Looking back at photos taken during my recent sojourn in the Yorkshire Dales it struck me how much I had managed to cram in. Admittedly my nine days coincided with the Grassington Festival but all the same this is a region that can’t fail to leave a rich and positive lasting impression. Here are some images that sum up my visit.
OK, technically I stayed in Threshfield a 5 minute walk over the bridge spanning the river Wharfe but Grassington served up that quaint Yorkshire charm typical to most Dales villages.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t perfect. The mobile phone reception was better in the surrounding hills then in the top half of Grassington. But that rather misses the point of this part of the world.
For most visitors at least it is all about getting away from the intrusions of modern life.
The Grassington festival offered up a broad range of high quality entertainment but despite the scale of the event it remained a wonderfully friendly and organic affair. This was in large due to local organisation and participation.
Aside from my previously described dry stone walling experience I attended a film screening in the local church presented by the vicar.
At the town hall I saw the remarkably talented Alan Barnes jazz band. Alan spent four years playing in Humph Lyttleton’s band and his star studded line-up included Alec Dankworth one of the best double bass players anywhere. Later that week at the same venue Spiers and Boden delivered an amazing folk set. I harangued Jon Spiers afterwards and he said he loved playing the gig and was less looking forward to playing Glastonbury two days later
A fringe line-up of events included the likes of Jen Armstrong & band at the Black Horse. Gutsy, bold and fun, Jen had an incredible voice and a strong presence.
- Pubs and Beer
Speaking of pubs if like me you love old pubs then Yorkshire is indeed God’s own county. Almost every village is home to some ancient stone hostelry serving decent ale and food.
If I had to choose a favourite it might just be the incomparable Green Dragon at Hardraw. As you enter this timeless haunt it is like walking into a cave because the lights are turned out in the daytime and it is very dark inside. Then finally when your eyes adjust you are greeted by a scene from the 19th century.
And it’s not just the interior – there is a pungent burnt wood smell courtesy of the open fire that I can smell right now two weeks later. Then there’s the beer – anyone for the sensational Wensleydale Dark Dub Oatmeal Stout?!!! Oh, and there’s an amazing waterfall out back too.
But there are plenty of other charismatic and quirky ale houses.
One rainy day I visited the modern Copper Dragon brewery in Skipton. Another local brewery producing great beer albeit in a suburban industrial estate. Here are some of the lovely (mostly local) ales that I sampled during my stay.
Black Sheep Rigwelter
Moorhouses Pendle Witches Brew
Dark Horse Hetton Pale Ale
Copper Dragon Black Gold
Wensleydale Black Dub Oat Stout
My visit to Skipton was packed with memorable images, from the market lined high street to the castle, from the Craven museum to the canal-side cafes. It was refreshing to see such an untarnished centre, subtly fusing the big high street names alongside local retailers without losing the character of the place. Here are some photos I took barely 2 minutes walk from the centre
Much of the region’s past remains well-preserved. The fabulous Bolton Abbey looked a ruin from a distance but when I walked down to it there was a wedding in full swing.
Plenty of smaller churches of a similar age remain open in little villages around the Dales. I have no idea how they raise the funds to keep them watertight.
Obviously not all the old structures remain safe or habitable but they do tend to remain accessible.
- Flora and Fauna
Not that I am a flower or wildlife expert (!) but there is so much to see (and hear) in the Dales.
I have a superb book for bird identification but I’m still not sure what these white bellied fellows are.
This is the chaffinch that finished off my cream tea at Bolton Abbey.
Birds were a constant welcome feature of my walks. Swallows flew in circles around my legs by the river bank approaching Malham. Curlews swooped effortlessly over the hillside fields making a mockery of my perambulatory exertions. All welcome companions on my many varied miles.
Over the week I no longer even noticed I was going uphill as my legs just got used to the ascents. There is plenty of easy level walking if that’s what you want, or alternatively this is good cycling country.
You still have to be cautious when out and about. I wouldn’t have wanted to be walking in this.
The visibility is a must in these parts as aside from the safety factor there is so much to see. This fallen tree for instance peppered with coins. I like to think it was a perfectly healthy tree that fell as a consequence of the amount of coins people were hammering into it.
It’s not just this tree that died. My boots finally gave up the ghost after 12 years of loyal service. I had planned to visit a boot shop in Grassington after one final walk but my feet were soggy thanks to my porous ragged footwear and I was too embarrassed to enter the shop in such a state.
If there is one thing you expect from the Yorkshire Dales it is that perfect English landscape.
The scenery provides an elusive blend of severity with pastoral beauty.
It is an ancient landscape still scarred by glaciers from the last ice age.
And yet mans influence upon the land feels like a natural extension of natures work
Later, when the sun sets, the low light casts the surroundings in another light altogether.
This week-long dalliance with a place that ought only to exist in the mind has come to an end for me.
And the beauty is that it’s little more than 2 hours from home. Perfect even for a weekend then. But you will want to stay longer…