41 Grassington sunset

d12002-grassington-panorama41-Sarah-ButlerSarah Butler – Writer

Our grandparents moved to Grassington when I was six and it has been a home from home for our whole family ever since. We are all keen walkers and I have many happy memories of walking in the area. This is a view from one of my favourite walks, from Grassington along High Lane, through the old hospital site and back along Edge Lane. It is taken from the footpath between Edge Lane and High Lane, looking over the valley to Barden Moor. I love the patterns of the drystone walls, and the two knolls which were once coral reefs.

I write and think a lot about place and what it is that makes us feel like we belong to a particular area. For me, people are as important in that equation as any aesthetic feature. Working the View has opened my eyes to just how many people are involved in caring for the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I can now look at a landscape which I’ve been walking in for years and see the evidence of that attention and work, in the walls and the fences, the animals, the paths, the peat, the rivers, and much more.

I conducted the interviews for Working the View over a period of eighteen months. Mark would meet me off the train from London with a carefully worked out itinerary, an envelope stuffed with maps, and keys for the hire car, and I would head off into the hills. I visited farms, offices and people’s homes, often driving miles across the moors without seeing another person. After the bustle and hurry of London life it was a genuine treat, an experience which has taken me to new areas of the Dales and deepened my own connection to the area. I would return to the city not only armed with stories about sheep farming, peat restoration, water management, and the intricacies of propagating juniper, but also with that lightness and serenity that the Dales offers its visitors.

It has been an immense privilege to speak to people who are passionate about this part of the world, and whose day-to-day existence is bound up with the landscape in a whole range of different ways. Many times I’ve sat listening to someone explain what it is that makes the Yorkshire Dales National Park special and have been struck by the poetry of their language. I have kept each text in the book in the words of the participant, merely editing and reordering to make a coherent ‘piece’, because I wanted to capture these different voices and the passion behind the words.

I hope that reading these stories will add an extra dimension to Mark’s beautiful photographs, and offer a unique insight into the people involved in helping sustain this very special landscape.