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.


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