Mean, moody and magnificent – my description of the Dales this week (12 pics here). With many schools on half term, tourists have flooded into the area to boost the local economy and bring a bit more life into Dales villages where many houses are now second homes or holiday lets.
Camping and caravan sites have burst back into life … and visiting dogs have left their contribution, too. I’ve never seen so many little plastic bags full of you-know-what stuffed into walls and left beside paths.
Away from the crowds I strolled up lonely Kingsdale and explored the land around the Cheese Press Stone – I didn’t see a soul for almost two hours but I still came across several poo bags. Someone’s gone to the trouble of picking up their dog’s biodegradable droppings, placed them in an non-biodegradable plastic bag and cast them aside for wildlife to choke on. Unbelievable.
Glad I got that off my chest. But no doubt you’ll say – and I agree – there are one or two bigger issues for the world to think about at the moment.
Yes, I should be thankful for what I’ve got – the views from up above Kingsdale are superb; lots of different shapes and angles for photography even when the distant views haven’t got the clarity you’d hope for. Ingleborough, Whernside and Gragareth provide fantastic backdrops here; I couldn’t quite make out the Lakeland Fells today but the Bowland Fells stretched away into the murkiness.
I’ve seen moody mists, stunning sunsets and whopping whales (sorry, whopping was the only alliteration I could summon up for whales) around the Dales this week so here’s the rest of the photo diary:
The Dales shower didn’t bother me; I wasn’t cold. There was no fierce easterly wind biting as it did last week. I stood on Winskill Stones and watched a perfect semi-circle rainbow form above Ribblesdale. There was a dusty mist in the valley, dark streaks of rain drifted into the distance as the shower passed through. A grey veil hid Ingleborough’s flat summit.
The underside of heavy cloud to the west was tinged purple by the glow of a magnificent setting Sun. Just for a few minutes I forgot about problems caused by humans and marvelled at the wonder of a far superior Nature. Too briefly, shades of gold and red filled a stage in the sky. A beautiful Saturday night performance played for the benefit of many but attended by few. And people say they’ll miss Ant & Dec.
A friend asked me to settle an argument about where the River Ribble starts. I’ve been through this before via the blog, with me spouting some high and mighty claptrap about it never starting or finishing, as it is just rain water which heads to the sea, evaporates and falls again.
Not satisfied with my theory I was told to point to a place on a map. Annoying my pal further I insisted that there isn’t one particular source. There are so many tributaries, some just starting out as trickles of water off the highest fells or from springs dotted around the dale.
I’ve read a dozen books in which the authors have put forward arguments for different ‘sources’. There’s a spot on Cam Fell where water can either go east through Wharfedale or west through Ribblesdale; water from Batty Moss can head off to Morecambe Bay via Chapel-le-Dale or join the Ribble for a longer journey west. From up around Newby Head and surrounding fells, water can head down into Wensleydale to the Ure or find its way via various gills to help form the Ribble. Even the mass of Park Fell and Ingleborough on t’ other side of the dale can lay claim to providing a ‘source’ for the Ribble. The people at the Ordnance Survey aren’t much help, either. On a Dales map from the mid-1800s (reproduced here) is marked a spring, and beside it is printed ‘Ribble Head’. Later editions of the map don’t include this. In fact, the terms River Ribble and Ribblesdale do not appear on the later versions of the OS map until various water courses have joined forces near Selside.
We ended up agreeing there are bigger things to worry about in life, like whose round it was.
I have a treasured signed copy of Bill Mitchell’s book, Summat & Nowt, which is looking a bit tatty now having been read half a dozen times and referred to on numerous more occasions. I’d already known and worked with Bill for about five years when in 1998 he dropped off copies of that newly published book at the Dalesman office. He liked to pop in to talk of journalistic matters and be reminded what life was like ‘at the coal face’, as he would say.
The book has a chapter called The Long Drag, which is culled from a book he wrote of the same name. It’s a lovely piece on the Settle-Carlisle Railway – not about the intricate technical details the train buffs prefer, or a dry account of its construction and history – but of the characters who brought the line to life. The drivers, signalmen, station masters, tea lady – and a host of other volunteers who dragged the line through its darkest days.
So this week it was a great pleasure to be invited to the unveiling of a plaque at Settle station to commemorate Bill’s contribution to the railway. His son David and daughter Janet gave moving accounts of their dad’s affliction: Settle-Carlilitis. Photo shows David and Janet beside the plaque (yes, it was cold, Janet).
Talking about the Ice age … here’s a good example of how those vertical cracks form and destabilise rock faces (near Ribblehead):
Some more shots taken on a freezing trip around the former quarry at the top of Ribblesdale:
Further into the Dales: I had a quick trip down Widdale into Wensleydale early in the week – stopped to capture snow blowing up Burtersett High Pasture:
The dales weather can be a real torment. I’ve given up on trusting forecasts for the whole region as each dale seems to have a different climate. After driving under blue skies and fluffy clouds through Ribblesdale the other day I reached Newby Head to be confronted with darkness, rain storms and a plague of frogs. The farm at Newby Head was once a pub, and reckoned to be the second highest in Yorkshire after Tan Hill. Here, and at the former pub at Gearstones, drovers, farmers, miners and navvies drank, scrapped and sheltered from the worst of weather. A much more welcoming greeting awaits nowadays.
I had a bit more luck with conditions over in Nidderdale although a grey background and low cloud spoilt the photography. Two man-made structures brought me to this part of the dales though – the intriguing artwork of Coldstones Cut – now seven years old – and the immense Scar House Reservoir which is around 80 years senior. The designs are very different but both feats of engineering are impressive.
I also had a wander through Salt Lake Nature Reserve in Ribblesdale. The former quarry is now under the protection of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and is being left to Nature. There are some lovely dales plants here – and I managed to capture a picture of a red admiral butterfly too. The trust launched an appeal in July to save Ashes Pasture, which is just 100 yards from their Salt Lake site. £175,000 is needed to save this area of wildlife-rich grassland habitat from being sold on the open market. They are almost halfway to reaching the target and will shortly submit a bid to Heritage Lottery Fund asking them to help with the balance, but the more the trust raise the more likely they are to be successful. Please visit http://www.ywt.org.uk/ashes_pasture
The Salt Lake Nature Reserve is also a handy place for capturing passing steam trains on the Settle-Carlisle railway …
The felling of a 150-year-old beech tree (below) on the edge of North Ribblesdale RUFC’s ground was due to start on Sep 1. The club want to level their pitch and say it can’t be done because of the tree. I was surprised when permission was granted to get rid of the beautiful tree – I doubt I would have gained similar authorisation if it were near my house. The work hadn’t started yesterday when I walked by – perhaps a stay of execution?
The brilliant (and free) Settle folk festival weekend was well under way in the town centre yesterday … the flamboyantly dressed, flower-hatted Flagcrackers of Craven with their blackened faces (do today’s PC laws still allow them to do that?!) were busy hitting each other with sticks as I passed.
One good evening sunset in the Dales this week. These photos – and the first one in the blog, were taken from Winskill Stones above Langcliffe.
This isn’t the crispest shot I’ve ever taken – a hand-held zoom in poor light – but a beautiful reminder of exactly what I saw as I drove along the Settle to Malham road in the Dales before people began to fill up the day. The photo was taken at 5.45am on Friday near the brow of the pass between Ribblesdale and Malhamdale. The temperature gauge in the car read -1 deg. Facing me, a glorious blood-orange horizon with a tiny strip of the tarn sparkling out of the gloom. I motored on and stopped at the tarn to watch the sunrise.
Gradually the colour of the surrounding hills began to redden. Although the tarn remained shaded from the rising sun for a while, the water weakly reflected the hue of the transforming hillsides; the lake was still and cold. The peaty ground crunched gently as I walked around the tarn’s edge. The previous day’s puddles wore a thin veil of ice.
A curlew called and a pair of peewits were up, whirring about above my head. Four geese in an unruly line barked like dogs, their conversation echoing round the natural bowl as if in an empty swimming pool. There was a faint rustling then a flash of colour as a grouse scuttled off just two yards from my feet. A nervous lone rabbit scanned the scene before hopping it. In the adjoining field a group of sheep remained seated on their warm patches of moor, chewing and wondering whether it was time to get up. Black silhouettes of cattle stood on a dark distant hill like a hastily arranged background for a school play.
Suddenly, the bright new sun popped up from behind a thicket on the horizon. I couldn’t look at it without damaging my eyes but I pointed the camera in the general direction and hoped for the best. Once again the Sun had successfully made its way up Mastiles Lane from Wharfedale and was about to head over the hill to Ribblesdale.
I left the dreamy scene and drove slowly back towards Langcliffe, watching the dales country waking up as the sun followed me home, first lighting up the eastern side of Penyghent and Plover Hill.
The higher slopes of the distant Ingleborough were next to be illuminated, then the western slopes of Ribblesdale: Little Stainforth, Smearsett Scar. Giggleswick Scar swapped a miserable grey coat for a nice creamy number.
I’ve taken many shots of the setting sun from Winskill Stones but this young light is very different – harsher. Now, in spring, each day the sun shines here the scene becomes greener and fresher.
Is the sunrise better than the sunset in the dales? From a photographic point of view I have no preference – they’re just different. Philosophically, is the birth of a new day with its promises and hopes preferable to the death of the day which may have brought us joy and good memories, or perhaps stress and sadness? Sunrise every time for me this time. What do you think? Below is a sunset photo of Ribblesdale taken last week.
Since semi-retirement I’ve changed my sleeping habits by going to bed and also rising later than I used to. On work days I would regularly roll out of my pit at 6am – I think it stems back to early teenage years …Dad got up at 5am to go to t’ mill, and he would wake me so I could do my morning paper round before school. Perhaps we should all wake up at dawn, shake hands with the Sun and say ‘thanks for providing another day’.
I visited one of my favourite buildings, The Folly in Settle this week to see the two latest exhibitions. Many locals were there talking to each other about how the town used to be. The ‘Back in Settle’ exhibition is a collection of old photos from the area inspired by a Facebook group set up by Mick Harrison https://www.facebook.com/groups/backinsettle/
‘1916: Chronicles of Courage’ is the third in The Folly’s series of World War One exhibitions and highlights the part local dales people played in the war. Not long ago I researched the part my own family played in the war. This large bronze medallion – a Dead Man’s Penny, as they were known – was given in honour of one of my granddad’s brothers (he didn’t have a wife or any children) and it is now in my possession. There were more than 1,355,000 plaques issued – a sobering thought.
For more details of the exhibitions visit http://www.ncbpt.org.uk/folly/
Yesterday morning I was admiring the pink blossom sprouting on a neighbour’s tree under a warm blue sky; in the evening I witnessed some very sad daffodils, their heads hanging low under the weight of heavy snow. That’s dales weather for you.
I think I’m developing RSI in my camera-clicking finger. The week has seen some amazing atmospheric conditions in Ribblesdale and, although I’ve been carless and stayed local, I’ve managed to capture a bucket-load of pictures. The thing about being a point-and-shoot, capture-quickly-what-you-see snapper like me is that you usually end up with a hard drive swamped with flotsam and jetsam and just a few pearls hidden in among. This week, however, it’s been difficult to narrow down a selection to use in the blog. The cows provided me with a perfect foreground for shots of Ingleborough (above) and Penyghent (below) taken from Winskill Stones.
Just a little further down the lane Samson’s Toe erratic helped with my view down Ribblesdale over Settle and Giggleswick.
There were some clear shots looking south-west this week, and I particularly liked this one with the dappled sunshine. In the distance you can see the natives of Lancashire burning witches in the borderlands.
I fair galloped out of the house one evening on seeing a large dark cloud passing overhead. It came and went quickly and happily deposited its contents elsewhere, but it was certainly a scene-changer in these parts. Here are a couple of many shots I grabbed. The four sheep, unconcerned about what’s happening above, seem to have established their own space with some accuracy.
I do enjoy being a photographer-on-the-hoof, but occasionally I wish I’d been a bit more professional and taken with me more equipment (and had more technical know-how – and patience!). A tripod and remote clicker would have improved my shots at Catrigg Force and the Hoffmann Kiln (below).
Walking up to Stainforth Foss I spotted this heron. Every time I got within 50 yards of it it flew on a little further up the Ribble. We played this enjoyable little cat and mouse game for about ten minutes. This is a poor shot (below) I know, but it shows that I did at least try to be a bit more Ray Mears.
The foss and bridge looked splendid and I was the only person around. This, and strolling up to Stainforth to have a grand pint of Wainwright’s in the Craven Heifer, reminded me of how lucky I am to be retired and to live in such a lovely place.
Walkers heading up Goat Scar Lane from Stainforth to Catrigg may often have their head down wishing the steep climb would soon end. But stopping and taking a look back across towards Smearsett Scar and Ingleborough is well worth it.
The clouds on that photo and also on the next one showing Penyghent, remind me of the start of the Simpsons cartoon on TV. No manipulation on my part – the sky is exactly as I took it at the time.
Looking up at the magnificent Stainforth Scar (below) during the week I pondered why this wasn’t more of a Mecca for climbers. Some crag rats will probably tell me the rock isn’t stable enough, but even for a definite non-climber like me I can see the obvious attraction here.
Finally this week – who needs the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (a wonderful place by the way) when we have our own version in Ribblesdale. Every time I visit Lower Winskill there seems to be another welcome addition to the landscape. Some talented folk up there.