The value of natural flood plains in the Dales was highlighted this week as they calmed the flow of rivers swollen by the excessive rain. New lakes were created here in Ribblesdale and throughout the region, saving communities further down the valleys from severe flooding (apart from where housing and industrial development has been erroneously allowed). As well as poor planning decisions there are other problems along riverbanks which have been created by humans. One is the way some landowners have banked up river edges to preserve or increase grazing land. In times of flood these act as barriers, and instead of letting rivers spread naturally, they speed up flow causing problems elsewhere. Weirs, built in many cases to help power old mills and create mill ponds, can also have an adverse effect. I watched the weirs and Langcliffe and Settle this week and saw first hand what they do when the rivers are high and fast-flowing. These artificial barriers raise water levels behind then cause a huge hydraulic jump afterwards. This causes great turbulence and danger in the worst conditions as witnessed in my picture. I’m all for capturing a river’s power to create electricity through well-placed turbines but I wonder if weirs are really necessary today? Also, in low water weirs are a barrier to fish migration and promote the growth of algae.
There’s a popular walk from Settle along Watery Lane, but it proved a bit too watery last Sunday. I did manage this photo, however, where it seems the local allotment holders or perhaps fellow walkers are fed up with coming across doggie-do. I’m not sure whether the luminous paint looks worse than the dog mess but it certainly gets the message across.
There was still plenty of water at the top of the dale on Monday as I took a stroll in the Ribblehead region and around Ingleborough Nature Reserve. Signs of industry don’t have to be depressing and can create some interesting views.
While I was below Ingleborough I came across the Coastguard Sikorsky S-92 helicopter which had got into difficulties the previous day. The Cave Rescue Organisation, based in Clapham, requested help from the Coastguard when they were called out to a walker suffering chest pains on Ingleborough. However, the chopper developed a fault and the rescue team had to help stop the multi-million pound contraption from toppling over. The human casualty was stretchered off the hill and taken by Landrover then ambulance to hospital. It took a further three days to rescue the rescue machine.
The temperature dropped dramatically on Friday, especially on the moors above Malham. I’d planned to walk through the dry valley of Watlowes (pictured below) over to Malham Tarn but the wind was fierce and the conditions, well, nithering.
The drive back from Kirkby Malham to Settle was strange – on one side, looking towards Pendle, the change from cloud to sun was amazing; inspirational skies for the artists among us.
On the other side, as seen here with Ingleborough in the background and Warrendale Knotts in the foreground, was clear in bright blue sky.
Then the snow came yesterday so I headed back up Ribblesdale to do the Three Peaks (through photography from the car – I’m not that daft). The road up to Whernside was still pretty dodgy in the morning, especially where the sun hadn’t hit the road. The car told me the temperature was -1, goodness knows what it was like on top of those hills with the wind-chill.