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.
The Dales wrapped in a white winter coat – a rarer sight than it once was. I wonder if today’s youngest generation will one day be telling their grandchildren about the time they witnessed the final snowfall in the region. Climate change is definitely happening.
‘Experts’ might disagree over the causes, and certain trumped-up heads of state might be in denial over it, but I’ve seen it happening in my lifetime. That’s not just through misty reminiscences of harsh winters – such as in 1962/3 when as a child I recall enormous ice-slides and endless sledging – but also through my work.
When editor of Countryman http://www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk/ I received hundreds of articles concerned with changes in animal behaviour, the disappearance of species, alterations to landscape, unusual flooding and strange seasonal variations etc. Left alone, Nature will take its course – the trouble is, humans are not always in line with Nature’s wider picture.
I received hundreds of articles concerned with changes in animal behaviour, the disappearance of species, alterations to landscape, unusual flooding and strange seasonal variations etc. Left alone, Nature will take its course – the trouble is, humans are not always in line with Nature’s wider picture.
This month’s photos show how different the weather has been over the last few weeks . One minute it’s green and warm, fooling spring flowers into poking through; the next minute the same plants are battling temperatures of -6C.
Seeing all the snow reminds me of some of the old Dales sayings I’ve come across over the years. Farmers up in Swaledale might say: “Snaw’s fair stourin’”, which means a strong wind is blowing snow strongly. If it is tewtlin’, it means the snow is falling gently and settling. In one of his many books, Bill Mitchell talks of farmers teeavin’ (wading) their way through snowdrifts to rescue sheep. Small 4x4s can help nowadays but hill-farming is still a very arduous job (with scant financial reward) when the Dales are in the grip of winter.
Penyghent – in fact, all the Three Peaks – display an air of majesty in the snow. Lovely to look at but their ascent should be tackled only by the fit and well-equipped. I did the Three Peaks this week – by car and photographically, needless to say – to capture the scene from some of my favourite locations:
What do you mean?
Folk often ask me, ‘What does Penyghent mean?’. You’ll discover a few answers but really no one can be certain of its origin. It’s (probably) a name that’s been passed down from the days when Celtic tribes lived in the area. But as our language changed and different people moved in, translations were often corrupted or deliberately altered. Even in the last century thoughts on the name’s meaning have varied. Today we’re told it means ‘hill of the winds’, whereas in Victorian times it was translated as Pennigant (from Pen-y-Gaint), meaning ‘at the field head’ or ‘end of the plain’. Another Dales mystery.
Trains in the Dales
There was a fair old gathering of photographers braving the chilly conditions at Ribblehead yesterday. For those who need to know … it is the Mayflower (front) and British India Line pulling the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express excursion. https://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk/
While the posse kept an eye out for the main event, I was looking the other way at the setting Sun.
Summer seems to pass through the Dales a little quicker each year. Since last month’s blog the landscape has changed colour, fields have been cropped, lambs have disappeared and the bulk of tourists have headed home. The Settle area where I live is a vibrant place during summer with local shows, the flowerpot festival, folk music and dancing, steam trains on the Settle-Carlisle line and much more. After all that activity it could feel like we’re already starting to batten down the hatches for a long winter – yet autumn can also be an exhilarating season, full of colour, drama and beauty and I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the Dales with the camera.
Here is a selection of photos that I’ve taken since my last blog, a reminder of summer 2018:
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.
Not Trump – or Blair – or Brexit – no, this week’s hot topic in Ribblesdale is the Tornado. Follow link for more photos. Whether a railway fan or not, the sight of a steam engine running between Skipton and Appleby pulling a regular service has certainly brightened a dull winter here in upper Ribblesdale. Train buffs in their thousands descended on the region for the first scheduled passenger service on a British main line for almost 50 years. More than 5,500 people travelled on the 12 scheduled runs and thousands more watched from stations and vantage points along the scenic route.
I felt a little inadequate with my cheapish lens and camera as photographers around me brandished equipment the size industrial vacuum cleaners, drones buzzed overhead and even helicopters hovered above the line – especially at Ribblehead Viaduct. There are hundreds of shots far better than mine to be seen on tinternet but here are half a dozen I took from locations in Ribblesdale.
I took a few tentative steps outside Yorkshire this week. I must add a rider here: many of those steps were within the new Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary. You know what? It’s pretty good – Westmorland and Cumberland have quite a bit going for them. Just south of Appleby is the impressive Rutter Force which just sneaks into the recently extended park. The mill there is now accommodation, reached by a ford which even on a fairly calm day like this I wouldn’t cross in my little car.
Busy Appleby is just outside the Yorkshire park boundary but a fine place to visit – made even better by being reachable via the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Before this visit I hadn’t realised the extent Appleby had suffered from the last major flooding. Many riverside properties are still being renovated or drying out. Flood prevention schemes along the riverbank are being implemented.
They like to take care of their trees in Appleby – this one has a nice woolly coat to protect it from the strong north-easterlies.
Back in real Yorkshire
In amongst lengthy thunder and lightning storms this week there were a couple of decent sunsets. The shot below was taken at Winskill Stones above Langcliffe.
I was lucky to have attended a school where outdoor activities were considered important. Many of us took part in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme and learned about being prepared for venturing in to the Dales and on to the fells. Unfortunately, most education authorities won’t/can’t pay for such valuable lessons any more. Last week the Cave Rescue Organisation, based in Clapham, had to search for two men aged 19 and 25 who were attempting the Three Peaks challenge. They had set off on the 24-mile trek up three of Yorkshire’s highest mountains without adequate waterproofs, food, drink or map and compass and had got lost. What amazes me is the fact they were part of a fundraising event. I’m not one of the nanny-state brigade, but surely the organisers should have shown some responsibility and told any inexperienced, inadequately-equipped people that they couldn’t take part? The CRO took around two-and-a-half-hours to track them down. Both suffered nothing more than tiredness and sunburn but it could have been far worse, and we should be thankful the CRO volunteers didn’t miss out on attending a more serious accident elsewhere.
The Folly in Settle, which as mentioned in previous blogs is a favourite building of mine, comes under the spotlight tomorrow night (Monday 20th June). There are big plans for the town’s only Grade 1 listed building, and a drop-in session is being organised (3pm-8pm) so that local people can see what’s planned and also have their own ideas heard. http://www.ncbpt.org.uk/folly/
I’ve been busy this week with some freelance work so haven’t been able to get out in the Dales as much as I would have liked. At this time last year I could find an excuse to unshackle myself from the computer by popping out to photograph one of the regular steam trains which pass nearby. Work on repairing the landslip on the Settle-Carlisle line near Appleby means the specials are not running this summer (note – the passenger service is still running between Leeds and Carlisle – see http://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk/).
An ancient Dales world
After heavy rain in the Dales I’ll often pop over to Scaleber Force, above Settle, to witness what dramatic influence the downpour has had on the waterfalls. This week I thought I’d visit during a dry spell and was surprised at the difference in atmosphere. The busy, noisy chaos of a flooded dell changed to an eerie, dank, primeval scene. For once I could hear birds in the dense greenery; a gentle ‘plop’ of water in a dark corner echoed across stone platforms normally hidden from view by raging water. Instead of staring at foaming white I gazed around lush and verdant vegetation, broken branches and uprooted tree trunks, and peered into dark recesses which I’d not spotted before. A new world to me, but as old as time.
When you’re incapable of yomping over great hills and in need of short, flatish strolls, then the paths and tracks around Austwick and its beck are an ideal place to wander. The bare limestone escarpment of Moughton (top pic in blog) and the intriguing gritstone-erratics scattered across the moor above the village provide fine backdrops. The views from the Feizor road to Settle were good that day, too … Smearsett Scar and Ingleborough both looking stunning.
As I’ve slowed down in life I’ve become more aware of benches. I never realised how useful they were… for resting, contemplating, watching life go by, taking stock and admiring the Dales scenery from. They’re also fine foregrounds or features for photos. Besides the one near Austwick above, these two caught my eye on a local stroll around Langcliffe this week.
A twisted world
My childhood home was in murdered MP Jo Cox’s Batley & Spen constituency where my parents lived all their lives. My early years in that multi-cultural society, where thousands of immigrant families headed to work in the mills (and were paid a pittance by the millowners), laid the foundation for me to respect other cultures and beliefs. Other people with a closed mind, and those with more hatred in their souls, were not so tolerant and some became xenophobes and racists. Unfortunately, intolerance seems to be dominating today’s human world. More caring, thoughtful MPs like Jo Cox – people who fight against social injustice and greed – are rapidly needed, and self-centred, short-sighted bigots need to shake their heads and realise that their ways cannot exist in a civilised society.
My brief outings up and down Ribblesdale this week have been worthwhile – here’s a selection of scenes I’ve captured…
Old world values
Were she still alive my mum would have been 100 yesterday. I often wonder what she’d have thought of today’s world. I know she would have been bemused at seeing folk walking down the street grasping a plastic cup of coffee in one hand and holding a phone to an ear with the other hand. In her day she would have called to friends across the street inviting them to pop round for a cuppa and a chinwag – much more friendly and intimate.
I was going to end with a referendum rant, but like the politicians I’ve called a halt to campaigning. Instead here’s a beautiful Dales scene to lighten your week…
I love maps. From where I’m typing this in my Ribblesdale cottage I can see about 20 of them, balancing precariously on a shelf. I have an 1841 tithe map of Langcliffe framed and hung on a wall. I often read maps instead of a books; I’m forever scouring them for new features or to compile fresh walks. There’s probably a polite name for someone with such an obsession. But I wonder if the end of the large folded paper map is upon us. I hope not. This week the OS were trying to flog a new deal for online mapping for smartphones. You can get unlimited mapping plus a host of other clever do-dahs for an annual fee. I can’t afford a smartphone or indeed yet another annual fee, so when I’m out in the Dales I’ll continue to bumble along in my quaint old-fashioned way – so I hope they are kept up to date. One day last summer I was out on the moors above Dent, sitting on a rock, eating a sandwich and reading a map. A couple of hikers approached me and asked for guidance because their gizmo had ‘died’. Smug, is how I would describe my mood that day. They were foolish not to take a proper map – no batteries required.
In last week’s blog I went off on one about HS2 and how the high-speed railway will destroy much countryside just to cut a few minutes off a journey. I compared my anger to that of people of Ribblesdale when the Settle-Carlisle line was cut through the dale. Out of interest (it was raining again) I pored over a pre-railway OS map of the route – published in 1842. As much as I admire the engineering feat needed to take the railway through some very tricky parts of Ribblesdale, its construction must have caused mayhem. And let’s face it, as much as many people enjoy seeing the big old steam locos chugging up and down the line today, residents at the time would have dreaded the great fire-breathing monsters spewing out filthy smoke and making a noise like a herd of rampaging elephants. The incline from Settle to Ribblehead passes over some tough terrain – everything from solid rock to boggy marshes. Much of the work was done manually as the line inched up Ribblesdale; so hats off to the poorly-paid workers whose section is still providing services.
The same can’t be said about the route further north, near Appleby, where ground saturated by unprecedented rainfall has become unstable. The line could be closed for several months for repairs. I hope this doesn’t put passengers off coming to Ribblesdale or using the line between Leeds and Appleby. http://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk
I hope too that there is a good service available by April 29 when the Tour o’ Yorkshire (I’m refusing to use the ‘de’ – what’s it got to do with the French?) comes to the area. There will be a public meeting at Victoria Hall, Settle, on Monday Feb 29 (6pm) to discuss local plans.
Lovely to see snowdrops appearing around the village once again. Their brief show is said to herald the arrival of spring. I suspect as usual in these parts that their appearance is premature.
I snatched an hour or so out on the fells above Malham one bright breezy day this week. Hardly a soul to be seen as I wandered along the Pennine Way between Watlowes valley and the Tarn, normally quite a busy trail at the weekend. Note to self: do this walk in the morning so as not to get the dark shadow on the west slope of Watlowes. The Tarn took on a deep dark blue hue when viewed from a little knoll just off the path.
When my head is full of all sorts of daft stuff I’ll often drive the car over to Halton Gill on the Stainforth road to try clear my mind. There are only half a dozen farms from one end to t’ other along the seven miles or so. The landscape and views are breathtaking. I get out of the car, mooch about, find a new spot from which to take a photo, or as on Friday sit and stare at two daft beggars cycling up that incredibly steep hill from Halton Gill.
The light changed rapidly as the clouds scuttled across lovely Littondale. For a few seconds the tiny hamlet was bathed in sunshine. Behind it, the domineering moors switched from moody browns to inviting orange, while the tops kept on their dreary, misty hats.
The smaller, less populated dales have always appealed to me – Kingsdale, Coverdale, Raydale, to name but three – and they’re all firmly on my to-do-again list in spring. The top picture in the blog was taken from Coverdale, looking back down the valley towards Wharfedale. Here’s one looking across Kingsdale.
Well, it’s St Valentine’s Day again and in true Yorkshire bloke fashion I say ‘thank goodness I don’t have anyone to waste mi brass on’. I expect all my cards and gifts will arrive via a fleet of home delivery vans tomorrow, it being Sunday today.
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. I 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 I.
Several middle-aged badly dressed portly gentlemen with cameras shuffled hurriedly past my house this morning. Fitting the description perfectly myself, I thought I’d join them to see what all the fuss was about. The village railway station is but a few giant steps away from my house and has a large car park but that was full and the small northbound platform was packed with tourists and trainspotters. For two reasons I always hesitate before asking someone pointing a camera at an empty space on the railway line what’s happening. Firstly, they might think I’m a keen trainspottter and strike up some lengthy over-detailed conversation about trains; or secondly they might think I’m not a keen trainspotter and strike up some lengthy over-detailed conversation about trains. So instead I listened in to a lengthy over-detailed conversation about trains between two trainspotters. Anyway, before I’d got to the point where I felt like chucking myself off the bridge, controlled excitement broke out and into the station chugged the above. It’s the Fellsman 45231 – I know because it says it on the engine bit at the front.