Sunday, 22 September 2019

Railway Huts and Rusty Tin

What are these railway carriages doing on the moor such along way from any railway line?  Old and rusting, corrugated roof sheets flapping in the wind, sides gaping.

 In the aftermath of the 1963 Beeching Report and the closure of a lot of the railways farmers acquired these strong railway huts to use as hay stores on the moor. Quite how they got them there I don't know!  They were filled with hay bales in summer so in the event of bad weather the hay was on site and did not have to be carted all the way from the farmstead. This was before the days of 4-wheel drive tractors when moving about was much more difficult than today.

Now they lay abandoned, sinking slowly to the ground.  They are of interest to photographers, authors and artists and some come with amazing stories.  See Richard Wall's imagine of our railway hut at which was then painted by Sue Nichol is now owned by friends of ours in Keld.

 But by far the most gripping story involves the two buildings in this photo; one an old railway hut and the other a corrugated metal shed now collapsed.  

In March 1979 two young Dutchmen drove past Pry House Farm blissfully unaware of the blizzard conditions and deep snow ahead of them.  Several miles past the house the car ran into a snow drift and was unable to go neither forward nor back.  They stayed in the car all night but with no food or water and realising the car was in danger of being buried in snow the two lads decided to walk.  They remembered passing a house (Pry House) so started to walk back in that direction.  Two pieces of good luck that day helped them survive.  Firstly despite being inadequately dressed for the severe weather conditions they stumbled across this old hut and took shelter.

The second piece of good luck came in the form of a farmer and his dog.  Clifford Harker farmed at Pry House Farm in those days.  During the winter of '79 Clifford, like all other farmers at the top of the dale, walked every day onto the moor to his hay huts to feed his hungry sheep (Chris reckons he and his dad walked onto the moor for 30 consecutive days that winter).  Whilst sheltering, one of the young men heard a dog bark and realised that if there was a dog out there in the snow then there would be a man out there too.  The blizzard cleared for a moment and Clifford saw them.  Having finished feeding his sheep he guided them the 31/2 miles back to Pry House and safety.

And how do I know so much about this story when it was long before my time at Pry House Farm?

I was lucky to hear this story first hand when Rolph, one of the young Dutchmen whose fate could have been so different had it not been for a dedicated farmer, his dog and the railway carriages on the moor, came to stay bed & breakfast with us in July 2015.

 Jenny Harker was recorded telling the story for the YDNPA Every Barn Tells A Story project.  Watch the video here

Friday, 6 September 2019

Muker Show

Muker Show is one of the hightlights of the year in Upper Swaledale.  
The show is steeped in history and tradition.  People come from far and wide to soak up the  atmosphere and experience the community values that sets our dales show apart from many others.

  This year Chris was asked to be President of the show, a post he will hold for two years.
Chris' first duty as President was to lead the procession of judges, stewards and officials onto the show field.  As the band struck up behind us I was proud to walk by his side. 


The produce and handicraft tents are bursting with entries.  There are classes of every description; baking, photography, art, handwriting, flowers, fruit and vegetables.  Children only, men only, ladies only, open classes and local classes. Hay, walking sticks, butter and cheese.  

All areas are fiercely fought over and everyone hopes their entry is the judges favourite.

 Muker is in Upper Swaledale, it is hill farming country and the home of the Swaledale.   
With the autumn sheep sales almost upon us Muker Show is a major shop window for the breed.  A rosette in the sheep ring at Muker is highly prized.

This year has been a special year for our chairman,  Ernest Whitehead.  The 2019 Muker Show is  Ernest's 40th year as chairman.  What an achievement.  At the official luncheon Earl Peel, Patron of the Muker Show, presented Ernest with a painting, cake and well deserved special rosette.  


 Here are some of the activities and exhibits we enjoyed.

 The show site is in the heart of Muker village; sheltered and picturesque with  Kisdon Hill as its backdrop.

Towards the end of the afternoon the fell racers tackle the punishing, almost vertical, incline to the summit of Kisdon Hill (1.4 miles with an ascent of 550ft).

It is a great spectator sport and participants are 
guaranteed encouragement and applause from start to finish.

 Before the show opens Muker Silver Band plays outside the Farmer Arms and its is here, as the show draws to a close, that the band plays once again.  Drinks are purchased, song sheets distributed, friends gather and the community sings.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Made in Yorkshire

'Provenance' seems to be the buzz word these days.  
At Upper Swaledale Holidays we pride ourselves on shopping local. We use local producers and suppliers and aim to put as much 'made in Yorkshire' products on the breakfast table, in the Shepherd's Hut and in Hillcrest Cottage as possible.

 Some of our suppliers include Raydale Preserves, Yockenthwaite Farm cereals and the Wensleydale Creamery

This year we have started to use The Home Farmer milk.  This new and innovative venture by a farming family from Aysgarth in Wensleydale is pure genius.  A converted horse trailer containing a milk vending machine stands in a different village each day.  Glass bottles can be purchased and filled and refilled with gently pasteurised, fresh-from-the-farm milk.

On the farmhouse kitchen table at breakfast time our sausages come from Buckles Farm, eggs from Dixons of Hartley and bacon from Peats Butchers in Barnard Castle.
And sometimes, when conditions are right and as if by magic, the mushrooms come from the field next to the house!

Saturday, 3 August 2019

The Things that the Every Dales Folk Left Behind!

The things that the everyday folk left behind were squirrelled away by the Wombles.

 I wonder what they would make of the 'things that the every dales folk leave behind'!

This is possibly the most surprising.  An old tractor.  Now just a skeleton of its former self.
Abandoned, unloved but well photographed.

A bottomless old bath, a rusty pan in a bread oven, an open grate in a broken fireplace still with its water boiler, now empty and forlorn.

Where are we?  Crackpot Hall of course where whole families once lived, their children running wild and free. Read about Crackpot Hall in Marie Hartley & Ella Pontefract's book 'Swaledale' and hear about Alice who at four years old is described as having 'the madness of the moors about her'. 

Its amazing what can be found in the nooks and crannies of cow houses and walls.  Odd bits of farming equipment, old bottles that once contained sheep drench, a broken horn.  As the song implies things just get left behind.  Maybe the intention was to return and have a tidy up but still here they remain.  If you happen to find a pair of crocheted men's gloves tucked into a wall somewhere they belong to my husband! 

 Above - A broken drag rake used at haytime.
 Left - the remains of  a dynamo and other workings that produced water driven electricity 
for Hoggarths long before mains electricity came to Swaledale.

So while you are walking and exploring the dales keep your eyes peeled for the unusual and the unexpected.  You never know what you might find. 

Monday, 29 July 2019

Showing You the Way ..... Muker to Thwaite Circular

Showing You the Way ...... 
is a series of 3 illustrated walk leaflets for children.  
Pick up a leaflet in the Keld Countryside & Heritage Centre.
Today we explored the Cowus (cow house) trail, a circular walk from Muker to Thwaite and back.

This walk is 2.8 miles with a 600ft ascent. 

The first section is quite an uphill pull but once you get to Kisdon Houses it is level or downhill all the way .........

........ with magnificent views in all directions.
Looking east above and looking west below

 Once out onto the heather moor the path becomes rocky & uneven.  Although part of the Pennine Way, it is no more than a sheep trod and care is required.

Challenging and fun, this walk will bring out the adventurer in you! 

Back in the valley bottom follow the meadow paths, through narrow squeeze stiles to Muker.

But not before a well deserved picnic by the stream.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Further Adventures of Heidi and Hetty

Heidi and Hetty are doing a grand job of bringing up their lambs.
All three of them are fine examples of Herdwick sheep.

Look how Jacqui and Doris have grown!  Hetty is as cautious and camera shy as ever, she keeps her lambs close.

Heidi, on the other hand, is much more outgoing and will come quite near especially if she thinks I have some treats for her.

Marco is getting quite brave too!

He's becoming very handsome in a comical sort of way.  Don't you agree?

Friday, 12 July 2019

Summer on the farm

Summer on the farm is all about making fodder and clipping sheep.

We have made over 2000 small bales of hay and hundreds of round bale silage.
 We have been lucky.  We cut at the right time, the weather was on our side and the end result is a winter's worth of first class hay and silage for our sheep and cattle.  A lovely feeling.

So now all the hay and silage is made Chris, his brother and his nephew can concentrate on the sheep.
The weather is warming up so its time to clip.  The first to be sheared are the hoggs (the young sheep, born last year, who haven't been sheared before), then the ewes with singles and finally those running with twins.

 Heidi the Herdwick has a thick, dense fleece.  She will look very different without her coat which will be coming off soon.

Earlier this year there was a big fuss on social media that clipping sheep was cruel.  Ridiculous claims made by people who don't understand stock and farming.  The sheep are not ill treated during the process, they are held securely but carefully so that the fleece comes off quickly and in one piece. It is in the interest of the sheep's welfare to shear, maintaining healthy skin and a clean fleece for the coming winter. Not to clip would be like making us wear our heaviest winter coats all summer long and never changing our underwear!

  Almost all finished.  Note the lambs are not clipped.  They are too young and their wool is still fine.