Photography took a back seat last week. But I did get chance to scan through the photos I’d taken over the previous 12 months. I’d not realised how many waterfalls I’d snapped while tottering gently around the Dales … or how poor I was at capturing their magic. I don’t usually take a tripod with me so I often struggle to hold the camera steadily enough get pin-sharp images, and my time-lapse stuff is sometimes shaky or over-exposed. I’ll make a late resolution to improve this year. Anyhow, I’m not after any photographic awards – I just want to capture the moment and a memory of all the special places around the Dales. The top photo shows Catrigg Falls, above Stainforth in Ribblesdale.
It’s a special time on the Settle-Carlisle line this week as steam-hauled trains take on part of the scheduled passenger timetable for the first time in 50 years. Tornado will be pulling packed carriages between Appleby and Skipton via Settle from 14-16th February – for more details visit http://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk/tag/tornado/
Such is life in Ribblesdale. I’ve gone from taking pictures of golden sunsets and striking autumnal colours to those of misty, snowy almost black and white shots all within a fortnight. It was very similar last year – take a look back at my blog posts for late November and early December 2015 and you’ll see.
Hot news once again this week regarding the future of Hellifield Flashes. The stretch of Ribblesdale countryside separating Hellifield and Long Preston alongside the A65, known for flooding and a vital home for thousands of wintering birds, has been a prime target for profit-hungry developers for more than 15 years. Plans for a ‘leisure complex’ have once again been submitted along with improbable promises of jobs for up to 500 people. Perhaps there will be hundreds of jobs (not necessarily new ones) while the place is being constructed, but once up and running I wonder how much employment will remain? I can also see a few individuals, like the owners of the local pub, chip shop and village store understandably rubbing their hands at the prospect of attracting more customers, but what of the quality of life for the majority of residents, the wildlife and those viewing the area from the surrounding hills? The plans have been submitted by Halton Homes of Bingley. Look on their website and you’ll see it states the Hellifield development is ‘coming soon’ – do they know something we don’t? Take a look too at their other ‘leisure’ development down the road at Pendle Chase which it describes as a ‘premium investment opportunity’. Years after planning was controversially granted for the Salterforth enterprise the place is still undeveloped. Make your own mind up as to who really benefits from such speculation and land grabbing then send your objections to Craven Council. Also visit https://www.facebook.com/saveourcravencountryside-108150632557939/
While I’m on one … Like many other people who care about quality of life and Nature I was appalled to see even more of Sheffield Council’s draconian tree removal this week. They say they must remove trees from streets because they can’t afford to pick up the bill for mending damage to pavements caused by tree roots. They claim it costs £50k a year (a figure I don’t believe given the growth rate of most trees). They say nothing about the value of trees, such as how they cut down pollution, how they shield traffic noise for residents and how they provide food and nesting places for wildlife – or how they just look nice, making places more pleasant to live in. I’m so lucky to live in my Ribblesdale village where trees are appreciated. Sheffield council has now killed more than three thousand trees. It’s okay though, the government has come up with £370m to tart up Buckingham Palace… well, that’ll keep Sheffield residents happy. Oh, and there’s millions for fancy new bridges in London and don’t get me started on the unimaginable amount of money being wasted on an unnecessary new train line for businessfolk to get to their London meetings half an hour quicker.
Best not devote the whole blog to misery … it’s good news that steam trains may be back on the Settle-Carlisle line by summer 2017 and that work on fixing the section of collapsed line at Eden Brow is well underway. And more good news … in only five weeks Christmas will be over with.
Two enjoyable shortish walks by the Ribble to report on this week. The river looked fabulous as it reflected the sun while I sauntered along to Stainforth.
Then it was a trudge up Stainforth Scar to take in views up and down Ribblesdale. I’ll let the photos do the talking here as I’m out of breath…
Making hay while the sun shone was the order of the day as I approached Langcliffe. So satisfying to see people working while I idle my time away.
Later in the week in cloudier weather I snatched a short walk at the head of the Ribble. Thorns Gill looked and sounded fabulous. The crown of Thorns has to be the hidden waterfall at the Gearstones end. But the old bridge which has defied gravity for hundreds of years was also a splendid sight.
The Three Peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Penyghent took on different moods as the clouds (and trains) passed by.
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…
There’s a fabulous 360-degree Dales view from Stone Rigg at the head of Barbondale. If ever you want to know why more parts of this area have been roped into the revised Yorkshire Dales National Park then this is the place to go. Standing on the small rocky outcrops at the top of Stone Rigg – just a short walk from the steep, narrow road from Dent – you see the Howgills to the north. The lower end of the Howgill range is already in the park but further north towards Ravenstonedale is rightly being included later this year. Swinging right you stare across at Aye Gill Pike and down Dentdale to Great Knoutberry, then on to the western slopes of Great Coum and Crag Fell.
At 180 degrees you’re looking down Barbondale itself with the steep side of Middleton Fell glaring down on your right. I’ve been here several times before and never tire of the all-round beauty. Further down the narrow dale heading towards Barbon is a little boundary stone which signals the end of the current park. The lower slopes of the dale become thickly wooded before it opens out to reveal some glorious views along Lunesdale.
Later in the week I also revisited another part of the new park, heading up Mallerstang and stopping off at the enigmatic 12th-century Pendragon Castle. The view down towards Wild Boar Fell was, as always, a pleasure to see.
From the castle it was on towards Nateby. Gypsies were camped ready for the final part of their annual journey to Appleby – it seemed an appropriate spot for their camp and surely much more of a pleasure for the horses than beside the busy A65 (where they’ve been causing enormous traffic jams). I love the journey between Nateby and Keld through Birkdale. Here is a very different Dales character to my normal Ribblesdale habitat: bleak and rough; fewer walls and tougher sheep. But you’re soon into a greener Upper Swaledale; enclosed by steep sides but gentler, with the young Swale dancing over exposed browned bedrock. A grand drive over Buttertubs Pass to Wensleydale, up Widdale and home via Three Peaks country of Ribblesdale. I might not be exercising my legs much at the moment but my eyes are certainly active.
I wonder, had Kirby Misperton fallen within their land, if the Dales National Park would have allowed last week’s fracking fiasco to happen? Seven councillors who are supposed to represent Yorkshire on matters of planning, ignored the 92 per cent of locals and instead pandered to what the government wanted them to do – a government which is currently keeping secret a report on whether fracking causes climate concern. Hell, even Lancastrian councillors had the sense to boot out the get-rich-quick fracking cowboys. Hang your heads, seven shameless Yorkshiremen.
Which brings me on to another whinge I have, stirred up by this week’s ‘news’. There’s a decline, says a study, in the humber of people using regional accents. It seems we are all starting to sound like we come from the south east. That certainly won’t do. And some teachers have been told to change the way they speak to children by cutting down on local accents. Sometimes I listen to people in their late teens/early 20s, using that very boring generic university accent, in which almost every sentence seems to end with a question mark, and I thank mi Mam n Dad for teaching me to speyk Yorksher.
Talking of moaning – an acquaintance was moaning about pot-holes in Ribblesdale’s roads the other week. This week he is moaning that ‘they’ are closing the roads throughout the region to mend those potholes. Now I’m moaning about him moaning.
Bridge of Sighs
I was very saddened to see that someone had a go at demolishing the pretty packhorse bridge over the Ribble at Knight Stainforth this week. Obviously, the person didn’t go out to deliberately wreck the ancient structure – whether it was caused by someone using a sat nav instead of a brain cell, or by careless driving, I don’t know. But it’s going to be costly to repair the National Trust-owned bridge. The original stonework is going to have to be recovered from the river before it is washed away, and the bridge will probably not look the same when rebuilt. It wasn’t meant to take motorised traffic. I realise this will inconvenience a few local users but I think the current diversion via Stackhouse Lane or Helwith Bridge should be made permanent and the bridge left for cyclists and pedestrians only. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that during the Bank Holiday weekend, which brings all kinds of folk to Stainforth Foss, we don’t see more damage or accidents.
It’s been a pleasure hobbling around Ribblesdale this week while spring really blossomed. By the Ribble in Langcliffe were thousands of rampant ramsons like riotious football fans charging down the packed terrace, hopping over the fencing and spilling on to the pitch.
Sitting here listening to the birds and a gently trickling river was simply beautiful. However, one youngster licking its lips as it approached me was a little disconcerting…
Ingleborough is once again the focus of my blog this week although it didn’t set out that way… A bit like the myths surrounding Giggleswick’s Ebbing & Flowing Well (mentioned in my blog of 06/03/16) the legend of Robin Hood’s Mill, just a couple of miles away, arose because of the area’s geology. Just off the Stackhouse road from Little Stainforth to Giggleswick, near the parish boundary, there is a hollow which according to local folklore was the site of Robin Hood’s Mill. The tale goes that Robin was a miller who worked all hours and even on Sundays. As a penance for working on the Sabbath, the weight of his clanking machinery sank further and further into the ground until it completely disappeared from sight. It was said that if you put your ear to the ground, you could still hear the millstones grinding deep below. Before the last war, cavers explored the hole and also heard the rumbling sound. Afterwards, the noise seemed to stop; it is likely that the noise was gurgling water and that the cavers’ excavations merely created more of a sound barrier.
These photos were taken close to the ‘mill’ last Sabbath while I was out working on photographing my patch – I wonder what fate awaits me.
The snow was still laying deep on the higher hills as I walked into Settle on Monday from Langcliffe. White-topped Ingleborough contrasted starkly against the greener lower dale.
The donkeys in a field above Settle are becoming local celebrities with many walkers heading up the steep gradient from Constitution Hill on the Malham trail using the sight of the animals as an excuse to stop and draw breath. They were sunning themselves against the wall. My comments on twitter and Facebook brought in hundreds of likes and retweets:
‘You see, young un, this is why we have front legs shorter than those at the back,’ says the top donkey.
‘But Mum, when I want to warm t’other side I fall over,’ replies the youngster.
On a clear day…
Later in the day I drove to Tatham Fells and then on to Kingsdale (first pic in blog) to view the majestic Ingleborough from other angles. The panorama from the Great Stone of Fourstones, just above Bentham, was the clearest I can recall seeing. The Three Peaks and Gragareth looked splendid but such was the clarity that the Lakeland Fells seemed within touching distance.
Back down in Ribblesdale I couldn’t stop myself taking yet another photo or two around St Oswald’s in Horton.
After a couple of days stuck mainly indoors I headed up to Ribblehead Quarry to stroll around part of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve. Yet another angle on Ingleborough showed some melting of the snow had taken place but you certainly wouldn’t describe it as spring-like! Whernside and Penyghent weren’t to be ignored, of course; the limestone pavement and quarry rocks provided interesting foregrounds.
The deaths this week of a former work colleague, followed by a cherished family member, has left me somewhat deflated. I was cheered a little by the sight of new life though in the local fields where lambs gambolled without a care in the world. So many new things to discover and adventures to be had. Oh to have that innocence of youth again. The lamb on the right reminds me of my own childhood – my mum was always having to sew knee patches on my trouser legs, too!
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.
I was annoyed that I couldn’t get to Malham to capture the rare sight of water tumbling over the Cove last weekend. The road from home to Malham was blocked, and with floods all around Settle I didn’t want to risk a longer journey. Settle bypass was also closed and the alternative route through town and up Buckhaw Brow was under water in parts. I did walk up to Giggleswick Scar and snapped the water lying in the Ribble valley floodplain. The former Giggleswick Tarn (top pic) also made a rare appearance. In 1863 a chap called Joseph Taylor came across a medieval dug-out canoe while carrying out drainage works on the site of the former Giggleswick Tarn — just thought I’d tell you.
Also making a comeback was a stretch of water beneath Stainforth Scar near Langcliffe, and a waterfall down the scar — not quite as spectacular as the one at Malham Cove but a rarity all the same.
While I was scuttling about around the old tip beneath Stainforth Scar, trying to find a decent spot to take the waterfall photo, I spotted this tiny fungus growing on the tip of a fence post. Nature never ceases to amaze me. I swear I noticed a couple of tiny dancing pixies but I put that down to the previous night’s red wine.
You will have noticed that I’m slightly better at photographing things that stay still for long periods. For three days this week I visited the millpond at Langcliffe Locks trying to capture a spectacular kingfisher which I first glimpsed on Tuesday. There was another flash of blue, inches above the water, on Thursday but I was too slow to get a picture. Friday I loitered around again but didn’t see it. I was distracted briefly by a squirrel scampering across a wall but once more I was too slow focusing on the speedy little beggar. Later it popped up on fence just after I put the camera away. It was definitely smirking.
While in Stainforth I nipped down to the Foss which was in an excited mood; a thunderous, boiling cauldron in fact, as the Ribble swept through like a tidal wave first beneath the ancient arches of the packhorse bridge and then over the deep, rocky precipice.
The river was much calmer on Friday after its exertions of the previous few days. I often wonder why the Ribble rushes so much in these parts — you’d think it would saunter through Yorkshire and push on as quickly as possible through Lancashire.
Yesterday we were hit by snow and yet more rain. You’ll be starting to think this blog is just about the weather, but it really has dominated life recently in the dale and beyond. At least some rainbows around Ribblesdale helped briefly brighten the place up. The Christmas lights in Settle are also cheering — let’s hope the weather doesn’t totally ruin the year’s best week for local traders.
Like most people — at least those living north of the M62 — my thoughts have been with those affected by the storm and floods in the North West. Sometimes there’s not a lot we can do about taming Nature and we just have to cope with it — as the good folk of Cumbria seem to be doing: help if you can… http://www.cumbriafoundation.org
Understanding flood plains and leaving them well alone is, however, something people CAN control. Yet a recent report by Greenpeace states that almost half of those areas fast-tracked for new housing development by the government are on floodplains. On top of this, the number of staff in the floods and coastal erosion risk management section of the Environment Agency has been reduced dramatically in the past three years, along with the agency’s funding. Trying to solve one problem by creating another is very poor management of the country’s affairs.
It seems that I am one of the few people in the world without a smart phone. I’m really old fashioned and still use a computer (one of those things that sit on a desk with a big screen – you remember them, don’t you?). It appears that the flipbook of Ingleton I produced for last week’s blog doesn’t work too well for those who prefer squinting at a tiny screen and swishing it around in circles to avoid reflections. So I’ve produced a more ‘mobile-friendly’ version here…
For anyone who has more money than sense and owns one of those watch-screen-thingies then… tough, get out more and go see Ingleton for yourself (smiley do-da wotsit here).
There’s a splendid website which I regularly visit called grough.co.uk which offers all sorts of news and views for walkers, visitors and residents of the Dales, Lakes and beyond. I read a report on there on Tuesday of a walker being rescued from Watlowes dry valley above Malham (pictured). The Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation came to the walker’s aid. It was the team’s 72nd rescue of the year. What a great job done by them and the other volunteer rescue teams, such as uwfra.org.uk. It is so easy at this time of year to slip and slide on the fells. I nearly came a cropper myself, slipping on damp limestone while heading down the steep bank to Catrigg Force on Monday. All I was bothered about was my camera. We both emerged unscathed. I got a few photos of the water falls but I’ve not yet captured my ideal shot of this place. There’s usually a lot of ‘clutter’ in the way, but with leaves now dropping rapidly more can be seen of the main falls. Also, there’s such a contrast between the bottom half and the top half of the scene that getting the exposure right is difficult. Perhaps some experts can advise.
The bright blue sky seen through the canopy at Catrigg was almost the last I saw of it this week.
The track up from Stainforth to Catrigg and on to Winskill seems to get steeper every time I tackle it but the view back down between the walls, looking over to Smearsett Scar and Ingleborough, provides a perfect excuse to stop.
Tuesday’s stroll from Langcliffe to Settle via Victoria Cave and Warrendale Knotts was a strange affair. I moved from bright sunshine into thick fog several times. It’s a good job I know the route well – it would have been so easy to have strayed off course. Here’s one of the bright moments:
The landscape’s outline along this part of Stockdale sometimes reminds me of the wild west as seen in old cowboy films. So I couldn’t believe it when I saw heading towards me a herd of cattle being driven down from the hills by some farmhands. Ye-ah.
I chap momentarily mistook me for Mike Harding in Settle the other day; on top of this, someone else mentioned our similarities on Twitter. I wouldn’t mind but he’s even shorter than me and is also about 10 years older. Either I’m looking older than my age or he appears youthful… let’s go with the latter. Perhaps I can get away with a few free pints around Settle? As long as they don’t ask me to sing Rochdale Cowboy or play the banjo. If you’re a fan of folk and traditional music I highly recommend Mike’s podcast which can be downloaded (for nowt) from mikehardingfolkshow.com every Sunday. Perhaps you can listen to it while reading this blog and imagine we’re the same person.
Even though I am ancient I still enjoy kicking my way through the fallen leaves as I’m walking down country lanes. The leaves offer an opportunity for some creative work with the camera – not that it’s my normal style, but I liked the colours and patterns of this shot across Langcliffe Mill Pond taken last Sunday.
Unfortunately, another engagement means I miss the Remembrance service at the village memorial today when the names of Langcliffe’s fallen are read out.
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.