A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about farm

A Yorkshire dale

Swaledale

large_P1250900.jpg
Landscape near Keld, Upper Swaledale

Swaledale is among the less visited of Yorkshire’s dales, much less busy than neighbouring Wensleydale, but I have often wondered why as it is beautiful. Above and around the valley are heather-topped hills, their lower slopes green and dotted with stone barns and crisscrossed with drystone walls. They slope down to the fast-flowing Swale, where a road along the bottom of the dale passes through a string of picturesque villages. Towards the eastern end of the dale is Grinton, which we visit often (see A Breath of Fresh Air). But recently we spent a few days staying in nearby Leyburn and had a wonderful day out exploring the dale and some of its other villages.

The landscape of the dale may look in places like nature at its wildest but in truth it was created by a combination of traditional farming practices and lead mining. While sheep farmers gradually enclosed the lower slopes to create the characteristic mosaic of dry-stone walled compartments and stone field barns, the spoil heaps and scars of the lead mining industry are responsible for much of the barren and bleaker parts of the dale especially on the moorland. You can also see the odd ruined mine building up on these moors.

large_P1250852.jpg
Typical Swaledale scenery, near Gunnerside

Grinton Moor

To reach Swaledale from our base in Leyburn we crossed Grinton Moor, on the ridge of hills that separates the dale from Wensleydale to the south. We stopped near Grinton Lodge (formerly a shooting lodge, now a youth hostel) to pay our respects to Chris’s father John, whose ashes we scattered here.

P1250805.jpg

P1250807.jpg
On Grinton Moor

Gunnerside

P1250853.jpg
Parking sign

We didn’t stop in Grinton itself, as we visit so often, nor in neighbouring Reeth as we planned a stop there on our way back. So the first village we visited was Gunnerside, a few miles further up the valley. We parked in the small parking area in the centre, just by the stone bridge over Gunnerside Beck, a tributary of the Swale. Signs asked us to make a £1 donation for parking via a box by the bridge, which we did.

There are several interesting and picturesque buildings in the village, including a working smithy (closed on our visit, presumably because of the coronavirus pandemic), and the Literary Institute. Many of the villages in the Dales have one of these institutions, built during the 19th century. They were important recreational spaces, often the only public building in the village. They were often provided or supported by local landowners and employers, who saw clear advantages in ensuring that their tenants and employees had somewhere to socialise other than the pub, where their minds would be improved by reading improving works of literature and attending lectures. For this reason the institutes were often also supported by temperance organisations. Today Gunnerside’s Literary Institute, which was built in the 1860s, serves as the village hall.

P1250812.jpgP1250813.jpg
Literary Institute, and Smithy

P1250815.jpgP1250816.jpg
Outside the smithy

P1250819.jpg
Smithy door detail

But our main purpose in stopping in Gunnerside was to take a walk along the beck, through the pretty little valley known as Gunnerside Ghyll or Gill. This word comes from the Norse ‘gil’, meaning ravine or gully, while beck comes from the Norse ‘bekkr’.

This was the site of a major lead mining industry in Swaledale until the late nineteenth century, and the scars can still be seen.

Unfortunately the water of the Ghyll was so high after recent rains that it had flooded out part of the path and I didn’t have suitable footwear to wade through it, so we only did the first part of the walk. This took us up and out of the village alongside the tumbling stream, with views back to the houses below.

large_P1250822.jpg
Looking down on Gunnerside

large_P1250825.jpg
Gunnerside Ghyll

We encountered a number of the distinctive horned Swaledale sheep grazing here, as they do all over the dale.

large_P1250831.jpg
Swaledale sheep

P1250826.jpgP1250840.jpg
Flowers by the ghyll

And we could see the ruins of what must have been buildings once linked to the lead mining industry. But we didn’t get far enough to see the main mining area with its spoil heaps, ore works and entrance to the mine itself. That will have to wait for another day.

P1250834.jpgP1250848.jpg
Landscape near Gunnerside Ghyll

Muker

Our next stop was in the bigger and much busier village of Muker, further up the dale. The car park on the edge of the village was full but we managed to find roadside parking at the far end and walked back to the centre. The tea shop was closed (I assumed because of the pandemic) but next door to it the local store was open and selling take-away drinks including barista coffees which could be enjoyed at the tables set out on the terrace in front of both premises. Chris waited outside while I went in to place our coffee order, and while I waited for the drinks to be made, I looked around the small shop. It was quite a diverse range of items, ranging from guide-books to tins of beans, children’s fishing nets to toilet paper, souvenir boxes of fudge to malt whiskies …

Once the coffees were ready we sat outside in the sun watching people strolling past, and afterwards had a quick look around the village. We had to smile at the life-size Swaledale sheep perched on a roof-top!

P1250854.jpg
On a house in Muker

P1250858a.jpg
St Mary's Church

The village church is dedicated to St Mary. It was built around 1580 but heavily restored in the 19th century. Needless to say it was shut – even if normally open (which is sadly becoming less and less common these days), the pandemic would have ensured it stayed locked up for now, apart from occasional services.

large_P1250860.jpg
Landscape near Muker - barn and drystone walls

Tan Hill

Leaving Muker around midday we drove further up Swaledale, passing many more photo-worthy views. But we had a reservation for lunch so had to leave these until later. We turned north to climb up out of the dale and over the open moorland to Tan Hill, the location of what claims to be the highest inn in Britain at 1732 feet (it is not the only pub to make this claim but seems generally to be accepted as the most credible).

P1250861.jpgP1250862.jpg
At Tan Hill Inn

We had pre-booked a table for lunch – essential, we thought, as there are no other options for miles around! As it turned out, they had lost our reservation but luckily could accommodate us, even in these times of reduced capacity due to coronavirus. We had a tasty lunch and then headed outside to take some photos of the view. The Pennine Way, the first National Trail to be established in England (in 1965) passes right by the pub and we saw several hikers. The road across the moors is also understandably popular with bikers so there were quite a few of them around too.

large_P1250863.jpg
View from the Tan Hill Inn

large_P1250865.jpg

large_P1250866.jpg
Walkers on the Pennine Way

P1250869.jpgP1250872.jpg
Walkers and sheep

Over the moor

We had planned to return to Reeth across the top of the moor, on the Long Causeway, a road that runs parallel to Swaledale. But the delights of the dale were tempting us back, especially as we’d had to drive past so many scenic viewpoints on our way here, so we changed our plans and returned instead by the way we had come.

large_P1250877.jpg
The road across the moor

As we drove back across the moor we stopped several times to take photos of this wild and wonderful landscape.

large_P1250880.jpg

large_P1250885.jpg
Landscape above Swaledale

P1250889.jpgP1250881.jpg

large_P1250887.jpg
Typical barns and drystone walls

The barns of Swaledale

Dropping down into the dale near the village of Keld we stopped to take more photos. By now I had become obsessed with capturing the patterns created by the drystone walls dissecting the fields above the valley and the stone barns scattered across the green landscape.

large_P1250897.jpg
Moors above Keld

Later I read up about the barns. Stone barns were built in this area from around the early 18th century. Unlike in other parts of the country, here they were sited away from the main farm buildings, in the hay meadows themselves. Traditionally they were used to store hay during the winter, and in a separate section, to shelter cows. Thus, the food and the animals that needed it were in the same place, and there was no need for the farmer to haul the feed to them. During the winter he would walk to his barns twice a day to feed the cows and let them out to drink. In the spring the manure they produced would be spread, by hand, on the land to fertilise the meadows for the next hay crop in the summer – again, no need for the farmer to haul the manure any distance.

large_P1250913.jpg

large_P1250901.jpg
Barns near Keld

Some of the barns have two storeys and were used to shelter not cows but sheep. Swaledale sheep are very hardy, but in the first year of their lives they are more vulnerable during hard winters which are not uncommon in this, one of the highest of the dales. These young sheep are known as hoggs and the barns used to house them as hogg houses. They had room for sheep on both floors and hayracks around the walls.

The barns have a distinctive appearance because of the traditional building technique used in this area. This involved two walls, inner and outer, with rubble used to fill the gap between them. To ensure the walls didn’t fall away from each other, long stones known as ‘throughs’ were inserted from outside to inside. In the case of houses, the throughs were cut off to make it look neater (although once you know to look for them they are easy to spot), but with barns there was no need to waste time doing that, which is why these Swaledale barns are so unique.

P1250890a.jpg
Stone barns near Keld

P1250905.jpg

P1250891.jpg

Today, with modern farming techniques, the field barns have become largely redundant (although some are still used to store hay), but their significance is recognised, and farmers can get grants to restore their barns to protect this iconic landscape.

Keld

Leaving our car on the main road we walked down into Keld. The name derives from the Viking word kelda meaning a spring.

P1250911.jpgP1250907.jpg
Old phone box and lone tree near Keld

Unlike the other villages around here it sits a short distance away from the road through the dale, and has a more tranquil atmosphere, although there were quite a few other people around. We wandered through the churchyard from where there were lovely views of the valley, but the church itself was closed.

The nearby United Reform Church has a worn sundial dated 1840.

P1250914.jpg
Sundial on the United Reformed Church

And we spent some time watching and photographing the many birds who had come to feed on the wall of one of the village houses, clearly home to a bird lover. The garden had lots of feeders, and seeds were strategically placed in several places, including this wall.

P1250921.jpg

P1250923.jpg
Chaffinches feeding in Keld

P1250920.jpg
Greenfinch feeding in Keld

Angram

This little hamlet had caught our attention when we drove through earlier in the day, so on our way back down the dale we stopped for a quick look around. It was a good place to hunt for opportunities to photograph building details – one of my photography enthusiasms. Oh, and a few more barns!

P1250933.jpgP1250938.jpg
Angram door details

P1250934.jpgP1250932.jpg
Welsh poppy, and small garden statue

P1250929.jpg

P1250927.jpg
Fields near Angram

P1250928.jpg
Ruined barn

Reeth

Our final stop of the day was in Reeth, a somewhat larger village only a mile from Grinton. Its buildings are gathered around a large green and while some may deprecate the fact that this is nowadays used in part for car parking, it does make it easy to park there even on a busy day such as this was turning out to be (warm sunny days aren’t too common in these parts, even in August!)

large_P1250944.jpg
Evangelical Church in Reeth

P1250943.jpg
In a garden near the church

Many gardens and buildings in the area have bicycle-related objects on display, a legacy of when the 2014 Tour de France started in Yorkshire, and this one has clearly had a 2020 addition in the shape of a face mask for the sheep!

We had ice creams at the always-excellent ice cream parlour at the bottom of the green and then had a stroll around. But it was, as I said, rather busy and time was getting on, so we didn’t stay long and instead drove back over Grinton Moor to the cosy apartment we were renting in Leyburn – the end of a lovely day out.

Posted by ToonSarah 01:24 Archived in England Tagged landscapes views village pubs farm yorkshire barns moor Comments (12)

(Entries 1 - 1 of 1) Page [1]