21 July 2011

Art attack

David Starley is a Saltaire artist who works in oils. He creates fabulous, textural paintings of landscapes - great big canvasses with the paint layered on so that the light changes and moves across the scene just as it does in reality.
Ribblehead Viaduct by David Starley
David is working on a series of paintings inspired by A Dales High Way. I’m so excited about this – the walk has already developed a life of its own and now it’s inspiring people to write blogs, take photographs and make art.

The Dales High Way Art exhibition will be at the Anstey Gallery in Ilkley this summer. Dave and I will be there on August 6th so do drop in and say hello.

Dave’s paintings aren’t the only artworks associated with the walk. A few months ago I read a post from a Dales High Way walker on a walking forum saying “Look out for the Hound of Windgate Nick” and we thought we’d better take a look and check it out. We climbed up out of Ilkley, past houses to die for, and soon were high above the Wharfe valley on a clear path across moorland.
Cup and ring markings on the Piper's Crag Stone

This is a really ancient route and it passes the remains of settlements dotted all along the escarpment. Bronze Age travellers passed this way with their flint tools from the Yorkshire Wolds and their stone axe heads from the Lake District, trading their way from east coast to west. Maybe those were the tools that were used to carve the cup and ring markings into the rocks that line the path.

A couple of miles on and we were close to Windgate Nick. Where was this mysterious hound? We crossed a stile and began to climb towards a rocky outcrop and there, perched on the skyline was a sculpture of a wolf baying at the moon.
Hound or wolf?
Woven from willow, it stood stark and proud above the valley. No-one knows who made it or how it got up there, or if they do they’re certainly not saying. It’s taken a bit of a battering in the winds since we first saw it but it’s still there and it’s still recognisable.

Guerrilla art – don’t you just love it.

16 July 2011

A relatively good walk

When I was growing up each person in the extended family was described by, and clearly labelled with, their relationship to each other - your grannie, his auntie, my husband’s nephew and even the dreaded second cousin twice removed. Most of it went over my head but those strange descriptions came back to me this week when I went walking with a new friend. He’s the son of my mother’s cousin and although we’ve no recollection of each other as children we’ve met recently when he’s been staying in the Dales.

This week he helped me test walk a possible route for a future book. We headed out of Settle on a clear path towards Stainforth, quickly leaving the riverside and heading for Stackhouse. Behind the hamlet we turned sharp left up a couple of fields, quickly gaining height until we reached the top of a limestone outcrop with fine views across towards Pen-y-ghent. 

Pen-y-ghent in the distance

There wasn’t a soul about and although we hadn’t climbed far at all we felt on top of the world. The walking was easy, the weather was fine and ahead we could see Ingleborough and the outline of the Eastern Lakeland Fells.

As the path dropped towards Feizor we took a detour up the hill to Dead Man’s Cave and on to the strange structure known as the Celtic Wall.

Don't know who died here

The Celtic Wall stands alone in the middle of the moor, a short length of wall made of massive stones. There’s been speculation about its age and purpose but no-one seems quite sure what it was all about although the current thinking seems to be that it’s medieval.
The Celtic Wall

A short but precipitous path took us down towards Smearset Scar

Smearset Scar

and an easy walk into Feizor and Elaine’s Tearoom. I remember this popular cafe a few years ago when it was just a collection of plastic tables outside the farmhouse where walkers and cyclists could get a very welcome cup of tea. Not any more. Now you can get anything from an ice lolly to a full blown Sunday dinner and it’s regularly heaving. I was glad to see my old favourite – the mug of milky coffee – was still on the menu and we enjoyed a short break in the sunshine.

Our return route took us out of the hamlet and up to Buck Haw Brow where we followed Giggleswick Scar back towards Settle. Again we had fine views, this time across the Forest of Bowland to the south west and all too soon we were back at the start.
Altogether a very enjoyable afternoon so J – I’m not quite sure what sort of second or third or removed cousin you are but you’re a fine walking companion and that’s all that matters to me.

14 July 2011

4 July 2011

Hello old friend

Like many people the first long distance walk I attempted was the Dales Way. It appealed for a number of reasons. We could walk straight out of our door in Saltaire and onto the link route from Bradford to Ilkley. The route is way marked and the sections looked easily achievable even for newbies like ourselves AND we would pass right by my old home at the top of Dentdale.

Me at home on the farm
I grew up on a farm in Cowgill at the top of the Dale and my first introduction to walking for pleasure was watching weary Dales Way walkers heading for the Youth Hostel in the late afternoon. We walked alright. In the days before quad bikes became the must-have piece of kit for every shepherd and his kids we managed our flock on foot.
Dad feeding sheep on Wold Fell
Our sheep spent their days on the fells and so did we. Wold Fell and Whernside were as familiar to me as my back garden is now.

It’s many years since I left the farm and discovered for myself the pleasures of walking the fells just for fun. It’s also a long time since that first walk that got me hooked on long distance trails. I’m just about to set off on the Dales Way again. This time in a series of day walks with a friend. And as we trudge our way down into Dentdale at the end of Day 5 I’ll be keeping an eye open for farm kids. I’ll give them a wave and I’ll tell them it is fun – really it is.