During the long, hot summer of 1976 the Yorkshire Dales were my playground. I was 23, fit and energetic and starting to create a career in journalism. Move on some 42 years to another sunny summer, and here I am: overweight, fond of an afternoon doze and I’m a pensioner – but at least the Dales remain my playground.
While idling my time away on the slopes beside Ribblehead Viaduct one day last week, waiting to photograph a steam train crossing the mighty structure, I thought about how the place had changed since the 1970s. Yes, the topography is pretty much as it was back then but the atmosphere is very different.
Today I walked up the track towards Blea Moor alongside people who were wearing flip-flops. The recently extended car parking areas were full to the brim. A group on a sponsored Three Peaks hike ploughed through the sightseers. A small helicopter landed and took off again ten minutes later. A chap tried out his new drone (unsuccessfully).
Two noisy Chinook helicopters made their way over the Dales like annoying flies, circled over the viaduct then headed back over Cam Fell. Flashes from mobile phones greeted their arrival and departure.
I’d arrived to my spot early to find a good uninterrupted view of the viaduct with Ingleborough in the background. Two minutes before the train was due a family of four plus a loose and inquisitive dog plonked themselves right in my sight-line. The Dales were never so in the 1970s, or perhaps in those days it was me who was being the nuisance?
I’ve taken so many photos since my last blog – even a cartload of snaps from a few days in the Scottish Borders around Kirk Yetholm at the end of the Pennine Way – that I’ve had difficulty narrowing down the selection. Anyway, here I share a few. The top pic shows the view from above Buttertubs Pass back towards Ingleborough.
What, no train photos? Fear not, train buffs, I will be putting up special page for you when I get a spare moment. Meanwhile, here’s a moody Ribblehead Station.
I’ll not bore you with my snaps of the Scottish Borders but here’s one from a garden in Yetholm Town … it’s not gnomal, is it?
So, a month of strolling and taking pictures in the Dales has gone by without a blog from me. It’s not been easy – I’ve been dying to show off about living in such a beautiful place and the Nature I’ve seen as the Sun threw wide its arms, saying ‘come on lad, fill thi booits’.
Even the milk-bottle legs got an airing (allowing all manner of flying objects to help themselves to a Jackson blood-fest).
Within a 25-mile radius of home the Dales have provided relaxing walks and waterfalls, stunning sunsets and glorious sweet meadows to melt the senses. The camera has worked overtime and illustrates the wonderful Yorkshire Dales through pictures much better than I can with words.
Trains in the Dales
Nature in the Dales
More Dales scenes
I also visited Appleby Horse Fair earlier in the month. Some locals complain about the annual fair while others are happy to make a bit from increased visitor spending, renting camping space and charging for parking. As a visitor I only see a snapshot of the event, of course, but it seemed well policed and had plenty of RSPCA officials on hand. I wasn’t around to clear up any mess though. For a short slideshow visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSu-Ypcw0zM
I could have filled the blog with many more June shots but you’d have probably fallen asleep … here are three shots taken at sunset from Winskill, Ribblesdale, looking towards Ingleborough, to help you snooze.
10 Dales photos here. Earlier in the week I was staring down Chapel-le-Dale. It was hazy in the distance – and hazy in my head. I was overlooking the Old Hill Inn (see pic below) and thinking, I’m sure it was just called the Hill Inn when I went there in the 1970s, but I suppose even pubs get old.
I’ve not been inside for donkey’s years; if I do it’ll probably ruin the nostalgia. Back in the seventies it was full of walkers, climbers and cavers – and we drank lots of beer; there was nothing else on tap. If we were lucky there might have been a packet of crisps to share. I remember dozens of wet hiking socks and boots drying by the open fire.
Daft cavers and climbers would test their skills by traversing the exposed internal stone walls like gigantic spiders, making their way to the outside loos. I don’t remember there being a closing time but somehow we (usually) ended up in our tents in the neighbouring field.
Occasionally a guitar would appear and a bout of folk singing would break out; but the music genre depended very much on the clientele – my group of rowdy outdoor activities types, for example, preferred bawdy rugby songs.
The pleasant weather had me out on a few local strolls to capture the colour, flora and wildlife …
In other news: I’ve reluctantly switched from Yorkshire Tea to PG Tips and will remain that way until Yorkshire Tea remove plastic from their tea bags. So there.
My contributions to May’s Countryman and Down Your Way magazines include memories of the old kitchen ranges, a round-up of conservation news, and a look at the surname Holmes. Please support local magazine publishers: dalesman.co.uk Latest magazines available in most newsagents and supermarkets.
It’s the end of April, a third of the way through the year – where has time gone? Seems like only yesterday I was thinking about snowdrops not making it through a layer of snow. Now already the daffodils are on their way out and the lambs are growing up. Soon the flower meadows will be bursting with colour here in the Dales. I seem to be getting old very quickly nowadays so my vow is to get out and enjoy the landscape; smell the flowers and listen to the birds as much as possible as spring turns into summer.
I hadn’t much chance to get out with the camera this week but here’s a medley of April photos showing how different the month can be. The first two pictures were taken during ‘this week’ a year apart. (Top near Moughton Scar, the other showing Ingleborough.)
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
– Robert Frost, 1926
Do I ever travel ‘abroad’ to take photos, you ask. Well yes, of course – I took these at one of my favourite places outside the Yorkshire Dales: the NE coast around Bamburgh and Lindisfarne. I love the Yorkshire coast too, but the vast skyscapes and the unspoilt Northumberland beaches with their dramatic castles and history take some beating.
So we go to the polls again next week, once more trying to convince ourselves that we live in a democracy; that the ‘will of the people’ will triumph; that our cross on a bit of paper will bring us nearer to the Utopia we crave. Will you vote for a political party, no matter who the candidate might be? Or vote for someone who is actually looking to care for your corner of the country? I’d like to see local council elections stripped of all political labelling and backing; and for council chambers to cease trying to be mini-Houses of Parliament where party policies and in-fighting become more important than actual local issues.
Looking over the western Dales from my perch at the trig point near Bowland Knotts I thought about the people I’ve known who are now sadly unable to enjoy such pleasures. It’s good for the soul to remind yourself every now and then just how lucky you are.
The moors up here can be bleak – and they were certainly cold the day I visited this week. But today the Sun is out, and at last there are signs of spring. I can hear peewits (lapwings) calling, back on the higher ground from the valley looking for nesting sites and mates. A less-travelled red grouse shrieks after being disturbed in the heather.
In the distance I can make out the snow-topped Lakeland fells, while directly across Wenningdale the guardians of the Dales line up in defiance: Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough, Penyghent and Fountains Fell. While supping tea from a flask I really appreciate what Nature has dished up for me this morning. Top photo: the view of Ingleborough and Whernside from near the trig point.
I watched this coot for a while at Helwith Bridge quarry. It swam into thicker reeds where a moorhen was minding its own business. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, much squawking and splashing of water before the coot took off and made an undignified landing at the other end of the pool.
I took this photo of Penyghent on my way to view the previously mentioned waterfall. I upped the contrast a bit and it now it looks more like a painting. I wish I had the patience (and talent) to sit there and sketch the scene.
It’s a pleasure to see a steam-hauled train dashing through the Dales. Here Galatea makes its way off Ribblehead Viaduct on the spectacular Settle-Carlisle line (yesterday evening). There were just a few remnants of snow on Whernside but looking at the weather forecast it seems like there’s more to come.
I thought it was about time I tried a longer walk this week to see if my injured (ancient) left hip and knee could stand it. Four miles around Ingleton was enough. I took in part of the waterfalls walk and although the lighting was poor I managed to add a few shots to my collection.
The collection of Dales twilight and sunset shots also grew a little fatter this week. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram etc are not really geared up to show subtlety in photographs but I hope, even on phones, you can get some idea of what I was aiming for in these shots taken in Ribblesdale.
As mentioned in previous blogs, if I want to clear my head I’ll often drive on the road from Clapham up to Bowland Knotts and have a little saunter around. I love the view over the western Dales but by heck it was cold earlier in the week.
If you’ve got a ‘Hi-Dad-hope-you-are-ok-can-you-do-me-a-favour’ offspring then you’ll know that most of what you’ve said to them over the years has probably gone in one ear and straight out of the other without saying the briefest hello to any active brain cells. A few weeks back my son said he’d love a kitten for his new home and I dutifully (and boringly) informed him about all the pitfalls about costs, smells, vets, food costs, leaving it alone while at work, keeping you up at night etc, etc. Last week he got one – of course. I must admit he’s the cutest thing (the cat, not my son) and his picture (the cat, not my son) is now my screensaver. I reckon the cat, who looks very smug, will take as much notice of my son as my son does of me. Photo by William Jackson.
Once again the Three Peaks area of the Dales has captured my attention. The whole of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is well within an hour’s drive from home – and I love it all, but the Three Peaks are on my doorstep so I get the chance to see them in all their moods in changing weather and light.
Crepuscular. Yes, you heard me correctly. Crepuscular is my word of the week. It’s a word for the twilight and those rays of sunshine that poke through the clouds. If you’re standing on the right vantage point at the time they appear you can scan around the dales and pick out the places they highlight. I zoomed in from Winskill to catch one on Ingleborough (top photo). Above, the setting sun on Friday.
Below – lovely to look at but not for the unwary or badly equipped, the Dales trio of Penyghent, Ingleborough and Whernside capped in snow this week:
I like this view of Ribblehead Viaduct (below). Probably not close enough for the train spotters but it helps prove what an achievement it was to build the structure in such an unforgiving landscape.
From Dales to Town
Sheep pretending to be rocks – or rocks masquerading as sheep? I’m writing the blog earlier than normal because football is now run by TV companies (bear with me – the dales, sheep, TV and football will all be linked, eventually).
In the past, wool from the ancestors of these Dales sheep would have been transported further down the Pennine chain to the West Riding towns and turned into some of the finest cloth and carpets in the world. Mill owners built their fortunes and mansions off the backs of these sheep and the hard-grafting working class.
However, trade deals struck up with far away countries with even cheaper slave-labour (ring any bells?) virtually brought an end to the industry, bringing about unemployment, the destruction of communities in its manufacturing heartland, as well as the demise of many a farmer’s livelihood in the Dales.
Some of my ancestors headed from the Pennine hill farms for employment in the mill towns, hence my connection with the industrial West Riding. Nowadays I follow the old wool route from the Dales to Huddersfield to watch my football team, who thanks to TV scheduling have been ordered to play at the ridiculous kick-off time of noon on a Sunday. Baa.
I see that several of my favourite areas of the Dales are featured in the list of Britain’s top 100 walks. Many of the 8,000 people who contributed to the list have walked in my footsteps. It’s good to see the promotion of a healthier lifestyle, and when it benefits local traders, accommodation providers and publicans etc, then so much the better.
My small gripe about the list is that most of the walks are already popular and the publicity is likely to attract thousands more boots over those same paths. I wonder how many walkers (or TV programme makers for that matter) will be willing to pay for the upkeep of those over-used routes.
Before you have a go at me, I know that in a way my blog and other writing down the years has also contributed to attracting more tramping of the fells – I’m not being hypocritical, I have given (and still give) money towards path repairs and Mountain Rescue charities in the Dales.
Since slipping on icy steps a few weeks ago and injuring my left hip and knee I’ve not done much strolling, so thank goodness I also have a car to get me around the dales. Top photo in the blog shows Penyghent from near Brackenbottom. To complete the Three Peaks trio here’s a wintry looking Whernside and Ribblehead Viaduct.
I’m saddened to hear this week of the death of the inspirational Hannah Hauxwell (91). I only met her briefly at some ceremony or other. Being involved with Dalesman at the time I asked if she and her neighbours up in Baldersdale still considered themselves as Yorkshire folk (since the political boundary changes in 1974). Hannah replied firmly that they always thought of themselves as Yorkshire and felt no association with Durham. I hope everyone born on the south side of the Tees still thinks the same. Hannah was a lovely lady unspoilt by all the attention she received.
I must add my congratulations to everyone involved with Langcliffe Community Gardens on winning the Greener Craven Award category of Craven Community Champions. A great effort by those neighbours of mine who got involved. Plenty of snowdrops to admire in the local churchyard, too:
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Many, many welcomes,
Ever as of old time,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
Fans of steam trains make sure you buy a copy of this month’s Countryman magazine (now in the shops) in which I reminisce about the golden age of railways. The Settle-Carlisle and Keighley & Worth Valley lines are included. http://www.countrymanmagazine.co.uk
In February’s Down Your Way magazine I write about the surname Loftus/Lofthouse. http://www.downyourway.co.uk
Somebody famous once wrote, ‘There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather’. I suppose that could well be a motto for landscape photographers and artists. As long as you are still able to get out and about, different and difficult conditions offer new opportunities – even on familiar territory. I hope my selection of photos this week of mainly local (to me) places, which I’ve pictured many times before, prove the point.
I’ve no idea how many photos I’ve taken of the Three Peaks – they seem to put on a fresh dress every time I travel up Ribblesdale.
Cold weather stations
Two stations on the Settle-Carlisle line: Ribblehead with Park Fell in the background, and Garsdale, where Ruswarp patiently awaits his owner.
Whenever I take this shot of Brokken Bridge in Clapham – this one snapped on Friday – I’m reminded of the late Bill Mitchell. Bill and his family would have been celebrating his 90th birthday this week. A few years ago he and I cheekily knocked on the door of Fellside (the top house of the row to the left). We announced that we both edited Dalesman and that Bill had worked from this house when it was the magazine’s headquarters. Thankfully the owners recognised Bill and let us in to enjoy some of his reminiscences.
This Ribblesdale view at Helwith Bridge always reminds my of a Welsh mining valley. The 19th-century quarry workers’ cottages at Foredale were the setting for a cracking film released in 2013 called Lad: A Yorkshire Story. Staring down at them from the other side of the valley is Penyghent – many a mini blizzard on the top there this week.
Thanks to one of my neighbours thinking about the birds during cold weather I’ve been able to take a few more wildlife photos from the comfort of home. Taking photos through double-glazing can prove difficult but this doesn’t spoil my enjoyment. I think this is a female blackbird but I’m sure an expert will let me know if I’m wrong.
More cloudy and foggy Dales weather doesn’t mean we retired folk just lie on our settees drinking hot chocolate and watching Homes under the Hammer every day. I managed a few pleasant strolls in the misty Dales this week. One was alongside the River Wenning from near its starting point where the becks of Clapham and Austwick join together. There’s an old saying about ‘when gorse blooms, it’s kissing season’ … the inference being that the lovely yellow flower blooms somewhere in the UK 365 days a year so you’ve no excuse not to be kissing. There was plenty of blooming gorse in this part of Wenningdale, even on a miserable, cloudy January day. Sadly, no blooming kissing.
By Friday I was itching to get out again and drove along the single track road up to Bowland Knotts. I walked across the squelchy, peaty commons to the trig point, which stands at 1,114ft on Crutchenber Fell, in the full knowledge that visibility would be very poor. But it’s a dramatic landscape whatever the conditions. I could just about make out the Three Peaks in the distant mist; Stocks Reservoir was barely visible. The surrounding brown, brooding moors looked formidable. Unseen over the first brow is the River Hodder, the traditional ancient border with Lancashire.
I’ve ‘collected’ quite a few trigs in my time but never recorded my visits. There are folks who do, and like some train spotters they are meticulous in their attention to detail. Out of interest I looked up this one on the interweb-thingy and found this anorakic description: “Pillar completed 25th September 1949 costing £17.15s.10d. Computed as tertiary triangulation station SD96/T8 in 1951. Levelled for height in 1953. Last maintained by the OS in June 1976. Pillar in good condition. Spider centre plugged with tar. Flush bracket faces northwest, ~329°. Vented through three sight holes, SW face plugged, pillar bolt photographed. Full 360° panoramic view includes Whernside, Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent, Pendle Hill and Longridge Fell.”
Well there you go.
Sad news about Gayle Mill (see link below). My late brother Peter, who lived in Gayle, helped with the restoration. I hope for his memory the necessary work can be carried out and that the important Dales project is not strangled by red tape.
Interesting that the Tories are choosing now to make political promises about the environment – perhaps they fear the eloquent and intelligent Green Party leader Caroline Lucas more than any other opposition. You’ll notice that they have guaranteed nothing immediate and that they are reluctant to commit anything to the statute books. I don’t think they’ll want us to look too deeply into their ‘northern forest’ idea. The cost of this 25-year project they claim to be around half a billion pounds but what they haven’t shouted about is the fact that government will only be contributing £5.7m and expect the rest to be raised through charities. They don’t tell you either that their High Speed 2 rail folly project will destroy around 100 ancient, irreplaceable woodlands, or that permission to destroy other precious woodland for fracking exploitation has been granted despite much local and national opposition.
I took a financial risk yesterday and invested £2 in a lottery ticket. I lost. Money I’ll never see again. Lots of better-off people took a risk buying shares in Carillion – who just so happen to win a contract to build HS2 – hoping to rake in loadsa profit for doing nothing but gambling. But it’ll be ok for them, the taxpayer will probably help them recoup some of their brass. Investors should not be bailed out but those who work for them should.
Sorry to go all political. Here are some odd-ball pics taken this week to lighten my mood: