Tuesday 18 June 2024

Wildflower Wander

A Wildflower Wander from Keld to Muker over Kisdon Hill and return through Keld Woods

The month of June is paradise for lovers of wild flowers.

Foxgloves love the shelter of a dry stone wall

Ragged Robin loves damp conditions found at the side of a stream.

Field pansies

I chose to walk to Muker via Kisdon Hill as I love to see the pansies growing wild up there.  There are several varieties;  some are two shades of blue as above, others are blue & yellow and some are all yellow.  They are delightful.  Pretty faces in an otherwise harsh moorland environment.

A little higher up Cotton Flower waves gently in the breeze.

Mountain Alyssum cascading over an exposed stone.

As the land begins to fall the Swaledale valley with its patchwork of meadow fields and the huddle of buildings which make up Muker village suddenly unfolds out of nowhere.  

Above:  Rock Roses and the first stile into the meadows with a sign asking visitors to keep to the path.

The path back to Keld takes you through the famous Muker hay meadows.  Six tiny meadow fields each surrounded by dry stone walls with gated stiles to a stone pathway giving perfect access to the myriad of wild flowers & grasses growing here.
Today I noticed how well the red clover is doing this year (its the same in our meadows at Pry House Farm). Muker meadows are noted for the abundance of Wood Cranesbill.  Other favourites are Eyebright, Pignut, Hawk's Bit, Ladies Mantle & Bugle

Leaving the beautiful Muker hay meadows behind turn left at the fingerpost signposted Keld.  Here the path follows the river for a couple of miles passing by the derelict remains of a community known as Hartlakes.  Look right through the trees to the other side of the river where the evidence of the long-gone industrial age of lead mining stares back at you.  If you are interested in the lead mining history of the area call in at the Living History Museum in the tiny old school building in Keld.  It is full of information and artifacts relating to Keld's lead mining, agricultural and social past Old School Keld Living Museum.  A little further on and the path takes you through Keld Woods.  Its darker and more damp here providing a cooler, shadier environment for floweres and ferns that thrive in these conditions.  Its as if time has stood still with primroses, bluebells, forget-me-not and speedwell all still in flower in mid June.

Water Avens or Billy's Buttons

As the path opens out on the approach to Keld there are yet more varieties of wild flowers to spot.  The Keld to Muker circular is one I have done many times.  Usually its the stunning scenery that gets all the attention but today the flowers were centre stage. 

Dog Rose

Melancholy Thistle and Wood Cranesbill

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Wild flowers of Swaledale

Flowers of Swaledale

Swaledale is famous for its flower rich hay meadows that stand knee high in buttercups, pignut, wood's cranebill, clover, eyebright and much more.  They are truely beautiful but its not always easy to predict when they will be at their best. All it takes is a rush of good growing weather for the grasses to grow up through them or for them to be flattened by heavy rain to spoil the effect. 


The wide variety of wild flowers that can be seen growing on bank sides, backs of walls, in crevices and ditches, on roadside verges and woodland floors often get overlooked.

The heady, pungent smell of wild garlic can be quite overpowering.  Mixed with forget-me-not it becomes perfectly charming.

English bluebells


As the seasons turn to summer much taller varieties appear such as foxglove, meadow sweet and melancholy thistle.


Moorland pansies

Many alpine species live happily in the high hills; moorland pansies, alpine rock rose, tiny woodland anemone, wild violets, wild alyssum & alpine thyme. 
My favourites?  Without doubt, cowslips & the dainty faces of the moorland pansies.


Tuesday 9 April 2024

Wet Day? No Problem

 Wet Day?  No Problem.

It no good pretending that you won't have an odd wet day when you are visiting the Yorkshire Dales.  Its the rainfall that makes the dales so green, it fills the crystal clear rivers & streams and allows the waterfalls to rush and gush and splash.

 But if the rain is streaming down the window when you are staying with us and its plainly impossible to be outdoors, here are some ideas of where to go and what to do.

The market town of Hawes in Wensleydale has two excellent indoor attractions.  Dales Countryside Museum tells the story of the people and landscape of the Yorkshire Dales.  It is family friendly with free entry for under 16s.  There's lots of exhibitions and hands on events to suit all the family.  The Firebox Cafe serves homemade / home cooked fare.  The Dales Countryside Museum is all-round good fun and good value.  Another great place to visit in Hawes is the Wensleydale Creamery where the famous Wensleydale cheese is made.  The Wensleydale Experience includes witnessing the cheese making process and watching demonstrations plus a stroll round the Cheese shop where you can sample over a dozen different cheeses / flavours (my favourites are Wensleydale with Cranberries and Abbots Gold).  Under 16s go free at weekends and school holidays so once again, great value.There is a quality gift shop, the bistro / cafe or the Kit Calvert Restaurant for simple refreshments or a very good meal. 

The Station at Richmond

Down dale from both Pry House Farm (50 minute drive) and Hillcrest Cottage (30 minute drive) is Richmond.  Richmond is home to The Georgian Theatre which is the most complete Georgian Theatre in Britain.  Book a Theatre Tour to explore backstage, under the stage, the dressing rooms and see some of the original scenery and stage props.  It will be The No 1 experience of your trip.  The Richmondshire Museum is another great venue for a rainy day.  Once inside, this seemingly little building will amaze you - its a real Tardis!  It has a street layout with a shop, post office, chemist etc and a Veterinary Surgery, infact the very one that was used in the BBC tv All Creatures Great & Small series.  There are exibitions about the Home Guard, lace making and lead mining. You will find a cruck house and a model railway of Richmond Station.  Again, good family entertainment - under 16s go free.  Richmond Station is no longer a railaway station but instead has been lovingly restored and is now The Station at Richmond.  It houses a 3-screen cinema, restaurant, galleries and several independent shops & businesses.  If it stops raining and you fancy a walk Richmond Station is the starting point for a lovely, level, circular walk along the old railway line to Easby Abbey.  See a previous blog post here https://pryhousefarm.blogspot.com/2021/11/circular-walk-from-richmond-station-via.html  Still raining and need to burn off some energy?  Next door to The Station is Richmond Swimming Pool.  Newly refurbished and in a stunning position by the River Swale, its glass walls allowing the outside in. This makes for a very relaxing swimming experience.

At the top of Swaledale and only a five minute drive from Pry House Farm is the village of Keld. For a tiny village there is a lot going on!  Keld Resource Centre is responsible for The School Museum and the Keld Countryside & Heritage Centre.  The School Museum building was, until 1973, the village's 2 room school. The School Museum is packed full of interesting artefacts many of which have been donated by locals.  There are exhibitions and displays in the The Heritage Centre and is the base for a large programme of events.  Have a look at their events page as there may be a talk or craft workshop that you could enjoy.  Keld has two cafes;  Keld Green cafe and Rukin's Tearoom. 

And after the rain?  Go puddle jumping.  Gaze in wonder at the waterfalls.  Take a dip!



Saturday 16 March 2024

The Farmers Arms - the Heart of the Community

 The Farmers Arms in Muker, the very heart of the Upper Swaledale community.

Pubs are often referred to as the hub of the community.  In quiet, sparsely populated rural areas such as Upper Swaledale they are (or should be) the beating heart.   The present owner of the Farmers Arms in Muker has been trying, unsuccessfully, to sell the pub until NOW!  Recently the idea of purchasing the Farmers Arms as a community pub was born and after much deliberation, public consultation and research the possibility is imminent.  A mere 2 weeks ago the community offer was accepted and now its full steam ahead to secure the funds.  There is a government community project grant of up to 50% of the purchase price available .... however for how long?  A general election is almost certain to get in the way of such funding so the race is on.  Nothing like a deadline to spur us into action!

If we dig deep enough, shout loud enough, rattle our tins hard enough and raise the funds The Farmers Arms could once again become the heart of the community.  'Community' means much more than the local community or the farming community.  As the photo above proves, the Farmers Arms is loved by the wider community and holds special memories for people all over the country and infact the world.

Imagine how much more connected to the community you would feel if you owned a teeny-weeny bit (or even a big chunk!) of the Farmer Arms.  How special would that be?  If you would like to buy a share or make a donation please click on this link which takes you to the Muker Community Website where all your questions will be answered.

Raise your voice, raise a glass of community spirit and wish us luck.  

The Farmers Arms needs YOU!  Many thanks.


Sunday 25 February 2024

Set in Stone

 Set in Stone

There are thousands of miles of dry stone walls in the dales.  They provide boundaries for meadows, fields & folds, garths & gardens, pastures, pens and punds (compound or small holding area for a few sheep) and then snakes their way upwards for miles & miles dividing the fell and forming the moor wall.

The drystone walls and the hundreds upon hundreds of little stone field buildings or cow houses (cow'us) as they are known in Swaledale define the Yorkshire Dales.

They are everywhere, they are impossible to miss but look a bit closer and there is a lot to find, hidden in the stone.  Look up, look down, you'll be surprised what you discover.  

 A worn horseshoe hammered into a stone wall.  A place to tie up the horse perhaps?

Dates and initials can tell us how old a building is and who lived here although they can also be deceiving.  The farm buildings at Pry House are not 350 years old but perhaps there has been a some sort of stone structure here since 1665.  The initials R A A will belong to a member of the Alderson family, a common name in upper Swaledale.

In fact George & Charles Alderson built Pry House in 1858 and had a sundial & their names carved in stone above the front door.

Benchmark carvings denote the 'mean' height above sea level.  They are sometimes referred to as 'crows feet' but this is not their proper name as a benchmark is an arrow with a straight line across the top.  We have one at Pry House on the road side building and there is another on the building opposite the Ravenseat road.  Pry House sits at 1300 feet above sea level.  Some people make a hobby out of finding & recording Benchmarks.  Its called Benchmark Bagging.

Look out for boundary stones as you cross from one county to another.  There are two on the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria on the B6270 a few miles west of Pry House Farm.  
This sboundary stone faces east and the inscription is still clear.  It marks the edge of Birkdale, the most westerly dale in North Yorkshire.  

The writing on this stone faces west and the privailing wind and weather has eroded the inscription. I think it marks the beginning of Nateby fell. It is dated 1856.  Who the stretch of moor between the two stones belongs to is a mystery!
Happy hunting.


Monday 29 January 2024

Planning your holiday? What's on in Swaledale

 So you are planning your holiday to Swaledale.  When is the best time for you to come?

Here's what's on in the months ahead.


We don't open the B&B at Pry House Farm until mid April but Hillcrest Cottage is open all year round.  March is a quiet month and the perfect time to have the dales all to yourself.  Spring is just arriving and with it the early lambs, the early flowering bulbs and the first green shoots.  A great time to get out and walk then scurry back to the cottage for quality time in front of the log burner or an evening stroll to the Punchbowl for supper.  

For a good day out pop down to Richmond where there are things to do to suit everyone.  The Georgian Theatre, the most complete working Georgian theatre in Britain, conducts excellent theatre tours Georgian Theatre Tours. Richmondshire Museum, small from the outside but surprisingly tardis-like inside, is all about immersive local & social history from its rebuilt Cruck House to part of the set from the BBC All Creatures Great & Small tv series Richmondshire Museum.  Other places to visit are Richmond Castle and the Green Howards Museum.  Richmond Station is also full of surprises. No longer a train station but now sympathetically transformed into a cinema, restaurant/cafe, gallery space plus artisan food & craft areas Richmond Station


April means new life, spring green and warmer sunshine.  The upper dale begins to wake up and there's something new to see at every turn; lambs absolutely everywhere, buds on trees, catkins, the first tiny flowers; primroses and wild anemones and golden daffodils on the verges and every village green.  An absolutely lovely time to visit the dales.  Its a bit slower at the top of the dale and is why we don't welcome guests to the farm quite as soon as other B&B establishments. Lambing however starts around the 13th and lambs come when they are ready not when the weather improves so its a case of getting on with it - rain, hail or snow!  April is also when our feathered visitors arrive.  Its often a race to see who arrives first, the lapwing, the curlew or the oyster catchers.  We also have snipe, woodcock, geese, dippers, wagtail, wren to name but a few. 

If you'd like to stay local to the top of the dale there's still lots to do. The Keld Resource Centre offers a fabulous selection of events from guided walks and talks to creative crafts.  This April they are holding a Spring Flower Workshop led by local florist, Shannon.  Have a look at the full list of events here KRC Events.


Lambing time continues throughout the month of May.  Many ewes with single lambs will have returned to the fell but those rearing twins will remain in the pastures until they have been clipped. So plenty of lambs for you to enjoy.  The meadow fields are cleared of lambs by mid May. The ground needs time to recover after been hard grazed by the ewes but it only takes a few days and the first white daisy heads appear, then the buttercups and clover, speedwell, pignut, cuckoo flower and eye-bright.

May is a great month to walk one of the hundreds of footpaths in the Yorkshire Dales.  The days are longer and warmer, the air is fresh, the rivers crystal clear and the daylight sweet.  There are lots of walking guides, ideas & information at both Pry House Farm and Hillcrest Cottage for all ages and abilities.  I have written blog posts for many walks in the area.  Here are the links to some of them Tan Hill to Pry HouseAskrigg in Wensleydale CircularReeth to Langthwaite circularCircular walk in Low RowRichmond Station to Easby Abbey CircularPry House to Keld via Ravenseat  However if you scroll further back than July 2021 you will find even more.


 June is the month when the wild flower meadows are at their very best.  Muker meadows are famous for the variety and rarity value of the wild flowers found there.  A flagged path through the centre of the six small meadow fields allows visitors close contact making it easy to observe and identify the dozens of species of herbs, grasses and flowers.  I like to visit in the late afternoon / early evening when the flowers give off their scent.  Its a heady experience but perhaps not for those who suffer with hay fever!

At Pry House Farm B&B we are surrounded on all sides by our own beautiful hay meadows.  They are visible from both guest bedrooms and the Shepherds Hut.

The wonderment of the untamed landscape of the dales gives inspiration and hope to many.  Unleash your inner creativity at one of the many crafting events around the area.  Make a clay bowl in the image of the Swaledale landscape with potter Suzie Wright.  Link here Keld Events.


July and summer is here.  Some people think the dales will be crammed with people and uncomfortably busy in the main summer holiday months.  It can be but not in the most northerly dales such as Upper Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.  It is however a very busy time for farmers as they meticulously watch the weather forecast for a good spell of hot, dry weather to make hay.

The herb, flower & grass rich meadow fields that have been admired from the B&B windows are now cut and turned and left to dry before being baled into hay.  Its a fascinating process.  Once the grass has turned to hay it is rowed up and the balers follow along gobbling up the dry grass and spitting it out as small, tightly packed & ready strung bales or rolled out as large round bales.

If you get the opportunity, do stop and watch. 

Here with the family?  There are lots of places to safely swim or paddle if supervised.  Forbidden Corner near Middleham is a unique experience and terrific fun Forbidden Corner or a visit to the World of James Herriot in Thirsk is a must for All Creatures Great & Small fans World of James Herriot. Another 'must' but this time for cheese lovers is the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes Wensleydale Creamery  And for dog lovers Askrigg Ropemaker is the only place for a hand made lead or a pair of skipping ropes!


During August there could be some hay & silage making going on so watch out for tractors & trailers and farmers on a mission!
The agricultural show season starts in August and runs through September.  Wensleydale Show on 24th August is the largest in the area Wensleydale Show.  Reeth Show, a very popular little dales show, is on Monday 26th August Reeth Show.  
On 18th August Chris will be giving a talk for the Keld Resource Centre, From Horse Power to Tractor Power.  A photographic record of farming and farming methods from the 1930s to present day.  Tickets available from the Keld Events link above.


The first Wednesday in September is an important date for us 'up dalers' as its Muker Show day! Its a not-to-be-missed day out for a lot of other people too.  Muker Show has a dedicated following and people come from all over the region to take part and enjoy the day.  Accommodation is scarce so book up now if you need to.  The B&B is already booked but Hillcrest is available week commencing 31st August.

In general, Muker Show and September is largely blessed with good weather.  The dale is starting to slow down and ease back a bit so its a very good time to come and stay and enjoy the tail end of summer.


October and autumn is upon us but what a bonny time of year.  Crunchy leaves, clear skies and the cleanest air, it makes for wonderful walking.
Once again there's plenty of activity on the roads as hill farmers take their stock to markets.  October is the month for selling breeding stock; both yows and tups (females & males).  Anyone can attend an auction mart.  Our marts are Kirkby Stephen and Hawes.  Call in, its quite an education!

November and December

Bonfire Night is celebrated in Reeth with a huge bonfire on the green and a very good firework display.  However if you are wanting to escape the cracks & bangs Hillcrest Cottage in Low Row is quietly located well away from the disturbance of fireworks.

Christmas in the dale is marked with Carol Services, children's parties, Christmas markets & craft fairs and pantomime.  The Georgian Theatre in Richmond (as mentioned in March) puts on a fantastic family pantomime with plenty 'oh, yes you did and oh, no you didn't' but less racket and innuendo than some of the bigger shows.  Craft Fairs take place in Low Row Institute & Reeth in November, great places to find genuine locally made and produced goods.
If you are in the dales in December do pay a visit to Askrigg in Wensleydale in the late afternoon.  The villagers decorate & light their windows and the church hosts a Christmas tree festival with trees decorated by local families, businesses and organisations.  Its very special.   

I hope this has given you an insight into some of the things that happen in the dales throughout the year.  I hope too that you are able to visit and experience a part of it.