Doing well being in the Dales

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.

View down Wharfedale from Conistone Pie; below, Man turns the rocks into houses – Halton Gill.

Malham Cove when the tourists have gone home; below, Dentdale.

Hardraw Force in Wensleydale; below, Moughton Scar, as approached from Ribblesdale.

Ingleborough seen from Kingsdale; below, Nidderdale seen from Greenhow.

Light and shade above Arncliffe; below, spring at Gunnerside in Swaledale.

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

Catrigg Force; below, stopping for breath on the track from Stainforth to Cartrigg to look back on Smearsett Scar.

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:

View from Simon’s Seat, Wharfedale; below, looking over Rowleth up Swaledale; last photo shows lovely Littondale.

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.

Top falls at Aysgarth
Son Will at Lower Falls, Aysgarth
Cauldron Falls, West Burton
Mighty Hardraw
Middle Falls, Aysgarth
Behind Hardraw Force
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.

Austwick and Robin Procter Scar
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….


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.

Fire-breathing monsters in Ribblesdale

ribblesdale - coverdale

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.

Ribblesdale mayhem?

ribblesdale - train

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.
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.

ribblesdale - snowdrops

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.

ribblesdale - watlowes

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.

ribblesdale - malham tarn

Mind clearing

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.

ribblesdale - haltongill
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.

Ribblesdale - 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.

Flaming June, fishing, Facebook, Fellsman, bullies and trolls

One of the great pleasures about having kids AND a camera is that you can store up a great deal of ammunition to be used at a later date for embarrassing or threatening them. Instant access to their friends and family through Facebook means you have everything a parent with an evil streak needs to pass away rainy days. This week I was accused of being cruel to my son for posting a photo of him when he was in a brief punk phase, so I’d like to apologise to him via this week’s blog and promise not to do it again … this week.
Early doors on Monday this horse and I were up enjoying the summer flowers in a field between Langcliffe and Settle, while on Tuesday I had more of a mission. I’d come across an old Victorian drawing of Thorpe, near Burnsall in Wharfedale, and wondered how much it had changed over the years. I called in at Linton on the way and just managed to get a photo of the bridge without any cars in the shot.lintonbrMy last visit to Thorpe was a few years back when I interviewed an artist there for Dalesman. Little has changed since then but that earlier Victorian artist would have noticed several differences. It looks like one of the buildings in his drawing has disappeared now, many houses are now second homes, and large 4-wheel-drive machines cruise the narrow roads in and out of the village as I found to my cost – how come it’s always the smaller car who has to do all the reversing? Bullies.
I walked by the river in Burnsall, a place like Bolton Abbey which I normally steer clear of during the height of summer (I’m a miserable old bugger who doesn’t like crowds). A fly fisherman seemed oblivious to the constant foot traffic along the riverside path, in his own little world, pitting his wits against a fish which more than likely didn’t realise it was taking part in a game. I hope the chap isn’t recognisable as I’d hate him to have told the boss he was at his grandma’s funeral, or his wife that he’ll be late home from work because of an important meeting.
I don’t like grey squirrels – tree rats, taking over our parks and countryside at the expense of the reds – but I admit they can look cute and I spotted this one by the Wharfe, no doubt full from tit-bits fed to it by pub-lunchers at the Red Lion.
The cloud which tends to hang around the Dales had completely broken up by the evening so I drove up Ribblesdale for some stock shots of Penyghent from Horton. Cliches perhaps but they always attract a lot of comment on Facebook and Twitter so people must like them.
On Wednesday the Fellsman train was hauled by Galatea and I watched it trundle across Ribblehead viaduct on its way back to Lancashire. I find it so annoying that these special steam trains can use the line from Blackburn and Clitheroe via Hellifield and Settle but there’s no direct passenger route which would easily link this part of the Dales with Manchester and all points west. With more rail finance cutbacks announced this week no doubt the route will never open in my lifetime, yet the multi-billion HS2 link for the wealthy and London commuters, which will chew up millions of acres of our countryside when built, will no doubt somehow be found the brass.
I paused during Thursday evening’s stroll by the Ribble to look at the ducks. Yeah, big wildlife guru admiring common ducks … but really, when you observe them closely they really are beautiful, colourful birds – especially the mallard (can’t seem to get trains out of my mind at the moment).
When I was buying my cottage, the conveyancing solicitor (an internet company from down south) told me they’d have to state a minor flood risk for insurance purposes because I was within a certain distance from the river. I called him to ask if anyone in the office could read an OS map because if they could they would see that the cottage is actually more than 100 feet higher than the river – ‘brown contour things on the map’ I said sarcastically – and that if the river flooded to this depth then it’s also likely that all of the York Plain, Norfolk and London would also be totally submerged. ‘We have hills in Yorkshire’ I reminded him. I heard nothing else on the matter. Anyway, the point of this rambling is that there is a path from the village down the hill which leads to a mill pond alongside the river. It’s a lovely little spot, full of wildlife and plants. I risked being attacked by biting insects to take a couple of photos on Friday evening. The pond is being gradually taken over by iris pseudacorus which are flowering now. The overflow which heads to the river has little bridge over which the sheep play Billy Goats Gruff to annoy the troll.irispseudacorus


Semerwater – deep asleep in the memory


Seeing the afternoon sun glistening on Semerwater the other day I was reminded of my schooldays (yes, I can remember THAT far back). Either we had a teacher who was very fond of the Dales, or it was part of the GCE (yes, THAT long ago when we had GCEs) syllabus – whatever,  we had to learn and discuss the ballad of Semerwater… the one that goes:
Deep asleep, deep asleep,
Deep asleep it lies,
The still lake of Semerwater
Under the still skies….
There are another half dozen verses written by Sir William Watson, a poet from Burley in Wharfedale, which I tried to recall while taking in the lovely scene. There aren’t many places in the Yorkshire Dales where you can listen to water lapping against a shoreline in rhythmic fashion so this was a feast for the eyes and ears. However, my memory wasn’t up to the task of reciting the full poem and I had to Google the rest back at home.

Peace found in upper Ribblesdale


Thorns Gill was picture perfect this morning. Even though the grey mist hadn’t burnt off to reveal blue skies, it was warm and the scene was tranquil. I’ve been here when Cam Beck has been swollen by rainfall from the fells around Ribblehead and it has been dramatic to say the least. But today the sound of water trickling down the limestone gill was soothing and apart from a brief noisy squabble amongst the birds caused by a grey heron I could enjoy the peace. I don’t know exactly the age of the old packhorse bridge across this ravine but it’s probably been there since drovers brought stock up from Settle to the former market at Gearstones three hundred years ago. It seems to sit precariously – just held aloft by the science of arches – but it blends in perfectly. My earliest memories of Thorns Gill, with its erratics, caves and deep pools is from school visits in the 1960s when a certain PE teacher insisted we tried to jump across a section of the stream. If you failed you got wet. Excuse my bragging but I was the only one of my group who remained dry. If I tried it now I wouldn’t even make halfway and the ensuing tidal wave could flood Settle.

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