1 Whernside from Ingleborough

D12037-IngleboroughSteve-HastieSteve Hastie – Area Ranger / Project Manager Three Peaks, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

I used to do short term contracts for English Nature before I came to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. I was doing estate work on the nature reserve, so things like walling repairs, fencing repairs, thistle control, ragwort control. I was always up on Ingleborough, so I kept seeing this view of Whernside. Whernside from most angles isn’t particularly spectacular. From the north it’s just like a big lump, but as you go up Ingleborough it starts to take on a bit of a character. And as you come further round onto the summit, that view twists again and it looks like a bit of a peak. It’s a false impression: you’re actually looking along the edge of that scar where it falls away. So it’s not the actual peak you’re looking at but it gives the impression of it.

This view of Whernside reminds me of a gentle swell coming into a beach, just before it starts to rise and turn. I can almost imagine it moving, which is quite a strange thing for a hill, but in my mind that’s how it’s got most character.

It’s taken from High Lot – a large allotment that belongs to Natural England. It’s allotted land, and a lot of Ingleborough is common land as well. Ingleborough Common is split into two, between Ingleton and Clapham – there are Ingleton graziers and there are Clapham graziers, and they each have rights to graze so many sheep and cattle over the course of a year. A lot of this area has been overgrazed, subsequent to the Second World War, but heather’s starting to come back now the grazing’s under management. This field used to be quite rough grassland, but now there are these little patches of heather; it sort of breaks it up. The path runs just to the left of here. It’s part of the Three Peaks network. As well as Area Ranger, I’m Project Manager for the Three Peaks Project. It’s the second project of that name. The first one was in the 1980s and ‘90s; that was about doing a lot of path construction and habitat restoration work to provide some sort of sustainable network. It was the worst network in the UK at that time. With this peat, when it gets worn it gets really soft, and then water gets in it and scours it, so people walk off to the side, and it just gets worse and worse, and paths get wider and wider. Lots of work was done building paths, so people had something decent to walk on, and by building paths it allowed the surrounding vegetation to recover. In 2008 we started looking at a second project to raise money to get another person to do maintenance work, to make the network sustainable. So we look at engaging with people who come and use the area, to try and encourage them to help us look after it, essentially through some sort of donation or giving.

As Area Ranger, a third of my time is woodlands and species; a third of my time is communities – which could be anything from speaking to a local councillor, a farmer, a WI group; a third of my time is access; and then a third of my time is the Three Peaks Project! It’s very varied, very satisfying.

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2 Threshfield Moor

D12007-Threshfield-MoorMark-HancockMark Hancock – Landowner

There are about 1000 acres of moorland at Threshfield. It’s predominantly heather, and we’re doing a huge amount of work at the moment to improve its habitat and environment. There are only 459 heather moors in the UK, which amount to 75% of the world’s heather, so it’s an endangered species in a way. We need to protect this environment in order for a range of birdlife to survive and thrive. Predominantly these are ground nesting birds including grouse; you can’t breed them, you just create the right habitat for them. Carrying out this heather regeneration work to create a productive grouse moor has enabled us to create employment for two gamekeepers. Rural employment is a big issue for me. Without it, more and more young people will move away from the countryside.

I’ve lived in the Dales for 16 years. For a time my wife was Chief Executive of the National Park, so we have a strong affinity to the area. We bought this land off a good friend of mine in 2009. He bought the moor in 1961 and looked after and enjoyed it for 48 years. I have another moor in Littondale and he really liked what we were doing there in terms of regeneration. He offered me the chance to buy the land in order to keep the spirit and the philosophy of the moor intact, and in tune with the way he’s been looking after it for all those years. So I’m endeavouring to do that.

My background is in commercial property development, but rural regeneration has become one of my passions because of where I live. We’ve just brought back to life some beautiful barns just outside Settle on the A65 which we have called The Courtyard, with retail units on the ground floor and a Brasserie on the first floor. We’ve created 25 new jobs, and the food production that’s going on up on the moor here will feed into the restaurant, as well as into the pub we have brought back to life near where I live. Locally sourced and produced food is also really important to me.

I chose this view because there’s a bit of rarity in having the water in the picture. It’s a predominantly limestone-based environment, so we rarely see standing water. I also love the fact that at any time of day, in whatever weather, you get the reflection of the sky.

The biggest residential cluster in the area is Grassington; I particularly love this view because while you don’t see Grassington you know it’s there. So although we’re in a wilderness up here, there’s a tangible connection with cars and people and bustle and shops. I think that one of the things the National Park was set up to create in 1947 was to allow people to enjoy themselves and come to the Park. It’s not a closed space – we want people to live and to work in the Park; we want visitors to come because we want the shops to thrive and people to succeed. But if it’s done overtly we tend to frown upon it because we get honeypots like those in the Lakes. Here, we know it’s all going on and yet it’s absolutely not getting in the way at all. It’s that perfect balance between allowing society to function without spoiling the countryside. For me personally, it makes that view across there very special.

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3 Ingleborough from Twistleton Scar End

d11033-ingleboroughLouise-SmithLouise Smith – Lead Adviser, Land Management, Natural England

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.

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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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5 View over Cray

d11026-cray-view05-Peter-KaticPeter Katic – Ranger, National Trust

As you’re coming from the north, from Bishopdale over Kidstone’s pass, this is the first view of Wharfedale you get; it’s really dramatic. You see Buckden Pike on your left, with these enclosure walls tumbling down the hillside towards Cray. On the other side of the valley you’ve got a similar sort of landscape, but the fields are all hay meadows, not pasture.

The reason I work for the National Trust up here, in this type of property, is that I like the uplands. I like the open space, the open vistas, the ability to walk a long way with no obstructions, the fact you can see where you’re going, the wild aspect of it. In as much as you have wild landscapes in this country, this is a wild landscape, even though it’s totally manmade, and very accessible; everything you see is farmland.

The drystone walls emphasise the wild aspect of the landscape; they draw out the rock that’s there, only just underneath the surface. They bring out that stepped aspect of the landscape too, the geology of what’s called the Yoredale Series, which is a repeating sequence of limestone, sandstone, shale. You can see quite distinct terraces, with steeper slopes in between and occasional rock outcrops. People think that’s manmade, but it’s not, it’s a glacial relic if you like, from the different hardnesses of the rock.

Being a Ranger means doing a lot of practical work: footpath maintenance, fencing, tree-planting, making individual tree guards, woodland creation, wall repair. Walling hasn’t changed much; it’s a link to the past, an ancient craft. It’s been around for thousands of years, just using materials that are around.

This little plantation you can see down in Cray was probably planted in the 1800s. It’s all non-native species – beech trees, sycamore, maple and scotts pine. Maybe it was planted for shelter, maybe because it softens the landscape a bit. We rebuilt this wall on the right, where you can see the saplings, with the help of a group of regular volunteers. It was completely gappy, and falling down. We rebuilt it so we could put in a strip of trees between the road wall and that wall. The Dales is an open landscape, with very few trees – and perhaps we don’t want to change that aspect too much – but if we can get a long strip of trees here it sort of breaks up the wind and gives the farmer’s livestock a bit of shelter.

Another feature of the Yorkshire Dales is the limestone pavement. You can see a small example of it in the foreground here. When the ice retreated after the Ice Age, it left these bare platforms of limestone. Limestone dissolves in rainwater, so over thousands of years the minute cracks you get in limestone enlarge, and what was at one time just a smooth bed of rock breaks into blocks which are called clints. The cracks are called grykes; they can be ten feet or more deep. Within the grykes you get a more woodland type of environment, with damp, shade-loving plants like hearts-tongue fern and meadow sweet. It’s like a little mini-woodland growing in the gryke. On the clints you get a more limestone habitat – with grasses, rock rose, and wild thyme.

My father was Serbian. He lived in a limestone area in Croatia. That landscape’s much bigger and more rugged than this one, but there are similarities. If you walk between Yockenthwaite and Scar House, it has a feel of the landscape that he comes from. His family would have lived in that area for generations – you wonder if a love of one kind of landscape can be in the blood.

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