Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I’ve created a monster!

This time last year my town-dwelling nephew, Oli, came to stay with me in the Yorkshire Dales National Park for three weeks. My initial excitement quickly turned to horror when I realised I knew very little about keeping a sixteen-year-old boy entertained for very long.

Panic set in as I stared at my modest collection of console games and ‘girlie’ CDs, DVDs, and books. Then I looked out the window – “why was I trying to create a home from home for him, he’s coming to a national park,” I said to myself, “get out and help him discover this magical place for himself.”

Oli on the path next to Malham Tarn, GPS in hand
With gusto I grabbed my highlighter pen and a copy of The Visitor and got down to work, circling all the family-friendly events happening during his visit, as well as ideas for things to do and places to visit.

We climbed hills, played Pooh sticks (no one is ever too old or too young for Pooh sticks), skimmed stones, visited local attractions, and gave every last thing a go at the local agricultural shows and game fairs. We also went on a few of the events organised by the National Park Authority. 

As is par for the course with teenagers, the monosyllabic grunts that I was afforded during his stay turned to gushing enthusiasm once in different company.

Back at his home he couldn’t stop talking about the introduction to geocaching session we had attended near Malham Tarn. He had loved it - working with the GPS gadget, walking across a beautiful landscape, hunting for the cache box that contained prizes that he could swap – the challenge of this modern day treasure hunt had played right into his competitive and active nature.

Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online.

Intrigued, my sister Judith agreed to take Oli out geocaching again that summer. She bought a cheap ‘pre-loved’ GPS to get them started, and signed up to so they could find the co-ordinates of nearby caches and log the ones they find.  

Little did I know the impact that afternoon on the moors around Malham would have!

A year on and the pair have logged nearly 250 caches and hidden seven of their own. They have found them in phone boxes and by harbours, deep in forests and high on hills, and the whole family have even been out on mass caches with other enthusiasts. For my birthday last month they even sent me ‘Log My Dog’ tags so I can turn my two greyhounds into walking caches!

I truly have created two geocaching monsters. But this obsession does not seem too uncommon.

Geocaching – using multi-million dollar
satellites to find Tupperware in the
 woods/long grass/hedges...
Visit Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre and you may meet our Information Advisor Janet who has logged 444 geocaches in the past five years.

Calling themselves the ‘Dales Golden Girls’, Janet goes out with friends from work searching for caches. She said “It’s such a fascinating hobby. It keeps me active and I get to visit places I’ve never been to before. There are caches out there as small as your fingernail to the size of a crate, and they are everywhere - from cities to fields to mountains. It’s so exciting and fun.”

Her enthusiasm for the pastime spills over into her working life. On her recommendation a couple from Derby visiting the National Park Centre whilst on holiday, rented a GPS and found their first cache. A year later, remembering Janet’s pseudonym, they got back in contact to let her know that they had found over 800 caches since their holiday. The most recent was one that Janet herself had found only weeks earlier. 

Next time you visit, think about the behind-the-scenes guy, Stuart, who even had his own geocaching coins minted. He now tracks their progress across the world as geocachers collect them from one cache, deposit them in another, and record their finds on the internet.

A Dales Volunteer shows
the group a cache
You can try geocaching for yourself at the upcoming National Park event for beginners on 7 July or learn more about the craze, where to hire GPS equipment and National Park caches from our website

Saturday 7 July,11:00 to 15:00
National Park Event - Hidden GPS Treasure (Geocaching for Beginners)
Meet Street Gate parking area, south Malham Tarn (grid ref SD 9038 6567)
A moderate 6 mile (10 km) walk that introduces geocaching - a 'treasure' hunt using handheld GPS units - as a new outdoor activity. If you have a GPS please bring it along - we have a limited number to borrow, please reserve in advance.
call 01729 833200 email


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A diamond in the landscape

It's been a bumper time of celebrations and nostalgia marking the Diamond Jubilee - and who are we to resist adding to the mix!

When Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, the Act that led to the creation of the UK’s National Parks had been passed just three years before. 

Enjoying a walking break in Malham, Easter 1954
(copyright Alan Watkinson)
Five National Parks had already been created and the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park was being pondered over by the local authorities. Nearly seven hundred glorious square miles were eventually designated - and in 2014 it will be celebrating its own diamond jubilee.

It seemed a good excuse (as if we needed one) to enjoy some super old photographs supplied by good friends of the National Park, looking back at how we lived, worked and played here when the young Queen was taking on her first duties.

We hope you enjoy these photos from our Yorkshire Dales National Park Flickr page. Please do share yours with us, of all your experiences of this special place - we would love to hear from you!

Friday, 1 June 2012

A grand day out

What are you and your family up to this half term? Busy running a website offering everything you need to know about things to do with children under 5 in and around Skipton as well as being a mother of two, our guest blogger Kate Taylor can’t think of anything better than a grand day out in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Moving from London to Rylstone on 24 December last year was without doubt the very best Christmas present our family has ever given itself.

We have drawn back our curtains every day to the same breathtaking view and fallen in love with it afresh each morning.

Rylstone Cross
We’ve been smitten in all weathers. We’ve watched as mists have rolled in and completely covered Hetton, barely a quarter of a mile across the fields. We’ve seen frosts glittering across the dry stone walls. We’ve watched giant hailstones bounce and skid across our lane. We’ve watched transfixed as carpets of thick snow quietly fell. We’ve seen a rainbow arc over the escarpment up to Rylstone Cross. We’ve watched as winds whistled and whipped through the trees. Needless to say, we’ve also seen rain like we’ve never seen before. And we’ve been out in it too. All of it!

When the farmer turned the cows out last week, it heralded the start of summer. And, as if on cue, we pulled back our curtains and saw our amazing view of green field after bright green field lit up by glorious sunshine. 
Malham Cove - a gentle walk
 from the village centre

Not to waste a golden opportunity, we decided to head over to Malham. I grew up in Skipton so Malham has been a regular favourite for a long time. It’s a special place for us as my husband proposed to me on the limestone pavement at the top (terrified of losing the ring to a grike!) and we couldn’t wait to introduce our two and a half-year-old daughter Olive and 6 month-old son Ted to the cove.

We parked up at the National Park Centre where there are ideas for walks and days out, a weather forecast, audio-visual presentations, displays, maps, guides and - vitally for us and our young crew – toilets, and headed for the cove.

Malham’s a beautiful place to stroll through and Olive delighted in throwing stones into the beck as we went and popping in to Town Head Barn to try out the interactive displays, fascinated by the bird calls.

She twit twoo’d her way onto the accessible path that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has resurfaced. It’s great for pushchairs and means that, with relative ease, families can get up close to one of the jewels in the crown of God’s own county – if not the country.

As Ted snoozed on oblivious to the stunning scenery around him, we three breathed it in getting ever more excited as the cove which had seemed so tiny started to loom before us. Every single time, I am struck by how magnificent the sheer wall of limestone is. I wasn’t expecting my little girl to be quite as enthralled; but she was. She seemed even smaller and it seemed even bigger with her standing at its foot. We couldn’t drag her away from playing among the rocks, messing around in the stream and staring up, and up, and up trying to fathom what she was seeing. 
Young peregrine falcon at Malham Cove
Young peregrine falcon at Malham Cove

It was fantastic to see so many families also out enjoying the sunshine. There was a special buzz around the peregrine falcon viewing points, which are set up each year in a partnership between the RSPB and the YDNPA to allow visitors to view these rare, spectacular birds as they nest, hunt and rear their chicks. The shorter height telescopes were a hit with children of all ages.

As we began the walk back to the car, stopping off for a quick ice cream and sit down at the village green, we decided we’d be back again soon. And the posters for the forthcoming Malham Safari played their part in tempting us! Running from 2 – 7 June, people are invited to hunt for the crowns hidden around the village as well as a host of other entertainments like the coconut shy, stream dipping with the YDNPA, archery and rifle range and duck races every day. This is a delightful event every year and this looks to be one of the best yet.

So, our first family trip to Malham was a date to remember in our ongoing love affair with this amazing part of the world, that we’re so privileged now to call home.

Kate (33), and friend Angela Appleby, run a not-for-profit website called for families highlighting places to go and things to do with children aged 0-5 in Skipton and the surrounding area. The site has had overwhelming support since it launched in July last year – attracting on average more than 4,000 hits per month with an active community on Facebook and Twitter.