I’ve worked in this area for about 11 years now. When I came up here I didn’t know anything about the Dales. I’d moved up from Staffordshire and Hereford, which is a very different type of landscape. From day one Ingleborough just stood out. It was always my main route coming along the A65, out of Leeds, or the Lakes; making my way back to the Dales I would see this iconic shape on the horizon – it just always made me feel like I was back where I wanted to be.
Over the years of working up here, I’ve worked in the farming and wildlife team for the National Park. I’ve worked on the Limestone Country Project which covered a lot of the European designated areas, which Ingleborough is part of. I’m now back with Natural England, as a lead adviser working on environmental stewardship. I couldn’t believe my luck when they put me back in this area – I could have been sent anywhere. It was as if I was meant to be here; this place kept bringing me back.
It doesn’t matter whether the sun’s shining, it’s tipping down with rain, or Ingleborough’s got snow on it; that hill, even if it was covered in cloud, would still be amazing. It reminds me of my years working here and all the characters that have shaped it in their own way.
The characters that make this landscape living and breathing are the farmers, the farmers’ wives, anybody that lives in that area; they are part of that landscape. They have such admiration for it, and you can’t help but have admiration for them wanting to preserve and work on such a beautiful landscape. I think I’ve grown by working with them and learning from them, which I feel very privileged to have done.
The area’s so diverse, it was one of the hardest places to get into the correct management. It’s a delicate balance between the farming side and what we want to see for the environment and nature. We tried to achieve the correct balance through experience gained from other areas but mostly by stopping and listening to people that know this site. The people that you really listen to are the people that work this site every day, and that’s the farmers. Of course they need this hillside. They utilise the more green in-bye areas when they’re lambing, but later on in the year they need their sheep to push up onto the hillside, because they need to shut their meadows so that they can cut the hay. It also makes their stock hardy, but more importantly it completes the unique upland farming cycle that helps shape this precious landscape.
This whole area, the Yorkshire Dales, is like one big family. Yes, some of the time you have to work a little bit harder to be accepted. But as soon as you know that you’re on the same common ground; the same wavelength; and you’re not there to preach at them and tell them to change their ways; you’re in partnership with those people because you have the same aims, then boy oh boy that door’s open then. You can be in one of the most remote dales that you can get, in some of the bleakest weather, but you never worry because you know that if something ever happened, you could just walk down that farm track and knock on that door and somebody would be there to welcome you.
By working with different farmers, particularly round Ingleborough or Chapel-le-dale, you’d find these secret nooks and crannies on this hillside – areas where you just think, ‘crikey, I bet nobody’s been up here for years’. You could be on your own for hours and you wouldn’t feel lonesome, you’d just feel as if you’re in another world. I know I make it sound so romantic, but there’s never a day when you’re out on that site, or you’re looking at that view, from any direction, that you don’t have a smile on your face. Honestly, you can have the worst day in the office and once you get out there it’s forgotten.