous shopping mall, with some fairly unhappy looking animals being paraded or caged up around the edges. Give me the small Dales village shows any day. Thank goodness I decided to go by train to avoid being stuck in some horrendous traffic congestion.
Orchids and other wild flowers in ungrazed areas of the Dales were looking lovely after a drop of the wet stuff this week.
This ancient wall near Colt Park in Ribblesdale exhibits plenty of character. You can find art all over the Dales when you slow down and take in everything around you. Here are some other examples from Ribblesdale:
A couple of shots as I passed through Malham…
A short walk from home to Stainforth on a grey day …
And on a sunnier day, two shots of Ribblesdale showing Stainforth Scar and the village of Langcliffe.
One evening this week I went for a short walk and got bitten by midges. I was itching all night and dug out some cream to slap on. In the morning after a bad night I went to brush my teeth, but squeezed Savlon on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste … not recommended – breakfast did not taste good at all.
There’s barely a day goes by when the Three Peaks or the Settle-Carlisle Railway don’t crop up in conversation around this part of Ribblesdale. In the last seven days we’ve seen a massive influx of folk from all over the country head our way to watch Flying Scotsman – which apparently is a ‘she’, not a ‘he’ (I blame the confusion on kilts) – travel up the line to celebrate the reopening of the stretch between Appleby and Carlisle.
The old ‘girl’ certainly has pulling power, not only in the physical sense … just how many people lined the whole route from Oxenhope, where it started the journey on the Keighley & Worth Valley line, to Carlisle I can’t imagine. I got a photo as it passed Langcliffe in the morning, then I joined hundreds of people at Ribblehead Viaduct for the evening return beneath Whernside.
Earlier in the week I took a quieter (and less expensive) train for a day in Appleby. There are some pleasant easy walks around the town beside the River Eden, lovely churches and buildings, but it was a shame the castle gardens were not open on such a lovely day.
On the train I ear-wigged a conversation between three young walkers (young to me being under 40) who were chatting about the Three Peaks walk which they were now thinking of taking on after seeing the view through the windows. They were talking about Three Peaks ‘rules’ – which I thought was a shame really … ‘You’ve got to do the ‘official’ route, log in and out, complete within the time allowed etc.’ they said. What tosh – just go out there and enjoy the walk and scenery, I thought. There is no ‘official’ route – it can be between just over 23 and just under 26 miles depending on which way you go. The walk takes as long as you want it to, or are capable of.
Author and writer Alfred Wainwright was a miserable old fart like me, and he wrote about the Three Peaks: ‘Some participants have chosen to regard the walk as a race, and this is to be greatly regretted, walking is a pleasure to be enjoyed in comfort …,’ he grumbled.
According to that ever-reliable (!) source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, the first recorded ascent of the three hills was in July 1887 by J R Wynne-Edwards and D R Smith in a time of 10 hours.
Amongst my collection of old books (which I refer to as Jackopedia) I uncovered this paragraph from Victorian artist and rambler G T Lowe, written in 1892: “Looking round from the viaduct at Ribblehead, one can appreciate the feat which of late has occupied the attention of a few of our Leeds pedestrians: the ascent of Ingleborough, Whernside and Penyghent in under ten hours. Starting from the Flying Horse Shoe at Clapham, the whole journey over the three summits to Horton-in-Ribblesdale is over twenty-five miles as the crow flies, and affords a grand variety of views of mountains and moorland. Being in good training, we found it a comparatively fair day’s work.”
A love the Victorian understatement – and the fact they used the railways for their day out: Leeds to Clapham – walk the peaks – return Horton to Leeds. I wonder if that version of the Three Peaks can still be done using today’s timetable? Over to you train buffs.
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.