Walking on the radio

Looking across Nidderdale from the Nidderdale Way.

I’ve been out for the day with Clare Balding again, for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ programme.  Last time, her producer Lucy was looking for a local rambler to lead the Ripon to Ripley section of the Jarrow March, and she ended up with me.  Last time, as the walk finished we fell to talking about local long distance walks, such as The Nidderdale Way.

And lo!  Now they have a six-programme series in the bag, waiting to be transmitted in May and June, on …… the Nidderdale Way, all 53 miles of it.  She invited me to be part of the last leg, together with Chris and John.

Let me tell you how it works.  We walk.  We chat.  Lucy walks beside us with her muff-on-a-stick, recording little and often.  Clare stops from time to time and paints evocative word pictures of the scenery, the sights, smells and sounds, the passers by.  She chats to us about everything from geology, to history, to walking, to long-lost industries, to living near Nidderdale.

Lucy records Clare describing the countryside.

We see our local landscape through fresh eyes.  Instead of its being the backdrop to our daily lives, it becomes vivid again, and we remember the wonder and the intense pleasure we experienced when it was new to us too.

Lucy pursues John for a soundbite at Brimham Rocks.

Clare loves people.  At Brimham Rocks, where we insisted she take a detour, she chatted to children with their families and took part in their photos.  Later, she hung over a drystone walls and talked to a farmer.  She patted dogs and enjoyed a few moments with their owners.

Clare even interviewed this pig. Well, she grunted for her, anyway.

Just as well she’s good at this sort of thing.  When we arrived at Pateley Bridge, she became a sort of stand-in for the Queen.  She was whisked from shop to shop, always leaving with a little local speciality -a pork pie, some home-made fudge.  With Lucy, she was given a newly-minted badge for completing the entire Nidderdale Way.  They got flowers, a book by a local historian, hugs and handshakes galore, and repaid all this attention with genuine interest and friendship.  Pateley Bridge by the way is in the thick of preparing for the Tour de Yorkshire 2017, which goes through the town – and past our front door – on Saturday 29th April.

Flowers, badges, and a round of applause for Lucy and Clare.

Please listen to this series when it comes out: it’s available as a podcast even if you don’t live in the UK.  The first programme will be on BBC Radio 4 on  18th May, and the programme featuring our team will be transmitted on Thursday 22nd June.  You’ll make immediate plans for a holiday in Nidderdale after you’ve listened.

The shadow of a drystone wall on a stretch of road near Blazefield.

Snapshot Saturday: Brimham Rocks – securely unchanging in inconstant times

Once, three hundred and twenty million years ago, a Norwegian river tumbled its way across the landmass then connecting it to Scotland and turned towards Yorkshire, pushing sand and grit before it.  Over the millennia, those sands aggregated to become millstone grit.

More millennia passed. Temperatures in Northern Europe tumbled: an Ice Age.  Glaciers ground and eroded the relatively soft stone which had been dumped so many centuries before. Seeping water froze, thawed, froze again, splitting the rocks.  Cold strong winds buffeted away at rough edges. Those rocks assumed strange shapes, balancing improbably in the landscape.

Time moved on.  Man arrived, farming too, and industry.  But this little patch of Yorkshire, known as Brimham Rocks remains itself, untamable, unchanging, offering a feeling of security that some things remain constant for those of us lucky enough to live nearby this weird and fantastical playground.

This is my contribution to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Security

Snapshot Saturday: It’s easy being green … when it’s this wet

It wasn’t our best walk.  Chris and I set off to ‘do’ part of the Nidderdale Way on Thursday.  Thursday was fine.  Wednesday hadn’t been.  Nor had Tuesday.  There’s been an awful lot of rain lately.

Even as we started out, we realised that mud was to be our constant companion.  And water, trickling along slippery, sticky oozy paths.  We forded streams which according to the map simply didn’t exist.  If we wanted to go onwards, we had to wade through running water, or totter across from unsteady stepping stone to unsteadier fallen branch.

It was tiring.  Finding not-too-soggy resting places was challenging too. We had our sandwiches in a wood alongside what should have been a babbling brook, but was in fact a raging torrent.

A normally quiet woodland stream.

And that’s when I noticed these stones – and trees.  I’d expect boulders and branches like these to have a few tendrils of dry ash-grey lichen clinging to their surface. Instead they were thickly carpeted in vivid green. These specimens (and I don’t know what they are, despite a spot of Googling) were healthy, fecund and spreading very nicely thank you.  It’s easy being green in such a damp, shaded and sheltered environment.

This is my response to this week’s WordPress photo challenge: It IS easy being green!

The green pastures of Nidderdale.

Time travelling to the past in Nidderdale.

If you come for your holidays to Nidderdale in the Yorkshire Dales – and my goodness, I do recommend it – you’ll want to have an afternoon pottering around Pateley Bridge.  It’s just won Britain’s Best Village High Street 2016 award.

Pateley Bridge High Street (geograph.co.uk via Wikimedia Commons)

And if you come to Pateley Bridge, you jolly well ought to visit Nidderdale Museum.  Tucked behind the High Street near the Primary School and the Parish Church on the site of the former Workhouse,  it’s a little treasure trove.

A photo in the museum collection of Pateley Bridge High Street in the very early twentieth century.

This little museum is entirely staffed by volunteers who cherish each donation and display as many as they possibly can in an engaging and informative way.  You’ll punctuate your visit with delighted cries of ‘I remember that!  My granny had one!’  Or ‘Oooh, I never knew the railway went there.  I wonder where the station was?’. You’ll have an animated discussion with a fellow-visitor about being an ink-monitor at school, or about the mangle that was hauled out on washdays when you were a small child.

You’ll also see things that were not part of your own heritage, but which were an important part of Nidderdale’s past. You’ll discover that this pleasant rural area was once an industrial power-house, with textile workers by the score and lead mines dotted over the landscape. You’ll be reminded how very tough day-to-day life was on a Daleside small holding or farm.

Here’s a very quick tour:

We had a Ewbank carpet sweeper at home … and this splendid bed-warmer, simply heated by a light bulb … and a cream-maker.

We had inkwells like this at school, and I spent many painful hours in the company of copy books like these.

But look at this parlour:

I don't quite remember a room like this.
I don’t quite remember a room like this.

And this wholly intact cobbler’s shop, transferred to the Museum in its entirety.

I definitely remember a cobbler's shop like this.
I definitely remember a cobbler’s shop like this.

And here’s a glimpse of life on the farm, before labour-saving machinery came along.

Tools both heavy and huge in use on the farm.
Tools both heavy and huge in use on the farm.

We’ll be going again and again.  So much to see, to reminisce over, to learn from.  This engaging museum is a treasure in its own right.

My visit was one of the perks of being a National Trust volunteer. Brimham Rocks is Fountains Abbey’s nearest neighbour, and staff there organised this trip – thank you!  The museum is open at weekends until mid-March, then daily during summer months.  

The Greasy Spoon

As you travel Britain’s main roads, every few miles or so you’ll pass a convenient lay-by with a caravan, a shack, a portakabin – some less-than-permanent structure which has actually been there as long as anyone can remember.  Parked outside it are lorries, vans, cars – all empty, because their drivers are in the Greasy Spoon – that’s what these huts and caravans are affectionately called.

The unchanging menu at the greasy spoon.
The unchanging menu at the Greasy Spoon.

These truckers and travellers have gone in for an all-day breakfast.  The menu’s limited.  All that’s on offer are various combinations of bacon, sausage, eggs – with baked beans, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms or bread on the side.  This is not Fine Dining.  The bread served here is not artisan-crafted from some small bakery using speciality organic stone-ground flour from the mill down the road.  It’s industrial strength pre-sliced pap.  I doubt if the pigs used for the sausages and bacon have truffled around in the woods looking for acorns, or been fed wholesome scraps from the farm. The baked beans come in catering-size cans.

One bacon sarnie.
One bacon sarnie.

But we’ve got into the habit, when the boys stay with us, of having lunch at a particular greasy spoon near Skipton.  What it lacks in finesse it makes up for by offering a really friendly welcome and rock-bottom prices.  We make our order, plonk ourselves down at one of the formica tables, and relish a rib-sticking calorie-fest which will keep our stomachs lined for an afternoon of fresh air and fun at nearby Brimham Rocks.  It comes under the heading of ‘Naughty but Nice.’*

Here we are.  Open dining at the Dalesway caff.  Only it was way too cold.  Everyone was inside that day in the fuggy warmth.
Here’s Alex showing off the open dining area at the Dalesway caff. Only it was way too cold. Everyone was inside that day in the fuggy warmth.

*Salman Rushdie coined this advertising slogan for Fresh Cream Cakes when he was working as a copywriter back in the 1970s.  Warning: Don’t Google this phrase unless you are on the look-out for sex toys or ‘adult-themed materials’.  You have been warned.

If it’s Tuesday, it must be…. Yorkshire.

Goodness me.  Christine and Max, our French friends from our days in Laroque arrived on Saturday, and it’s only Tuesday today.  Look what we’ve crammed in….

An orientation session in Nidderdale, taking in a few views….

The view from Middlesmoor, Nidderdale.
The view from Middlesmoor, Nidderdale.

A peaceful morning at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal……

Fountains Abbey.
Fountains Abbey.

A visit to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salts Mill in Saltaire……

Salts Mill, Saltaire (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Salts Mill, Saltaire (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

…. where we enjoyed David Hockney’s Arrival of Spring exhibition, featuring the Yorkshire Wolds…

David Hockney at Salts Mill.
David Hockney at Salts Mill.

The Five Rise locks at Bingley: a narrowboat was making its slow upward progress through the five locks as we arrived…

All five of the Five Rise locks at Bingley.
All five of the Five Rise locks at Bingley.

A mooch round Haworth, home to the Brontë sisters….

Peeking through a doorway in Haworth.
Peeking through a doorway in Haworth.

And views, views, always vast, always bounded by drystone walls, always different.

Countryside near Keighley.
Countryside near Keighley.

We’re having a rest tomorrow.

Another day, another view

I’m not so blinkered as to believe that Yorkshire has all the best bits of scenery.  I’ve had days to recharge the soul in every English county from south to north, from west to east, enjoying stirring uplands, gentle verdant hillsides, sky-filled flatlands, slowly-flowing rivers and tranquilly tinkling streams, and the constantly-changing views from the beach at the seaside.

All the same, what we saw whilst out walking today gave every picture postcard of anywhere outside the Yorkshire Dales a run for its money.

John's view of Yorkshire, as described on his T shirt, is the correct one.
John’s view of Yorkshire, as described on his T-shirt, is the correct one.

From Pateley Bridge, set in the heart of Nidderdale (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), we energetically panted and clambered through Guisecliff Wood, whilst looking down at the village of Glasshouses below.  We emerged, puffing for breath at the top, One way, we could look across the Daleside landscape of ancient field systems and stone-built settlements, to the vale of York beyond.

Looking across towards the Dales.
Looking across towards the Dales.

The other way were the moors, no longer bleak, because this is heather time.  We breathed in the intoxicating smell that I like to buy potted up as rich, almost peaty flavoured heather honey. We stared, almost mesmerised at those carpets of blooms stretching away from us, mile after mile: not lilac, not lavender, not violet nor damson – simply that special low-key subtle purple that only heather can deliver.

Marching through the heather.
Marching through the heather.

Past Yorke’s Folly: it’s said it was built in 1810, commissioned by the local landowner, John Yorke of Bewerley Hall, who was casting about for some means to keep his labourers in employment in a time of economic depression.  These men received a shilling and a loaf of bread a day for their efforts.

Yorke's Folly: a resting place for weary walkers to enjoy the view.
Yorke’s Folly: a resting place for weary walkers to enjoy the view.

Then it was back to woodland again – very English woodland, with a full green canopy, not yet ready to turn to autumnal colours.  Skrikes Wood, Nought Bank, Fishpond Wood.

Skrikes Wood.
Skrikes Wood.

Then back along a few final paths before returning to Pateley, and a very welcome pub lunch.

The final furlong.
The final furlong.