Bright red telephone boxes in the Dales, like this one at Arncliffe, need to be preserved. Too many of the old pay-phones all around the countryside are being disconnected and removed. In the Dales some have been developed into tiny book-swap-shops, art galleries etc, and in the Lake District I’ve even seen one turned into a fish tank. I’m not just some old fart wanting to wallow in nostalgia. I can see the logic behind getting rid of some urban boxes but in the countryside where mobile reception is poor, or where walkers and campers have no way of recharging their mobiles’ batteries, the old red boxes can help save lives. I read this week that Keswick Mountain Rescue Team are asking people to help keep a kiosk at Seathwaite on a popular route to Scafell Pike. Surely the saving of just one person during the whole life of a phonebox is more important than the minutest of dents made in the profit margins of a communications giant like BT? Comments can be made at: http://planning.allerdale.gov.uk/portal/servlets/ApplicationSearchServlet?PKID=148110
I popped into Arncliffe this week during a superb Dales drive from Langcliffe in Ribblesdale, over the Silverdale road to Halton Gill and down Littondale. From there I doubled back along the dodgy road via Darnbrook to Malham Tarn. Then it was back to Langcliffe via Cowside and Winskill. Here’s a selection of pics on the journey…
Whenever I drive through Rathmell in Ribblesdale, as I did one day this week, I wonder about the origins of the term ‘Reading Room’. I realise it is the equivalent of a village hall but why was it so called? Is it a Dales thing?
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.
Why do some drivers hurtle through the Dales like they’re on an audition for a Top Gear presenter slot? I was forced off a narrow lane by two idiots driving shiny new petrol-guzzling Range Rovers one day this week. They were obviously not the local farmers who once again have had to put up warning signs along the lovely road between Stainforth and Halton Gill. It should be obvious to most sensible people that farm stock (and children) wander around the countryside. And the views are fantastic – so why dash through like demented rats?
While not a rat – I’m not sure what it is actually (mink?) – this dead creature in a cage is perched on a wall near Giants Grave beneath Fountains Fell. I’m uncertain what point is being made by leaving it here for all to see. Perhaps someone in the know could enlighten me. It certainly met a gruesome end.
Nearby is something much more pleasant – Nature’s garden, a colourful limestone rockery and stream with Penyghent in the background. No need for a trip to the smoke to see those pretend – or should that be pretentious – gardens at Chelsea.
Kingsdale, where I visited on Wednesday, is short and sweet; a hanging valley swung like a hammock between Whernside and Gragareth. A narrow squiggly road runs beside Kingsdale Beck – a flow of water with a real identity crisis. It quickly assumes the name River Twiss before joining the River Doe at Ingleton; later it forms the Greta and then the Lune at Kirby Lonsdale before heading for the Irish Sea.
A couple of farms are the only signs of human habitation in the dale while four gates on the road between the head of the dale and neighbouring Deepdale help slow down any over-eager motorists. Here I go again… but why would anyone want to speed through this breathtaking countryside?
Leaving the loneliness of Kingsdale behind, the lush greenery of Deepdale opens up before you at the road’s 1570ft summit. I pulled in where a track leads over to Barbondale (a trip for another day) and now the camera goes into overdrive. The contorted Howgills (pictured above) to the west seem to grow with every step up the track. In front of me, Deepdale joins Dentdale on stage and the great mass of Aye Gill Pike provides the dramatic backcloth. The steep slopes of Deepdale Side and Whernside help shelter the scooped-out valley of Deepdale from the strong easterly winds. Farmers are busy making hay while the sun shines (not a euphemism for anything).
‘Must get myself a gate-opening passenger’ (again not a euphemism for anything seedy) I mutter after closing the fourth gate before winding slowly down the narrow road to Cowgill.
There are some interesting ancient bridges down this part of the dale, one near the Sportsman Inn which is in constant need of repair due to persistent misjudgements by motorists (yes, a further moan about them). Another bridge, near the tiny church which is worth a visit, contains a stone plaque which reads:
ED AT THE
CHARG OF TH
Either the original stonemason didn’t plan his work properly or later repairs have obscured part of the wording – but we get the gist.
In the late 1950s, early ’60s, along with many other boys, I would stand on a railway bridge and wait for a steam train to pass underneath. We’d get covered in smoke, steam and soot and that would be considered time well spent in the days before girls and t’ internet came along. To evoke those memories I stood on a bridge at Stainforth this week and waited eagerly for The Dalesman train. For any other sad fools like me, visit this link to see my very short video. https://youtu.be/H4Uc3Cv4CfU
I also managed to capture Galatea near Langcliffe to satisfy those who moaned about not having any train material in last week’s edition of my ‘wot I did on my hols’ summer blog.
The western edge of Yorkshire missed out on yesterday’s sunshine and bright blue skies but today more than made up for it. Penyghent and Plover Hill proved picture perfect as I drove along the Silverdale road from Stainforth in Ribblesdale to Halton Gill. There were great views down Littondale and even that boggy lump of Fountains Fell looked inviting. To top it all the setting sun is glorious as I type – and is being lapped up by the buddha statue in my kitchen…
Regular visitors to the blog will have realised by now that I’m fond of (won’t admit to being obsessed with) weather watching in the Dales. Especially at this time of year, the light show can change by the minute. The above picture taken this morning captures the sun bursting out over the Settle area of Ribblesdale in the distance. Mid ground, above Stainforth, are threatening clouds; some mist clings to wooded ravines and very cold rain is falling. Meanwhile, I’m standing near Dale Head Farm on the Silverdale road in a tiny shaft of weak sunlight. To my left and right, out of shot, much of Fountains Fell and Penyghent is hidden under low cloud. Love it.