A Dales spring in the step (14 photos)

dalesThere aren’t many flatish, longish, riverside-ish walks in the upper Dales. Here the becks and rivers are generally young and rash, heading energetically down the hillsides. They provide us with some picturesque waterfalls and quick scrambles, but not many easy, level strolls. One exception is beside the River Dee, near Dent, where I visited this week. (Not the top pic – see later.)

A pleasant figure-of-eight route uses part of the Dales Way long-distance walk. There are good views of Dent (above) and the surrounding hills, and thankfully for my creaking knees, no gradients to speak of along the way. The sound of water cackling over stone, frantic calling between ewes and lambs, and birds being busy doing what birds do in spring made this a very pleasant couple of hours.

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Just thought I’d throw this pic in to show that the Dales isn’t all about drystone walls – here near Dent the art of hedge laying can be seen.

I read this week that one Yorkshire pensioner shoots wild birds in his back garden because he “dislikes being disturbed” by their singing. He wouldn’t be very happy round my way at the moment as the swallows are returning after their winter hols abroad. I can’t imagine a world without birdlife. If it is irritating noise he dislikes I suggest he takes the gun down to … probably best not to continue on this line of thought.

From Dent I drove through the Dales calling at Sedbergh, Hawes and Askrigg – stopping off to photograph ponies in front of the Howgills, Cotter Force (above) and St Oswald’s in Askrigg (below). The church is Grade I Listed, dating from the fifteenth century with evidence of earlier building. Afterwards I just had to stop to capture a very different but just as architecturally important Dales barn beside the Ure in Wensleydale (top picture in blog).

I also had a quick trip one evening to Malham where some macho outdoor types were climbing bare-chested above Watlowes. I can think of more relaxing ways of getting a tan.

Photographic highlight of my week though was a trip on Friday evening to Morecambe. Despite living in the Dales, the bay is less than 30 miles away. Seen from the shoreline, the Lakeland Fells were just a grey-blue silhouette across the water. I headed home via the Trough of Bowland, stopping off at Jubilee Tower on Quernmore to witness a superb sunset.

Ribblesdale, of course, provided more spring joy. A short evening wander up the narrow road to Little Stainforth opened up this lovely pastoral scene (below). I’ve taken dozens of photos this week but I don’t want to be that bloke who bores you with his tedious, endless holiday snaps (oops, too late!) so I’ll save some for another day.

Back in Langcliffe, the annual imprisonment of naughty daffodils is taking place …

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I was driving back from Malham to Settle at dusk when this strange flying machine buzzed overhead – so low, I expected to hear an almighty crash from over the horizon. Does anyone have any ideas about what it is and why it almost took the aerial off my car roof?

Dales drive with a difference – 17 pics

Let me take you on a little drive around the western Dales. On the one clear day this week I drove along the back roads of Wenningdale from Settle to the Great Stone of Fourstones (pictured below), above Bentham, with the hope of taking some long-distance shots of the Three Peaks and perhaps even the southern fells of the Lake District. Although there was plenty of blue sky above, there wasn’t the clarity. I did manage these photos of the Dales and beyond:

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Unusual shot up the spine of Whernside with Ingleton in the foreground; below, Ingleborough seen from Great Stone.

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Not the clearest of shots but you can make out the snow-capped tops of the South Lakeland Fells.

From that amazing boulder I drove on to Thornton-in-Lonsdale and through lonely Kingsdale (top photo in blog). Apart from a gang of cavers trooping up to Yordas I didn’t see another soul for miles. Driving the steep single track road towards Dent always makes the heart beat a little faster. For most of the way you’re praying there’s nothing coming in the other direction; that the mist doesn’t come down; or in my case hoping that gawping too long at the view doesn’t mean I miss a tight bend in the road.

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View back down Kingsdale from a gate stop.

I double-check my handbrake every time I get out of the car to open and shut the gates along here. A little stroll up the old quarry road towards High Pike is always worthwhile. The views down Deepdale, Dentdale, towards the Howgills and north-western dales are rewarding.

There is a magical little waterfall as you descend into Deepdale – it’s unnamed on the OS map.


Instead of continuing to Dent I took the back-road to Cowgill – apparently I couldn’t have done this the previous day because of flooding. Every time I drive along this lane, passing Whernside Manor, I remember the creepy stories I’ve read of the mansion’s past. Tales of slavery and ghosts, and people being chained up in the cellars can be found on the internet if you’re interested. Believe what you want, but when one site describes Whernside hill as being part of the Howgills, you do start to question the depth of research.

After more stops for photos of the river Dee (below) and the old buildings at Stone House (above), where Dent marble was once produced, it was under the Settle-Carlisle railway at Dent Head Viaduct and on to Ribblehead, before turning down to Settle under the familiar gaze of Penyghent.

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I pulled off the Ingleton-Hawes road for this moody shot of Ingleborough.
What a difference a Dales day makes

The trip was a contrast to the previous day when I’d driven on t’other side of Penyghent towards Halton Gill from Stainforth. Typical of this part of the dales, water was pouring off the sodden fells, filling the becks and waterfalls which feed Penyghent Beck before splashing down into Littondale. I was wet but the noise and the freshness were exhilarating:

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Fountains Fell
Penyghent

The clouds opened up briefly to reveal a surprising vivid sunset last night. I didn’t have time to pop up to higher ground but these from around the village show the intensity of the colours – no filters used here.

Steamy lovers and falling for the Dales – 20 pics for you

dalesI did a mini tour of Dales waterfalls with my son on Wednesday. After heading up from Skipton through Wharfedale we dropped down to Cauldron Falls at West Burton. The view down Bishopdale towards the higher fells beyond as you top Kidstones Pass still makes my heart miss a beat. We did the touristy Aysgarth Falls trio, and called in at Semerwater before paying our dues at the Green Dragon to take in spectacular Hardraw Force. Then it was up over Fleet Moss for the gentler falls of Langstrothdale. A great day in the dales.

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Top falls at Aysgarth
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Semerwater
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Son Will at Lower Falls, Aysgarth
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Cauldron Falls, West Burton
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Mighty Hardraw
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Middle Falls, Aysgarth
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Behind Hardraw Force
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Close-up of the falls at West Burton

The views up Crummackdale and in the opposite direction towards the Bowland Fells were excellent as I walked from Austwick up to Oxenber and Wharfe Wood. But it was the sky that caught my attention that day – crisp blue high to the south-west with a cauldron of clouds bubbling up beneath.

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Austwick and Robin Procter Scar
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View up Crummackdale from the path to Oxenber Woods
Steamy lovers corner

Last Saturday through to Tuesday saw four consecutive days of steam excursions on the Settle-Carlisle line. I managed to capture a few as they passed close to home….

 

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The scene at Ribblehead Station wouldn’t have been much different 50 years ago

On another early evening stroll near Selside I enjoyed some lovely scenery across Ribblesdale. First pic in blog and the one below show Penyghent from Selside.

If you’re going out fruit-picking in the Dales this week please remember to leave plenty for the birds and small mammals …

Excluding games being played Sunday, as I write, my beloved Huddersfield Town are top of the Premier. A little premature to be celebrating anything perhaps, but it’s not been often during the 60 years I’ve been watching the team – my Dad first lifted me over the turnstiles at Leeds Road when I was a 4-year-old – that I’ve been able to gloat. So I’m not getting carried away… but already looking forward to playing Barcelona in next year’s European Cup.

Two falls and a submission in the Dales

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

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Distant Ingleborough seen from Keasden.

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…

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Another chunk of the ancient packhorse bridge at Knight Stainforth has been knocked into the Ribble. I’m presuming a vehicle caused the destruction – when will common sense prevail here?

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.

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Penyghent from a footbridge over the Ribble near Helwith Bridge.

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.

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The dry bed of the Dee near Cowgill.

Bronte shame, sailor’s trousers, embarrassing falls and yet more flooding

 

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The weather gods granted me a day out on Wednesday – as my mum used to say, there was ‘enough blue sky to knit a pair of sailor’s trousers’ — so I enjoyed a drive and short walk along and beside the Stainforth to Halton road in the morning, then a trip to Malham from Langcliffe in the afternoon. Penyghent looked resplendent – seen above from Dale Head – while at the Giant’s Grave there was still plenty of water around to creatrockfalle a splash or two. Here the water can take several different directions, filling huge potholes before eventually finding a way down Penyghent Gill and into Littondale.

In the upright photo showing the moors above Halton Gill in the distance, is evidence of a recent rockfall probably caused by the storms. The tree hangs on precariously.

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Farms along Henside Road from Cowside to Arncliffe via Malham Tarn are often cut off during winter. I recall Bill Mitchell writing a piece for Dalesman about a family stranded at Capon Hall Farm for several weeks during the bad weather of (I think) 1962. Here’s one of the farms, with Malham Tarn visible in the background. There was a light sprinkling of snow/slush around the higher moors on Christmas Eve but nothing to bother these hardy farmers too much … yet.

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I like seeing the fields above Malham, and the limestone of the cove, in the early evening sun when most of the tourists are making their way home. The animals graze peacefully and the whole scene takes on a more pastoral feel.

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Embarrassing Falls

The heavy rain has reintroduced many waterfalls which are usually only observed when the underground channels are full. The historic view of water tumbling over Malham Cove last week is a prime example, but there have been many other reappearances too throughout the Yorkshire Dales. This one on the Horton side of Selside doesn’t often teem over the top. It’s a fine little fall which according to the Ordnance Survey doesn’t have a name. Ended-on-my-arse-here Falls would be appropriate, for me at least. Muddied and briefly embarrassed, hoping that no one witnessed my mishap, I walked towards High Birkwith and back along the Pennine Bridleway.

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On returning home this little chap was waiting for me. He posed for one picture on a neighbour’s bench, then flew off. I haven’t seen him since – perhaps his mission is to say hello to everyone in the dale over the Christmas period.

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Even more rain towards the end of the week meant extended time on the computer or watching some mind-numbingly tedious Christmas TV programmes, usually involving ‘celebrities’ – most of whom I’ve never heard of. Can we look forward to a series titled ‘Celebrities on Benefits’. Only a joke, before people write in. It’s no laughing matter being unemployed and anyway, whingeing about TV seems churlish considering what happened yesterday. The floods in the north have caused devastation and severely disrupted the lives of many thousands of people. I had to curtail my journey down the Aire Valley yesterday – I had never seen it so badly flooded – and I was lucky to get back up to Ribblesdale before the roads were closed or impassable. My heartfelt sympathy to everyone affected. Sorry, Mr Cameron, you’re going to have make yet another journey oop t’north for a photo-shoot to show the nation what a caring PM you are.

Bronte shame

Bronte panopticon

A few miles from Ribblesdale is the once-deserted hamlet of Wycoller which contains a partly ruined hall, thought to be the setting for Ferndean Manor – the home of Rochester in the Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre. The place underwent a bit of a revival a while back but is now under threat again, along with the Wycoller Country Park (pictured above at the Panopticon) and the Bronte Way footpath. All are under the care of Lancashire County Council, but it is now planning to completely close down the management, maintenance and ranger service. If this happens visitors may no longer be able to see the great aisled barn or use the countryside activity centre. The visitor toilets will close and the privately run cafe and shop are unlikely to survive. Wycoller hamlet is one of the area’s prettiest destinations, attracting thousands of Bronte fans, and is served by dozens of volunteers. It is managed by a countryside ranger with a modest budget, so any cost savings from closing it down will be negligible. I first became interested in the area’s literary connections and fascinating countryside some forty or so years ago, and believe it would be a shame if this key part of the Bronte heritage was lost forever. If you agree sign this petition or contact the council https://t.co/dbEffg09af

Ribblesdale images

The second instalment of my ‘Year in Ribblesdale’ picture gallery shows snaps taken between May and August inclusive. The choice was difficult as there were some lovely days during spring and summer. September to December photos follow next week.

Dales sound bites

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I’ve written previously about wishing that my blog visitors could hear the thundering sound of the Ribble at Stainforth Force in Ribblesdale in the Yorkshire Dales… well here’s your chance. I was messing about with the movie feature on my camera and came up with a short 30 second sequence. There’s a wobbly bit halfway through when the camera strap got caught on the tripod (novice error apparently) but you get an idea of the sound made by the water as it rattles down the limestone. The falls had calmed down today after the deluge of the last few days and therefore the sound was not as wild as I’d previously heard. Unfortunately WordPress charge $60 a year to allow videos on their pages so I’ll have to divert you to another place…

May the force be with you in the Dales

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The mist was hanging low over the moors above Stainforth in Ribblesdale this morning. Look at the top of my photo of Catrigg Force and you’ll see just how low. Following the last time I’d puffed and wheezed my way up the steep track from the village to the falls, about two years ago, I’d promised myself that next time I’d carry a tripod with me to take one of those fancy waterfall shots that arty photographers like to fashion. But I forgot the tripod again. The sound of cascading water echoed around this great amphitheatre, but with no birds chirping and a lack of wind to rustle the trees, today it felt an eerie place to be on my own.

A Hull of a hole in the dale

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Someone once told me that Hull Pot was the biggest natural hole in England… mind you, another person told me that Birmingham was the biggest hole in the country but they could have been alluding to something different. Without a person in the shot it’s difficult for viewers of the photo to imagine the scale of this chasm – which can come as something of a shock to the unwary as they march along the path from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Foxup beneath Penyghent. It’s around 90m long and 30m wide with sheer drops all round – and no warning signs. I thought the waterfalls might have been more impressive this morning after all the recent rain but it wasn’t to be, and I’ve yet to capture them in full flow. Today I headed back to Horton via the Pennine Way down Ribblesdale where the views across the valley were gorgeous. Here a cloud has just enveloped the top of Ingleborough.

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