Tuesday 28 April 2020

Stay Safe - an important message during lockdown and when its lifted.

Just recently I have taken the opportunity to explore the wilds of Upper Swaledale.  I can stay safe from coronavirus in this wide open space.  Chris keeps me safe from other dangers; hidden dangers.  The moors are his back yard, he has grown up with them, he knows every square inch - a knowledge passed down by his father and generations before him. 

This tiny stone building is known as Blue Johns, near to Blue John Hole. 
It is very similar to the little building on the roadside to Kirkby Stephen at Beck Meetings.  Like Beck Meetings, Blue Johns once had a chimney but it was not used as a dwelling for shepherds.  The firegrate was for heating tar and for horn burning and other tasks the shepherds needed heat for.

It is easy to become fanciful and allow imaginations to run riot.  The reality is these buildings were and still are (in the case of Beck Meetings) a working environment and part of the farm.  
Beck Meetings and the pens surrounding it are in regular use for holding and sorting sheep.

Blue John Hole is a series of deep chasms in the earth's surface.  The surface rocks have been eroded over hundreds of years to form intricate shapes and forms.  The Buttertubs on the road to Hawes are similar deep potholes however Blue John is unfenced and hazardous.  Please do not wander off on the moors, always stick to public footpaths. 

 Birkdale Tarn is another of Upper Swaledale's hidden gems and very close to Pry House Farm.

Lead mining was once the mainstay of life in Swaledale.  The population was a hundredfold of what it is today.  Large landowners and the lead mine owners dominated. Men and boys worked in the mines or in trades related to the mining industry such as forges and clog makers.  Families usually had access to a small piece of land to grow food, keep chickens, a pig or a cow if they were lucky.
It was a hard life.

There is lots of evidence in the dale of the lead mining industry.  This is what is left of the smelt mill on Keldside.  The chimney followed the rise of the hill.  If you know where to look and the light is right you can see the chimney as it lies along the contour of the hill.   Smelting, a dangerous environment, was often done by women and resulted in many premature deaths caused by lung disease known to the miners as black spit. 

There are hundreds of well marked public footpaths and bridleways in Swaledale, they are safe and well maintained.   Farm buildings can be dangerous places and the open moor has hidden dangers such as swallow holes, sink holes and mine shafts but this doesn't mean the moors are out of bounds.  Join a guided walk led by an experienced leader or follow a pre-planned route such as the 'Every Barn Tells A Story' walk booklets and the 'Show Me the Way' family walk leaflets designed especially for parents & children.  https://keld.org.uk/events/

Everything is on hold for the moment but beautiful Swaledale is going nowhere.  It will be here to enjoy in the future.  Make a wish list of things to see and do when the countryside is free of lockdown.  Make safe plans now and look forward to fulfilling your plans when its safe to travel to Swaledale again.   

Friday 24 April 2020

Walking up Great Sleddale

Today I've walked up the little known valley of  Sleddale.  
The walk starts where Sleddale beck and Birkdale beck join to form the River Swale.

The beck has to be crossed in several places.  Today was ideal as the low water levels made traversing the beck an easy task.

This side of Birkdale Beck is known as Lonin End, a long abandoned lead mining site.

A brave sapling clings on perilously, rooted between the stones. 
Where there's life there's hope.

The rusted relics of mining metalwork attempts to hide a deadly trap.  Below the pipes is a shaft a hundred feet deep or more?
Stand and listen to the water as it rushes by, deep underground.  Find a stone and drop it in if you dare.  Count the seconds till you hear it hit the water far below.

The skelton remains of one solitary wall, all that is left of a once fine stone building.  Jagged teeth-like stones point skyward whilst others hang precariously by dislocated joints.

You have entered the forgotten dale.

 Another stone structure to explore.  This time sheep penning, broken and unused.  You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a forgotten place.

But these wild moorland areas are still farmed and a little further on a comprehensive arrangement of sheep pens with cowus comes into view.

Clearly the sheep were not expecting to see me! 

Enclosures and penning is required when farmers gather the sheep off the vast area of unbroken fell.  Here they can be sorted and treated, clipped and cared for.

In these hidden dales tasks like this go unnoticed but it happens and in all weathers, not just on a beautiful day such as this!

A little further on and the perfect picnic stop by a waterfall.  
A good place to rest the feet and cool off.
Looking back towards Sleddale sheep pens

Pry House Farm from Great Sleddale

Monday 20 April 2020

A lambing tale with a happy ending.

All in a day's work!

Our Swaledale sheep are natural mothers which is why the majority of the flock lamb outside in the pastures surrounding the farmhouse.  Outdoors they can find a quiet corner to give birth.  They instinctively know that they must immediately lick the new lamb vigorously to dry it off and to promote circulation so that the lamb gets to its feet within minutes to feed.  At the same time they both make a unique noise that ensures that when they become part of a flock the lamb will always recognise its mother and the mother will always recognise its lamb.

 Right place, right time equals a happy ending
We do however lamb some sheep in the buildings including the shearlings (first time mums) as sometimes help can be required.  And this morning was one of those occasions.  I noticed this sheep was a-lambing as I went about my yard duties; checking lambs had suckled, filling water buckets and hay racks.  She was having a single lamb so I intended to leave her to get on with it however  something made me look again.  Blow me, the lamb was there but the sheep hadn't got up to it! What was worse was the birthing sack hadn't broken.  The camera got flung in the hay rack as I dashed acrossed, broke the membrane and cleared its mouth and airways.  Had I not stopped for that second look this lamb would most certainly have suffocated.  As it was, it gave a cough and splutter and took its first breath.  Mum was soon to her feet and nature kicked in.  I was not needed again and both are doing fine.

Friday 17 April 2020

More Happy Swaledale Memories

Here are more sunny photographs, sent to me by guests and friends, of days out and holidays in Swaledale.  I hope you enjoy them.  Some of the places you will recognise and some of them you may not.  Why not start making a wish list of places to visit and walks to tackle ready for when the doors to the dales are re-opened?

 Looking over to Smithy Holme.  Taken from Keldside just below Pry House Farm.

We have been lambing for a week now.  This photo was taken by Jan from the Netherlands last year although it could have been taken yesterday as this is exactly how the lambing shed looks today!  Lambing is going pretty well. It has been a steady start.  Soon we will be in the middle of a very busy time  as we have an awful lot of 'second weekers' scanned for twins.  So far the weather has been on our side - long may it continue!

 I've sneaked this photo in from this year.  Hetty the Herdwick has had twins, a pair of gimmers (females). I have called them Corra and Violet (work it out for yourselves!)   They are good strong lambs and all doing well. 

Next are a couple of photos of Louise and her family visiting some of their favourite haunts when they come to stay in Swaledale.  I'm sure many of you will recognise the locations.  Answers on a postcard please!

I can say with all honesty that I never get tired of the view from the windows at Pry House Farm.  I also never get tired of hearing the 'wow' when I check guests into their rooms for the first time!  For my many returning guests, the view from the bedroom window is something they look forward to.  From there, depending on the season,  you can watch the birds and the hares on the field, enjoy the lambs gamboling and playing, see the meadow full of flowers and maybe watch us making hay!

Thank you Emily for the photo from the bedroom window.  Emily and Barnabus spent their honeymoon with us in 2018

 From the first evening when we turned up so hopelessly unprepared, tired and unfed after a long journey up by car from Cornwall. You kindly rang ahead to the pub in Keld to ensure we did not miss last orders. We (and our tummies) were extremely grateful!
It was a gloriously hot week, so much so that I was actually able to enjoy walking the beautiful countryside in a t-shirt.  Even more memorable for us than the weather, was the privilege of being whisked away after breakfast to share the precious moments of a new-born lamb taking its first wobbly steps. A perfect Pry House specimen!  
We could not have asked for better hosts than you and Chris.  You made us feel most welcome, provided great advice on where to go and what to see.  We definitely want to come back when this awful situation is over. 

The Shepherd's Hut enjoys the same fabulous view - thanks Sue for this shot.

More photos of your favourite dale in the next blog.  If you haven't done so already, dig out your photographs - I'd love to see them.  Send to glenda_calvert@hotmail.co.uk

Till the next time, stay safe and well - Glenda

Saturday 11 April 2020

Swaledale Memories to make you Smile!

A trip down Swaledale Memory Lane

A few days ago I asked Pry House Farm B&B guests, my Shepherd's Hut guests and anyone who had stayed at Hillcrest Cottage for photographs and recollections of special times spent in Swaledale.  My idea is to share your photos here on my blog, on my Facebook pages and in my e-newsletter with the hope that they will bring a smile, jog a memory and trigger conversation about happy times in Yorkshire.  I have had some lovely responses and its been a real pleasure to see the farm, the cottage and the dales through someone else's eyes other than my own. 

Looking up towards Pry House Farm from Hoggarths camping field taken by Lisa who has been camping at Hoggarths for longer than I dare mention!

Sue Nichol, the Staithes Artist https://www.facebook.com/staithesartist/ September 2019
'I was visiting The Shepherd’s Hut so I could be around to meet and greet at my solo show at The Old School Gallery in Muker and also to take in Muker Show. I loved staying in the Hut. The views are to die for and so quiet!'  

Will there be a Muker Show this year?  Who knows?  September is a long way off yet so we must keep our fingers crossed and stay positive.  In farming our cup is always half full.  'What of', I hear you ask?  Yorkshire tea of course! 

The last people to stay at Hillcrest were Heather and Barry who sadly had to cut their visit to the cottage short in March.  They went home early because as the situation got worse they knew it was the right thing to do.  Like many people Heather & Barry have been to Hillcrest many times and  already reserved their chosen week for 2021. 

On the fells above Low Row.       Betty the basset watching the world go by in the garden at Hillcrest.

As we have started lambing only today I have finished with a photo of one of my regualar Pry House Farm guests bottle feeding a lamb.  Small lambs like these often need a top up.  I shall miss putting my bed & breakfast guests to use this lambing time!

I have lots more photos and stories to share with you so watch out for more posts like this.  If you have photographs I can use online please send them to glenda_calvert@hotmail.co.uk.  I'd love to see them and love to hear from you too. 
Thanks to Donna, Rachel and Jane for the last 3 photos.  Take care and stay safe.

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Dosing and Marking Hoggs

Dosing and marking hoggs before being turned onto the moor

Our hoggs (young sheep) spend the winter on lowland farms.  At the beginning of April they come back to the uplands to return to their heft on the moor.

Temporary penning is erected on the roadside and with the help of the sheepdogs the hoggs come into the pen and work begins. 

Before the hoggs are turned away to the moor it is essential that they set off in the best of health and also marked so that they can be identified as Pry House sheep.   They are dosed against disease and marked with the Pry House mark (a long black line on the near side) and a heft mark on the fleece above the leg (a red 'pop' above the off-side front leg).  
A good dog never takes his eye off the job.