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?
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.