Travelling through the Yorkshire Dales in 1724 Daniel Defoe got to Settle Bridge. In his diary he wrote: “Looking to the north-west of us we saw nothing but high mountains, which had a terrible aspect and more frightful than any in Monmouthshire or Derbyshire, especially Penigent Hill. So that having no manner of inclination to encounter them, merely for the sake of seeing a few villages and a parcel of wild people, we turned short north-east.”
You’d think that the chap who created such strong characters as Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders would have had a bit more about him than to worry about the good folk and the landscape of upper Ribblesdale. Anyway, he missed a treat.
During my own travels up this ‘frightful’ part of the Dales this week, I sat in the shade beneath a beautiful tree showing off its new spring clothes. I listened contentedly to the cackle of water over the pebbles of a low Ribble, and to the chirping of excited birds. Sheep and lambs, cows and calves mingled in a field across the river – there was no human-style dispute over who had the right to graze here.
The smell of wild garlic filled the air, and a small fish popped up briefly to cause a ripple on the shallow water – and surprise a duck and her tiny offsprings who were showing cowardly Defoe-type tendencies. The scene reminded me once again of how lucky I am not to be shackled to some hectic city street or suffering in a war-torn country.
Clouds and steam
As I waited for this week’s Dalesman steam-hauled train to pass over Ribblehead Viaduct I watched wispy clouds floating aimlessly over the Dales. The mass of Whernside, seen in the panorama below, looked glorious in the midday sunshine.
Farewell for now
I’ve been blogging here every week for more than four years now. That’s well over 3,000 photos of the Dales and goodness knows how many meaningless words. It’s time to give it (and you) a rest. I’ll continue to post photos on social media and, occasionally, on here – and I’ll also update the Yorkshire surnames section of the site once a month. Thanks for taking an interest in the blog – have a great summer. My Twitter feed is @paulinribb
While at my son’s house I asked if I could borrow a newspaper. He said, “We don’t have newspapers any more Dad, get with the times – use my Ipad.” I’ll tell you what, that annoying fly never knew what hit it!
I suppose I have to talk about this week’s weather here in the Dales. As a nation we’re not very good at dealing with cold winds, snow and ice, are we? Thankfully, there are a lot of individuals who can cope – and not surprisingly they tend to live in the country’s higher, more exposed regions.
I had an early* walk in a blizzard for some emergency tea bags one day and saw that a farmer had been up early* to bring his sheep down off the hills and spread out some hay on a low-lying field for his animals. (*The difference between my retirement early and a farmer’s early is about five hours.)
Dales hill-farmers knew what was coming and when it would arrive; they were prepared, took action when needed and just got on with dealing with the job without much fuss. On TV I heard someone complaining because he was being restricted to driving at 30mph in his 4×4, and another person moaning about her recycling bin not being emptied. Before I start on a Jonathan Pie-style rant (he’s brilliant, by the way) I’ll move on …
My son ‘kindly’ reminded me that I was a child during the bad winter of 1962/3 by asking what it was like in those days. I lived in a town in those days but there were plenty of hills, and I remember the enormous icy slides and much sledging … and scraping ice from the inside of our bedroom windows.
He and I have also being trying to identify paw prints in the snow around our houses. Stray dogs seem to be the most numerous – I say ‘stray’ because I’d hate to think pet owners were chucking out their dogs on such cold nights.
Photography-wise, I’ve not felt inclined to dig out the car for a drive around the Dales looking for stunning snowy scenes – I’m not sure I can justify that heading into the wilds to take pictures is a ‘life-or-death journey’ (unlike the aforementioned tea-bag catastrophe). But I have managed some local shots …
12 new Dales photos here. I found myself mooching around Horton-in-Ribblesdale on the week’s only fine day. Passing Penyghent Cafe I remembered the days 40-odd years ago when I used to clock out and in there for the Three Peaks challenge. My knees would probably crumble to dust if I took on the 24-mile Dales hike today so this time I opted for a few gentle miles by the river. Apart from the odd rumble from the quarries, the walk was peaceful. Heavily pregnant ewes were scattered around the meadows while much more active birds sped up, down and across the Ribble.
There’s a pleasant spot in a small wood where the river widens. It’s shallow here and the water cackles across well-worn stones; a perfect place for contemplation. The morning mist slowly vanished and Penyghent came into view along with patches of blue sky.
In the village I remembered bits of a piece written by Victorian Dales wanderer Edmund Bogg. Back home I dug out the extract from his oddly title book, Wanderings on the Old Border, Lakeland and Ribblesdale:
“It was a dark, boisterous October night that found us tramping towards the village of Horton; the wind howled, and the clouds swished rapidly past overhead; rain descended in torrents; the wild mountain country became enshrouded in mystery and silence; a light here and there gleamed from a grey stone dwelling; further up the village one solitary lamp, over the entrance of the Golden Lion, tried in vain to pierce the gloom. A ray of light, however, fell on the venerable lych gate, just across the roadway, and dimly, like a shadow thrown from bygone ages, the grand old tower of Horton Church loomed out of the darkness, typical of a religious light burning through the dark ages of a far past. There was a motley gathering at the Golden Lion on that night, quarrymen from the limestone quarries, and the dalesmen of the district, thirsty souls, we should imagine, by the amount of beer we saw consumed. Three farmers, who had been to Clapham Fair on that day, were benighted here on our visit; their homes lay some eight or ten miles over the moors, and it would have been sheer foolhardiness to have attempted the journey in the dense darkness of that night. One, an elderly man, who had spent upwards of half-a-century in crossing and re-crossing the moors, attempted the journey; he missed his way, and his horse floundered in a bog, and he was glad to grope his way back to the inn. We joined them in company later on, and jolly fellows we found them, yet withal shrewd, stark, and strikingly original.”
My recollections of the Horton pubs in the 1970s also involve the drinking of copious amounts of beer but the clientele were students rather than hardy Dales farmers.
Wednesday: Checked the weather via my iPad. Taken aback to see a great big exclamation mark in a triangle with WARNING written underneath in large capital letters. My first thoughts were of nuclear clouds raining down those nasty radioactive thingies. Should I stock up on food for the cat? Have I time to build a shelter? Is my will up to date? Then I saw ‘Yellow alert’. Phew! Perhaps I have a few hours to prepare to face the approaching catastrophe. I read a little further about mankind’s impending doom: rain. Rain? I read it again. It’s going to rain. I live in the Dales, in the north of England, of course it’s going to rain. That’s what it does here … on a regular basis. We have rivers, and streams, and waterfalls … they exist because of the rain. I tossed the iPad aside in disgust and pondered why ‘they’ have to make everything into such a drama, another soap opera. I put on my waterproofs (like you do when it rains) and ventured out to witness the predicted scenes of nightmarish destruction and see how the masses were facing up to this Armageddon…
One of my favourite places after a ‘little downpour’ is on the foothills of Penyghent along the Silverdale Road to Halton Gill around Giant’s Grave. As you walk across one of the fields here you can hear – and feel – the water rumbling its way through underground caverns before it rushes out to fill the normally placid beck. Above the road, Penyghent was hiding behind a curtain of cloud.
Down in Stainforth the swollen beck submerged the stepping stones, while at the Foss any hopes salmon had of making their journey up to the spawning grounds today were thwarted by this torrent. A short video here https://youtu.be/Jze79UvfCP0
A Stainforth chap, who knows I live in neighbouring Langcliffe, spotted me loitering suspiciously in his village and asked to see my passport. I said I’d applied for it and it was obviously lost in the post. I was allowed in temporarily – you can’t be too careful about border crossings nowadays. For his benefit I’ve rewritten an old Dales verse, reminding him that we in Langcliffe are indeed worthy visitors on his turf:
There are things they do at Stainforth,
In Settle and Horton too,
That we who live in Langcliffe
Would rather die than do.
With Giggleswick’s behaviour
We don’t see eye to eye,
for the moral tone of Langcliffe
Is very, very high.
My photo diary allows me to compare the seasons year on year. Locally, October so far hasn’t been much different from last year. I took the top photo in the blog on 12 October 2014 on The Highway, between Langcliffe and Settle, and the scene was similar when I walked along this quiet back-road yesterday (excluding the anonymous models whom I thank for making that picture more interesting).
I also grabbed some smart sunsets in 2014, and last Sunday the sky drew me out again for a little wander around Helwith Bridge. At first I couldn’t decide if above me were vapour trails leading to and from Manchester Airport but I learned later that they were clouds, possibly Cirrus Radiatus. There have been some great atmospheric conditions in the dale…
We interrupt this blog for an important public announcement
[Insert large exclamation mark inside triangle here] WARNING LYCRA ALERT
It’s been announced that Settle will be one of six host towns in next year’s Tour o’ Yorkshire (what’s all this ‘de’ nonsense? We’ll be eating garlic next). Do not enter the town next April if you are allergic to Lycra or offended by people wearing skin-tight luminous clothing. Please don’t stare at their nether regions as it only encourages them.
The weirs at Langcliffe (pictured below) and Settle looked much calmer yesterday than they had done earlier in the week, and I’m told that salmon have now been seen heading upstream.
Even the footballers donned autumn colours for their match by the Ribble in Settle.
Sadly, events this week have been over-shadowed by the death of friend and former work colleague Bill Mitchell MBE. He died peacefully in hospital on Wednesday night aged 87. Bill contributed to Dalesman Publishing Company (later Country Publications) for more than 60 years, doing everything from delivering copies of magazines to editing them, as well as writing books. When he retired as editor in 2008 he continued to write (more than 200 books in all) from his home in Giggleswick and freely gave talks and lectures. Many of his early interviews and recordings are in the process of being digitised for future generations to enjoy and learn from (www.settlestories.org.uk) and an archive of his work and collections is stored at Bradford University.
Bill was a modest man; he won many awards and accolades but I don’t recall him ever mentioning them in my company. He didn’t write for vanity or to amass wealth – he just wanted to record life as it really happened. When I sat with him for tea and biscuits – before his lovely wife Freda died it was gorgeous home-made cakes and tea – he would take me through a maze of stories, anecdotes and one liners, often with broad Yorkshire phrases thrown in for good measure. The stories never centred around him, they were about the people he’d met, the places he’d been, Nature, life and tradition. The mark of a good editor and writer is the ability to know and supply exactly what the reader wants. Bill achieved this in an unfussy, informative and entertaining way. He will never be replaced and I feel privileged to have known him.
The picture is one I took of Bill when we visited the original home of Dalesman in 2008. He’s stood on Brokken Bridge in Clapham. The top house of the row on the left is Fellside, which the magazine’s founder, Harry Scott, rented and used as a home and office from 1939 to 1955. The owners kindly let us in, and Bill reminisced about his time there.
I concluded this week that drystone walls make up the greatest man-made structure in the Dales. I’d looked at all other elements such barns, abbeys, viaducts, quaint cottages and posh houses etc and decided that the humble wall reigned in the dales. No fancy drawings by architects, no cement, no GPS help needed — not much more than a hammer, a bit o’ twine and a good eye have created a masterpiece in the landscape. Above is a photo I took on Thursday evening looking south-west from near Winskill showing the waller’s art.
Hobbyist photographers like me need a bit of luck to end up with photos we’re happy with. I just carry a medium quality digital camera around with me and if I something catches my eye I snap away. I often come across photographers who look like they’re setting up an outdoor studio, and who sit around for hours awaiting the perfect conditions — I’m not knocking them; their results are usually fantastic, and if it’s how you earn a living then you need the best possible results. Last Sunday evening I briefly popped out for a breath of air and spotted these two opportunities as threatening clouds drifted over Ribblesdale. Within a few minutes the scene was completely different — such is the luck of the draw in the dales.
Similarly, on Wednesday I was just walking back home over a railway footbridge near Langcliffe when I heard the sound of a steam train approaching and was able to capture this shot with Penyghent in the background.
I had to spend most of Thursday indoors but fortunately by teatime and with the sky clearing I was able to head up to Victoria Cave. I can see why prehistoric tribes made their home here. The views together with the limestone escarpments of Langcliffe and Attermire Scars plus Warrendale Knots make this one of my favourite regions in the dales.
Photos below show the views east and west from near the cave.
Friday had been pretty dismal but I caught a bit more luck in the evening when I visited one of the former quarries at Helwith Bridge. There’s a small one by the main quarry entrance which has been given over to Nature and I’ve been told that around dusk long-eared owls can sometimes be spotted here. I didn’t see one but was lucky enough to capture some late rays of sunshine both on the water and on Penyghent, one shot reminding me of Ayers Rock in Australia – not that I’ve ever been, but you know what I mean.
Spotted this old forgotten road sign yesterday on a stroll down to the river Ribble which as you can see from my photo by Langcliffe Weir was running low.
I don’t usually have much luck with plants so when I stock up pots and baskets in spring I usually include more than enough, presuming some will die. However, this year it seems all the fuschias in my hanging basket have taken and are now complaining of overcrowding.
A lovely sunset tonight helps me celebrate my 100th blog on this site. I’m standing by the Ribble near Long Preston, the river flowing heavily yet quietly under the bridge, a couple of horses grazing unconcerned in the next field. Before writing this I scanned through the previous 99 blogs to see what subject had pulled in the most visitors. It was the one I wrote at the beginning of February; I didn’t think it was anything special until I noticed I’d written ‘it gave me the willies’. Really, do I have to mention a rude word to get noticed on t’ internet? Goodness knows how many hits I’ll get when I mention the blue tits in my garden.
Remember Christmas Day 2010? Snow had been falling for a couple of days but the clouds opened up to reveal a glorious clear blue sky on the 25th. I headed up Ribblesdale where the Three Peaks wore wispy scarves of light low cloud mixed with loose blowing snow. The handful of customers in the Station Inn at Ribblehead gave a cheery welcome; further along the road down Chapel-le-Dale at the Hill Inn was this icy greeting. Sadly it doesn’t look like we’ll be treated to a snowy landscape this year – just as well seeing as my camera is still on the blink – but I hope you enjoy a fabulous Yorkshire Dales Christmas just the same.
‘Tha looks a reet bugga in that ’at, Paul,’ a neighbour commented in his best Yorkshire accent as he saw me setting off on my stroll. ‘At least it keeps my ears warm,’ I replied rather pathetically and defensively. (Anyway, that girlie umbrella he was carrying didn’t do him any favours either, I thought to myself far too late for it to be a witty riposte.) I’ve not had the chance to capture much on camera for my personal diary/blog recently, apart from these trees which took my fancy as the sun dropped low in the west. There’s no doubt about the direction of the prevailing wind which passes through this part of Ribblesdale is there? A friend told me recently that her young granddaughter asked whether trees ever got lonely. Children are wonderful thinkers aren’t they – that is until adults start mucking up their minds.
The Hepworth Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture park have some excellent exhibits. But to enjoy natural and unusual sculptures, a short walk up to Norber above Austwick, near Ribblesdale in the Yorkshire Dales, will do just as well. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in amongst the erratics of Norber’s fields – even as a schoolboy on geology outings – but every time I go I see something different. I’m sure the object in my picture trotted on a few yards when my back was turned (I must stay off the Red Bull when out walking). Restrictions on this blog mean that justice can’t be done to panoramic shots like this one taken from Norber so you’ll have to take my word that it was glorious in this morning’s sunshine.
I’m working on a new feature for The Countryman called Classic Countryman in which I will reproduce some fine writing from the magazine’s archive. One series I’ve enjoyed researching is titled ‘Why I live in the country’ written by well known people in the 1930s. They talk about ‘getting away from the madness of the city’ and enjoying the ‘peace and quiet’. For me the main reason ‘Why I live in the country’ is being able to absorb views such as these looking over northern Ribblesdale this morning. You just don’t need any fancy words, do you?