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In Wainwright’s Bootsteps

Map (c) Kim Ralls

 

When I started walking Alfred Wainwright was a name that I was always familiar with, but I had never really paid much attention to his work until I found out he had written two of his pictorial guides covering the Howgill Fells and the countryside around the Three Peaks. I bought copies of both books (second hand as they appear to, sadly, be out of print) and instantly fell in love with his style of writing and, of course, the maps he drew with such detail and accuracy. I’ve followed two of his walks so far, the ascent of Winder and the walk to Yordas Cave, and was eager to try a third. This might be seen as lazy as opposed to finding and writing about walks of my own, but I wanted to see if I could actually complete one of his walks using nothing but the map in the book and his information. The fact is that the books were written in the 70s and, whilst the landscape changes relatively slowly, I was curious to see if there was any change. I mean, the books were out of print; was that because they were no longer valid, or was there simply no interest in them? As will be seen from this walk, the latter is the most likely reason and I think this is incredibly sad. His books are beautiful and while the volumes focusing on the Lakeland fells are his best known, the two volumes I have in my possession are just as valid and the walks just as fascinating.

1. Howgill Lane, Sedbergh (c) Kim Ralls

As with my ascent of Winder, this walk begins in the centre of Sedbergh and follows Howgill Lane up towards Lockbank Farm and its tempting sign directing unsuspecting walkers further along the road to the local ice-cream parlour. What cunning fiends these people are!

I resisted temptation (barely) and made my way through the farmyard and up beyond the boundary wall onto the slopes of the fells. My target for today was the next peak along from Winder, called Arant Haw and pronounced, I assume, as you would read it. If I ever find I am in error, I shall let you know and update this post accordingly. With the sun beating down on the back of my head it promised to be a similar day to my last trip; fluffy clouds scudding across a pale blue sky and the impossible quiet of the fells broken only by the gentle breeze or the occasional sheep calling to the rest of the flock. The summer had been very dry so far and the ground beneath my feet was soft and dusty and made the first few feet of the climb a little tough on the backs of the legs.

2. The only way is up (c) Kim Ralls

The flank of Winder is covered in bracken at this time of year, lush green in colour and standing out in stark contrast to the grass bleached brown by weeks of constant sunshine. The few sheep I had seen so far had obviously been newly-clipped and were looking very embarrassed about the whole affair, similar to the way people say how much they love the travesty the hairdresser has just visited upon them even though, deep down, it is gnawing away at their very soul.

The first part of the climb was old territory to me, having come down this way from the summit of Winder, and I kept wondering if I was just repeating the photographs from that previous walk. Of course, the big difference was that I had a few more lenses this time around and spent most of the time with a 28mm lens on my camera instead of the old 18-55mm zoom. Just having a different lens on the camera changes how you take a photo – different lenses having their own strengths and weaknesses – and today I had the advantage of the clouds drifting over the landscape and changing the light from one moment to the next.

3. Looking back (c) Kim Ralls

At long last I reached the top of the first climb and paused to catch my breath whilst looking at the cross-roads of two paths; the path I was on went straight ahead, whilst the other wound up from the East end of Settle, passed Settlebeck Gill and up towards the summit of Winder. After the days of hot sunshine, there was no sound from the gill and, if I’d taken the time to climb down to it, I’ve no doubt I would have found a dry bed where normally a brisk stream flows.

The path climbs gently towards the ridge that connects Winder and Arant Haw and in the distance I could see people on bicycles making their way up the slopes of the latter, though why you would want to cycle up these fells is beyond me. The idea of exerting yourself needlessly in order to reach the summits of these fells is something I will never understand; Wainwright mentions the Three Peaks Walk in his book Walks In Limestone Country, even going so far as to provide his own exquisite maps for walkers to follow, but from reading his introduction to the walk you get the idea that he had no time for people whose only goal was to complete the challenge solely for the bragging rights. My own opinion is that a walk, any walk, should be undertaken with the simple goal of enjoying the journey and the views along the way.

One of the reasons I adore walking in the Howgills so much is that the ground underfoot is beautifully soft and springy and, as Wainwright himself says, “a pair of boots would last a lifetime if all fell walking was like this”. Indeed, for those like me who don’t own a set of proper walking boots (mine are more trainers, than boots) the ground on these fells is a positive boon compared to the solid ground of the Yorkshire Dales where a pair of soft soles means you feel every bit of stone and grit and, by journey’s end, the feet feel raw with blisters.

4. Arant Haw (c) Kim Ralls

From the path along the ridge, Arant Haw doesn’t look all that impressive, even though it is nearly another five hundred feet higher than Winder at 1989 feet and its gentle curves disguise a relatively steep ascent. Indeed, the last few hundred feet were incredibly hard work for someone as unfit as myself – I was made to feel even more feeble by a couple just north of middle age who all but scampered passed me with a smile and a cheery ‘hello!’

In my defence I will say that looking at them I reckon I weighed more than both of them combined.

I staggered on up the hill, stopping frequently to get my breath and to enjoy the sheer beauty of the vistas on all sides; the summit to the North, the smaller summit of Crook to the East, Winder and Sedbergh to the South and, best of all, the deep valley of the Crosedale Beck to the West that opens out onto the rolling countryside of the Lune Valley and the beginning of the Lakeland Fells. The shadows of clouds slid gracefully over the land and the breeze began to pick up, providing some much-needed relief from the heat of the morning sun.

5. Looking West (c) Kim Ralls

Although the final climb is quite steep, it is mercifully short and the view from the summit is more than worth the effort. I could try to describe it to you, but I think the best option is to let the images (an admittedly poor substitute) speak for themselves.

6. The summit (c) Kim Ralls
7. Brown Moor (c) Kim Ralls

My original plan, as with Winder, was to use the summit as the half-way mark and stop for a bite to eat before carrying on. However, it was a little early and I wasn’t actually feeling that hungry, so I decided to carry on a little way until my stomach told me it was time to stop. There was only one small problem, though. Wainwright’s map showed the path going off to the West and down a ridge to Nab and then down to the boundary wall and back to Sedbergh. All well and good, except the OS map showed no such path and so I would have to rely on a forty year-old hand-drawn map and hope the landscape hadn’t changed too much in the intervening years.

8. Middle Tongue (c) Kim Ralls

To my eye there was a faint path down the ridge and I followed it hoping that it wasn’t about to fail me or, worse, end in an insurmountable drop. The good news is that the descent was proving to be a lot easier than the ascent, the turf lovely and soft beneath my feet and a cool breeze clearing the hot air. I even started singing quietly to myself at one point, so enjoyable was the experience (it was an old Norfolk folk song called Barton Broad Ditty, if anyone’s interested). These really are the epitome of the term ‘rolling hills’ and, amazingly, Wainwright’s forty year-old map proved far truer than I could have expected. I always try to make my own maps as accurate as possible, but I am no artist and cannot hold a candle to the master in whose bootsteps I was following. Above the boundary wall the fells are open access and so, technically, a walker can go wherever he or she feels able. That said, it is best to stick to the footpaths, whether OS or Wainwright, as the slopes can look a lot gentler than they are. Walking down the ridge I was cognisant of the very large drops on either side of the path; not good for someone who’s a little nervous when it comes to heights.

9. The way down (c) Kim Ralls

Talking of deceptive slopes, the above photo doesn’t quite convey just how steep the descent becomes beyond the fell known as Nab. At times I half-expected to end up slipping and sliding to the bottom on my backside but I made it to the raucous cries of the sheep who had watched my descent with a certain amount of bored disinterest until I came near enough to spook them.

10. What’s so funny? (c) Kim Ralls

At the bottom of Nab I sat on a convenient rock and broke out my sandwiches. After so much scrambling I was more than a little peckish, though I was a little nervous as a red kite and pair of buzzards began to circle above: were they after my ham sarnies?

Actually, joking aside, it was a delight to see the birds above especially as they don’t seem as common around my own neighbourhood and to see three at once was completely unexpected. I tried to change the lens on my camera in time to take a couple of photos, but by the time I had wrestled the telephoto from my camera bag and attached it to the camera, the birds were long gone. Oh well, I was certain there would be chances on other walks. At that moment I was happy enough with having achieved my goal and more than a little grateful that Wainwright’s map had proven accurate after so many years. The landscape of the Dales is still virtually unchanged from the days of James Herriot, but old maps and footpaths still have to be updated every now and then. Paths erode and new walls are put up and old ones taken down. In an open area like the Howgills, such changes are unlikely but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Anyway, I finished my lunch and hauled myself to my feet, the rock was actually quite comfortable and I was reluctant to leave. But I needed to finish the walk and still, according to the map, had a fair way to go.

The path slopes down towards the boundary wall where it crosses the Crosedale Beck via a ford next to an old sheepfold that is also mentioned on Wainwright’s map.

11. Sheepfold (c) Kim Ralls

Beyond the sheepfold you can see the summit of Arant Haw and even, if you look closely, a bird of prey that refused to come closer to have its picture taken. As I carried on, I heard the unmistakable cry of a buzzard in the air above and this time I had my long lens on the camera in time as it glided straight overhead. I snapped away and hoped that at least one of the photos would come out in focus. Zoomed in to 210mm I had a fantastic view of the bird, though what I really wanted was for it to come low enough so that I could get some hills or trees in the background for a little context.

12. Buzzard (c) Kim Ralls

It wasn’t one of the easiest subjects I’ve tried to photograph, but I at least managed to get a couple of shots with the birds feathers illuminated by the sun. Realising that I was taking too long photographing the buzzard, I turned and headed on with a certain amount of reluctance. However, I did take one last shot that probably ranks near the top of the best photos I’ve taken.

13. Buzzard Express (c) Kim Ralls

It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photo on the computer that I realised I had photographed the train as well. Some people have suggested that I crop the photo to make the bird bigger, but I prefer this angle because although the bird is quite small the rest of the photo presents it in context and the angle of the sun meant that the bird is quite distinct.

My mission accomplished, I carried on through a bracken-lined path along the boundary wall.

14. Looking back towards Brown Moor (c) Kim Ralls

The breeze had died down by this time and the heat was beginning to build once more. I passed a gate opening onto a short track that led down towards Howgill Lane and I was tempted to follow it and get my feet on terra firma once more, if only to save me from the scramble that was to come. But, being a stickler for such things, I decided to stay on Wainwright’s path and follow it back to town. Unfortunately, I managed to miss the path as it plunged into the bracken and, to make my life easier, I thought it would be a simple matter of following the boundary wall until I came back to Lockbank Farm. A perfectly reasonable assumption, you might say, except that I had to slip and slide down a steep gully where a small stream had carved its way down through the rock.

15. Rock climbing, anyone? (c) Kim Ralls

In order to spare anyone from repeating my mistake, I’ve traced the correct path on my map rather than the route I actually took. Mercifully I was able to re-join the correct path, overgrown as it was with bracken that in places was up to my chest. The gate to Lockbank Farm was certainly a sight for sore eyes and I made my weary way back into town, once again noting that poor planning meant I didn’t have any change for the ice-cream parlour advertised on the farm gate. One day I shall sample its delights, but this wasn’t to be the day. Although I try to vary the entries in this blog, I can promise that I shall be returning to the Howgills as often as I can, such is the beauty of this part of the world. The Lakes and the Dales are the more popular destinations for walkers in the North, but there is something about the Howgills that draws me back; not just the beauty of the land, but the feeling that you are cutting all ties with civilisation as you roam the hills with nothing but an OS map, a bottle of water and the occasional Facebook update – how on earth do I manage to get 4G in the middle of nowhere?

Under Ground, Over Ground – Part Two

Map (c) Kim Ralls

Click here to read Part One

I passed a couple of walkers scrambling up the hill and swapped a quiet greeting before we went our separate, sweat-drenched ways. The slope down to Yordas Wood felt steeper than the climb at the beginning of the walk and I didn’t envy these people their exertions, especially under a July sun that was feeling hotter every moment. As I passed the wood itself I could hear the sound of a small stream tumbling over rocks and I wondered how accessible the cave would be. A little online research had informed me that, in times of heavy rainfall, the cave can flood to the point where it isn’t safe to enter, though after several weeks of almost no rain I doubted I would have any problems. In fact, I imagined that the worst I would have to deal with would be whether there was anywhere comfortable to sit and eat my sandwiches and assuage my grumbling stomach.

9. Kingsdale (c) Kim Ralls

The sky was beginning to fill with clouds and the view was beginning to look a little more photogenic. I will never think of the Yorkshire Dales as anything less than beautiful – which is a good thing considering that I’ve made them my home – and even in times of bad weather there is beauty to be found. What I love most of all, however, are the constant surprises. By that I mean the frequent times when I’ve gone for a walk and found a new vista or a new path to explore even in places I thought I knew intimately. Even waking on a morning and seeing Pen Hill bathed in sunlight or speckled with the shadows of passing clouds is an experience that has never dulled in the fifteen years I’ve lived beneath its slopes.

After much slipping and scrambling I left the path to cut over to a gate in the wall that surrounds Yordas Wood. The cave mouth is low with a slightly offset rectangle shape and only a few paces inside the light fails and you find yourself surrounded by darkness and the sound of the stream echoing around. I had brought my headlamp with me, but even with it on full beam I could not see the far wall of the main gallery where I found myself. Dancing in and out of the stream’s echoes were the sounds of people in another gallery somewhere. I found a level part of the floor to set my camera bag on and set up my camera on its tripod with the timer set to two seconds. I had brought my flashgun and set it up in what’s called optical slave mode. This is a mode that uses another flash firing as a signal to fire itself. I had the built-in flash on my camera set up and experimented with different settings to try to illuminate the cave enough for a decent photo; using the two flashes meant that I had more light to illuminate the cave in addition to using a thirty second shutter speed. Not knowing the size of the cave, I could only guess at the focus and so the one image that I’m remotely happy with is slightly out of focus because of this. I include it as a crude attempt to illustrate the wonder of the cave.

10. Yordas Cave (c) Kim Ralls

Indeed, I’m planning another visit to this cave one day so that I can explore more than just the main gallery and, hopefully, I’ll be able to take my time and come back with a far more impressive set of photographs. As with the photo of Rowton Pot, had I thought things through I might have stood in front of the camera myself or, at the very least, left my bag in shot to give a sense of scale. Obviously it wasn’t my day for great ideas.

Whilst I was in the middle of my experiments a group of school kids in full caving attire came out of a tunnel. They and the adults accompanying them seemed a little perplexed at the sight of a man in a t-shirt taking photos of the cave. I smiled and tried to look natural, though I think the effect may have been spoilt by several drops of water choosing that moment to fall from the roof and run down my face. They left the cave and I followed shortly afterwards, deciding that I probably wasn’t going to explore any further that day and wanting to get back to town to make sure the car hadn’t been clamped.

The kids and adults seemed even more perplexed when I went back into the cave to retrieve the pair of sunglasses that had fallen from my shirt pocket and were, mercifully, easy to find (not to mention intact).

I found a comfortable rock outside the cave and sat down with my ham sandwiches and the last of the orange squash I’d brought to quench my thirst on the walk. The kids and adults left with a few puzzled looks thrown my way, though one of the adults stopped to ask if I was going back in.

“I’m not really dressed for it,” I said.

“Well, if you go upstream you’ll be alright in your walking boots.”

Aha! I thought, at least I know I can go a little further next time.

My lunch finished, I got to my feet and felt the aches all down my legs from the day’s exertions. I could feel the beginnings of blisters on my feet and I made a mental note to investigate some replacements boots in the near future because the soles of my current pair were feeling uncomfortably thin for long walks. Of course, they’ve walked a good few miles over the years, so it’s only to be expected that they’ve been worn down a little.

I walked down the road, the tarmac feeling strange after so long walking on grass and earth and waved at the kids in their minibus as they roared off towards Ingleton followed by a white hatchback driven by one of the adults, who I assume was a caving instructor based on the amount of kit he had in the back of his car.

11. The road down Kingsdale (c) Kim Ralls

The roadside was covered in wildflowers and the constant drone of bees and other insects had a soporific effect on me so that I felt as though my feet were walking of their own accord and I was merely a passenger watching the view with heavy-lidded eyes. A gentle breeze blew and woke me from my half-sleep in time to take a few snaps of insects feeding on the flowers. Indeed, I was beginning to worry at the lack of photos on this walk even though I knew I was going to following part of the waterfall trail and would undoubtedly find a few scenes to shoot on that path.

12. Lunch time (c) Kim Ralls

I saw quite a few insects and butterflies that I didn’t recognise as I walked – the butterflies refusing to settle long enough for me to take a photograph – and my long lens saw quite a bit of use as I tried to get the right distance and focus.

13. Does my bumble look big in this? (c) Kim Ralls

The strangest feature on this walk was the Kingsdale Beck, a dry riverbed that looks almost manmade, were it not for the winding course it follows down towards Twistleton Scars and the end of the Dale. It eventually joins the River Twiss that flows down into the glen that forms part of the waterfall trail. Walking alongside the water I felt the urge to sit down and bathe my feet for a few minutes to ease the aches. It’s been quite some time since I last did a walk of this length and I was feeling considerably out of shape and practice. But time was marching on and I felt obliged to do likewise if only in the hope of getting back to the car park before a traffic warden decided to look at the ticket inside my windscreen and do their duty.

At this point I was beginning to feel almost faint from thirst, my drinks bottle clattering emptily from where I’d hung it on my camera bag. My first thought was that at least there would be somewhere in town where I could buy a bottle of water to quench my thirst. My second was is that really an ice-cream van?

14. Expect the unexpected (c) Kim Ralls

I had just enough change for a bottle of coke and cider-flavoured lolly and suffered an almost instant case of brain-freeze as I devoured my purchases so greedily you’d have thought I hadn’t eaten for a week.

Leaving the ice-cream van behind, I followed the path down a flight of steps to the River Twiss and the first of the waterfalls. Even after a drink and an ice-lolly I was starting to feel the heat again and the constant sound of flowing water was a trial to resist. There were even people swimming in one of the pools and I so desperately wanted to join them (without my camera, before anyone mentions it). As I walked my legs began to feel weak and I had to stop a few times to rub a little life back into them; I suppose it was a reaction to the sudden sugar rush from the drink and ice-lolly, though I certainly needed the energy at that point.

15. Pecca Falls (c) Kim Ralls

One thing I love more than a good cave is a good waterfall and, as the name implies, this part of the walk has them in abundance. I lost count of the number of times I had to squeeze passed fellow walkers taking photos with DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones, always being careful not to get in the way of their shots. It’s a testament to the people who maintain the trail that this was one of the easiest stretches of path on the entire walk, though there are a few vertigo-inducing moments when the fence fails and you are left walking along the edge of a significant drop into the gorge below. I can only say that I was relieved when the path eventually petered out a foot or two above the river and I could relax a little. My legs were still feeling a little wobbly, but as I checked my progress on the OS map on my phone I felt better as I approached the end of the walk with a definite sense of achievement. I could have included more photographs of the waterfalls (I certainly included plenty in my post Searching For The Ingleborough Giant which takes in the other half of the waterfall trail), but I’ve come to consider that tantamount to film spoilers posted online. Yes, we all want to know how the film pans out, but we’d prefer to find out for ourselves.

I arrived in the waterfall trail car park and decided to be honest and confess to the men in the ticket office that I had not, in fact, paid for entry. I mentioned that I had only done half the walk and they were kind enough to only charge me half-price, saying that most people aren’t nearly so honest (I get the feeling a good many simply walk out nonchalantly in the hopes that no one stops them). I walked as fast as my tired feet would allow to the pay and display car park expecting to see a clamp around one of the wheels of my car. Thankfully, I had escaped the notice of the traffic wardens (if, indeed, there are any in Ingleton) and I drove home under the afternoon sun with Richard Thompson on the radio singing about life, death and motorbikes.

Under Ground, Over Ground – Part One

Map (c) Kim Ralls

 

Giants seem to figure prominently in the folklore of Britain; the stories of Tom Hickathrift (East Anglia), Bendigeidfran (Wales), Gog and Magog (London) to name a few. Now, I love a good folk tale and whilst looking through Alfred Wainwright’s book Walks in Limestone Country, I came upon a route that took in Yordas Cave, a small system in the slopes below Whernside, the tallest of the Three Peaks. Further investigation unearthed the story that the cave was supposedly named after a local giant called Yordas who had a predilection for catching and eating the local children (anybody else notice an absence of vegetarian or vegan giants?)

Wainwright’s notes indicate that the cave is fairly easy to explore for the non-caving type and my imagination was fired. I’m sure Sigmund Fraud would have posited that this was some deep-seated desire to return to the womb, but I happen to like caves. The limestone hills of the Yorkshire Dales are chock full of caves and galleries eroded by rainfall and underground streams and there are a number of show caves that are worth a visit. Despite being on private land, the cave is open to public access with the proviso that people behave responsibly (that’s me out, then).

I drove over to Ingleton on a bright sunny morning and parked in the pay and display car park. I only had enough for a four hour ticket, but looking at the map I estimated that I would be back with time to spare – if I didn’t spend too much time on detours. I could have parked in the Ingleton Waterfall Trail car park, especially as the route takes in half of the trail, but I’ll admit I just didn’t think of it at the time. Another instance of a lack of planning was the fact that I had left my spare camera batteries at home and the battery in the camera only had half a charge left in it. I prayed fervently that the hot weather would induce it to last until the end of the walk.

1. The beginning of the footpath (c) Kim Ralls

At the entrance to the Waterfall Trail car park there is a signpost to Thornton Hall and a gravel track that leads up to an open area and a metal kissing gate that leads into a verdant pasture. Under the trees it was blissfully cool and there was a beautiful view of Twistleton Scars and the lower slopes of Whernside in the distance. To my left I could see a clump of trees and, nestled in the middle, the spire of a small church. From where I stood it looked like it might even be in ruins and I swapped my wide-angle lens for a telephoto so I could have a closer view. Naturally I was tempted to take a detour and see if it really was a ruin, but common sense prevailed and I carried on up a gentle incline crossing two more fields before joining Thornton Lane.

2. The Church (c) Kim Ralls

 

Thornton Lane runs along the bottom of the dale towards Whernside and my route followed it a short distance, climbing all the while. With the sun burning the back of my neck I was, not for the first time, regretting that I’d left my hat in the car. Well, it was too late to go back for it now and so I turned the collar of my shirt up for a little protection; I’d hardly covered any distance and already the sweat was pouring off me. I’m all for a pretty walk under the summer sun, but by the time I reached the point where I had to leave the road and start climbing, I was beginning to question my own common sense.

The path wound up through green grass fading to brown under the sun and the fields and hills had the look of felt covered in dust. Either side of the path I could see dips and hollows in the ground, shake holes caused by water eroding the limestone under the surface. Farmers in the Dales are used to losing sheep when the animals have wondered into a shake hole and fallen through into the darkness below. Above all else, this is why I make a point of emphasising that walkers should always stick to the paths on these walks. Not only does it avoid angering the farmers and landowners, but it is also a matter of personal safety.

Anyway, moving onto lighter matters, the path ascends in a series of short inclines interspersed by plateaus that allows the legs to have a little rest. To the right there are the limestone scars that form the slopes of the intriguingly-named Gragareth. I’ve been unable to discover the origin of the name, though I suspect its roots are in the days of the Danish occupation in the Dark Ages, like so many of the other place and hill names in the area.

Before the path turns to the right, I had to stop and photograph the view across the lower hills and fells towards a mass of blue peaks in the distance lying under a blanket of soft-looking clouds.

3. Looking across the fells (c) Kim Ralls

I followed the path up once more, my boots scrunching on dried grass in a sea of sandy brown dotted with the occasional clump of purple-headed thistles that provided the only splashes of colour. I could hear bees and other insects around me and every now and then a butterfly would flit across my path too fast for me to bring my camera to bare. I’ve started using some old Minolta lenses with my DSLR and, if I’m honest, I prefer them to their modern equivalents. Yes, there is no auto-focus and I have to set the aperture manually as well, but I think the results are worth it even if it means that I’m a little slower to take a photograph. Although the feeding bee that I had intended to photograph had buzzed off once I started to raise my camera, I took the below photograph of a thistle and, I will admit, I’m quite proud of it.

4. Thistle (c) Kim Ralls

The best news for my aching legs, however, was that the footpath was about to join an old track listed on Wainwright’s map as The Turbary Road that was (mostly) level for the rest of the walk along the tops. I slackened my pace a little (I always have a tendency to race up slopes simply to get them over with) and drank in the view of Ingleborough, the hill looking like the sort of thing UFO hunters carve in their mashed potato.

5. Ingleborough (c) Kim Ralls

The valley below is called Kingsdale and, again according to Wainwright, is full of caves and pots for the intrepid caver to explore. I’m no caver, but just the names were enough to fire the imagination: Thorney Pot, Rowten Cave, Simpson’s Cave, Jingling Pot and , of course, Yordas Cave. Walking along the tops with only the sheep for company, I looked for openings in the earth to mark where these pots and caves begin. Of course, without leaving the path I saw nothing until I eventually came to the huge gaping rift of Rowton Cave. Somewhere below I could hear the gurgling and babbling of an underground stream and, based on the sound, my first thought was that this must be Jingling Pot.

6. Rowton Cave (c) Kim Ralls

Obviously, it’s hard to convey the size of the opening without anything to compare it with, but the sheep were keeping their distance and I wasn’t keen on getting too close myself. Suffice it to say that I reckon you could have fitted a bus through the opening with room to spare.

Beyond Rowton Cave was a stile into the next field and the last before I was to begin my descent. A cloud drifted across the sun briefly and the sudden cooling of the air was a welcome relief. I was glad that I didn’t have a mirror of any kind with me because I was certain my face must have been the colour of a ripe plum at that moment. The path across the next field was deeply rutted and awkward going for tired legs. The final insult, however, was the stile the farmer had erected for the use of walkers across their land.

7. You must be joking! (c) Kim Ralls

The last time I had to clamber over anything like this I was in school!

I managed it with a great deal of grunting and swearing and began the descent towards the trees that marked the location of the cave and the half-way point of the walk. For those of you wondering at the paucity of photos from the tops, I’m afraid that there are only so many photos you can take of Ingleborough. The view is breath-taking, I will admit, but it changed very little as I walked. I don’t want you to think that the walk is boring, far from it. But for a photographer it doesn’t perhaps offer as much as I had hoped when I set out. Then again, I suspect that the majority of people who go on these walks do so for the adventure and the journey and the sense of achievement when it’s all over.

This kind of philosophical musing was far from my mind as I made my slow slippery way towards the trees at the bottom of the hill. It felt good to be going downhill again and I will admit I began to feel a little excitement at the prospect of exploring the cave. There was only one problem, though. I had taken nearly three hours to get there and I knew I wasn’t going to get back before my parking ticket expired.

8. Yordas Woods – here be monsters…

Unfinished Business

Winder 001

In an earlier blog, I related my aborted first attempt to climb to the summit of Winder, the lowest of the Howgill Fells above the town of Sedbergh. Apart from the myriad footpaths leading up onto the fells, the town is also home to several second-hand bookshops and so I needed little excuse for a return visit. However, for those who haven’t read my previous post, the nub of the matter was that last time I had got lost before I’d even managed to start climbing the fell and, when I finally found the right path, slipped and twisted my knee and had to return home.

I was back. And this time it was personal.

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1. Sedbergh beneath the slopes of Winder (c) Kim Ralls

On this occasion, I had a little help in the form of Alfred Wainwright’s ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells.’ Like his Lake District guides, this book is full of his beautiful drawings and maps and although I had an OS map on my phone for backup, I used nothing but Wainwright’s own map and instructions as I began my second attempt to conquer Winder. For those of you without access to either Wainwright or a mobile-based reference, the best map for this walk is OS Explorer number OL19 ‘Howgill Fells & Upper Eden Valley.’

Roadworks on the highstreet meant that I had to park in the pay and display car park on Loftus Hill (the car park is behind me in the above picture). For those who just want to park up and start walking, a three hour ticket costs £3.00. On the other hand if, like me, you enjoy taking your time and want to have a look around the town, then it’s only £5.00 for a nine hour ticket (though I recommend checking prices before making the journey, just in case). In the absence of roadworks, there is also a pay and display car park on the high street which I have marked on the map.

Walking up past a small church on the left, I followed Howgill Lane (turn right next to the Golden Lion pub) and took a leisurely stroll along the road as a stiff breeze started to blow and I jammed my hat down on my head to stop it blowing away.

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2. Lockbank Farm (c) Kim Ralls

At the end of a row of houses, I turned right onto a farm track that took me passed a sign advertising ice-cream for sale further down the road (I must be firm! I must be firm!) and followed it through Lockbank Farm and a trio of gates onto the slopes of the fell. Above the wall that skirts the bottom of the fells, the land is open access and you can choose any of the sheep tracks you fancy. In the interests of safety, however, I would advise against it; the fells are not difficult in terms of terrain, but with few distinctive landmarks, it would be easy to become lost, especially in bad weather. Wainwright himself recommends always going out with at least one companion in case of accidents or emergencies.

I pulled Wainwright’s book from my bag and checked the route. I turned left and followed the footpath along the wall, passing a flock of sheep enjoying the shade provided by a copse of trees and looking very annoyed at me for disturbing their rest.

I reached the point where I had slipped and twisted my knee on my last visit – the ground was thankfull dry and solid under my feet this time – and climbed up steadily. In his book ‘Walks in Limestone Country,’ Wainwright mentions the Three Peaks Challenge and ‘those whose main object in walking is pleasure and to climb hills for their intrinsic merit.’ As a walker, I most certainly fall under that description and I have no interest in flogging myself to death in order to conquer a hill or peak. With that in mind, Winder is the perfect hill for me. I like to take my time and stop for photographs (far more often than is healthy, I’m sure) and to enjoy the views. After the last time I attempted to climb this fell, I was perhaps overly mindful of my knees and every twinge had me worried that I was going to have to turn back yet again.

Not that I’m paranoid, or anything.

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3. Looking across the flank of Winder (c) Kim Ralls

Reaching the top of the ridge that the the path follows to the summit, I stopped and stared for what could have been hours for all the notice I took of time.

The view of the further summits was beautiful. The slopes curved gracefully to rounded peaks covered in spring grass and tan patches where, come the autumn, bracken and gorse would sprout and provide food for the flocks of sheep left to roam freely as they please. These are not the sharp, limestone scars and crags of the Yorkshire Dales – beautiful in their own way – but rolling hills that look as if they had been hand-turned on a giant potter’s wheel and set upside down after being fired in the kiln.

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4. The Howgill Fells (c) Kim Ralls

It was a long time before I even thought to take a picture, though even with my lens zoomed right out, the camera doesn’t quite do it justice. This is one of those views that you, dear reader, really must see for yourself.

It was at this point that I took a break to eat a packet of crisps. I needed the energy.

The ridge that I mentioned is like the backbone of Winder and I followed it, trying to ignore just how steep it looked. I’m not the fittest of people and, I will admit, looking at the path ahead I began to get that sinking feeling. Would I have the energy to make it to to the top or would I have to go back, defeated once again?

Well, the great news was that the steepness was deceptive. Once I started climbing, I found the ascent was relatively gentle and it wasn’t long before I could see the small white column of the OS beacon on the summit. It was only a short climb and I began to find fresh reserves of energy – perhaps I didn’t need that packet of crisps after all – as the wind fell away long enough for me to hear the impossible quiet up on the slopes. I was left with nothing but the sounds of distant sheep and my own boots crunching on dried grass and my steady breathing that now seemed unnaturally loud up on the slopes where there was little sign of life.

Wait, was that a horse?

Sure enough, looking at a distant slope I beheld a grey-black horse cropping grass at its leisure, apparently oblivious to the frustrated photographer who couldn’t zoom in close enough to take a decent picture.

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5. Not a horse (c) Kim Ralls

The horse disappeared behind a ridge and I carried on walking, though somewhat bemused. What in the world was a horse doing half-way up Winder? As it happens, Wainwright mentions that ‘the peculiar joy of the Howgills is the fell ponies, which wander as they fancy: delightful creatures with flowing manes and tails, usually brown in colour but often piebald.’ Serves me right for buying a book and just looking at the pictures.

And so I plodded on, excitment growing as I neared the summit and the day’s goal. I don’t like leaving things unfinished, especially when I have no control over the circumstances that force me to abandon something I’ve started. Thankfully my knees were no trouble and I slapped my hand down in triumph on the top of the OS beacon that crowns the summit of Winder. There is a similar beacon on every peak in the Howgills, their distinctive white paint making them easy to spot from a distance. I couldn’t help noticing that the paint on the Winder beacon looked remarkably unweathered and, based on how long they’ve been up there, it’s obvious that someone actually climbs these fells on a regular basis to touch up the paint.

Everyone’s got to have a hobby, I suppose.

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6. Winder OS Beacon (c) Kim Ralls
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7. View from Winder #1 (c) Kim Ralls
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8. View from Winder #2 (c) Kim Ralls

I sat in the shadow of the beacon and ate the egg and cress sandwiches I had bought in the town before starting my walk. It was about half-past twelve and the climb had taken a little over an hour. Not bad considering how often I had stopped to take photos and to catch my breath. From where I sat slapping at the flies that had begun to plague me (what did they eat when they couldn’t get photographer?) I looked across the slopes to the summit of Arant Haw. I would join Wainwright’s preferred path to that summit and follow it on my way down. For now, though, I thought about how close Arant Haw appeared and how tempting it was to extend my walk a little further and bag two summits in one day. That thought made up my mind for me. I’m not in the habit of climbing a peak just to brag about the achievement, but for the challenge of the undertaking and the enjoyment of the scenery. Arant Haw, tempting as it looked, would wait for another day.

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9. Arant Haw seen from Winder (c) Kim Ralls

My lunch finished, I scrambled to my feet just as the roar of jet engines broke the tranquility and I jabbed my finger down on the shutter release of my camera as an RAF Typhoon flew low over the fells. I waved, though there was no chance the pilot would see me, and packed up the rubbish from my lunch.

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10. Typhoon (c) Kim Ralls

From the summit there were three options for the descent. I could go back the way I had come (safe and boring); there was the route I had planned to take on my first attempt, though the shortness of this path was outweighed by the steepness of the descent; and finally there was the path indicated on Wainwright’s map. It was still a steep climb down, albeit nowhere near as steep as the second option, but the footing was easy and the views were most certainly worth it.

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11. The path down (c) Kim Ralls

Following the path down, I felt a certain disappointment that I had not carried on towards Arant Haw, but weighing this up against how good I felt to have finally achieved my initial goal, my disappointment faded along with the few whisps of cloud blown by the wind across the sky. Afterall, Sedbergh is only an hour’s drive from home and now that I knew the paths a little better, a return trip would be all the more enjoyable for not being rushed.

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12. Walking the lower slopes (c) Kim Ralls

The path curved round the side of the fell and followed along most of its length, running parallel with the high street until it finally met the path I had followed for the ascent. The full circle made, I descended into town to grab a drink and to browse in the various bookshops. The sun had shone all day and, despite the stiff breeze blowing, the temperature had been blissfully hot and it was the kind of day that no one could feel miserable on. Back on Howgill Lane, I had a chat with a man carrying a well-used strimmer.

“Been up on the fells?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ve just climbed Winder,” I said, making sure I pronounced the name correctly (Wainwright makes the point that it should be pronounced the way Eliza Doolittle would say window ‘pre-Higgins’).

“Ah, well, now then, now then, did y’see Blackpool Tower?”

“No, I couldn’t.”

“Ah, well, now then. If it’s a clear day, I been told y’can see all the way too Blackpool Tower.”

I don’t know about Blackpool Tower, but from The Calf, the highest point in the Howgills, it’s supposed to be possible to see all the way to Morcambe Bay on the West Coast. I’m sorry, dear reader, but I think you’re going to be coming back to these fells with me on more than one occasion.

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13. Back at the beginning (c) Kim Ralls

I spent a little time in some of the book shops, bought a book by German photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt (the ‘father of photojournalism’ who took the famous photo of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ Day) and made my weary way back to the car and singed my fingertips on the boiling hot steering wheel.

I headed for home with the windows down and the stereo blaring as Jimi Hendrix pleaded with the sheep of the Dales to let him stand next to their fire. Going by the expression on their faces, it wasn’t going to happen.

Out In The Streets

Whitby Goth Festival was my first foray into street photography and the bug had well and truly bitten. That said, I was nervous about going out and around my local towns with a camera. What if people recognised me; what if they wanted to know what I was doing; oh god, what if they wanted to – dare I say it – pose?

The answer was two-fold: go somewhere that wasn’t local and go on a market day.

Avoiding local places meant anonymity and going on a market day meant there would be plenty of people about and large crowds to hide in. Going to Ripon made even more sense because, with its cathedral, riverside walk and several museums, one more camera-toting pedestrain probably wasn’t going to catch anybody’s eye.

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1. Sausage on a stick (c) Kim Ralls

The big difference between my trip to Whitby and my trip to Ripon was the interaction with my subjects. Or, rather, the lack of it.

At Whitby Goth Festival I had been surrounded by people dressed in outrageous and ornate costumes who had no problem with posing for photos (and the goths didn’t mind being photographed, either). In Ripon I was out among ordinary people who had no idea I was taking their picture. This is, in fact, one of the big controversies surrounding street photography: at what point does it cease to be an art form and, instead, become an invasion of a person’s privacy?

I will admit that, walking around and between the market stalls with my camera in hand, I was ever-concious of the people around me and the sound of my shutter every time I took a photo, not to mention the beep of the autofocus that I kept forgetting to switch off.

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Crossword (c) Kim Ralls

It was in this situation that I was grateful for the zoom lens that came with my camera. It meant I could stand a little way back from my subject and avoid needing to get too close for the shot – this goes against the advice on countless YouTube videos stating that you should use a 35mm or 50mm lens for street photography and that the photos should be taken as close as possible to the subject.

I will admit that I simply wasn’t feeling brave enough to get in close, though with the photo of the gentleman considering his crossword above I think the extra space included in the photo helps to draw the eye to the subject. That and he looked like he was really concentrating on his clues and I didn’t want to interrupt his train of thought.

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Ripon Cathedral (c) Kim Ralls

As I’ve stated in several previous posts, I love church architecture and Ripon Cathedral is a truly majestic building. Although my aim today had been to get out on the streets with my camera, I couldn’t resist stepping inside the cathedral’s cool confines (ooh, I love alliteration). There is also the bonus that Ripon Cathedral doesn’t charge an exhorbitant fee before you’re allowed inside. There is a box for donations and a little gift shop, but that is the limit of the cathedral staff’s commercial enterprise. Even for someone completely lacking in faith, such as myself, the building has a comforting feel to it when standing in the middle and looking up at the distant carvings of the roof or taking in the splendour of the great stained-glass windows.

The bonus for me on this day was that there were a few people admiring the cathedral and, as we were amidst some very photogenic architecture, I thought this was a great way to take photos without feeling self-concious.

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Candles (c) Kim Ralls
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Pulpit steps (c) Kim Ralls

Photographing inside a dimly lit cathedral was also a good learning experience. Trying to get a good exposure without using flash was very difficult and at one point I tried every trick I knew to take a photo of the 15th century stalls (I thought it made a nice composition), but even using flash I just couldn’t get it right.

The time came to move on, at least that’s what my grumbling stomach was thinking at this point. But as I walked down one of the side aisles, I caught sight of a gentleman sitting on his own looking thoughtful. I raised the camera without even thinking or checking the settings and took the shot just before he got up and walked away. I checked the photo on the monitor and was quite surprised that it had come out. My only change was to lighten it a little bit on the computer and convert it to black and white.

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Thoughtful (c) Kim Ralls

Another photographer might have gone in close, but I prefer street photos where the subject isn’t aware of the camera. Granted, there are some great photos that go against this and some where it simply wouldn’t have been the same if the person hadn’t turned at just the right moment.

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Beard (c) Kim Ralls

The great thing about today was the fact that no one approached me at any point to protest my taking photographs. Apart from the lone busker I saw outside a cafe who said it was free to take his photo, but that he’d charge me a fiver if I wanted him to smile.

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Busker (c) Kim Ralls

I didn’t stay much longer in the market place, thinking that it might be nice to wonder along the river and see what I could see. I took a few nice photos, but nothing that I felt was on par with the photos in the market. Whilst I still enjoy landscape photography, photographing a stretch of river in a town, albeit one of the prettiest I know, just didn’t excite me in the same way.

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Flowers (c) Kim Ralls

 

I came back to the market place and took another turn around the stalls, hoping to find more of the images I’d already shot. The problem, of course, is that these are the kind of photos that only happen once. I could not have planned to shoot that man sitting in the cathedral or the busker strumming his guitar – unlike other buskers I’ve seen, he refrained from playing Wonderwall or Wish You Were Here and I dropped a couple of coins in his case as a small thank you.

I didn’t find much more to photograph and the market looked like it was starting to wind down, so I wondered back to the cathedral and took a pleasant stroll round the oustide of the building, looking for any interesting gargoyles to photograph. There were plenty, but far too high for my lens.

I headed back to the car park, pausing only to take one last photo standing in Kirkgate with the sun beating down and a feeling of mission accomplished.

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Kirkgate, Ripon (c) Kim Ralls

 

 

Consolation Prize

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Butterfly in Black and White (c) Kim Ralls

Whenever I chat with holiday-makers in the Dales the talk inevitably turns to how I’ve adapted to living here compared with the South. It goes without saying that the pace of life in a little country village is not the same as it is in a crowded town, though I certainly don’t miss it, and of course the scenery is a marked improvement in the Dales.

“Still,” the holiday-makers often say, “I expect you’ve come to take it for granted.”

I always try to delay my answer to this statement so it doesn’t sound like I’m raising a hasty protest. The fact is, after nearly fifteen years of living in the Dales, I still find delight in the scenery and the various walks I’ve done. There are always new paths to explore and I think that even under leaden skies and torrential rain the Dales look beautiful.

That said, from a photographer’s point of view there are the frustrating days when I wish the weather would clear or that the wildlife would play ball and let me snap just one photo that wasn’t a sheep or cow.

Since I bought my camera, it’s been a rare occasion when I leave the house for a walk without it. There are days, however, when I find myself deleting almost all of the shots I’ve taken for the reason that they’re not as interesting as I thought when I took them or, in all honesty, they’re just not very good.

One day I’d been out for a short walk ‘around the block’ (i.e. a walk of less than two miles) under grey skies that kept threatening rain. I took plenty of photos of the clouds above the hills thinking that they might look suitably dramatic once I had loaded them onto the computer and converted them to black and white.

But I will admit I was feeling a little depressed. You can only take so many pictures of clouds before the monotony gets to you. Out of all the photos I took that day, only three have been kept and they have nothing to do with clouds.

In fact, I returned home, put the photos on the computer and did nothing with them for months. I just couldn’t face editing a bunch of cloud pictures that looked as though they had nothing to offer. I don’t know if anyone else has been in that situation, but I can tell you it nearly put me off photography for good, especially when I would go online and look at the photos in several FaceBook groups I’m a member of. The photos in these are nothing short of spectacular (despite the groups having names like Beginners Photography and UK Amateur Photography) and comparing my dull cloudscapes with awe-inspring shots of sunrises and sunsets and people out in the street can be fairly demoralising. Of course, the purpose of these groups isn’t to show off, but to chat to and learn from each other and if anybody is thinking of taking up photography then they can do worse than join one or more of these groups.

About three months later I was looking through my old photos, opened a folder and saw the three photos that I had decided to keep from this walk. They hadn’t been edited and I was really surprised. I hadn’t forgotten about taking them, but I was really surprised that I hadn’t even processed them.

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1. Feeding time (c) Kim Ralls

I may have mentioned before, but I find butterflies fascinating and I always try to photograph them. The problem, of course, is that they’re flighty little things and it can be very hard to get close to them if you don’t have a long enough lens (which I don’t). It was towards the end of my rather uninspiring walk that the sun broke through the clouds for just a few moments and I was able to photograph these red admirals feeding on the plants by the footpath.

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2. My proudest moment as a photographer (c) Kim Ralls

The second photo ranks at the top of my favourite images that I’ve taken. Compared to pro wildlife photographers, it’s probably not that spectacular, but considering my equipment and its limitations (not to mention my own inexperience as a photographer), I’m very proud of this photo.

Obviously, like me, butterflies are best photographed when distracted by food.

Both images were cropped slightly (the second image was taken from about the same distance as the cover photo at the top of this entry). I wanted to focus on the butterfly and even getting as close as I did there was a lot of extra stuff in the photo that distracted the eye.

It just goes to show, however, that even on the days when nothing seems to go right and you feel down and depressed, there will come that one bright moment that makes it all worthwhile.

When Knights Were Bold

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Map (c) Kim Ralls

With so many wayward farmers and villagers scattered over miles of difficult terrain, exposed to the full force of the English weather, it’s small wonder that there are so many medieval churches, chapels and abbeys in the area. In a time when religion played a dominant role in people’s lives, the farmers and villagers would have relied on the church to provide guidance and succour in hard times. As the centuries passed and religion’s role diminished, many of the chapels and churches fell into ruin and some, like Jervaulx Abbey near Middleham, have become stops for tourists looking for a bit of local history (and a decent cup of tea).

One of the lesser-known sites rests on a spur of Pen Hill and dates from the 12th Century. It is a Knight’s Templar preceptory, or chapel, the ruins of which were uncovered in the 19th Century. It is what gives the nearby Temple Farm its name and was, until recently, reflected in the name of the Palmer Flatt (now the Aysgarth Falls Hotel) – Palmer being a derogatory term for the Templars and Flatt referring to the local field system.

I’m a sucker for an old ruin and this walk was one of the first I went on after we moved here in the early 2000s. Starting on the village green in West Burton, I headed down to the corner of the village where the wooden sign pointed the way to Cauldron Falls, a small but pretty spot that I have photographed far too many times.

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1. Cauldron Falls, West Burton (c) Kim Ralls

It’s a tranquil part of the world and I spent a little too long taking photos of the waterfalls and the little beck – I had a polarising filter on my camera to cut down the glare of the sun, but it also serves as a useful tool for getting rid of reflections on water. If you go into the village hall a little way up the road there are photos on the walls of the village through the years, including one fantastic image the falls and beck completely frozen – I’ve had some cold winters, but never one that severe.

Crossing the little bridge, it’s a steep climb up a set of well-worn steps and a rough track before entering a field below Pen Hill. The hill is criss-crossed by myriad paths and tracks and as I walked through a flock of nervous sheep, I saw a sign pointing out a footpath that followed the beck up above the waterfall and made a mental note to follow it on another day.

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2. Looking across Wensleydale (c) Kim Ralls

On the other side of the field I passed through a gate and into Barrack Wood – the Dales are full of intriguing place-names – and followed the path to the left, breathing in the smell of wild garlic. You can insert your own vampire-related joke here as I’ve used mine in a previous blog post.

Following the path, it’s rewarding to stop every now and again to look through the gaps in the trees up Bishopdale. I was particularly fortunate with the weather on this day, the sun shining and the skies almost completely clear of clouds. The leaves were coming out and the flowers and bees and butterflies had returned, a welcome change from the drab dreariness of an overly-long winter.

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3. Bishopdale (c) Kim Ralls

It’s only a short walk from one end of Barrack Wood to the other where I climbed through a gate onto a rough farm track that winds up towards the top of Pen Hill. It was here that I made a slight alteration to my usual way of doing things. Normally on a walk like this, I would do as much of the climbing early on when I’m fresh and then enjoy an easy decent for the rest of the walk. On this occasion, however, I decided to do things the other way around because, from a photographer’s point of view, it meant seeing things from a slightly different angle which would, hopefully, avoid my repeating photos that I’ve taken before. Trust me, it works.

Following the track up a little way, you come to a metal gate with a sign for Temple Farm. This is where, had I stuck to my normal route, the return leg would have come out. This part of the path is mostly on the flat, following a small plateau with a steep drop to one side.

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4. Barn on Pen Hill (c) Kim Ralls

There was no livestock in the fields and I enjoyed the easy terrain and the glorious weather. The day’s big advantage was that it was the day after the bank holiday and so with no people in sight I felt as though I had the whole countryside to myself. I’m not unsociable, but there are times when it’s a nice change to get away from the hustle and bustle (what there is in the Dales) even if it’s only for a couple of hours.

The footpath stays close to the wall until, at last, you have to go through a gate into a small copse of trees and then over a stile into a field where a huge flock of sheep with lambs turned as one to look at me. It was almost like that scene in the pub in An American Werewolf in London.

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5. Spying on the flock (c) Kim Ralls

Sheep have a tendency to follow me whenever I enter their field – I assume it’s to do with being farm animals and associating humans with feeding time or with being moved to a barn. Whatever the reason, I walked briskly through the field and through a metal gate outside Temple Farm.

I heard screams and laughter from the farm children playing in their garden as I turned right and walked up a muddy track shaded by trees with new leaves on their branches. This was probably the hardest part of the walk, my shoes slipping in mud whilst I tried to hold onto my camera and keep my balance – not an easy thing to do and I imagined the children laughing at the silly Southerner tumbling down the hill in a mess of mud and camera parts.

At last, at the top of the track I could see the low walls of the preceptory. Now I must emphasise that this is a very small site, so don’t expect something on the scale of Fountains Abbey near Ripon or Jervaulx near Middleham. That said, it’s a lovely spot and I can see why the Templars would have chosen it as a site for a place of worship. It sits on the flank of the hill with wide views all around and when the sun is out the scene is bright and peaceful. The site, according to the sign, included other buildings which have not been uncovered. I would love to see just how extensive the site was in its heyday, but unless the owner of the land gives permission for an archaeological dig, I’ll just have to rely on my imagination.

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6. The Preceptory (c) Kim Ralls

Inside the walls you can see where the alter once stood and there is an open coffin with the head at the Eastern end along with three coffins with their covers intact. I’ve scoured the internet for any information on those who were buried in the chapel, but come up blank. If you’re interested in the history of the site, more information can be found here.

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7. Inside the Preceptory (c) Kim Ralls

For the first time I had actually forgotten to bring my water bottle with me on a walk and with the sun beating down, I was starting to feel a desperate need for a drink. I left the ruins and crossed the track into another field. The last time I came through here this field had been full of cows and a single bullock that came a little too close for comfort. On this occasion, however, the field was empty save for a couple of curlews who soared into the air and out of range of my camera as soon as I tried to get near.

One day, I thought to myself, mentally shaking my fist at them for continuing to taunt me.

Not that I’m obsessed or anything.

Passing the thin stretch of trees to my right, I was greeted with the reason I had done this walk back to front. The whole of Bishopdale lay before me beneath a beautiful Spring sky with the trees and fields verdant under the sun. I snapped away with my camera, forgetting how thirsty I was and enjoying the view.

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8. Looking across Bishopdale towards Addleborough (c) Kim Ralls

The clouds were starting to role in as I carried on and I had a quick look at my phone to check the weather forecast – there is a mobile phone mast on Pen Hill for those wondering how on Earth I could get 4G in the middle of nowhere. Sure enough, it was predicting rain later that evening. But at least the clouds added to the beauty of the scene and I knew I’d be home long before any rain fell.

I hoped.

Like the lower path, this one follows a small plateau and the going is very easy, although I did come across a couple of awkward stiles consisting of large slabs wedged into the dry stone wall. They looked distinctly unstable, but they bore my weight without showing any signs of collapsing. At last I passed through a final gate and back onto the track a little way up from where I had originally left it.

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9. The barn from earlier (c) Kim Ralls

I walked down the track, a small stream that ran under it making my thirst seem all the more acute, and followed it to a small humpbacked bridge over the stream on the outskirts of West Burton as the clouds rolled in and I felt the first few drops of rain begin to fall.

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10. The bridge (c) Kim Ralls

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

I had never been to Whitby Goth Weekend before and I will admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect; besides people dressed in strange outfits, I mean.

On this outing I was accompanied by a couple of friends, Vanessa Barkley and Guy Carpenter, both of whom had been to the weekend before. Guy had, in fact, told me about his last visit when he saw people with cameras behaving in a most aggressive way in order to grab a shot and I had decided that I would try to avoid the places they hung out. As will be seen, this plan went out of the window fairly early on.

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River Esk, Whitby (c) Kim Ralls

The weather started off beautifully and after parking the car in a side street (the old van, I am sorry to say, is no longer with us) we walked into town along the river. As Herman Melville once wrote, there really is something about streams and rivers that draws people to the sea and I am certainly no exception – odd, perhaps, for someone who never learnt how to swim in any direction other than down.

Of course, childhood holidays spent with my grandparents on the South Wales coast may have something to do with it.

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Lobster pots, Whitby (c) Kim Ralls

It wasn’t long after we reached the town centre that we saw our first goths. Men and women were dressed head to toe in black and red and white with various adornments to their clothes and bodies. There were many who were obviously into steam-punk and the likes of Marvel’s Captain America (one man even had a Hydra symbol on his uniform, the insignia of the villains in the Captain America comic books). The three of us took a table outside a small cafe and talked about cameras and photography – Guy and Vanessa use Fuji gear, whilst I use Canon and the pair of them made a vow that by the end of the day I would be a convert.

They’re still trying.

Whilst we sat enjoying a drink in the sunshine, my eye was caught by a woman sitting outside the cafe with a hot chocolate. She was dressed in an Edwardian-style outfit and reminded me of the ghost in the 1989 film of The Woman In Black (a far superior version to the 2012 film, in my ‘umble etc). I felt that I had to take her picture, but my nerves kept getting in the way, despite Guy and Vanessa urging me on. Eventually I got up and walked over to her and asked ‘would you mind if I took your picture?’

I fully expected her to tell me where to go. Instead she smiled and said ‘yes. You don’t go out dressed like this without expecting people to take a photo.’

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Woman In Black (c) Kim Ralls

Just one photograph suddenly shattered any concerns I had about photographing people, goths or otherwise, and the rest of the day passed amazingly quickly. We finished our drinks and decided to take a slow amble around the old part of the town below the Abbey. Almost straight away we came upon a man with a pair of macaws on his arms. We had a fascinating conversation whilst the red macaw, called Inca, seemed only too happy to have her photo taken.

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“Who’s a pretty boy, then?” (c) Kim Ralls
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Inca (c) Kim Ralls

Alas, Inca ignored all my attempts to get her to talk and we eventually moved on towards the East Pier and its small lighthouse. I don’t usually plan my photos in advance of going to a location, mainly because you can never be certain that the conditions will be as you hope, not to mention planned shots are almost never as good as the spur-of-the-moment photographs that creep up and surprise you at just the right (or wrong) moment.

In this case, I had hoped to take a long exposure of the crowds on the pier so I would have the pier and lighthouse in focus with the blur of people moving back and forth.

Except there weren’t any people on the pier.

Well, at least I could take a few shots without waiting for people to move out the way – I like photographing people, but there are times when you don’t want any distractions from the rest of the photo.

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East Pier Lighthouse, Whitby (c) Kim Ralls

As you can see from the photo, the weather was starting to turn at this point in the day and it wasn’t long before the sky became overcast and we felt the occasional spot of rain. I will admit that I had not planned for the weather – something I’m normally quite good at – and I was to spend the rest of the day trying to keep my camera still despite shivering from the cold.

Despite my earlier plan to avoid the places frequented by the more aggressive photographers, we suddenly decided to head up the steps to Whitby Abbey, made famous by Bram Stoker in Dracula and something of a photographic cliche. This was evidenced by the sheer weight of camera-toting people trying to climb the steps.

Indeed, this is the sort of place I would normally avoid for the simple reason that the world doesn’t need yet another photo of the abbey taken with the nearby pond providing a mirror-like reflection in its still waters.

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Whitby from the Abbey (c) Kim Ralls

That said, the afore-mentioned photos are usually taken at sunrise or sunset with a perfectly clear sky. We had the advantage of dark clouds hanging ominously above the ruins looking as though at any moment a storm might erupt with horror-movie timing.

 

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Cliche #1 (c) Kim Ralls

I was surprised that there were no goths in the abbey, apart from one woman taking a goth-selfie with a remote-operated DSLR. Both Guy and I took photos of her, though I think Guy had the better angle.

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Goth selfie (c) Kim Ralls

We stopped for a lunch of smoked kipper pate on oat cakes (the pate was from Fortune’s Smoke House below the Abbey) and then headed round the pond to the site of the afore-mentioned cliche. Although it’s a view that everybody and his dog has photographed, I was fairly pleased with the result. The wind was blowing steadily and so the water in the pond was rippling and distorting the reflection of the Abbey. With the grey skies, it makes the photo more stark than the usual fare and, whilst I’m not saying I’ve done a better job than others, at least I think mine is a little different.

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Cliche #2 (c) Kim Ralls

We headed down at this point, and just in time as we passed large crowds coming up the steps. I was glad we hadn’t got stuck in with them. A gentleman with red eyes and a top hat stopped and graciously let me take his photo – I’m still not sure if the red eyes were contact lenses or just the result of a really great night out…

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Red Eyes (c) Kim Ralls

Come to think of it, it reminds me of the old red-eye effect you used to get with film cameras when a flash went off (if people still remember those).

Looking at the elaborate nature of some of the costumes, I find it incredible how many goths there were. It must take some of them ages to get ready, not to mention there were quite a few accoutrements that had an expensive look to them. I saw men and women wearing all manner of outifts, from faux Victorian and Edwardian dress to Rocky Horror-inspired outfits to original creations that had the mind well and truly boggled. I had also never before seen so many men in drag.

Back in the town we decided to cross over the river and head to the West Pier for a final photo session before heading for home. Passing a fabulous-looking motorbike by the bridge, the owner was only too happy to let me photograph it.

A lot of videos and articles that I’ve read on street photography emphasise shooting with the camera on your hip for more candid photos as well as not interacting with your subject to avoid ‘posed’ photos. Had it not been the goth weekend, I might have gone for that approach, but I felt that the situation merited a bit of interaction on this occasion. I’m also not a fan of trying to disguise what you’re doing. I think people would be more inclined to feel suspicous of someone hiding the fact that they’re taking photos. But that is an argument that will, in all likelihood, never be resolved.

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“Born to be wild!” (c) Kim Ralls

On the ‘New Town’ side of the river, Whitby looks like a lot of other seaside towns with arcades and ice-cream stalls and fish & chip shops (we stopped in one briefly so that I could warm my hands around a portion of chips). The gulls were out en masse, as was to be expected, and I shot quite a few photos of them both in flight and on the ground, though most of these were discarded as my kit lens simply isn’t long enough for that kind of photography.

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The gathering storm (c) Kim Ralls

As we walked out onto the West Pier, the sky grew ever darker and the wind began to whip the waves into foaming white-caps that broke on the shore and provided a few good photo opportunities. I made a mental note to come back in the Autumn and Winter for some truly dramatic photos.

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Breaking waves (c) Kim Ralls

This would have been a good time to try my shot of people on the pier with the brooding storm clouds and the waves growing in strength. Except that the sensible ones were taking shelter in the town and so I settled for some normal exposures trying to capture the drama of the weather. I actually began to hope for a little thunder and lightning to really spice up my photos, but was disappointed in that regard. Of course, with Whitby only an hour and half’s drive from home, it wasn’t as though it would require any great effort to return in better (worse) weather.

After a few shots on the end of the pier that didn’t come out very well, we headed back into town for a cup of tea and a slice of cake before heading for home. Vanessa’s other half had arranged to pick her up and so we said goodbye after what, for me, was one of the most rewarding photo outings yet.

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Are you talking to me?! (c) Kim Ralls

 

Marching On The Castle – Part Two

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On reflection, a bacon sandwich in the Bolton Arms at Redmire was probably not the best thing to have when I’m supposed to be on a diet. But, owing to my accute hunger, I wasn’t really in a mood to consider the calorie content of my lunch. The hardest part was resisting the urge to indulge in a slice of cake for desert – I hope, dear reader, that you appreciate the hardships I endure on your behalf.

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16. Redmire Village (c) Kim Ralls

Anyway, having finished lunch I was ready to head back for Aysgarth. I walked through Redmire underneath a beautifully clear sky and followed a side street down to the main road and over a humpbacked bridge and left down a track.

The track changed rapidly from concrete to gravel to mud and I was beginning to lament my lack of a pair of decent walking boots – the boots I wear are little better than trainers with slightly sturdier soles.

17. The track heads off to the left – prepare for mud (c) Kim Ralls

I wallowed and slithered along the track, through two farms and all the while trying to enjoy the sunshine and the sounds of the countryside. Those who’ve read some of my earlier blog entries will know that I have a thing about photographing curlews. I think they’re magnificent birds and with that beak it’s hard to miss them. However, my camera lens can’t zoom in beyond 55mm and the birds normally keep well beyond that distance so all I usually get are black specs in a photo that may or may not be a bird.

On this occasion, I heard their disctinctive calls over the fields and started looking eagerly for them. There was one taking off and gliding overhead and I duly raised my camera and snapped away.

The result, after a bit of cropping, wasn’t too bad. I mean, you can at least tell it’s a bird.

I suppose.

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18. A Curlew. I think… (c) Kim Ralls

Having filled up a large portion of my memory card with bad photos of curlews, I decided it was time to move on and at this point I had a little challenge in mind. Shortly after moving up to the Dales, my sister and I decided to walk from Aysgarth to Leyburn one day, going up through Redmire and down to Leyburn via the Shawl. Part of our route required us to cross the river over a set of stepping stones, except that there had been a lot of rain over the previous days and so the stones were deep underwater and neither of us fancied trying to cross – my sister has an advantage over me in that she can at least swim.

Anyway, you might have noticed that I don’t like leaving things unfinished and so walking back to Aysgarth I thought it might be nice to cross over on the stones and walk back up along the river bank to the churchyard above the falls.

Some way beyond the second farm (Low Thoresby on the map) there is a sign pointing down a bridleway towards the river. The bridleway was slightly flooded and I began to get a sinking feeling. It wasn’t deep, but I couldn’t help wondering if this meant the stones would be impassible again. Oh well, a few extra paces wouldn’t hurt and, let’s be honest, I can always do with the exercise.

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19. It’s a bit damp down there… (c) Kim Ralls

Avoiding the worst of the water, I scrambled down the bridleway and startled a few rabbits clustered around a drystone wall. Approaching the riverbank the trees took on a decidedly scraggly, dry look like the ones you see in dark woods in ghost stories. I could imagine thin, crackling branches moving with more than the breeze on cold nights beneath a sliver of bright moon and decided never to come down here on such a night if only to stop my imagination giving me a heart attack.

I could hear the river before I saw it, a dark streak making its lazy way between tree-lined banks where birds darted in search of insects to munch.

And there were the stones. Or, at least, the froth as the water rushed over their tops and put paid, yet again, to my plans to cross there. On the far bank, a pair of walkers in bright coats were sat with their sandwiches. We waved at each other before I turned to head back up to the main track – I wouldn’t have minded if it hadn’t meant wading through the flooded bridleway again.

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20. They’re under there somewhere… (c) Kim Ralls

Back on track, as it were, I slogged through the mud towards the line of the dismantled railway, pausing only to look at a single glove left on top of a fence post and seemingly waiting for someone to come and claim it.

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21. Missing: have you seen my human? (c) Kim Ralls

Eventually the track opened out just as a phalanx of clouds rolled in across the sun and plunged the countryside into a dim twilight, a marked change from the day so far. To my right stood the farm of High Thorseby and here the path opened out into a small nature reserve complete with a group of geese honking like squeaky gates as they flew overhead, no doubt wondering why this idiot with a camera was struggling along in the mud when it would be so much easier to fly.

They didn’t let me take their photo.

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22. If the countryside looks a bit dull, go for black and white (c) Kim Ralls

The photos don’t quite demonstrate just how boggy the ground was at this point – you have no idea how close I came to going back to the stepping stones and trying my luck.

Ahead I could see the ridge that marked the line of the old railway – the Wensleydale Railway organisation are trying to raise the funds to connect the line all the way to the Settle to Carlisle as it once did – and here I turned away to head over the fields just as the sun came back out and lifted my spirits, although I’d have been happier if it had dried my trouser legs.

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23. More black and white (c) Kim Ralls

The best part about this last stretch of the walk is that it’s mostly downhill which, after a day’s hard slog, was a great relief. Had I the energy, I might even have been inclined to run down the last few… yeah, who am I kidding?

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24. Still boggy, folks (c) Kim Ralls

I passed through the last farm on my route, a small collection of buildings called Hollins House. The path at this point wasn’t well signposted and I had to check the map several times, although it wasn’t quite detailed enough. In short, head diagonally through the farmyard (closing all gates behind you, mind) and you can’t go wrong.

From here it was a short distance to the lower falls and the final ‘home’ stretch up to the car park. I was footsore and covered in mud at this point, but the sense of achievement was worth all the hard toil through mud and up and down the hills – not to mention the lack of a cream tea at the castle.

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25. The Lower Falls (c) Kim Ralls

I wondered up through the woods and through the car park, watching yet more people following the road round from the Upper Falls instead of the perfectly serviceable footpath. I like symmetry in things and a final photo of the Upper Falls seemed the best way to end my day’s outing, especially as the sun had come out once more as if on cue.

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26. Back to the beginning (c) Kim Ralls

 

Marching On The Castle – Part One

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Map (c) Kim Ralls

Driving along the A684 to and from work I never get tired of the view of Bolton Castle nestling snug against the hills with the small village of Castle Bolton stretching to the East. I’ve been on a bit of a health-drive lately after a Christmas of overindulgence (well, what else is Christmas for?) and a walk from Aysgarth Falls to Bolton Castle and back suited my needs perfectly in terms of distance and exertion.

The weather forecast wasn’t great for the day – dry, but cloudy – but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Of course, I could always convert the photos to black and white if they looked a little dull and lifeless in colour.

I had also set myself a little challenge for this walk. I am a person possessed of a lethargic, indolent, laissez-faire approach to life.

Alright. I’m naturally lazy.

I enjoy my creature comforts, but this has the unfortunate side-effect that when taking photos I’ve often let the camera do the lion’s share of the work when deciding on the correct settings for a particular exposure. Some might argue that the automatic modes on a DSLR are there for a reason, but others will insist that ‘proper’ photographers only ever use Manual mode. Anyway, I have a foot in both camps, but I decided that I wanted to actually get to know my camera beyond the basics that I’ve worked out through trial and (mostly) error. Therefore, I decided to set the camera on Manual so that I would have to adjust everything myself and help improve my ability to judge an exposure.

And now for the walk.

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1. Upper Falls, Aysgarth (c) Kim Ralls

I started on the bridge looking at the Upper Falls. The past week had seen quite a bit of rain, not to mention the water that was still coming off the hills from the week of snow courtesy of the so-called ‘Beast From The East’ (when I first heard the term, as I come from Norfolk, I wondered if they were trying to tell me something). The grey skies didn’t offer the best backdrop of lighting for a shot of the falls, but I think I managed to capture the sheer force of water rolling and crashing over the rocks and down beneath the bridge.

I walked up the footpath to the national park centre car park (pay and display is the only option for those travelling by car, unless you park at the Aysgarth Falls Hotel – which states its car park is for customers only. I leave it up to you). Despite the clear signs, I saw people walking along the road which not only takes longer, but runs the risks of traffic and nowhere to move out of the way. As I walked along the footpath, I saw them out of the corner of my eye coming back with chagrined expressions on their faces.

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2. Aysgarth National Park Centre (c) Kim Ralls

The park centre is a nice place to start from for two reasons – it has toilets and a small cafe that serves a rather nice scone (dare I mention which way round I put the jam and the cream?) It also serves as a nexus for a number of footpaths to the waterfalls and woodland in the immediate area and, for those lacking, the gift shop is well-stocked with OS maps and guidebooks (I used Yorkshire Dales OL30: Northern and Central Dales as the basis for this walk). For the first stage of this walk, I needed to make my way over to Carperby and I had a choice of two routes. The first meant walking out of the park centre and up the road, under the old railway bridge, and then across the fields to come out about half-way along the main street of Carperby. The other, and my preferred route for this walk, went up a flight of very slippery steps and crossed over the old track bed into a field. This was to be the start of one of the boggiest walks I’ve been on for quite some time.

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3. The old track bed. The railway once went all the way to Hawes (c) Kim Ralls

As I slipped and squelched across the first of the fields, the grey clouds began to melt away like dry ice in a cheap horror film and the countryside was bathed in very welcome sunlight and almost clear blue skies. I wasn’t so naive as to think this would dry the ground in time to make my progress any easier, but at least it made the prospect of Somme-like mud a little less depressing.

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4. To misquote Captain Scott: “Great God, this is a muddy place” (c) Kim Ralls

With the skies clearing, photographing the landscape became a little more of a challenge as the huge contrast between light and shade meant that it wasn’t always easy to find the right exposure settings. I have to admit that, in the end, I cheated a little and set the ISO (the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor) to AUTO to make my life a little easier. However, I was quite pleased with a shot I took of Addleborough, a prominant hill to the West that I would like to climb some day, though as far as I am aware there are no public rights of way to the summit, which is something of a dissappointment. Oh well.

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5. Addleborough (c) Kim Ralls

Turning the other way, I was presented with my first proper view of the castle.

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6. Bolton Castle (c) Kim Ralls

The path, such as it is, eventually comes out at the main road just outside Carperby and this was where I met my first obstacle of the day. On the map, there is supposed to be a footpath that runs through a farm and comes out near the end of the village green. There was a signpost on the gate for this path that stated it had been ‘legally rerouted’ and that I was to follow the new markers. The only problem being that there weren’t any markers that I could see and, rather than get in trouble for going somewhere I shouldn’t, I went back to the road just as an RAF Tornado flew overhead too fast for me to get a photograph; manual mode does have its drawbacks.

Carperby is a small, narrow village that hugs the main road as it winds along the slopes of Wensleydale. The village green was spotted with clumps of snowdrops beneath the spreading branches of a large tree.

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7. Carperby Village Green (c) Kim Ralls

Walking through the village I removed my raincoat, made unnecessary by the welcome change in the weather, and looked for the signpost for the footpath to Castle Bolton. It was easily visible at the far end of the village, the path crossing through a farmyard and up to a line of fields bathed in sunlight.

The sight of a string of dead moles added a gruesome touch to the day’s proceedings – especially for someone who grew up watching the Cosgrove Hall claymation version of The Wind In The Willows.

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8. It looked more gruesome in colour, trust me… (c) Kim Ralls

As I said, the footpath led me through the farmyard and, according to my OS map, hugged the wall before climbing up to a field above a stand of small hawthorns. There was also a perfectly servicable track that would have been easier going, but I’m a stickler for following paths and not risking the wrath of the local farmers for venturing off them. In the end, I slipped and scrambled my way up to the top of the footpath and then decided that, next time, I might just as well take the track – it might not be a designated path, but anything would be better than stabbing myself on thorns and catching branches in my hair.

The view at the top, though, was worth the discomfort, especially as the last of the clouds were drifting down towards the castle and I had an almost clear blue sky for photographing Pen Hill and the Dale spread out below me.

The footpath was easy to follow and, with the sun bright and hot, I took my polarising filter out of the bag and fitted it onto my lens. I don’t use filters very often, but on a day like today, a polariser is a positive boon to avoid photos where the clouds are indistinct flashes of white and the outlines of buildings and trees can look less than sharp against the sky.

Passing through a couple of fields I came to what has to be one of the more ornate gates I’ve encountered in my walks around the Dales.

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9. Ooh, I say, how smart! (c) Kim Ralls
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10. (c) Kim Ralls

It was refreshing to see the landscape around the castle and its village from a new angle. As I’ve said, I often see the castle from the road (I imagine there are worse views for a morning commute) and even with the ever-changing weather in this part of the country, I never get bored of it. But I’d been planning to do this walk pretty much from the day we first moved into the area and I was feeling a certain sense of achievement for finally getting around to it – after nearly fifteen years!

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11. Standing on the bridge (c) Kim Ralls

The path skirted round the edge of a small plantation labelled ‘West Bolton Plantation’ on my map. A babbling stream flowed down from a spring somewhere above me and dissappeared into the trees. Another advantage of using my polariser was that I could photograph the rocks and stones beneath the water without the relfection of the sunlight getting in the way. I crossed the stream via a small bridge – well, a pair of large slabs dropped between the two banks – and walked down through the farm of West Bolton where I was greeted by a trio of the smartest-looking alpacas I’ve ever seen (it being private property, I didn’t take any photos – and I’m sure you’re all disappointed not to see the alpacas).

From the farm it was an undulating trek towards the castle with quite a few streams that had evidently sprung up from all the melting snow on the tops. It was surprising just how much snow was still on the ground even after a week of rain and raised temperatures. I even washed my boots in one stream but, as will be seen, this was a somewhat pointless exercise.

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12. Approaching the castle (c) Kim Ralls

The castle itself is a prominant landmark in the area and, according to several stories, was one of the the stopping points for Mary Queen of Scots on her way to her trial. Personally, I believe if all the places that boasted that distinction actually had hosted her and her escort, it would have taken several years before she reached London. Not that I imagine she was in any great hurry to get there.

By this time I was feeling decidely hungry and was looking forward to a sandwich in the castle tearooms. Crossing onto the castle grounds, I saw the doors firmly shut and began to get a sinking feeling. I was certain the castle was open at this time of year, but I checked online (whilst marvelling that I actually had 4G in this area) and found that they didn’t open until the end of March. Oh well, at least it said that the tearooms were open every day.

Except they weren’t open today.

As if on cue, my stomach began to grumble and I began to seriously wonder if I was doomed to wonder all the way back to Aysgarth without a single bite to eat. Dear God, how could I survive when I’d only had a bowl of cereal and yogurt for breakfast? Would I ever live to see my family and guitars again?

Oh, hang on, there’s a pub in Redmire.

I checked the map and found the path connecting the two villages. My watch read half-past twelve, so they were bound to be serving lunch. At worst, they might sell me a packet of peanuts to assuage the gaping hole in my stomach. But not before I’d taken a few snaps of the castle. You see, dear readers, I do think of you.

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13. (c) Kim Ralls
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14. (c) Kim Ralls
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15. (c) Kim Ralls

The path was at the far end of the village, past a pickup with a sheep dog that growled and barked its head off as I came near and scrabbled at the bars. I have that effect of animals.

The footpath took me down and across several more fields and over even boggier ground than I had encountered back at Aysgarth – now you see why I needn’t have bothered washing my boots in that stream earlier.

My OS map also highlighted the intriguingly-named Nelly Force, a waterfall that looked like it was right next to the path. Aha! thought I, that’ll make for a nice photo for the blog. Except the trees and bushes had grown so much that all I saw was a bit of foam accompanied by a loud rush of water plunging over rocks and stones. Not the kind of photo that was going to win me any prizes.

Eventually the path crossed another section of the old railway track and over a stream into the village of Redmire just up the road from the Bolton Arms pub. The relief I felt when I saw the sign outside proclaiming “Food Served Daily” was indescribable.