Friday, 22 January 2021

Seasons on the Hill Farm

 Seasons on the Hill Farm by David Ian Short

A photographic view of the work and lives of a farming family in a North Yorkshire dale.

Ian Short is a well known photographer based in Richmond.  He runs photography courses for experts and beginners and often brings his students to Birkdale   

It has been an ambition of Ian's to create a photographic book of Birkdale and Upper Swaledale showcasing our beautiful dale through the seasons.  For a few years Ian has shadowed Chris, Raymond and Andrew as they have gone about their work on the farm, in the meadows & pastures and on the moor.  He has taken photographs at Tan Hill Show, Muker Show and the auction marts.  Seasons on the Hill Farm features over 200 photographs and covers all aspects of hill farming life in the upper dale.  

In addition Ian has captured the dramatic, unspoilt beauty of Upper Swaledale; the changing colours of the seasons, the visiting wildlife, the waterfalls and wild flowers.

Printed on top quality paper and elegantly bound, Season on the Hill Farm costs £15.00 plus postage & packing.  The book is being sold on a not-for-profit basis with all monies made being donated to charities that will benefit the dale.  If you would like a copy please email

Seasons on the Hill Farm is the realisation of Ian Short's dream. In part the Calvert family have enabled that however I firmly believe that it is the Calverts who are the winners.  Seasons on the Hill Farm is a tribute to our work and way of life and legacy for generations of Calverts to come.  Thank you, Ian.    

Friday, 8 January 2021

The winter of 1979 and a remarkable rescue

 The Winter of 1979

People talk about the bad winters of 1947 and 1979 when it snowed for weeks or even months on end. The winter of 1979 is the most memorable for the present generation and it is the year of a remarkable rescue of two young Dutchmen by Clifford Harker who lived and farmed at Pry House Farm at that time.

Today (8/01/2021) I have been on the moor with Chris to feed the White Spots heft of yows where the rescue took place. The photo above shows the remains of the 2 hay stores that were pivotal to the story. The corrugated roof in the foreground is all that remains of the hay store where Clifford was getting hay for his sheep. The old railway hut beyond was where the two young men were sheltering having got their car stuck in a snow drift close to Tailbrigg Hill. When Clifford came across them the younger man was not in good shape but there was no alternative but to walk the three & a half miles back to Pry House Farm - no 4 wheel drive tractors or quad bikes in those days.

As I travelled back to the farm in the safety of our tractor I marvelled at the toughness and the sheer strength of character of the farmers of that generation who walked for miles to tend their stock every day no matter what the weather threw at them. In the winter of 1979 Chris remembers walking onto the moor with his father to feed the sheep for 23 consecutive days, the road being unpassable by vehicles of the day. It is without doubt that Clifford's dedication to the welfare of his sheep resulted in two lives being saved.

For the full story click here

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Locked down, Snowed in but not Down & Out!

 A walk on the wild & wintery side to Birkdale Tarn

'When you're down and troubled' ..... 'take a walk on the wild side'.

Mixed lyrics but not a mixed message - walking is such a good tonic

Birkdale Tarn, remote and frozen.  I didn't test the ice.  I didn't even go down to the waters edge.  I'd already waded through snow drifts that almost stole my wellies so I was taking no chances.  The day was calm & still but the risk of snow coming from nowhere was ever present and I was on my own. 

So reluctantly I turned and headed back, following my footprints until home came into view.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Walking on the Snow Line

 Walking on the Snow Line

Flinging back the curtains to find the tops glistening white and a distinct snow line is an exciting start to the day during a winter break at Hillcrest Cottage, Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales.     

A short drive out of the village and rising only a few hundred feet , you are soon walking along the snow line.

 Crisp under foot, blue skies above, hardly a breath of wind and miles and miles of footpaths to yourself.
The snow that was tantalisingly close from the window is soon a reality.  A winter wonderland to explore, a dream cottage to return to, good food to enjoy, a log burner to warm heart & body, a holiday to lift the spirits.
Details of where to walk, the best places for food and insider tips of how to get the best from your holiday will be sent to you before you arrive. 
Looking forward to welcoming you already.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Seasons on the Hill Farm

 Seasons on the Hill Farm by David Ian Short

Seasons on a Hill Farm, a photographic view of the work and lives of a farming family in Upper Swaledale.  A pictoral record  of the farming year of Swaledale sheep breeders, the Calvert Family, who live and work in Birkdale, the most northerly dale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Ian has been shadowing Chris, Ray and Andrew throughout the seasons to record on camera as many aspects of the working lives of upper dales hill farmers as possible.  Seasons on the Hill Farm captures the rugged, untamed wildness of Birkdale and Upper Swaledale, the wildlife it sustains and traditional shepherding & farming practises that helps to retain the unspoilt beauty of the area. 

                       David Ian Short is a well known photographer based in Richmond.  Ian’s love for the dale comes through in his distinctive and engaging narrative voice, which accompanies his photographs. 

To purchase a copy of the book contact Glenda at or Ian at  Seasons on the Hill Farm is £14.99 + p&p 
Profits from the sale of the book will be donated to charities based in Swaledale.
Supported by the YDNPA Sustainable Development Fund.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

A walk in the footsteps of long ago lead miners

 From Surrender to Old Gang and Great Pinseat - a circular walk

Walk in the footsteps of the lead miners.  Approx 6 miles of good going with only a few easy inclines, making this an accessible walk for all ages and abilities.

Park at Surrender Bridge on the road between Low Row and Arkengarthdale. Walk downhill over the cattle grid, across the bridge and turn left along the clearly marked bridleway.  The track follows the Old Gang Beck for a couple of miles.  The first landmark is the ruins of Old Gang Smeltmill.  

  Old Gang is a group of buildings and relics of the lead mining industry.  These well preserved buildings and its impressive, ramrod straight chimney are a credit to the skills of the stonemasons of the 16th and 17th century.

Shortly after leaving Old Gang is Spencer Level clearly visible from the path.  Driven hundreds of yards (sometimes miles) into the hillside this is where the miners left the daylight behind to begin their working day.  When these tunnels were under construction a young boy would sit all day pumping bellows to give the men access to cleaner air.  Woe betide the unfortunate lad that fell asleep during this tedious and muscle aching task. 

About a mile further along are the unmistakable double Brandy Bottles.  These levels go deep into the ground and were designed for engines to bring the ore out however the engines never materialised.  Between the two openings is a bench, a welcome place to stop for coffee or lunch.

Hard Level Bridge and another further up stream, niether of which you cross. Stay on the path!
There are testaments to the building skills of the men-of-yesterday at every turn.  The bridges are particularly well crafted with strong, perfect arches and intricate stonework. 

 Shortly after leaving the Brandy Bottles the track bears right and begins the gentle rise to the summit of Great Pinseat.  Here the landscape changes completely and is stark and desolate, a dumping ground of spoil left over from the lead mining industry.  It resembles a cross between a lunar landscape and the Ohio desert and I wasn't sure to expect Captain Scott of the US Enterprise or Clint Eastwood and his poncho!

Despite the eerie, unwelcome nature of Great Pinseat the panorama is outstanding with views of Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and far beyond which quiet honestly takes your breath away.  The whole walk is on a well made path with no tricky navigational conundrums to solve which suited Suzanne and I as we could concentrate on chatting instead of getting lost! 

This is a great walk for families.  Space to run and jump and play.  Abandoned buildings to explore and wonder over.  Places to picnic.  Streams to splash in and endless opportunities for games of hide & seek.  The track is perfect for mountain bikes (less challenging and shorter than the Swale Trail so perfect for entry level bikers).  Or how about bringing your pony?  That was a delightful surprise! 

 Where the track drops down to meet the road, turn right and its just a short walk back to Surrender Bridge and the car park.  For more about the lead mines, some great photos and an easy map to follow clink on the this link
Thanks to Jonathon Smith introducing me to this walk through his article in the Darlington & Stockton Times 




Thursday, 19 November 2020

Winter Walks in Swaledale

 Walking in Winter

Looking east towards Low Row from Crackpot

There are some things in Swaledale that never change no matter what time of year you visit.  The scenery is always breathtaking, the quality of the air is unrivalled, there's space enough for everyone and peace & quiet for all.

 During autumn and winter the dozens of waterfalls to be discovered are more spellbinding than ever.  Heavy rain swells every stream and riverlet sending torrents of water over the falls.


Autumn, a favourite of many, brings a myriad of ochres, oranges, russets and tans. Crunchy underfoot and clear skies above, clean air and quiet lanes, Swaledale in autumn is wonderful place to be.

Another fascinating feature of winter days is watching the mist race along the fell tops, ribbon its way along the valley bottoms and rise from the river.

 But if you are really lucky your winter break with us will herald a fall of snow.  When it snows at the head of the dale anything can happen!  It can fall deep and crisp and even ......

or it can blow into alien shapes, drift against doors or white out windows!


Winter in Swaledale - its a wonderful time of year. Wrap up warm, take a hot flask and head out for an invigorating walk.  Stretch the muscles and clear the mind before returning to supper by a warm, welcoming fire.