22 July 2017

Just Checking

Every so often we go for a walk along A Dales High Way to check that all the signposts and waymarks are still in place. Today was one of those days.

A long green track winding its way across the fellside
Over the stile and heading for Ingleborough

Image result for lemon drizzle cakeToday's walk had the added bonus of two of our favourite cafes, one at each end, the Knight's Table at Little Stainforth and Elaine's at Feizor. It's a hard job but somebody has to do it.

9 July 2017

90 Glorious Miles (or how a Dent farm girl who thought hikers were a pretty odd bunch came to create a long distance walk)

I grew up in Dentdale. My dad was a shepherd and we lived on a farm called Stonehouse, huddled just under Arten Gill viaduct on the Settle Carlisle railway line. 
Under Arten Gill viaduct
Fell walking wasn’t something we did for pleasure in those days though we certainly did plenty of it. Our sheep were on Whernside, the highest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and in the days before quad bikes we walked up and down the mountain several times a year, bringing sheep home for lambing, clipping, dipping and tupping.  

Dad feeding sheep
And we certainly met plenty of walkers – the farm was close to the Youth Hostel and we’d giggle at the hikers as we called them trailing past in their orange cagouls heading for their bunkbeds while we went home to watch Top of the Pops in front of a nice warm fire.

So how did a farm girl who thought walkers were a bit bonkers end up creating A Dales High Way - the long distance trail that stretches all the way from Saltaire to Appleby through the Yorkshire Dales National Park?

To find out come and join us at Baildon Methodist Church at 7.30 on Tuesday 11th July where I'll be finishing the story and showing slides from the route as part of Baildon Walkers Are Welcome AGM

You don't have to be a member to come along. everyone's welcome at Walkers Are Welcome!

29 June 2017

Not Much Of A View

Recently I wrote a short story that won Ilkley Literature Festival's Spring competition. It's called "NOT MUCH OF A VIEW" and here it is.

His daughter called it downsizing and talked as if she’d done him a favour.

‘Just think’ she said, ‘no more lawns to mow or beds to weed.  Just think of all the time you’ll save.’

‘What for?’ he thought, but didn’t ask. She’d only have had some smart reply, suggesting he played bridge or took up art. What’s the use of saving time if you’ve nothing to spend it on? Nothing to do all day except look out of the window. At least at the old house there had been something worth looking at. An uninterrupted view of foliage and sky stretching out from the end of the garden, so that from the dining room window he couldn’t tell where his property ended and the fields began.

‘It’s so big Dad, and isolated’ she told him.  ‘At least now you can walk from the flat to the shops. You don’t have to get the car out just to buy a paper or a pint of milk.’

There was that he supposed. He was driving less and less these days and sometimes whole weeks had gone by without him leaving the house. He could get all the news he wanted from the radio and his daughter stocked the fridge on her weekly visit. Weekly glimpse more like. He was lucky if she stayed an hour, rushing in with her supermarket bags and grabbing the hoover, sometimes without even taking off her coat. Her energy exhausted him.

He looked around. Purpose built the estate agent called it. Living cheek by jowl he said. What if he could hear the neighbours through the wall? That would have been unheard of in his old home. The nearest house was over a mile away and since the old lady died he didn’t know who’d bought it.

He heard a noise. Not from next door but coming from outside. He crossed the room and looked out. On the other side of the road between a small car park and a pub that had seen better days was a well kept green. His daughter had made a joke about it when she moved him in. Something about offering his services if he found he missed his ride-on mower.  A small crowd had gathered, shouting out greetings and laughing together. He watched as they unpacked balls and mats from cylindrical bags and set up their game on the square below. A bowling green, he overlooked a bowling green. 

He thought back to his old house, remembering the hours he had sat looking out at the horse chestnuts, stately guardians of his privacy with their creamy candelabra and fox brown fruit. It was a long time since anyone had gathered conkers on his lawn. 

He opened the glass doors and stepped out onto the tiny balcony. As he did so a woman in a red coat looked up from her game. She smiled and raised her hand. Shyly he waved back.

23 June 2017

On my doorstep

My idea of a good time is tramping 100 miles across the Yorkshire Dales with a bag on my back and a dog by my side. 
Walking A Dales High Way above Dentdale
It's a great way to spend a week or more but not so good if you're just looking for a leg stretch on a Wednesday afternoon. That's where having a great selection of local walks comes in, easy strolls either from the house or a short drive away. So this week I pulled an old 1991 guidebook from the bookshelf and explored a path I'd first walked over 40 years ago, a quick 3 miles through Goit Stock woods to the waterfalls on Harden Beck above Bingley.
Goit Stock waterfall
And it was so worth it. It was cool and shady and no-one else was about. Wild honeysuckle scented the air and the only sounds were tumbling water and birdsong. Not quite the precious escapism of a multi day trail but not far off.


19 June 2017

Perks of the Job

I'm the secretary of the Dales Way Association and a couple of years ago the committee decided to replace some old, out of date information boards with these smart new signs.
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But what to do with the old ones? Rather than consign them all to landfill I tucked one under my arm and brought it home, where it lingered out of sight and out of mind behind the shed, until now.
Pride of place on the garden fence
What you might call a perk of the job!

27 March 2017

Mud, mud, not so glorious mud

Nine Standards

When two or more Coast to Coast walkers are gathered together the talk always turns to the notorious quagmire just beyond the huge cairns on Nine Standards Rigg. 
Bad old days

Stories of crossing - or sinking into - the ever widening bog are rife. 
But now almost 400 metres of stone flagging has been laid across the worst sections. On a glorious spring day the path was officially opened this weekend. Around 30 supporters and sponsers (including, we're proud to say, Skyware Press) gathered to toast the occasion and plant sphagnum moss around the stones. 
Testing out the new path
The total cost of over £30,000 was raised through a crowdfunding scheme set up by the North Pennines AONB and supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. There were generous donations from the British Mountaineering Council, HF Holidays, Tesco, the Wainwright Society and many others including local businesses and individual walkers.

So fear no more - the only interuption on the trail from Kirkby Stephen to Keld is a stop at Ravenseat for one of Amanda Own's famous scones.

For information about walking the Coast to Coast see www.coastto.co.uk

27 February 2017

Orchids and Cake

When we devised the long distance walk, A Dales High Way, we wrote two books. One was a Route Guide which is a practical little book of maps to help walkers find their way. The other is A Dales High Way Companion which includes lots of information about things to do and see along the way.

The Route Guide is designed to be kept in a pocket and consulted as you walk but the Companion is the book you read in the pub, containing chapters about the history, geology, archaeology and culture of the Yorkshire Dales. We enjoyed researching stories about the Quakers and Lady Anne Clifford, rock art and fell races. The one area we were weak on though was wild life and we asked Friends of A Dales High Way chairperson Julia Pearson to suggest birds and wildflowers walkers should look out for.

Below is a short guest post from Julia about the wonderful wildflowers shortly to be spotted in Wharfe Woods.

If you are walking Dales High Way in May allow a little extra time to enjoy the specialities of Feizor as you pass through. Of course the cake at Elaine’s Tearoom is available all year round, and comes highly recommended, so once replenished continue up the track towards Wharfe Woods. Passing through the gates on the brow of the hill you will spot some stone steps in the wall on the left, and a small gate on top. For several weeks in May this is the doorway to a botanical spectacle that is well worth a diversion. 

The woodland pasture is grazed by cattle and sheep at certain times of the year which helps maintain a rich diversity of plants adapted to the limestone soils. Swathes of wood anemone, cowslips, early purple orchids and bluebells create a colourful and heat-warming sight.   
Cowslips and Early Purple Orchids
Later in spring you can see the uncommon wild aquilegia and you maybe lucky enough to see a redstart, a bird that arrives here in late April to breed, nesting in holes in trees.