There’s no point me prattling on about what a mad March it has been. I turned 67 at the start of the month and can’t remember a more strange time to be alive. Although, I do have recollections of 1962-3 when winter seemed to go on for ever. There was an ice slide which we kids created that lasted from December into March. They had to extend the football season then, and it looks like that will now happen again except for entirely different reasons.
At the time of writing, the Dales countryside is open but judging by the ridiculous number of people who decided to spend their unexpected ‘holiday’ here over the last few days, I’m wondering if the government might well now crack down on travel. I’m all for people taking a walk, getting fresh air and enjoying the scenery, but let’s be sensible about it. All the usual Dales tourist hotspots were heaving with people – bigger crowds than at many football matches I’ve been to (but then I do support Huddersfield Town). The ice-cream even set up in Horton. Come on, folks. This is deadly serious. As some of you know, my son runs a cleaning-caretaking business and despite the fact that much personal hardship will follow, and the threat of losing customers, he has decided to cancel all bookings for the time being to help stop the virus from spreading.
So much for me not prattling on … anyway, the photos I’ve put together here were all taken on solo trips, during quiet times, close to home and far from the madding crowds…
A Walk at Sunset
When insect wings are glistening in the beam Of the low sun, and mountain-tops are bright, Oh, let me, by the crystal valley-stream, Wander amid the mild and mellow light; And while the redbreast pipes his evening lay, Give me one lonely hour to hymn the setting day.
I’ve just realised that tomorrow (barring some monumental mishap during New Year’s Eve celebrations) I will be witnessing my eighth decade. Hell, that makes me feel old. From the 1950s to the 2020s each decade has been different on a personal and also on a wider level. How quickly those ten-year blocks of time have passed by.
I wonder if living in the Dales makes you feel as though times have not changed as much as if you had spent most of your days in a big city? The landscape around here hasn’t altered a great deal throughout those decades. Generations of sheep have chomped away at the Dales pastures and kept it looking pretty much as it was a century ago. There’s been some new building here and there, but overall the face of the Dales has aged a lot better than my own.
Waterfalls here in Ribblesdale continue to cascade as they always have, holding my attention as much today as they did fifty years ago. I stare at the majesty of the Three Peaks in wonder as much now as I did when I first saw them as a youngster. I walk the same paths – which, like me, are a bit more eroded and weather-worn. And I enjoy the changing Dales as the seasons pass by; spring, summer, autumn and winter all displaying their unique qualities on the landscape.
Since my last blog in November, we seem to have had all four seasons here in Ribblesdale. I hope my photos give you a flavour of what we’ve witnessed.
I’d actually written a wordy rant for this month, covering my feelings about the state of the country, its political leaders and those unelected (British) right-wingers who are taking over. But I decided to keep my thoughts bottled up, and instead to take a step back, enjoy the Dales a bit more and watch The Repair Shop as often as possible. They are such nice, polite people aren’t they? I’m voting for them in the next election.
I recently read a leaflet that stated it’s okay to have sex at 65. So if you’ll excuse me now, I’m just popping round to number 65 …
Another year passes by – and so quickly, too – here in the Yorkshire Dales. An outsider looking in via occasional visits might think very little changes in the Dales, and they are comforted by that thought. But those who have lived here many years have a different perspective.
Yes, there are still the beautiful rivers, waterfalls and hills (‘Nobbut gurt mounds o’ muck’ as one old Dalesman once stated), but Dales life has altered a great deal over the last few decades.
Village schools are closing at an alarming rate; local shops and businesses have gone; there are fewer jobs, bringing about the dispersal of many long-established families. Their homes are being bought by commuters, holiday-let owners and as weekend retreats (that’s not a dig at those people, by the way, as without them some villages would probably have closed down altogether).
Ancient agricultural buildings are being left to decay as farmers no longer have use for them, can’t afford their upkeep or are refused permission to sell off or develop the barns as homes. Bus and train services are poor, as is broadband in many areas.
But would I prefer to live in a large town or city? Not on your Nellie! (Apparently this expression stems from rhyming slang, originally ‘Not on your Nellie Duff’ – rhymes with puff – meaning breath of life. Your education is incomplete without this knowledge.)
Back in the Dales soon!
My nearest hospital is a 45-minute drive away, a journey I’ve had to make several times over the last few months for treatment on kidney stones. How something so tiny can cause so much pain and leave a person so debilitated is astounding, but hopefully I will be heading up and down the Dales again shortly.
Photos in this final blog of the year show some of the places I’ve been missing, but which I’ll be re-visiting during 2019.
The dales took a back seat this week as I’ve been working on a project with my son. So it felt grand to take a short break one afternoon for a trip in the sun between Ribblesdale and Littondale. Penyghent, Plover Hill and Fountains Fell all looked glorious from the narrow Silverdale Road before clouds eventually descended and turned the scene grey.
The fascinating area around Giant’s Grave, where water for Penyghent Gill springs from any number of mysterious underground caverns through holes in the dishevelled looking rocks, was bursting with colour.
I believe the bright yellow plant is mountain saxifrage but I welcome any other suggestions from better educated botanists. It can be found all around the dales and contrasts well against the higher fells where the heather is becoming more and more purple. Littondale was as always picture perfect…
I timed my walk last Sunday with the arrival of Flying Scotsman near Langcliffe on the Settle-Carlisle line. It really looks a big beast close up.
I spent my childhood in Yorkshire’s Heavy Woollen District and despite residing for much longer here in the Dales there are certain words and phrases I still use from those early years that give away my past. Not that I’ve ever tried to hide my upbringing in the working class mill-town area of the county of which I am very proud, but whoever you are and wherever you are from you will usually retain some of the local lingo. I brought up the subject of different dialects and sayings within Yorkshire when I edited Dalesman, and boy did it open a can of worms. Correspondence about certain words is probably still continuing many years on. I was reminded of all this during the week when I went into a local bakery and without thinking asked for teacakes. It’s not the first time I’ve done this and regretted it. I was brought up to believe a teacake was a plain, white, flat-ish, light, round of bread about the size of an adult hand. None of your bread cakes, balm cakes, stotties or whatever other fancy name you want to give them. And where I came from if you wanted one with fruit in it you asked for a currant teacake. Simple job then, but not now, not here in the Dales anyway. In the shop I’m questioned, slowly, like I’m some kind of half-witted alien until I end up just pointing to what I want, paying up and leaving the shop red-faced.
My surnames page is proving really popular with visitors from all over the world. Is your surname there yet?