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.