Wednesday, 21 November 2012

In the dark of the Dales

As our memories of the dog days of summer fade like the afternoon light of autumn, it’s easy to see why at this time of year many of us turn to the habits of the animal world and find a cosy spot to hibernate in.

A full moon above Embsay Crag, Wharfedale

But there are some people who refuse to let the reduced sunlight reduce their enjoyment of the National Park.

One of the simplest and loveliest things to do is just look up. The night sky is truly a wonder, and with so few street lights in the Dales there’s little light pollution to ruin the sparkle of a sky laden with stars and planets. The annual Orionid meteor shower in late October can be stunning on a clear night.

If you’re not content with just stargazing, at points between dusk and dawn in the autumn you can also spot Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus. Plus there’s always the moon (made from Wensleydale cheese of course) to wonder at.

And just think - the nights are at their longest, so there’s even more time to enjoy the night sky. Dust off your deck chairs and grab a blanket, some binoculars and a big mug of hot chocolate, and get stargazing.

But don’t get your twinkling lights confused!

If it’s low and moving it might be a fell runner. The Swaledale Outdoors Shop in Reeth holds a monthly Full Moon Run through the winter. “Head torches essential”, they say. Local man Brian Stallwood loves a head torch fell run around Attermire Scar near Settle, while Tina Spence is out “rain or shine” every Sunday with Askrigg Ladies. She recommends some hi-vis clothing to go with the head torch.

The 12-hour Three Peaks walk gets even more
challenging during the darker months.
Or maybe it’s the front lights from a mountain bike? Our Facebook friend Jackie Cole says there are some great bridleways in the Yorkshire Dales to get out on, day or night. One of her favourites is the Settle Loop on the new Pennine Bridleway.

Another friend on Facebook, Paula Bray, likes nothing more than heading out on an evening with a full moon and hard frost to tramp over Lea Green and Yarnbury.

Although later in the year much of the wildlife of the Dales has migrated or started their hibernation, there are still opportunities to get close to nature. The distinctive hoot of an owl can echo across a dale after dark, foxes stay active year round, and in autumn red squirrels bury food to see them through the winter. 

Now all of that lot may seem like fun, but it’s nothing compared to the pub. It’s seems the warming wood fires and even warmer welcomes of our local hostellers are amongst the favourite autumn evening activities in the Dales. And a few locally-brewed pints go a long way to keeping you warm on the walk home after closing time.

And cue the twinkling stars…
On Wednesday 28 November the National Trust is running a Moonlit Night Walk from Buckden in Wharfedale starting at 18:30. Please contact the National Trust to confirm details and book your place – call 01729 830 416 or email

And on Saturday 1 December you might like to pop along to Hawes in Wensleydale at 16:30 to see lights of another kind with the switching on of the village’s Christmas lights and the arrival of Santa!

For more events in the National Park visit

A little note of caution.
Please remember to exercise common sense if you decide to explore the Dales after dark and follow the Countryside Code as you would during the day.

Our tips? Make sure you tell someone where you are going; wear suitable clothing as it can get very cold at night (consider high visibility clothing, particularly if your walk involves some roadside sections); take suitably bright torches with spare batteries so you can see the path and avoid falling down a hole or into a river; have plenty of navigation options – including maps, compasses and GPS equipment – if you are going out on rights of way, as things can look pretty different after dark; and remember your personal safety at night time, too. For more info see 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Hidden history

If I were to ask you to conjure up a picture of a Dales resident what would that person look like?

Chances are we probably all thought of someone different, and it’s little wonder as the National Park is home to a wide variety of people of very different heritages.

And this has been the case for centuries. From the Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavian settlers, to the Romans, Vikings and Normans, and to more recent settlers from across the UK and further afield, the Dales has been a melting pot since 100 BC when the first outsiders, the Celts invaded from Europe.

Some people have come by force, some to escape or find freedom, and others to enjoy the location or seek economic success. 

October is UK Black History Month and we thought, with the help of the Dales Countryside Museum, we’d explore the people and places of the Dales that have been connected with Africa, the Caribbean and India.

Where people have come from, where they moved to, why they came and why they went may come as a surprise!

Slave traders, merchants and ships’ captains

For centuries, profits from transatlantic trading contributed to the development of the Western European economy, including that of the Dales. There was direct trade between Britain and Africa, the West Indies and the Americas.

Knitted stockings and ‘bump caps’ made in Dent were exported to the West Indies and sugar and other goods were imported to England. There is evidence of servants - enslaved and free - who were seemingly brought here by people living in the Dales and surrounding areas.

Local people also travelled along the shipping routes. They filled various roles including ship’s surgeon, captain of a slaving vessel and slave trader.


Planters and plantation workers

Several Dales families owned plantations in the Caribbean. Property names such as ‘Grenada House’ in Askrigg and what was known as ‘Africa House’ in Sedbergh provide tantalising clues to the history of their past owners.

Other people from the area worked in Jamaica, Dominica, Tobago, Grenada and Barbados, in roles such as overseer, surveyor, millwright, doctor and book-keeper. George Metcalfe of Rigg House near Hawes was a sugar plantation owner and president of the counsel in Dominica, while William Hillary, born at Birkrigg near Hawes, moved to Barbados in 1747 to work on climate and disease. He wrote a tropical medicine book on his return.

The contribution that Africa and enslaved Africans made to the wealth of certain Dales families must have been significant. For some, the inheritance of estate, property and trading interests raised both financial and ethical issues. William Place of Spennithorne for example, became a planter in Jamaica. Thomas Place, his son, “born of the body of a Slave of the name of Sherry Ellis on the Greencastle Estate in Jamaica” in 1823, was freed and came to England in 1835, eventually inheriting his father’s property in 1844.


Moving to the Dales

Various records show that people were brought to the Dales and the surrounding area to work as servants or nurse-maids.

John Yorke, a “negro servant”, was baptised at Marske Church in Swaledale and confirmed in Richmond. Yorke eventually married Hannah Barker at Kirkby Ravensworth and had seven children. It is interesting that in his book, ‘Richmondshire (1908)’, Edmund Bogg describes two of the Yorke children as “negroes brought ... from Afric’s sunny clime” despite the fact that they were born and bred in Swaledale.

John Dalton Esquire (1726-1811), an army officer in the East India Company, also appears to have brought a servant to the Dales area. This man, York, may have been of Indian origin.

We also know that women were brought to the area as servants. William Findlay of Thorns Hall, Sedbergh, came back to the area with a servant known as ‘Black Jenny’ and the Robinson family of Newby Park, near Topcliffe, Thirsk also employed a “malloto servant”.

There were many cotton mills in the Dales and Yorkshire area, all processing and generating income from a slave-produced product. Greenholme Cotton Mill at Burley-in-Wharfedale employed children from St. Margaret’s Workhouse, London. A letter from the Mill dated 3 November 1797 requests more children, “we ... rely upon you ........ for sending healthy Children.... Sophia the Black Girl is greatly improved in her industry.”

Thomas Rutling was born into slavery in America. He came to Britain as a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group established to raise money for the building of a University for African-Americans, at a time when American universities were strictly for “Whites only”. Rutling eventually settled in Harrogate in 1891, living there for at least 20 years. A linguist, he taught Italian, French and German in several local schools.

Children from the West Indies and the sons of rich Africans also attended school in the UK. In 1750, Francis Barber was sent to school in Barton near Richmond by Colonel Bathurst.



For some, the experience of living in other countries had a profound effect. On their return from the Caribbean to the Dales, some individuals chose to stand against slavery and to support the right for freedom and respect. They gave evidence at the House of Commons enquiries into the slave trade. Others also chose to stand in support of the abolition of slavery.

On 7 April 1798, a Leeds newspaper reported “the collection of £18 for supporting the application to Parliament for repeal of the [slave] trade ‘raised by voluntary contributions in a small part of the high end of Wensleydale... The contributors (being chiefly farmers) were informed of the injustice and inhumanity of the slave trade by pamphlets circulated previous to the collection.”

Robert Boucher Nicholls, Dean of Middleham, was born in Barbados and together with several other Dales people, gave evidence in 1791 to the House of Commons Select Committee which was enquiring into the slave trade. In 1787 he wrote a letter of support to the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which they considered important enough to be printed. He was a supporter of the Cambridge-educated African Caribbean poet, Francis Williams.

Henry ‘Box’ Brown was an ex-slave who spoke in favour of emancipation and travelled throughout the north of England. He is known to have spoken in Keighley and may have visited the Dales area.

Closely related

The information uncovered about the Black history of the Dales by the Dales Countryside Museum and North Yorkshire County Council Record Office as part of our ‘Hidden History’ project in 2007 only revealed the tip of the iceberg.

There are many stories of enslaved Africans being brought to villages which as yet have no supporting archival evidence. There are families for whom we can find no modern day link and people that we have not yet discovered.

Can you help? Have you traced your family tree and discovered some ‘hidden history’. You could contribute to the research of the Museum by getting in contact and making sure we have a full picture of the history of the Dales and the many people that have helped shape it.

Jenny meets Leeds actor and writer Joe Williams dressed in costume as Equiano
an African writer and enslaved person who joined the British abolition movement
at the opening of the Hidden History exhbition at Dales Countryside Museum in 2007.

Jenny Thornton was one of those people who got in touch. She’s a descendant of the enslaved African John Yorke. Mrs Thornton was eager to offer new information about her family history and was able to exchange research with Museum staff and add photographs of Yorke and her other descendants to the display.

Museum Manager Fiona Rosher said, “Suddenly, John Yorke went from being a name on a piece of paper to a living, breathing person with a very real and direct link to the present-day. That’s what’s so interesting about local history – the effects are all around you.”

Inspired by a new interest in her family history, Jenny went on BBC Radio 4’s programme “Tracing your roots” to talk about her family history. She even got to travel out to Jamaica with another BBC series, “Who Am I?”, to find the tombstones of her family. “Who Am I?” was broadcast on BBC Local Radio and released as part of the BBC website’s UK Black podcast.

Dales Countryside Museum is open 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday and tells the story of the people and the landscape of the Yorkshire Dales. There are regular special exhibitions and events throughout the year.

The ‘Hidden History’ and ‘Dales and the Wider World’ research is available to view in our research room, and we have volunteers on hand to help visitors explore the information on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Life through a lens

I fell in love with the Dales twenty five years ago when my grandparents moved to the area - and because of this ten years ago I moved here myself.

Dusk from Addlebrough

As well as looking after the IT systems at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority I’m a professional photographer and spend a lot of my free time out on the hills at first and last light trying to capture the beauty and strangeness of this extraordinary landscape.
Last year I took the opportunity to reduce my hours and finally pursue a photographic project I had been mulling over.

I work at the Authority because I believe in the valuable work the organisation does and, through my time here, I have become aware of the wide range of amazing people who also spend their time caring for the area.

Juniper in front of Ingleborough - the favourite view of
Fran Graham, Wildlife Conservation Officer, YDNPA

So I decided to put together an Arts Council grant bid to produce a book and exhibition celebrating the work they carry out. When completed, 'Working the View' will include the favourite views of forty people who work on the landscape - from farmers to landowners to employees of environmental organisations – all photographed by me.

However, images on their own can only show the beauty of the landscape – they don’t reveal the work which goes on behind the scenes.

Fortunately my sister Sarah is a professional writer (and soon to become a famous novelist!), so the second half of the project involves her interviewing these people to find out why they love that view, as well as learning more about the work they do to make it look the way it does.

Moughton Scar - the favourite view of David Sharrod,
Director, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust
Over the last year in my search to get the best photograph from these viewpoints I have witnessed the sun rise from spectacular locations such as the top of Barden Moor in Wharfedale and above Hawkswick in Littondale. I have watched it set from the top of Addlebrough in Wensleydale (image, top right) and the side of Ingleborough in Ribblesdale. I have discovered new locations to visit and have viewed familiar ones in different ways.
The light is magical and, apart from the struggle to leave my bed in the morning and the complaints from my legs as I spur them up steep hills before I've had breakfast, it has been a joy to experience the views at these times of day. As long as you research the weather well I would encourage everyone to try it at least once.

As a photographer, it has also been a challenge to take someone else’s favourite viewpoint and their relationship with it, and turn the 3D panorama into a 2D image that appeals to people who don't have that same personal connection. 

View above Hawkswick - the favourite view of Roger Gibson,
drystone waller/fencer and landscape contractor

While I have been out experiencing the views themselves, Sarah has been discovering the fascinating stories behind them.

Plucking her from her London base, I have sent her on trips all over the Dales to remote farmhouses and tucked away offices, from her city life to discussions about how to construct drystone walls, farm sheep and restore peat moorland.

Her different outlook has been an advantage. Although my countryside knowledge is by no means comprehensive, after a while you take certain things for granted. Having someone with a fresh outlook has resulted in many interesting discussions!

Sarah has gathered a wealth of interesting new facts - including how to sex a Juniper tree. Fran Graham, the Authority’s Wildlife Conservation Officer, discussed threats to the plant’s population and collecting seeds to propagate and use in regeneration projects.

Other people have described how they discovered the Dales, such as David Sharrod (Director of the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust) who first came on a sixth form school trip, and Dave Higgins (Project Manager for the Yorkshire Dales River Trust) who visited on family holidays from Hull.
Ingleborough - favourite view of Louise Smith,
Lead Adviser for Land Management, Natural England

Most of all, people have been describing just how special the Dales is to them. Drystone waller/fencer and landscape contractor Roger Gibson said:  “There’s no place like the Yorkshire Dales anywhere in the world. When you go travelling, the best thing about it is coming back – a lot of local people tell you that. You can never beat that feeling you get when you come past Kilnsey Crag and turn into Littondale.”

And Louise Smith (Lead Adviser for Land Management, Natural England) describes how “the characters that basically make this landscape living and breathing are the farmers, the farmer’s wives…they are part of that landscape. They have such admiration for it.”

My sister and I feel privileged to have met just a few of those who live in and care for this very special place. 

A free ‘work in progress’ exhibition is on public display at the Authority’s Bainbridge office until 31 October, which will then move to the Mill Gallery in Skipton from 2 November. Mark’s images can be viewed at

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Dropped right in it!

The stunning main chamber of
Gaping Gill (courtesy of Craven Pothole Club)
One of the best things about working at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is that you are reminded of how much there is to see in this beautiful part of the world – something you often forget when it’s all just down the road.

I’m currently compiling a list of the best and most popular tourist attractions for our website, and it’s pointing out some of the classic destinations I’ve never got around to seeing.

With that in mind, I headed out this summer with Craven Pothole Club on their annual winch meet at Gaping Gill.

With its enormous main chamber – big enough to fit St Paul’s Cathedral – Gaping Gill is one of the National Park’s most spectacular natural features, but it can be hard to access even for experienced cavers, often being filled with water.

Enter the Craven Pothole Club, who ran their traditional meet for members of the public this year from 18 to 27 August. They set up a chair on a winch on a little platform at the mouth of the cave, and for a small fee (£15) they’ll lower visitors down to the cave floor.

It’s brilliantly simple, opening the cave up to many people who would otherwise never see it.

The Club has run this event since 1930 (they only stopped for the Second World War and the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak), so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing.

My day began with a nice 3 mile walk up from the village of Clapham past Ingleborough show cave and onto the flanks of Ingleborough itself, one of Yorkshire’s own Three Peaks. I arrived to find a little tent village had sprung up around the entrance to Gaping Gill. I handed over my money, got a wristband and joined the queue.
Watching others go ahead of me, the trip down seemed quite fast - and a bit frightening! When it was my turn, I was strapped into the little chair and then the floor literally slid away from underneath me, leaving me dangling over a sheer drop of over 100 metres.

After a few seconds of wondering if I should have stayed in bed, the winch started up and I shot straight down past the rocks and through the waterfall that was dripping down from the surface. The trip is thrilling but perhaps not recommended if you don’t like heights – or water!

At the bottom I found myself in a gigantic chamber. For a while it was pitch black apart from the twinkling lights of people’s torches and the shaft of light coming down from the top. As my eyes adjusted, the full splendour of it became clear. Apparently the floodlights weren’t working that day because of a problem with the generator, but it hardly mattered – the place is impressive even without lights, perhaps more so as your senses take over and you feel the enormity of the space. A Club volunteer took us on a tour of the chamber to get a real feel for it.

On the whole I thoroughly enjoyed by trip to Gaping Gill and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a different side to the Dales landscape. The weather was pretty awful on Saturday which spoiled things a little - it started raining heavily while I was queuing and didn’t stop from the rest of the day!

Not that that mattered while I was underground.

Next year I’m planning to go back again and get the best possible view of this amazing place.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park’s cave systems are some of the most dramatic and extensive in Britain. Exploring caves takes knowledge, the right equipment and experience and it is best to gain these either through a course run be a qualified guide or by joining a local club. Alternatively, you can gain a taste of the experience by visiting one of our show caves. Find out more at

If you fancy following in Dave’s intrepid footsteps, why not join Bradford or Craven Pothole Clubs for their annual bank holiday winch meets – check out the events pages of our website for details.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Opening up the past

You might be interested to know that on just a few special days each September you get a rare opportunity to see inside some of the most amazing buildings in the country, absolutely free.

In 2012 this wonderful annual national event falls this weekend.

Once a year, on Heritage Open Days, a large number of historically and architecturally interesting buildings open their doors to members of the public all over England, allowing people to see British building gems for free. Perhaps more interestingly, many buildings open up areas that visitors normally don’t get to see. Some of them may not be open at all for the rest of the year. This makes Heritage Open Days a great weekend for anyone who’s interested in architecture or local history and heritage.

Naturally, this includes some buildings in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Farfield Mill Arts & Heritage Centre near Sedbergh is offering free entry on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September, giving you a great chance to see heritage displays and working looms, as well as craftspeople in action in the many artisan studios it houses. Elsewhere, historical churches will be happily welcoming visitors; St Margaret’s Church in Hawes will be offering tours and cream teas on Sunday, while St Wilfrid’s Church in Burnsall will be offering refreshments on Saturday and Sunday.
Linton Falls Hydroelectric Power Station is now providing
power to local homes again after nearly 100 years
 (courtesy of J N Bentley)
For something a little different, the recently restored Linton Falls Hydroelectric Power Station is a great example of the technologies of the past being used in modern times. After a century of neglect the turbine house – a scheduled monument – has been fully restored to its former glory, and on Thursday and Friday of last week visitors had a rare opportunity to see inside.

You can still ‘sneak a peak’ at this Edwardian building, and the newly installed Archimedean screws that power 90 family homes this year, by taking a short stroll along the River Wharfe between Grassington and Linton - there's an interpretation panel outside that will tell you more about its fascinating history. And if you're local, look out for special school visits, too.

Gold Viking ring uncovered at Sedbergh in 2008,
now on display at Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes
And there's still time tomorrow to absorb some fascinating Dales stories, get hands on with interactive displays and explore some amazing exhibits - including a gold Viking ring found in Sedbergh - at our own Dales Countryside Museum.

The aim of Heritage Open Days is not only to raise public awareness of some beloved and important buildings, but also bring people together by opening these local landmarks up for people that might otherwise not have visited them. Whether you’re hoping to learn more about local history and tradition or you just want to try something different, this weekend is a great opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on.

If you're interested in the historic buildings of the Yorkshire Dales National Park take a look at our webpages and learn how we help care for them. While you're there don't forget to delve into the curious world of our Feature of the Season - highlighting some of the smaller, hidden gems of this special place!

Friday, 31 August 2012

King of the hill

As Access Development Officer, I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing people with all levels of ability. With the Paralympic Games upon us, it got me thinking about some of the memorable experiences I’ve had with some of our less able visitors.

Steve Higgins and his trusty Tramper
A few years ago, I was contacted by a man called Steve Higgins who wanted to get out into the Yorkshire Dales on his Tramper. At the time, I knew very little about Trampers but learnt that they are all-terrain mobility scooters capable of steep gradients and rough terrain and which are legally allowed to go anywhere you can go on foot.

In 2005, Steve was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and when I first met him, he was unable to walk far, but felt that his Tramper had given him a whole new lease of life.

Now living in Bedfordshire, Steve had grown up in Halifax and felt his true home was his old playground of the Dales. He had heard about the Pennine Bridleway – the UK’s newest National Trail, 52 miles of which crosses the Yorkshire Dales National Park – and so we agreed to give the first section completed, the Settle Loop, a go. 

Tackling rocky ground in the gloom
We met on a cold, wet day. Steve had brought his friend Dick and I brought back-up in case of emergencies. We set off and I was soon amazed at what Steve’s Tramper could do, and what he was prepared to try. There were a few occasions when we had to push him up rocky sections - and when his Tramper gave up and ran out of battery power we had to freewheel it back to Settle – so we concluded that the Settle Loop was for hard core disabled ramblers only. But Steve – a really funny character and great companion - had a brilliant day and the look of achievement on his face is something that will last with me for quite some time.

On the back of his experience with us, the Disabled Ramblers, a charity offering hikes for people with disabilities, added the National Park to their list of annual events and its members have been visiting us for two or three days a year ever since.

Steve also continued to come – it was his second home really – and he always brought a team of supporters known as Team Higgi, close friends and neighbours. Meeting up with him had become one of the highlights of my year - especially the copious amount of liquorice allsorts he would provide!

Sadly, in December 2011, Steve passed away aged 69. When he was diagnosed he was given three years to live and I really believe that because he could continue to go to the places he loved on his Tramper his life was extended. 
The Disabled Ramblers and Team Higgi return
to the Settle Loop in memory of Steve this 'summer'!

This summer, the Disabled Ramblers came back for their annual visit and I was delighted to see Team Higgi, too. They had enjoyed the trips so much that they have now joined the group and intend to represent Steve on a day out every year. 

We did three routes over the weekend, ending with the tough 10 mile Settle Loop on the final day in Steve’s memory. I’m convinced he was watching us, laughing as we plodded on in the miserable, wet weather. He was much missed.

I recently found out that after he trailblazed the Settle Loop with us on that gloomy Dales day four years ago, Steve told his friends that he had actually done it all on his own, got stranded on the top with no battery power and that we had stumbled across him and helped him back to his car. His friends all thought this was hilarious and he never told them the truth. Whoops, they know now!
We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy some access to the countryside, no matter what their level of ability. To find out about opportunities to enjoy the Yorkshire Dales National Park, whether you are a wheelchair user, are less mobile, have a young family or even have an elderly four legged companion for whom stiles are increasingly difficult, start by visiting our access for all web pages for advice on trails, viewpoints, accommodation and facilities.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Yorkshire Gold

“There must be something in the water, that and the Yorkshire pride”
- Mick Hill, Jessica Ennis's javelin coach -

Our fancy was tickled this week - along with many other people’s, judging by the tongue-in-cheek chatter online - by a comment made by Yorkshire Radio reporter Jonathan Buchan, ahead of heptathlete Jessica Ennis’s Olympic victory on Saturday.

Jonathan said on Twitter that if Yorkshire were a country it would currently be 11th in the medal table.

This was all down to the number of Olympic competitors from Team GB who actually hail from our region.

This fun stat – at that time Yorkshire athletes had achieved four golds, two silvers and three bronzes - placed us above the likes of Australia on the virtual chart!

Medallists include rower Andrew Triggs-Hodge, raised in Hebden right here in the National Park, and Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, triathlon champ and bronze medallist respectively, from Leeds.
Bradford-based climber John Dunne
at Malham Cove

In The Guardian newspaper, the Brownlee brothers credited the natural training ground of the Yorkshire Dales as one of the reasons for their burgeoning success, and raved about their outdoor gym on Chris Evan’s BBC Radio 2 breakfast show. We hope to see them running on the fells again soon. 

We had a great live chat with local legend, climber John Dunne on Twitter last Friday as part of National Parks Week 2012. John has been our sporting ambassador for this year’s celebration of Britain’s beautiful winning landscapes and was there to answer all your questions. 

He told us his most thrilling climb was being the first to free-scale Malham Cove – ‘pretty special’. And his most useful bit of kit? Well, a flask of Yorkshire tea was right up there along with good rock shoes!

And we’ve a few ‘champions’ amongst our very own team. Cathy Bradley – Access Technician and fell runner – blogged earlier this month about how training here exhilarates and inspires her, while Recreation and Tourism Manager Mark Allum described how he prepared for a recent cycling trip to the Pyrenees in his beloved Dales hills. Click on the links on the right to read their experiences.

National Parks were created for the fantastic health and recreational opportunities they offer so it’s no wonder they are being used to such success as a green gym.

With summer finally arrived, now is the time to take in a few gulps of Yorkshire’s award-winning, champion-building air. We’ve got loads of ideas for getting active whether hiking, horseriding, climbing or caving is your thing.

The glorious 52 mile Yorkshire Dales National Park section of the Pennine Bridleway - the first National Trail designed specifically for cyclists, horseriders and walkers - opened this summer so be among the first to try it out. And for a breather you could take in the ‘Sporting Spirit’ exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes - which we’re excited to learn features the Olympic torch carried at Aysgarth Falls. It runs until 4 September.

The gold post box honouring Andy Triggs-Hodge's
Olympic win in his place of birth, Hebden in Wharfedale
In the meantime look out for this freshly painted golden post box in the lovely village of Hebden in Wharfedale when you are next out and about. This is where Men's Coxless Four Rowing gold medal winner Andrew Triggs-Hodge grew up. Well done, Andy, you did us all proud!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Yorkshire Dales National Park – a ‘green gym’

Fell running has a strong tradition in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, particularly with its link to local shows.  While it's just one way that the contrasting landscapes can be enjoyed, the National Park provides the ideal training ground for a fell runner.

It also doesn’t matter about level of ability. For example, the sheltered flat river bank between Bolton Abbey and Grassington, along the Dales Way, provides an easy run out or a recovery run after a hard race, while the huge mound of Elbolton Hill reef knoll near Thorpe is ideal to increase climbing strength.

Fell running in the Yorkshire Dales to me is a myriad of things – it’s exhilarating, inspiring and stimulating –it takes you to remote places and lets you see hidden gems.

And, despite the physical exertion when you are sometimes pushing yourself to the limit, it can be very therapeutic, releasing anxieties, giving you confidence and providing an escape from everyday life. And, of course, it’s free!

You are travelling fast and light over varied ground against the elements and in all weathers through breathtaking scenery.

On the steep run out of Kettlewell onto the top of Old Cote Moor on a late summer’s evening you are rewarded with a long view up into lovely Littondale, with Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough poking up in the distance.

An evening run around the Ingleborough massif finishes off with the descent to Little Ingleborough in the dark and you know you have been the last person on the summit plateau to watch the blazing red sunset over Morecambe Bay. It’s an experience not to be missed and I make sure I do it every summer.

Then there are night runs in fresh snow above Bordley, when the only sign of life is a fox’s tracks and the moon is so bright you can switch your head torch off.

Fell running club social runs take you across Rylstone and Cracoe Fell to finish off with a warm welcome, and drink at one of the Dales pubs.

Running home from work across Threshfield and Linton Moor up to Rylstone Cross, across Barden Moor bridleway to Embsay Crag, I take a quick stop on the top of the Crag from where I can see home.

On other days I look forward to leaving my car at Ribblehead to set off for a long day of running into the quieter dales – Kingsdale, Barbondale and Dentdale – getting back exhausted, but content.

I always get butterflies in my stomach at the thought of the scree descent and infamous ‘chimney’ in the Kilnsey Crag fell race – it’s soon over with though! And every year I get the same giddy feeling upon reaching the summit on Ingleborough in the Three Peaks Fell Race, with the thought that you have cracked it and it’s just a case of keeping on your feet for the final three miles to the finish line! 

But whatever the occasion – whether it’s a run or a race – it’s just a fantastic feeling to be out in the landscape of the National Park – it really is the perfect, beautiful green gym.

Find out more about 'Getting Active' in the Yorkshire Dales National Park on our website.

Read articles like this in our monthly ‘National Park Notes’ column in the Darlington and Stockton Times.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A good spot for sport

While many people throughout the world are excitedly awaiting London 2012, at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority we’re excitedly awaiting National Parks Week.

Kicking off on 30 July – only three days after the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony – National Parks Week will run to 5 August and is a time for the nation to celebrate and enjoy the best of British countryside.

Team GB, in this case, is made up of the 15 national parks across England, Scotland and Wales, and each will run a series of special events and activities throughout the week so that people can experience the uniqueness of these protected areas.

In 2012 we will be holding up a torch to national parks as Britain’s ‘winning landscapes’, exploring their long connection with recreational pursuits and competitive spirit. Our beautiful winning landscapes have inspired mountaineers, sailors, cyclists, runners and Olympic athletes to aim higher and train harder – sometimes to record-breaking effect.

A quick count in and around the Yorkshire Dales uncovers upwards of 35 high-performing sports people – retired, active or stars of the future – who have a connection with the area.  From horse riders to wind surfers, footballers to skiers, many undoubtedly have taken to the hills, roads and water of the National Park to improve their fitness and hone their skills.

Known as ‘green gyms’, national parks provide considerably more interest than the four walls of your local fitness centre or professional training facilities. Both may improve physical fitness, but research shows that exercising in the natural environment could also improve mental fitness. Those that choose the outdoors may experience greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. With winning being as much about mental attitude as physical ability, it is little wonder so many sports people are training outdoors in national parks. 

Maurice Collett on relay day (20 June 2012)
Exercising outdoors is not a modern trend. For generations the competitive spirit in the Yorkshire Dales has come to the fore at the many annual shows, festivals, sports and events. This year’s summer exhibition at Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes explores the subject further and will be looking at the people and communities who have used the rugged outdoors to challenge and inspire themselves.

Also on display at the ‘Sporting Spirit’ exhibition, which runs from July 7 to September 4, is the Olympic Torch that carried the flame through Aysgarth and down to the iconic falls. It was kindly lent to us by Maurice Collett, the 89-year-old Kendal man who carried it in the Yorkshire Dales National Park stage of the torch relay.

You may also wish to join us on during National Parks Week where we will be hosting a live chat with climber extraordinaire John Dunne, who learnt his craft and blazed new trails up many of the limestone and gritstone rock faces of the Dales. Thursday 2 August 2pm to 4pm, mark your posts #yorkshiredales

More information, including a list of National Parks Week events, can be found at

Read articles like this in our monthly ‘National Park Notes’ column in the Darlington and Stockton Times.