Wednesday, 2 September 2020

James Herriot - All Creatures Great & Small and the Dales

 Are you watching the new All Creatures Great & Small t.v. series on Channel 5?

We have known for some time that a new series was being put together.  Last night (1st September) James Herriot fans throughout the country settled in the front of their television sets in eager anticipation.  I am pleased to report that the new series has been well received and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was hard not to make comparisons but film making has come along way since the late nineteen seventies, the cast is new and fresh and the film location is mainly Whafedale not Swaledale, Wensleydale  and Arkengarthdale.  

A relatively new actor, Nicholas Ralph, has landed the starring role of James Herriot and he plays the part of the newly qualified vet very well.  Just the right balance of being overawed by his forthright employer Siegfried, his eagerness to prove himself as a veterinary surgeon and his instant affection for Yorkshire and Yorkshire folk.

Samuel West who plays Siegfried has huge shoes to fill.  Robert Hardy was enormously popular when he played the part however Samuel West has done himself proud.  The first time you hear Sam West as Siegfried call 'Mrs Hall!' (his housekeeper) it could have been the late, great Robert Hardy himself.  And once or twice more during the programme the clear, distinctive tone rings out.  That little nod to his predecessor was a very nice touch and one that fans of the original All Creatures Great & Small series will appreciate.

Channel 5 All Creatures Great & Small - Tuesday evenings at 9 p.m.

And so the scene is set.  It is rumoured that a new series will be filmed this winter.  I would love to visit Grassington when filming resumes.  This new portrayal of James Herriot's working life is bound to attract hundreds of visitors to the dales.  They will come to see the new film locations but they will still want to see where it happened first.  Hillcrest Cottage is only a couple of miles from the famous watersplash that featured in the opening sequence of the BBC tv series.  From Pry House Farm you can walk to the location of the feature film 'It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet'.

Pry House Farm and the rugged, untamed landscape that surrounds it epitomises the rural lifestyle and  working environment and that James Herriot took to his heart.  He would have regularly treated animals on farms like ours and experienced farmhouse hospitality.  One of the greatest complements I have ever been paid was when during breakfast a guest exclaimed, 'Its just as if Siegfried Farnon might walk in at any minute'.  Try the Pry House Farm B&B experience - you'll be very welcome.

     For more information about the location of the new series, working farms and where to stay, the Herriot Trail and James Herriot the author visit


Monday, 24 August 2020

The Swale Trail Keld to Reeth

The Swale Trail 

The Swale Trail stretches from Keld to Reeth - a mountain bike trail offering accessibility for cyclists of all abilities.  With unrivalled scenery from the very top of the dale and ending in the pretty little village of Reeth if you can ride a bike then get on it and have a go - you won't be disappointed.

For those who rarely ride a bike then hiring an electric bike is the way to go.  The Dales Bike Centre in Reeth have everything you need  Stuart brought the bikes to Keld and before setting us off he gave us a quick tutorial so that we were confident with the gears and the all- important electric motor functions.  There is no way in the world I could have completed the challenge without the extra boost the electric motor provides when the going gets tough.

And don't be fooled, it is tough.  The inclines, particularly near Keld, are steep and there are several stretches where the track is stony and rough. 

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Discussing the pros & cons of the next obstacle.  Under, over or through?

Some take up the challenge whilst others seek the safer alternative - no shame in that!


The day was glorious and as we climbed higher and higher above Muker the scenery became more & more spectacular.

Leaving Muker behind the trail climbs ever upwards out onto the moor road above Gunnerside.  The tarmac road is a welcome relief from the uneven, stony tracks at the beginning of the trail.

We are all getting used to our bikes now - they are a great piece of kit.  The 4 levels of assistance that the electric motor provides is just amazing. 

The Swale Trail claims to be a family friendly cycle ride and whilst we adults had the benefit of electric bikes the eleven year old twins that did the trail with us cycled the whole 12 miles by traditional pedal power alone.  Well done boys you have earned my respect. 


The long sweep downhill into Gunnerside is a welcome rest for the legs!

At the junction turn left onto the B6270.  This is one of the few sections where traffic has to be negotiated but only for a few hundred yards as soon the trail forks off left below the road to Crackpot.

Back on uneven going and this section is a real bone-shaker!  Good time to stop for lunch.

The Swale Trail covers rough terrain, made roads and grass tracks.  It goes up hill and down dale, follows river & stream and in places crosses it.  From open moor to narrow leafy lanes the Swale Trail mixes challenging territory with an easy ride and is an absolute pleasure from start to finish.

Ever since I did the Swale Trail from Reeth to Keld in 2018 I have hankered to do it from west to east and I'm so glad I've done it.  Would I do it again?  Definitely. Thanks to the Dales Bike Centre Harkers Coaches for the taxi ride back to Keld and the Yorkshire Dales National Park

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.