Monday, 27 July 2020

Hoggarths Bridge to Angram Circular from Pry House Farm

Hoggarths Bridge (High Bridge) to Angram and return.

This lovely circular walk takes you over moorland, through pastures and along the River Swale. 

Looking back towards Pry House Farm 


Immediately over Hoggarths Bridge pick up the public footpath at the fingerpost
Angram 1 & 1/2 miles

Its a short pull up to the first stile but after that the gradient is gentle.

Mostly the path is clear to see as the ladder stiles are easily visible on the skyline.

After crossing a moorland track drop down to the pretty, babbling beck...

and carefully cross over the water.

 Up the other side and path takes you diagonally to the corner of the pasture. Look out for a stile with no purpose and immediately behind is a gated stile.

Throught the gate and with the heather moor on your left and the moor wall on your right, follow the track which is little more than a sheep trod at this point, until you come to a squeeze stile.
 In front of you the land rises.  Follow the path to the top keeping Aygill and the view down to the hamlet of Thorns to your left.

Drop down through the fields into Angram.  Stop and admire the skill of the drystone waller and see one of the many lime kiln entrances that are dotted all over the upper dale.

From Angram take the public footpath to Keld (approx 1 mile) and have a well earned rest and refreshment at Keld Lodge before heading back to Hoggarths bridge following the Swale.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

How to Make Hay

Today a friend asked me to explain the sequence of making hay.
1. Mowing (cutting)
2. Strowing (dashing / tossing / turning the cut grass so that it doesn't lie in swathes but gets the sun and air to it).
The tractor on the right is cutting the grass with an eight disc mower.  It has a cover on - it is a dangerous piece of kit.  The tractor on the left is strowing.  This happens as soon after cutting as possible to start the drying and curing process.

From grass to hay takes a mimimum of 3 days for hay, less for silage.  It depends on the weight of crop but a good quality crop is at the mercy of the weather.  Sun and a warm breeze are essential.
3. Rowing up (bringing the hay crop into rows ready for the baler).  Spinning tines gather the hay and send it towards the paddle that forms it into rows
4.  Baling - to make small hay bales we use a traditional baler and sled (sledge).

 The wheels of the baler straddle the row.  A rotating drum with tines sends the hay into the body of the  baler where it is compacted into rectangles, strung and pushed out the other end.
 The clickety-clack, chug-chug, thud-thud of a little baler as it goes through the process is musical to some, magical to others and emotional to many.

5. Leading in.
 Whenever possible we use a tractor with the 8-grab
but when this is not practical
the bales have to be manually lifted onto a trailer, stacked and lead to the the building.
7. Storage - big round bales (silage) are wrapped and stacked outside.

Small bales have to be carefully and correctly stacked in a building or hay mew.
 Even with the help of an elevator it is hard, heavy work.

There is nothing more satisfying than a building stacked to the rafters with sweet nutritious hay.

Hay that will sustain our sheep
 through the toughest of winters, keep their bellies full and their spirits up till the spring, new life, new growth and the close of the circle.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Two Swaledale Stories - Old House and Mr Swaledale

The Story of Old Hoggarths

       The cowus and stable are all that remains of the original Hoggarths farmstead and is why its called Old House.  Destroyed in July 1899 by a mighty cloudburst that thundered down Ash Gill flooding the farmhouse.  As it swept through the upper dale bridges were washed away and properties flooded with water.  Hoggarths beck that runs on the other side of the buildings is littered with huge boulders that came down with the flood water.

My father-in-law, George Calvert, once told me the story.  On the day of the storm George's father, Kit, had been to Tan Hill with his horse and cart for coal (there was a coal mine at Tan Hill in the 1800s).  He knew a storm was brewing however when he got home he stood his horse, still in the shafts, in the building and went into the house for his dinner.  His wife, Mary, was very anxious about the heavy rain, the flooded beck and the thunder & lightening but Kit insisted on having his dinner (a mid-day meal is called dinner in the north of England).  She kept exclaiming that they had to get out and finally that is exactly what he had to do.  He left his dinner and rushed upstairs to escape the incoming water.  He kicked out a landing window and they scrambled out onto the high ground behind the house.  

When the storm subsided Kit went to see what had happened to his horse.  It was stood, up to its neck in water but otherwise none the worse.  He was also able to rescue his good dog which was swimming round and round in a stable.  I also believe a teacup survived and was discovered swirling around in flood water at Bridge End.

The damage to the dwelling was immense and Kit
was ready to pack up and leave Hoggarths but his
 landlord wouldn't hear of it.  Kit was a good farmer and a valued tenant and the landlord promised he would build him a new farmhouse somewhere where it would never flood.  And that is why today, Hoggarths stands on  the opposite side of the valley, high above the river in total safety.

I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this story - after all the narrator was already in his eighties and the incident had taken place over 20 years before he was born. Did I mishear something? Have I forgotten a fact or detail?  The wonderful thing about stories passed on by word of mouth and handed down through the generations is that sometimes little bits get lost,  sometimes they get embellished or exaggerated with the enthusiasm of the storyteller or as each person adds their own interpretation.  If anyone can add or correct the Old House story please get in touch at I would love to hear from you.

Mr Swaledale

I can however vouch for the honesty and accuracy of the short documentary, Mr Swaledale.  Made by Georgia Hird, a local Swaledale girl, as her final project for her degree in film and production.  Starring local farmer, John Waggett, the film is an absolute delight;  the scenery is stunning, the film work meticulous and John is an absolute natural.  View it on Youtube - it is not to be missed.   

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Baby birds

New life on the farm doesn't always mean lambs. Pry House Farm is a magnet for dozens of breeds of birds.  In addition to the ground nesting birds that arrive each spring to breed by the river and in the surrounding pastures Pry House is a favourite with swallows and house martins.

The low wooden beams and the stone lintels in the traditional buildings that form the farmyard make the perfect nesting site for swallows.

The acrobatics and skillful flying techniques of the adult birds soon let us know when they are busy nest building.  And the appearance of bird droppings on the stone flags below is the tell tale sign that the chicks have hatched!

 Once fledged the parent birds continue to bring food for their offspring and the fledgling chicks return to the safety of their nest until strong enough and confident to take to the skies.

Other young birds to spot when you come to stay on the farm are wagtails, thrush, blackbirds, wren, sparrow and starling.  In the pastures and on the moor you will regularly see lapwing, curlew, skylark, redshank, oyster catchers, dippers and meadow pippin.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Meander around Muker

Muker in Upper Swaledale

As we wait patiently for news that we can welcome visitors back to our B&Bs and holiday cottages it is encouraging to see businesses in Muker opening again.

It was lovely to see Gillian,owner of Swaledale Woollens, and stop for a chat.  The shop is spacious enough for sensible social distancing with plenty room to browse the shelves.  The attractive displays hold the most beautiful knitwear.  I am the proud owner of a Swaledale cardigan so I can wholeheartedly recommend that a visit to Swaledale Woollens is on your wish list.  

A visit to Muker in June would not be complete without a walk through the magnificent Muker meadows.  They are spectacular and never fail to impress.  The heady scent that drifts up from a sea of gently waving flowers is intoxicating.
Famous for the sheer variety of meadow flowers, grasses and herbs particularly purple wood crane's-bill, tiny eye bright, yellow rattle and delicate pignut that all flower in abundance in fields sheltered by Kisdon Hill.

In the village the Old School Gallery and Craftshop has re-opened and Muker Store is back in business too.

 Muker school rooms now house the Art Gallery and Craftshop.  There is something for everyone in the Old School Muker.  Feature artists display their work alongside potters and sculptors with the craftshop stocking very nice cards and gifts, the sort of shop that always has something to catch your eye.
Swaledale Woollens with the Farmers Arms tucked in behind.  Everyone is looking forward to hearing news of when the pub can re-open.  In the meantime, during lockdown, they have been serving a take-away menu for residents which has been most welcome.

Wherever you are staying when you come to Swaledale don't forget the Little White Bus.  It provides a great service up and down the dale meaning you don't have to solely rely on your car.  At the moment you can't stay overnight but if you are lucky enough to live within driving distance there is nothing to stop you parking up, walking to Reeth or Keld, Muker or Gunnerside and catching the Little White Bus back to your car.  At present, like all other public transport, masks must be worn on the bus.  For details of the bus timetable click on this link

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

On and around the farm in June

On and around the farm in June

The ewes with single lambs are now back on the moors but those with twins stay on the farm until July. Despite the good weather this lambing time the sheep that are rearing twins need supplementary feed and experienced shepherding every day.
 The herdwick lambs are growing fast and so is Heidi's fleece.  She will glad to get rid of it at shearing time!

 This was the last ewe to lamb this year and didn't she give us a surprise?  She is one of our 'crossed sheep', in other words she was put to a Texel tup not a Swaledale so we weren't expecting pure Swaledale lambs however ...... one all black and one all white is quite unusual.
She was very late to lamb so these gorgeous little lambs were born during the recent disturbing times of unrest and injustice.  I look at them as a sign of hope and a reminder of equality in all things.
Unlike the little black Texel cross lamb above, Herdwick lambs are supposed to be born black.  After a few weeks they start to get their distinctive 'mask' which is the start of them losing their black face.  Their black woolly coats lighten to a dark brown colour which they keep till they are clipped for the first time at about 18 months old.
   Messing about by the river is a great way to spend an afternoon.  If you are here when bluebell wood is in full bloom it is an extra treat however Whamp Bridge is the perfect setting at any time.

Wild swimming.
There's nothing like a refreshing dip in the cool water of the infant Swale. 

Upper Swaledale is famous for its miles of dry stone walls and the hundreds of stone buildings that in Swaledale are known cow'uses.  Swaledale is also known for its meadow fields that flower in profusion from the end of May through to the end of June.

These meadows are very special and only flower like this because the upland farmers stick rigidly to traditional farming methods, applying natural feed (muck) instead of heavy, nitrogen based, artificial fertilizer.  They only get one crop but the hay from these flower & herb rich meadows is the sweetest, the most nutritious and the best.