Beautiful autumn colours last far too briefly in the Dales. It’s as though Nature is embarrassed by us seeing her removing her summer clothes. A touch of frost in the valleys, or a chilling northeasterly wind, is enough to rid trees of the covering they’ve proudly displayed during the previous months. Fortunately, here in Ribblesdale I don’t have to travel far to enjoy autumn’s glowing glory. There are many pockets of woodland on the dale-sides and along the river bank. Trees and bushes feature prominently in our villages, and the higher fells display heathery hues and colourful grasses and mosses where the sheep don’t graze. I hope you enjoy some of this year’s autumn collection…
Well, that was a weird month, wasn’t it? I can’t come on here this time and brag about all the wonderful places I’ve visited and photographed recently around the Yorkshire Dales. Where I live is great, and I count my blessings that I don’t live in a city, but I still have the desire to get out and see, listen to, smell and feel different places.
Put a compass on a map and draw a radius representing an hour’s return walk from your house, and you’ll soon realise the restrictions we’ve been under. (Younger readers: maps and compasses are old fashioned tools, look them up in a book – ‘What’s a book, Granddad?’ – sorry, I mean visit Wikipedia.)
Fortunately, the River Ribble is within permitted reach for me, although it has been very low recently, and last week it resembled an abandoned quarry. In fact, I watched someone quite easily walk across the rocky bed to the other bank without getting their feet wet. I thought it was taking social distancing a bit too far, I was about 100 yards away.
I can just about manage a walk to Stainforth and back within the hour, depending on the number of camera halts needed. A same-day Settle return (with pensioner pass) is easily within reach. A trek up to Winskill Stones tests my stamina. My lack of exercise (and extra pounds) is starting to tell.
On the upside, lockdown has given me more time to investigate my family tree, something I started doing some 40+ years ago and which I’ve flitted in and out of ever since. A while back I discovered that my lot linked into a knighted Yorkshire family. During my latest investigations, I was able to follow this line even further, and it took me way back to the ancient kings of the north. The tree even ties into that of the current royal family. It seems that the Queen’s 28xgreat-grandparents were also my 31xgreat-grandparents and that we’re both related to Alfred the Great who lived in the second half of the ninth century. This is a satisfying discovery but shouldn’t be too surprising apparently, as it is thought that millions of today’s Brits are related in some way to our ancient royals. Finding the path back to them is the hard bit. I shan’t be waving serenely from my battered Polo to any passing subjects just yet.
I’ve been flicking through hundreds of old photos in my archive so that I can post a pic a day on Twitter and Facebook during the shutdown. My Daily Dales postings have helped me pass the time away. My thanks go to those who up to yesterday had clocked up nearly 90k visits on Twitter in the last 28 days, and also to my faithful family and friends on Facebook who are reacting well, too.
While rooting through my collection, I came across the above photo taken in 2013. The old stone sits lonely and exposed at the head of Coverdale just before Park Rash, the steep winding road that links Wharfedale with Coverdale, descends into Kettlewell. The tiny road was nothing but a track until the 1950s when it was first coated in tar, but it had been a monks’ way before that, and also a drovers’ road. It is believed that Iron Age people worked their way up here too, as evidence of extensive fortifications can be found (Ta Dike) across the brow of the hill. Back to the old stone, which is called Hunter’s Stone. It contains a small cross and was originally erected to guide monks traveling from Coverham Abbey to Kettlewell where they held land and took sheep to market. Local legend has it that every time the clock struck twelve at Hunter’s Hall, a few miles down the dale, the stone turned around. Hunter’s Hall is now called Coverhead Farm. Just a little bit further down Coverdale is West Close, which I’m told was once called Sod Hall. Shame they changed the name; it seems quite appropriate for today.
This weekend we rightly recognise the sacrifice made on our behalf by those who lost their lives in WW2. But I admit to feeling a little uncomfortable when people talk too much about ‘celebrations’ and ‘parties’ for VE Day. Remembrance and commemoration are more appropriate when thinking about humanity’s biggest catastrophe. Worldwide, 60 million people died during the war – take that figure in; it’s the equivalent of the whole population of the UK.
Dandelions are such useful plants for our pollinators – and therefore humans – so we shouldn’t kill them while in flower. The green in the village hadn’t been cut for some time and was covered in daisies, dandelions and clover: perhaps not too good for playing football but excellent for bees and butterflies… and it looked good, too – but perhaps only in mind, as the green has now been shorn and the bees and butterflies must now find their nectar elsewhere.
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.
Dales photo opportunities have been rare for me recently but I have managed a couple of quick forays up Ribblesdale. As is usual in the Dales, the colour and appearance of trees can change quickly as the wind from exposed fells whistles from all directions through the valleys, and the temperature away from the towns drops rapidly. There are pockets of trees all around this sheep-munched region so autumn in the Dales is still a joy. Top photo shows Stainforth Scar as seen from the road to Knight Stainforth.
The other week I stopped off at Hellifield Flashes to pay my respects after being shocked by the decision of Yorkshire Dales National Park and the RSPB to withdraw their objections to totally inappropriate development plans for the area. Thankfully the CPRE and local campaigning groups haven’t similarly turned their backs. At a planning meeting this week the council didn’t come to any firm decision and said they ‘wanted to walk the area’. You’d have thought that after umpteen years of receiving planning requests for this green space they would have done that already. https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/saveourcravencountryside-108150632557939/
I attended the launch of a booklet called ‘Fifty Years On – Securing North Craven’s Heritage’, at the Folly in Settle last week. In his introduction to the publication playwright Alan Bennett comments: “The planning process is still weighted against conservation with the proposed development at Hellifield Flashes a good example. The planning set up is weighted in favour of a developer who, faced with opposition, can submit an amended plan as often as is required with the opposition eventually worn down and the developer winning by process of attrition.”
I’m not being NIMBY about this, but looking at the number of housing developments and applications being submitted for our region it’s obvious that developers are seeing this edge of the National Park boundary along the A65 and Settle as being an easy and profitable area – and that Craven Council are more than happy to tick off a few boxes of targets set by a distant and uncaring government. ‘Nobody wants a suburban Craven’ says Alan – I’m not sure about ’nobody’, Mr Bennett.
The splendid booklet celebrates 50 years combined work by the Settle & District Civic Society, North Craven Heritage Trust, North Craven Building Preservation Trust and Museum of North Craven Life. It is available from the Folly in Settle and other outlets.
Being confined to quarters for longer than usual I’ve watched a bit more television than normal and come to the conclusion that the majority of programmes are not aimed at me. I’ve never managed to watch a whole Strictly or Big Brother; or anything that contains wannabes or celebrities (what is a celebrity? I thought a celeb was someone I would recognise – but apparently not). I don’t do soaps at all (I use them now and then). There is one TV programme about people watching TV programmes and loads more where we witness people cooking meals, baking cakes or painting their houses. Programme announcers drive me mad with their smirky tone and drawn-out last syllables. When it comes to adverts I’m not the type of person to be persuaded to buy my insurance by a stuffed mammal or an opera singer; and don’t get me started on what is described as ‘The News’. Then there are those annoying programmes where they tell you what’s coming up beforehand, tell you again before every ad break, then give us a reprise of what happened before the break because we’re not capable of remembering what we were watching three minutes ago. I realise that many people who work full time need to switch on their tellies and ‘switch off’ their minds but… please let me back out into the Dales.
Great to see that the Blue Plaque Society will recognise the achievements of icon of the Dales Bill Mitchell with the unveiling of a plaque (7th December 2018) at Skipton Parish Church Primary School. Bill was a pupil there and the idea of a plaque was put forward by Bill’s son David who said:
“My father dedicated himself to writing about Yorkshire for over 60 years. He was editor of the Dalesman for twenty years and wrote over 200 books as well as hundreds of articles. He delivered innumerable talks and conducted countless interviews with Yorkshire characters. Many are contained in the WR Mitchell Archive, available online. Yorkshire TV marked his retirement with a programme about his life, narrated by Alan Bennett. He received an MBE in 1996 and was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Bradford. He was the first patron of the Yorkshire Dales Society. September 2009 saw him voted ‘Greatest Living Icon’ for the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In April 2014 he was voted 33 in a poll to find the 75 Greatest Icons of Yorkshire. Much much more is covered in his Wikipedia entry. There cannot be many parts of our great county that haven’t been touched by his magical presence. My sister and I are very proud of him”.
17 Yorkshire Dales images this week. So, I made it to 65 – I can’t say unscathed, but here I am, now an Official Ancient Person, Silver Surfer or Grumpy Old Git – whatever you want to call us.
There was no big fanfare on my birthday no “whooping an’ a ‘ollering” as I escaped the shackles of work. I retired from full time employment five years ago to gently ease myself into a more sedate way of life in the Dales.
I read about this thing called ‘well-being’; that this was the secret of a long and satisfying retirement. The countryside, Nature, fresh air and peaceful surroundings help make up this ‘well-being’ thing, so I’m in just the right place here in the Dales. Perhaps I’ll still be posting a photographic blog (or whatever will replace the internet, computers and cameras) in 2053 when I hit 100.
To celebrate and enforce my ‘well-being’, I’ve put together a collection of photos showing just a few of my favourite Dales places. Top photo shows fields near Appletreewick. Above, sunset over Ribblesdale.
One favoured spot in Ribblesdale is Catrigg Force where I spent some time this week. The steep track out of Stainforth always leaves me breathless, but standing alone in this cathedral of falls is worth the toil. Now is a good time to visit – there’s usually plenty of water heading off the fells and the trees have yet to form that leafy canopy that can hide the main fall. Short video here pic.twitter.com/c9f845J4H8
Yes, I’m lucky to live in the Dales, but people in urban towns also deserve green spaces for their own well-being. Parks are for playing, relaxing and escaping – but right now they’re in crisis.
Cash strapped councils have been forced to slash the funding used to keep these public spaces alive. And now, one of the last pots of money our parks could rely on has also been axed. The Heritage Lottery funded parks programme has been scrapped, putting the future of our parks further at risk. In response, the Parks Alliance have started a campaign to make sure parks get this vital funding back.
You can help by signing this petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-heritage-lottery-funding-for-parks
When the distant Dales are inaccessible due to the weather (for those of us without a suitable vehicle) it’s good to know that the local area has enough to keep me and the camera occupied. The trio of Ribblesdale villages – Langcliffe, Stainforth and Horton – can usually satisfy my photographic needs. You wouldn’t know it, looking at the shot, but conditions for the above photo of Stainforth Force were treacherous – the field was badly rutted and solid, and the roads and rocks were iced over.
Think of the birds
Don’t forget to look after the birds during freezing conditions. These two in a neighbour’s garden came for some fruit and nuts I’d left out (excuse the fuzziness – photo taken through double glazing!).
Dales tax proposal
Sadly, there were just a couple of children at the switch-on of Langcliffe’s tree lights on Monday. A couple of generations ago the village at this time of year would have been alive with children playing in the snow and getting excited about Christmas.
On the same day as the switch-on I read a report about attracting families to the Yorkshire Dales National Park in which the authority outlined a proposal to increase by ‘at least five times’ the council tax on second homes in the park.
I don’t think the authority believe (at least I hope not!) that this will provide the whole answer to the problem of finding rural housing for young families. The bigger picture shows a lack of suitable employment, poor public transport, too few local schools, too many restrictions on building conversion and planning, a lack of local shops and amenities, poor access to digital communication and mobile signals, etc.
Will financially punishing those who already have second homes solve much? It might in future put off all but the richest buyers who see a second home as an investment or pension, but I can’t see such penalties freeing up that many homes. Many Dales cottages are too small for families anyway – if second-homers didn’t buy them, the smaller buildings would probably be left to decay or be bought up by holiday-let companies for a reduced price.
Perhaps more incentives should be offered to those selling Dales properties? How about bigger rewards for estate agents or sellers who complete deals with local families? Or why not make it more difficult for second-homers to bequeath properties to offsprings who have no intention of moving into the area, with a stipulation they first have to offer homes to local families?
The report will be debated at an authority meeting on 19 December. If the YDNPA approve it, the proposal will then be put to the five local district councils. http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/living-and-working/other-services/press-office/news/recent/report-consider-five-times-council-tax-for-second-homes
This week’s church is St Chad’s at Middlesmoor in Nidderdale. Although the present Grade 2 listed building dates from 1866, there has been a place of worship here for centuries. Inside the church is an old preaching cross said to be Anglo Saxon, and is inscribed ‘Cross of St Ceadda’ (Chad). For me, the best thing about this church is the fantastic view down upper Nidderdale from the graveyard …
Tis the season to be jolly well moaning about gritting. Thankfully, in retirement I don’t have to worry about the drive to work every morning, which even along a main vital road like the A65 can often be treacherous. There has been a spate of accidents on this vital arterial route this week, leaving many locals bemused as to why the road wasn’t suitably treated. It’s not like the councils east and west of the border weren’t warned about the possibility of problems with black ice.
Talking of ice – is there really any need to dismantle a farmer’s wall to chuck stones onto the Langcliffe Mill pond to test the ice?
Of all Yorkshire’s Dales, Kingsdale probably makes me feel the most relaxed. It’s such a peaceful place; small but perfectly formed. Kingsdale doesn’t belong in the 21st century and is much the better place for it. With Gragareth rising steeply on the west and Whernside to the east, this most secluded of dales can seem very lonely on a darkening winter’s eve. But on bright autumnal days with sun shining on the limestone, and glistening on the beck as it cackles over water-worn pebbles, Kingsdale is heavenly.
I have a well-read phamplet that was printed by the Craven Herald in the 1930s, called Kingsdale the Valley of the Vikings. It was written and published by Frederic Riley of The Book Stores, Settle. In it are many photos of scenes which if I captured again today would not look any different whatsoever.
One day this week I parked in a lay-by on the narrow road from Thornton-in-Lonsdale to Dent where there is a classic view of Kingsdale. Should I head to the west of the dale and walk up the steep path through loose rocky limestone, or go east up the gentler slopes of Twisleton Scars? Thinking that my old knees would handle the latter much more comfortably I headed for the path up which I’d not been for more than 40 years, towards Whernside. Years ago, probably during a Duke of Edinburgh Awards hike, we’d camped in Ingleton and walked up Twisleton Scar and along the spine of Whernside (pictured above) before camping again somewhere near High Birkwith. No such trek today as I wandered around the fabulous limestone pavement where a few stunted trees leaned with the prevailing westerly wind towards Ingleborough. Here, odd weathered stones balance precariously which along with the trees present some classic (or should that be clichéd?) shots of the surrounding dales landscape. A lovely walk with extensive views over Wenningdale towards the Bowland Fells.
My granddad’s brother, Reuben Hepworth, survived the horrific battle fields of Flanders only to be killed in action exactly one month later on 11th December 1917 while on duty in Italy. He was just 24 and single. His mother Hannah, already a widow and with four children, received £105 10s 2d in April 1920 when the government finally sorted out his will. While we rightly remember those who died fighting for their countries we should also bear in mind the trauma felt by families back home.
I have Reuben’s Memorial Plaque – sometimes known as the Death Penny or Dead Man’s Penny. They were issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of service personnel killed as a result of the war.
Like me, you were probably totally surprised to hear this week that some rich people get richer by avoiding tax. What shocking news. They’ll be telling us next that there are people on benefits who shouldn’t be – and folk driving round in cars that haven’t been taxed. Ah well, life just wouldn’t be the same in Little England if we couldn’t go ‘tut-tut’ about something, would it?
This week’s church is in the Mallerstang valley in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. St Mary’s chapel at Outhwaite has been around since the 14th century. The small low building contains a 13th century bell. Above the porch is a stone recording the restoration of the church by Lady Anne Clifford, who owned the nearby Pendragon Castle and lived in Skipton Castle, no doubt avoiding tax.
The blog (+12 pics) title refers to a Dales walk I did on Monday. Many locals will know the 5-mile circuit from Langcliffe in Ribblesdale. Starting from the village head down to the mill and around the mill pond to cross the Ribble at Langcliffe Locks. Follow the river up to Stainforth Foss, over the packhorse bridge and up into Stainforth. Take the road by the church up to the stepping stones over the beck, then up the steep track to Catrigg Force (the submission part is where you wrestle with the path and have to stop several times for a large breather and take a photo). From the falls head up to Winskill then take the path down the Langcliffe side of Stainforth Scar back to the village, enjoying the fabulous views down Ribblesdale. Sadly, Langcliffe no longer has a pub to round off the walk properly but if you do the route on a summer Sunday there’s usually yummie tea and cakes available at the Village Institute (2-4pm). Above and below are a few pics along the journey.
Friends of the Dales is the new brand name of the Yorkshire Dales Society the only registered membership charity campaigning for, protecting and enjoying the Dales. I renewed my membership this week – why not help keep the Dales special and vibrant for years to come? Visit https://www.friendsofthedales.org.uk
On a brief respite from rain I took a short walk around the tiny settlement of Keasden, near Clapham. Quiet roads and barely visible paths across fields and through woods make it ideal for exploration. Centuries ago this would have been a busier place but now there are just a few farms and a church – St Matthew’s. Keasden’s name stems from old words for ‘cheese valley’ – I wonder if there is an old recipe for original Keasden cheese lurking around somewhere. There’s a thought for some local cheesemonger and marketing whizz to latch on to…
On Friday, not for the first time this year, the electric was off in the village, and it was chucking it down so I didn’t fancy another walk. I looked around the house for something to read – nothing new so off I set for Sedbergh and a mooch around the bookshops. Now I’m proud owner of a first edition (1956) copy of The Yorkshire Dales by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby. I already have some of their books and I just turned the first few pages when the power came back on. I like the pair’s fussiness and little personal asides which offer a glimpse of their upbringing and lives in the post-war Dales. Their observations of Dales life are always backed up with detailed research; they have an authoritative writing style which seems to proclaim ‘we are always right in what we say’! I also love Hartley’s sketches and woodcuts.
I travel by train as often as I can but it’s not always easy. Settle is my nearest station, so invariably I have to travel via Leeds (even if my destination is in the other direction, such as Manchester). Leeds is an hour away, trains are infrequent and the last one back to Settle leaves Leeds at 19.19 (17.41 on Sundays). I’ve been on Settle-Leeds trains when passengers have had to stand the whole journey, and often at Leeds station there is a rugby scrum of people trying to board the service. So it is with increasing dismay I see the predicted costs for the new HS2 spiralling out of control. The first phase alone (London to Brum) started at £32bn, then it went to £56bn while latest figures from DfT suggest the cost will double. There’s absolutely no justification in spending so much money when there are far greater priorities in this country. This folly will wreck so much countryside and ruin so many people’s home lives. Spending £100bn+ to knock half an hour off the journeys of those who will be able to afford a ticket is scandalous. HS2 symbolises a country run against the interests of the many and in the interests of the few. Far less could be spent on creating better local services, restoring old lines and adding to the current ‘low speed’ (apparently 125mph isn’t fast enough) rail network over the next decade. Maybe we should have a referendum on it … oh wait a minute, they don’t work do they. Or how about just letting politicians do whatever they want and have their rich friends pick up all the lucrative contracts, and sod the consequences?
Harking back to a bygone era – steam engines heading along Ribblesdale this week
I see that a video of the beck rising in Kingsdale has ‘gone viral’ this week (I also saw on tinternet that the Daily Bile (Mail) described the water’s steady progress as a ‘torrent’- apparently people actually buy this disgraceful excuse for a newspaper). The sudden rise of Dales streams isn’t uncommon. I remember seeing similar happening in neighbouring Chapel-le-Dale. You can witness the Skirfare suddenly appear in Littondale when rain soaks the surrounding hills. Also, near Cowgill at the top of Dentdale the dry bare rocks on the bed of the River Dee can instantly turn into cascades. Still a cracking video though – gotta love the Dales.
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.
I’ve seen Ribblesdale in a different light over the last few days – 12 photos in this week’s blog. I have also been taken back to the 1940s in Ingleton but those snaps will have to wait until tomorrow.
Driving down the narrow road from Helwith Bridge to Giggleswick one evening while the sun was setting, I saw some fantastic light down Ribblesdale – on Penyghent, the fields and hillsides, barns, trees and limestone.
One afternoon between rain showers I walked around the Winskill area above Langcliffe. Although the clouds were dark and low the views down Ribblesdale were cracking in the changing light.
On another showery day I (very slowly) walked up the steep track from Stainforth to a moody Catrigg Force. The views from the track back down over the village and across to Smearsett Scar were well worth the effort.
At the top of Ribblesdale I’d hoped for a sunset shot at Ribblehead Viaduct but was thwarted by the clouds. However, the layers of clouds made an interesting shot, the lower ones clinging to the top of Whernside.
After a few hours yesterday at Ingleton, snapping at the 1940s Weekend, I was back in Settle where the cricket ground caught my attention. What a lovely setting – one day there’ll be a match on when a steam train is crossing that bridge and I’ll get my ideal shot.
Flowerpot creations are starting to pop up all around the town now. To coincide with Settle’s Flowerpot Festival I’ve written a walk for this month’s Dalesman magazine. It starts and finishes in the town centre so that people can include a tour of the amazing constructions.
You can also see my writing in July’s Countryman magazine in which I reminisce about knitted swimming trunks. And in this month’s Down Your Way magazine I write about the surname Horsfall.