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.



Sunday 13 August 2023

Walking the Herriot Way

 The Herriot Way

The Herriot Way is a 4 day, approx 52 mile walk in Swaledale and Wensleydale.  Inspired by a walk first described by James Herriot, the famous dales vet.  The Herriot Way is a circular walk that traditionally starts and ends in Aysgarth in Wensleydale however as I live in Keld in Swaledale, I wanted to start and finish in my own back yard!


The most important element of a long distance walk is careful planning and a good map.  Stuart Greig's pocket size guide and downloadable maps are the most wonderful resource imaginable.  Each of the four days are described step-by-step in the little book and provide almost bomb-proof directions.  The written instructions are backed up with a series of maps showing the Herriot Way path and the surrounding landscape and are annotated to keep you on the right track.  I cannot recommend Stuart Greig's guides highly enough particularly for someone like me who does not want a huge, flapping OS map and who can't use a compass!  Walking the Herriot Way

Day 1: Keld to Reeth - 12 miles

There is a choice of the high road or the low road between Keld and Reeth.  I chose the low route to ease the legs in but the views were still tremendous.  Weather was on our side too.

Plenty of stiles!

Taking a break and taking in the Swaledale scenery.

Day 2:  Reeth to Aysgarth via Castle Bolton - 14 miles

Day two was absolutely spectacular with views to die for and the most beautiful stretches of purple heather as far as the eye could see.  Grinton Moor was as sea of purple and the honey fragrance that floated in waves on the warm breeze was intoxicating.


Dropping over the top into Wensleydale.

Day 3:  Aysgarth to Hawes - 12 miles

In comparison to the other three days on the Herriot Way the walk from Aysgarth to Hawes is a pleasant ramble taking in several lovely dales villages. Askrigg was the first we came to.  Askrigg will be forever immortalised as the village of Darrowby in the original tv series of All Creatures Great & Small, home of the fictitious vet James Herriot. The building that was used as the Farnon & Herriot residence and veterinary practice is still there with the name Skeldale House etched above the front door.  The Kings Arms Hotel was used extensively as the Drovers.  The walls in the bar proudly display photographs of the stars during filming of this iconic and much loved BBC television series that brought the James Herriot stories and the Yorkshire Dales to millions of front rooms on a Sunday evening in the 1970s and 80s.
Hardraw is the last stop before Hawes and a rest and a swift drink at the Green Dragon is most welcome.  The Green Dragon is an original dales pub with stone flagged floor, range fire (even lit in August!), low beamed ceilings and a typical Yorkshire welcome.  No wonder the interior was chosen as the Drovers for the new Channel 5 All Creatures Great & Small tv series which is as popular on our screens in 2023 as the orginal series was over fifty years ago.

Day 4:  Hawes to Keld - 12 miles

The walk from Hawes to Keld over Great Shunner Fell, Yorkshire's third highest mountain, was always going to be the hardest day.  We were however blessed with the most glorious weather.  It was tough walking as the sun beamed down on the steep slopes but at each break for breath the views behind were breathtaking.

and finally to the top ..... and Swaledale opened up ahead .... beautiful Swaledale, beautiful dale.

In 2013 I went to the top of Great Shunner Fell on a quad bike.  Ten years ago I couldn't have walked there to save my life but this year, August 2023, I reached the top under my own steam relying on nothing other than my own feet, legs and lungs.  It was a fantastic feeling.  

I am now looking forward to my next adventure.  I will certainly be chosing one of Stuart Greig's walks as I love his format and his easy to follow instructions.  I feel safe in his hands and in his footsteps Stuart Greig - Lonewalker 

Thursday 20 July 2023

Walking to Nine Standards Rigg, Cumbria

 Nine Standards Rigg

Nine Standards Rigg is an iconic landmark near the summit of Hartley Fell in Cumbria.  Nine cairns, some which once stood nearly 4 metres high, stand at 2170 ft above sea level and provide spectacular 360 degree, panoramic views of the Teesdale hills, Swaledale, the Cumbrian hills and the Lake District mountains in the far distance.  Nobody really knows why they are there.  Some say they could have been an ancient boundary marker between Swaledale and Westmorland.  Another theory is that they were built to give the impression of a large army encampment and that the 'standard' or flag would have flown from the top of each cairn, sending a warning to any approaching foes.

Whatever their purpose, I am pleased I made it to the top,  Another boxed ticked!

My walk stared in the pretty village of Hartley just outside of Kirkby Stephen.  The village has popped up along both sides of a babbling stream with several attractive little footbridges that knit the village together.  At the top of the village is a short path (thoughtfully signposted) through a wooded area that is a pleasant diversion from the road.  Coming out of the wood carry on up hill to a left hand junction clearly marked 'Walkers path and C2C'.

The first glimpse of the Nine Standards

The trail is very easy to follow.  The first mile or so is along a the tarmac road that leads to the fell gate.

Through the fell gate and a wooden seat provides a good stopping place to take on water and admire the wonderful views of the Eden Valley that has been left behind.  The whole walk is largely uphill.  Hartley is 575 ft above sea level and Nine Standards Rigg stands at 2170 ft above sea level.  It doesn't have to be an uphill struggle but it does take stamina and a degree of determination.

Looking back from whence you came.

The path is easy to follow. There are however three different colour coded routes for different times of year.  These are for guidance only and are for those who are following the C2C trail all the way through to Keld.  For the purpose of walking to Nine Standards walkers are asked to use the Permissive Path.

Coast to Coast Walk and Nine Standards.  Due to severe ground damage the path has been re-routed.  Please follow the waymarked Permissive Path.

The fell is a working environment for hill farmers.  When gathered in, the sheep are penned up for one of many reasons; clipping, dozing, sorting, foot bathing.  These pens, although in a very remote spot, are in regular use. 


Although the trail is easy to follow the stone cairns have a habit of coming in and out of view.  There they are on the horizon but the next time you look they have disappeared.  Stick to path, you will get there eventually.

 Wow!  That last half mile is certainly worth it. 
This is also a natural watershed.  From here any water that falls to the west of the cairns flows back down to the River Eden and any water that falls to the east of the cairns flows into the River Swale.

For me this is where the walk ended.  After a short break and a well deserved sandwich I turned round and walked back down the 3.5 miles to Hartley.  

For a small bribe and by prior arrangement, any serious walker staying at Pry House Farm B&B who would like to tackle the whole stretch from Kirkby Stephen to Keld, a lift to Kirkby Stephen is possible.