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.

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.