4 Wild Boar Fell at dawn

d12046-wild-boar-fellMatt-NealeMatt Neale – Area Ranger, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

This is on one of my local runs. I get the train up to Kirkby Stephen early in the morning, run over Wild Boar Fell and back home, which is about 12 miles. I do it in all weathers: in the light and in the dark, on my own or with a couple of us. I experience it in all sorts of weather conditions and light, and there’s just my own feelings that go with that: whether I’m struggling on the run or actually going really well – that all adds to the atmosphere up in that area. Even though I’ve been over there quite a lot, sometimes it just makes you stop and look, and think ‘this is incredible’.

I do a lot of mountain, or ultra-distance running. I’ve done quite a few hundred-milers. What I like about them is that you experience all the dark and all the light of a 24-hour period, and you just feel really in touch with what’s happening in the environment. That’s quite a big thing.

This area is actually outside of the National Park at the moment. It’s been decided that this, and a larger area to the north and to the west of it, qualifies to be designated as National Park, so in the next few years I’m sure that will happen. That view is more or less looking into the National Park. It’s a really nice area. It’s great looking down into this bit of the Mallerstang valley: you’ve got the road; you’ve got the railway line; you’ve got the source of the River Eden and the River Ure. It’s a big dividing point for a lot of things. You get views over onto the Howgills; and a really good view of this big massif of land at the top of Wensleydale; the top of Dentdale, and if you like the top of Horton. You can pick out the Three Peaks on a good day.

Of course you’ve got these piles of stones – there are a few trains of thought as to why they may or not be there. There’s a theory that they were built to appear like soldiers on horseback if you’re standing in the valley bottom and looking to launch a bit of an attack. They’re just nice features really, however they got there and whatever the reason behind it.

I’m the Area Ranger for Upper Wensleydale. I spend a lot of my time dealing with access related issues, so primarily that’s to do with people’s enjoyment of the rights of way network. In Upper Wensleydale there are about 150 miles of rights of way that I have to look after. I manage an Access Ranger who helps do that, and I get a bit more involved in the legal issues.

The rest of the time, we’re very much a first point of contact for the rest of the Authority, and we play quite a big part in getting volunteers out and managing volunteers, not just for us but across the Authority. I’m working quite closely with our wildlife conservation team at the moment on a red squirrel project. We’ve got a small population of red squirrels in this area, and it’s just taking a bit of sensitive management. It’s quite a critical time for the red squirrel population here at the moment; it’s right on the borderline of being a sustainable population. I’ve no doubt that in some areas of England red squirrels will get lost over the next 10 or 15 years, and it’s nice to think that we have the chance to do our bit for one of our native species. It would be nice, even if it doesn’t work out here, to be able to turn round and say ‘well, we did the best we could with what we had’.

You do have to be a little bit brutal sometimes. If you’re not careful, you could let email and everybody else’s urgent demands start to take over. What you’ve got to remember is that you haven’t got rights of way, or woodlands, or red squirrels emailing you to say ‘come and spend some time sorting out our problems’.

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