Sunday 25 February 2024

Set in Stone

 Set in Stone


There are thousands of miles of dry stone walls in the dales.  They provide boundaries for meadows, fields & folds, garths & gardens, pastures, pens and punds (compound or small holding area for a few sheep) and then snakes their way upwards for miles & miles dividing the fell and forming the moor wall.


The drystone walls and the hundreds upon hundreds of little stone field buildings or cow houses (cow'us) as they are known in Swaledale define the Yorkshire Dales.

They are everywhere, they are impossible to miss but look a bit closer and there is a lot to find, hidden in the stone.  Look up, look down, you'll be surprised what you discover.  


 A worn horseshoe hammered into a stone wall.  A place to tie up the horse perhaps?


Dates and initials can tell us how old a building is and who lived here although they can also be deceiving.  The farm buildings at Pry House are not 350 years old but perhaps there has been a some sort of stone structure here since 1665.  The initials R A A will belong to a member of the Alderson family, a common name in upper Swaledale.


In fact George & Charles Alderson built Pry House in 1858 and had a sundial & their names carved in stone above the front door.


Benchmark carvings denote the 'mean' height above sea level.  They are sometimes referred to as 'crows feet' but this is not their proper name as a benchmark is an arrow with a straight line across the top.  We have one at Pry House on the road side building and there is another on the building opposite the Ravenseat road.  Pry House sits at 1300 feet above sea level.  Some people make a hobby out of finding & recording Benchmarks.  Its called Benchmark Bagging.

Look out for boundary stones as you cross from one county to another.  There are two on the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria on the B6270 a few miles west of Pry House Farm.  
This sboundary stone faces east and the inscription is still clear.  It marks the edge of Birkdale, the most westerly dale in North Yorkshire.  



The writing on this stone faces west and the privailing wind and weather has eroded the inscription. I think it marks the beginning of Nateby fell. It is dated 1856.  Who the stretch of moor between the two stones belongs to is a mystery!
Happy hunting.




 



Monday 29 January 2024

Planning your holiday? What's on in Swaledale

 So you are planning your holiday to Swaledale.  When is the best time for you to come?

Here's what's on in the months ahead.


March

We don't open the B&B at Pry House Farm until mid April but Hillcrest Cottage is open all year round.  March is a quiet month and the perfect time to have the dales all to yourself.  Spring is just arriving and with it the early lambs, the early flowering bulbs and the first green shoots.  A great time to get out and walk then scurry back to the cottage for quality time in front of the log burner or an evening stroll to the Punchbowl for supper.  

For a good day out pop down to Richmond where there are things to do to suit everyone.  The Georgian Theatre, the most complete working Georgian theatre in Britain, conducts excellent theatre tours Georgian Theatre Tours. Richmondshire Museum, small from the outside but surprisingly tardis-like inside, is all about immersive local & social history from its rebuilt Cruck House to part of the set from the BBC All Creatures Great & Small tv series Richmondshire Museum.  Other places to visit are Richmond Castle and the Green Howards Museum.  Richmond Station is also full of surprises. No longer a train station but now sympathetically transformed into a cinema, restaurant/cafe, gallery space plus artisan food & craft areas Richmond Station

April


April means new life, spring green and warmer sunshine.  The upper dale begins to wake up and there's something new to see at every turn; lambs absolutely everywhere, buds on trees, catkins, the first tiny flowers; primroses and wild anemones and golden daffodils on the verges and every village green.  An absolutely lovely time to visit the dales.  Its a bit slower at the top of the dale and is why we don't welcome guests to the farm quite as soon as other B&B establishments. Lambing however starts around the 13th and lambs come when they are ready not when the weather improves so its a case of getting on with it - rain, hail or snow!  April is also when our feathered visitors arrive.  Its often a race to see who arrives first, the lapwing, the curlew or the oyster catchers.  We also have snipe, woodcock, geese, dippers, wagtail, wren to name but a few. 


If you'd like to stay local to the top of the dale there's still lots to do. The Keld Resource Centre offers a fabulous selection of events from guided walks and talks to creative crafts.  This April they are holding a Spring Flower Workshop led by local florist, Shannon.  Have a look at the full list of events here KRC Events.

May


Lambing time continues throughout the month of May.  Many ewes with single lambs will have returned to the fell but those rearing twins will remain in the pastures until they have been clipped. So plenty of lambs for you to enjoy.  The meadow fields are cleared of lambs by mid May. The ground needs time to recover after been hard grazed by the ewes but it only takes a few days and the first white daisy heads appear, then the buttercups and clover, speedwell, pignut, cuckoo flower and eye-bright.
 

May is a great month to walk one of the hundreds of footpaths in the Yorkshire Dales.  The days are longer and warmer, the air is fresh, the rivers crystal clear and the daylight sweet.  There are lots of walking guides, ideas & information at both Pry House Farm and Hillcrest Cottage for all ages and abilities.  I have written blog posts for many walks in the area.  Here are the links to some of them Tan Hill to Pry HouseAskrigg in Wensleydale CircularReeth to Langthwaite circularCircular walk in Low RowRichmond Station to Easby Abbey CircularPry House to Keld via Ravenseat  However if you scroll further back than July 2021 you will find even more.

June


 June is the month when the wild flower meadows are at their very best.  Muker meadows are famous for the variety and rarity value of the wild flowers found there.  A flagged path through the centre of the six small meadow fields allows visitors close contact making it easy to observe and identify the dozens of species of herbs, grasses and flowers.  I like to visit in the late afternoon / early evening when the flowers give off their scent.  Its a heady experience but perhaps not for those who suffer with hay fever!


At Pry House Farm B&B we are surrounded on all sides by our own beautiful hay meadows.  They are visible from both guest bedrooms and the Shepherds Hut.

The wonderment of the untamed landscape of the dales gives inspiration and hope to many.  Unleash your inner creativity at one of the many crafting events around the area.  Make a clay bowl in the image of the Swaledale landscape with potter Suzie Wright.  Link here Keld Events.

July

July and summer is here.  Some people think the dales will be crammed with people and uncomfortably busy in the main summer holiday months.  It can be but not in the most northerly dales such as Upper Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.  It is however a very busy time for farmers as they meticulously watch the weather forecast for a good spell of hot, dry weather to make hay.


The herb, flower & grass rich meadow fields that have been admired from the B&B windows are now cut and turned and left to dry before being baled into hay.  Its a fascinating process.  Once the grass has turned to hay it is rowed up and the balers follow along gobbling up the dry grass and spitting it out as small, tightly packed & ready strung bales or rolled out as large round bales.


If you get the opportunity, do stop and watch. 


Here with the family?  There are lots of places to safely swim or paddle if supervised.  Forbidden Corner near Middleham is a unique experience and terrific fun Forbidden Corner or a visit to the World of James Herriot in Thirsk is a must for All Creatures Great & Small fans World of James Herriot. Another 'must' but this time for cheese lovers is the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes Wensleydale Creamery  And for dog lovers Askrigg Ropemaker is the only place for a hand made lead or a pair of skipping ropes!

August


During August there could be some hay & silage making going on so watch out for tractors & trailers and farmers on a mission!
The agricultural show season starts in August and runs through September.  Wensleydale Show on 24th August is the largest in the area Wensleydale Show.  Reeth Show, a very popular little dales show, is on Monday 26th August Reeth Show.  
On 18th August Chris will be giving a talk for the Keld Resource Centre, From Horse Power to Tractor Power.  A photographic record of farming and farming methods from the 1930s to present day.  Tickets available from the Keld Events link above.


September

The first Wednesday in September is an important date for us 'up dalers' as its Muker Show day! Its a not-to-be-missed day out for a lot of other people too.  Muker Show has a dedicated following and people come from all over the region to take part and enjoy the day.  Accommodation is scarce so book up now if you need to.  The B&B is already booked but Hillcrest is available week commencing 31st August.


In general, Muker Show and September is largely blessed with good weather.  The dale is starting to slow down and ease back a bit so its a very good time to come and stay and enjoy the tail end of summer.

October


October and autumn is upon us but what a bonny time of year.  Crunchy leaves, clear skies and the cleanest air, it makes for wonderful walking.
Once again there's plenty of activity on the roads as hill farmers take their stock to markets.  October is the month for selling breeding stock; both yows and tups (females & males).  Anyone can attend an auction mart.  Our marts are Kirkby Stephen and Hawes.  Call in, its quite an education!

November and December

Bonfire Night is celebrated in Reeth with a huge bonfire on the green and a very good firework display.  However if you are wanting to escape the cracks & bangs Hillcrest Cottage in Low Row is quietly located well away from the disturbance of fireworks.


Christmas in the dale is marked with Carol Services, children's parties, Christmas markets & craft fairs and pantomime.  The Georgian Theatre in Richmond (as mentioned in March) puts on a fantastic family pantomime with plenty 'oh, yes you did and oh, no you didn't' but less racket and innuendo than some of the bigger shows.  Craft Fairs take place in Low Row Institute & Reeth in November, great places to find genuine locally made and produced goods.
If you are in the dales in December do pay a visit to Askrigg in Wensleydale in the late afternoon.  The villagers decorate & light their windows and the church hosts a Christmas tree festival with trees decorated by local families, businesses and organisations.  Its very special.   

I hope this has given you an insight into some of the things that happen in the dales throughout the year.  I hope too that you are able to visit and experience a part of it.