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.   

Saturday 4 July 2020

Baby birds

New life on the farm doesn't always mean lambs. Pry House Farm is a magnet for dozens of breeds of birds.  In addition to the ground nesting birds that arrive each spring to breed by the river and in the surrounding pastures Pry House is a favourite with swallows and house martins.

The low wooden beams and the stone lintels in the traditional buildings that form the farmyard make the perfect nesting site for swallows.

The acrobatics and skillful flying techniques of the adult birds soon let us know when they are busy nest building.  And the appearance of bird droppings on the stone flags below is the tell tale sign that the chicks have hatched!

 Once fledged the parent birds continue to bring food for their offspring and the fledgling chicks return to the safety of their nest until strong enough and confident to take to the skies.

Other young birds to spot when you come to stay on the farm are wagtails, thrush, blackbirds, wren, sparrow and starling.  In the pastures and on the moor you will regularly see lapwing, curlew, skylark, redshank, oyster catchers, dippers and meadow pippin.