11 View towards Simon’s Seat


11-phil-richardsPhil Richards – Area Ranger, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

I got to pick one view, but I could have picked a dozen easy, of equal quality to that. I never get tired of the Dales landscape. It’s a fantastic place to live and work, and it’s nice to feel like you’re protecting it for the future. I don’t think I see it as a job: it’s just doing what you feel in your heart. I’m very lucky to be able to do that.

This is a view onto Simon’s Seat, taken just opposite Parcival Hall. It’s quite prominent, Simon’s Seat, as a gritstone outcrop. It’s also part of what we call the Barden Moor and Barden Fell access agreement, which allows people to walk not just up to Simon’s Seat but anywhere on this open moorland.

It’s very much a managed landscape, predominantly for red grouse; however the moorland also offers an ideal habitat for other ground nesting birds such as golden plover, snipe, curlew and merlin.

This is an interesting area because you’ve got the limestone drystone walls, yet just across the valley you’re back into gritstone; there’s such a contrast in a very short distance. You’ve got Trollers Gill just out of shot to the north with lots of limestone crags. Trollers is an old Norse term meaning trolls, not the internet type but mischievous little creatures. Allegedly there’s a dog lives up there called the Barguest, which is a Norse mythological large dog. It’s a kind of ghost dog that comes out at full moon apparently – so you’ll be careful not to go up there.

I’m an Area Ranger. Our main focus is maintaining the rights of way network: building bridges, stiles, putting signposts in, waymarking, gates, and all sorts of things. We’ve got a big project up on Simon’s Seat at the moment, because the peat has got badly eroded up there with people using the paths. We’re laying a path using old reclaimed mill flags to create a sustainable route. A lot of them come from Lancashire mills. They weren’t just taken off the ground floor; these big flags were maybe four or five levels up – they’re massive things. It’s quite an interesting concept; when you’re up there laying them, you think about all the people who’ve worked on them and what they were doing.

I’ve worked here a long time, 20-odd years now. I’ve probably had four different roles since I started. I enjoy what I do now. A lot of it’s management and overseeing work. We’ve got over 200 volunteers, and part of my role is to support them in undertaking various duties including managing public access on the moorland. Obviously it’s nice to get your hands dirty sometimes. I still do some walling, in my spare time, and if something crops up here I’ll occasionally pop out and help. It’s nice to keep your hand in. And you feel like you’ve achieved something when you’ve repaired a wall. You’ve repaired an all be it man-made landscape, but you’ve made a difference in a practical way.

12 Pecca Falls, Kingsdale Beck


12-alistair-nashAlistair Nash – Site Manager, Woodland Trust

This is Pecca Falls, just above the footbridge on the waterfalls walk in Ingleton. Our part of the woods is on the right hand bank as you’re looking at the photograph. From here upwards the falls get progressively bigger, right up to Thornton Falls. I like this view with the water winding off into the distance. It just gives you that taster: you know there’s something big at the top.

I’ve probably been to this wood a hundred times, or more, but every single time it’s different. You go in summer and sometimes you can hardly even tell there’s a waterfall, there’s just a trickle coming down. But if you go after an incessant downpour, you can stand at the bottom of those falls and the whole thing’s full of spray and it’s just unbelievable – a different place completely. The water’s fantastic because it’s always this peaty black colour. Even in the middle of summer you can never see the bottom. You’ve got all this white foam and then it’s black underneath.

I could quite happily go up there and just sit for an hour watching what’s going on in the water: whether it’s a trout in the bottom, or the kingfisher flying up and down, or the wagtail or the heron or whatever it may be – there’s always something to have a look at.

I’ve been the Site Manager there for 17 years now. This is one of the woods that’s always been in my portfolio. It’s an ancient woodland and Site of Special Scientific Interest, because of the plant life on the limestone and shale; my role’s basically protecting that. My job is mainly management: liaising with Natural England, agreeing the work that needs doing, getting all the permissions, and then I’ve got to organise the contracts, oversee the contractors from start to finish, and undertake all the observations we do on site as part of the management plan. We still have to get out to all the woods during the year, whether it’s spot checking on contracts or tree safety checks for the public – there’s an enormous list of jobs that go on. I’ve got 65 sites over five counties, which keeps me very busy.

This wood was ‘enriched’ by the Victorians. They thought the broadleaf trees weren’t interesting enough, so they brought in a lot of other species like larch and spruce. We’ve been slowly taking those out over the last 17 years, hopefully in a way that doesn’t particularly offend or affect anybody in terms of damaging the landscape – that’s been quite a delicate task. It’s let a lot more light into the canopy and we’ve got a huge number of ash seedlings coming up in there. We’re trying to get it back to as close to what would have been the natural woodland cover as possible.

We’ve also replaced all the fencing. There were sheep getting in, which had quite a detrimental effect on the ground flora. I’ve seen the density of the wildflowers increase, and the deer population there has increased quite dramatically over the last few years too.

The prime reason for new planting is to increase the amount of native woodland cover. It’s trying to undo what’s already been done. In this country we’ve hammered our woodlands for hundreds and hundreds of years. We’ve only got about 13% woodland cover, compared to the continent, which has 20 or 30%. We’ve got a long way to go before we can get back to a reasonable amount.

Obviously the ash dieback that’s coming could potentially be a huge issue, because we’ve been working on getting back to oak and ash woodland since we got the wood. Now we’re potentially going to lose three quarters of it. It may be that we need to look at doing other planting on there; we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I think I’ve been involved in planting about three quarter of a million trees over my career; trees that I’ve either planted myself or been the contract manager that’s dealt with the planting. That’s your mark on the landscape; that’s there forever as woodland now.

13 Nethergill from Oughtershaw Moss


13-fiona-clarkFiona Clark – Farmer, Nethergill Farm

This is taken from the Moss, overlooking the farm and Fleet Moss. You can see the three gills – Hazelbank, Chaldron and Mireing. We’re called Nethergill, which means ‘between the gills’.

The elements are doubled up here. It can be a lovely day in Skipton and then it’s gale force up here, torrential rain, and the temperature’s just dropped. And yet when it is sunny up here, in spring particularly, it’s just magical – that’s the only word you can use to describe it.

The majority of our land is this poor, low productivity land, but very rich in species. It’s a really fragile environment. People look at it and think it’s wild and rugged, but actually it wouldn’t take much to destroy it.

You can see our two hay meadows here, the original one behind the house, and a new one at the front; they’re both in the Hay Meadow Restoration Scheme. It’s creating such a huge increase in biodiversity.

We’ve planted a new woodland just behind the one you can see in the picture: 30 acres of undulating, fenced in, mixed woodland – 18,500 trees. It’s called Ellbeck Wood, after our two daughters – Ella and Becky. We put it in primarily to encourage black grouse, which we’ve now just got back.

We’ve just been working on a river restoration project. We’re at the headwater, so it rises and falls really, really quickly. As a result of that the banks wear away like mad, just leaving soil, and of course that goes further down and gets into the trout redds and affects them. And of course the flooding in York. It all sort of starts here. You really do feel responsible, because what happens up here has a huge effect down there. So with the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust we’ve been putting willow bundling along the side of the river, and planting willows which will help to keep the otter too.

We have native rare breeds because they’re suited to this climate. Whereas this pasture at the front of the picture looks really rough, our native cattle can wander through here and pick out what they need. What we’re trying to do is create a balance. We’re sort of trying to prove that you can have a hill farm – have native breeds and make that work in terms of selling the special meat off them – but also be kind to the environment and encourage the wildlife as well. It’s trying to make the whole thing work together – that’s been the aim all the way along. On this land now we’ve got 11 cows and 100 sheep, which is absolutely nothing really, but that is the stocking rate that creating the right biodiversity demands.

The Higher Level Stewardship scheme is vitally important for us. We run a bed and breakfast. We’ve just built two self-catering apartments and a Field Centre, which will bring in extra income – we hope. The Field Centre’s going to evolve into all sorts of things. We have school groups coming in. It’s also open throughout the season, because we’re on the Dales Way, so people can just walk in and, with an honesty box, have tea, coffee, chocolate and flapjack. It’ll be available for courses. It’ll evolve. It’s a room we felt we had to have.

This is the sort of project we’ve wanted to do all our lives. When we took it over it had been on a tenancy agreement for many, many years. The trouble is that when you’re renting land the temptation is to take out but not put back in, and not think about the future really. So we were coming to this knowing that everything had been taken from it, but knowing that if we started making changes – even small changes, the changes would be very significant in terms of wildlife. That has actually happened, which is really encouraging. The thing that amazes me most about it is that every little thing we do has such a profound influence on what species are here.

We’ve been here seven years. It’s been a very steep learning curve, and still continues to be. There are lots of steps back, but I think we’re going in the right direction.

14 Halton Gill


14-katherine-woodKatherine Wood – Principal Planning Officer, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

This is a view of Halton Gill, from the road that comes over from Malham Moor. Littondale is one of the loveliest dales in the National Park. It has stunning landscape, beautiful villages, and the people who live here all come together as one community.

When I look from the road top, down to the valley bottom and Halton Gill, I focus on the village rather than the landscape. The landscape is as big a part of planning as the buildings, but on a day to day basis it’s the buildings that I work with. I’ve had involvement with half of the buildings in Halton Gill. There’s Manor Farm, a lovely 17th century listed building, which sits prominently in the centre of the village. One of the local farmers has converted a barn nearby to a farm workers’ house. This has worked out so well for them and for the village and I feel I really helped them to achieve this. That’s a part of the job I love – building relationships and helping people through the process. I’ve felt really involved in the village community through my work – a lot of the residents know me, and driving through people wave or stop and talk. It’s somewhere that’s always nice to go back to.

Good development is something that respects the context, that doesn’t harm the character and appearance of a place. It should ideally have a positive impact on the character and appearance, but sometimes the best thing you can achieve has a neutral impact or resolves some existing problem. As a planner, I get the opportunity to influence the development of the area. Most people will approach me early on and say ‘this is what we want to do’ and I’ll help them to make it acceptable. One of the biggest issues is visual impact, and impact on the character of the area. Whilst we always aim for really high quality development, there is only so far we can go – we need to be realistic about what people can afford and what works for a farm or a house, but you can usually get positive results.

The downside of covering the southern dales is that I no longer visit the area when I’m not working. Before working for the Authority I would regularly go walking in Littondale and Wharfedale, but now I see planning issues everywhere and people recognise you as a planner. I don’t think of the north of the Park – where I live – as work. I try not to get involved in any planning issues there; it’s my home.

15 View from Fountains Fell


15-tonyTony Bullough – Ranger, National Trust

I’ve lived up here at Malham Tarn for 17 years. We get some cracking stars. When you’re up here at night, you’ve no street lamps, there’s nothing on horizon, and you’ve all these stars there in your face, so you take notice of them more.

Where this picture’s taken from – it’s just one of those places. When you’re up there, on a nice day, you can see forever. You can see wind turbines going towards Bradford; you can see wind turbines behind Burnley; you can see right the way down to the west coast. If you turn around and look sort of north east-ish you’re looking back up into the Dales: you can see Great Whernside; and if you turn round and look over the hill that’s behind you, you’re looking down Ribblesdale. It’s just a great place to go and have a look.

If we’re going up here, we’ll be checking springs and water supplies. They aren’t actually at the top of the hill, but you’ll walk that extra five minutes up on to top, and have a right nice good look round. The springs are our main water supply, so we have to go up two or three times a year to make sure they’re all right, make sure they’re not blocked up – because if there’s no water, you’ve nothing, have you?

We do grazing monitoring up here, to make sure it’s not being overgrazed. We check on things like heather, and bilberries, and cranberries, and other moorland plants, to see how they’re going. Because they’re nice and tender, sheep will eat a lot of them. It works the other way; if you don’t have enough stock up there, all this grass grows up and smothers them out. You’ve got to have that happy medium – in between.

There’s a National Nature Reserve here, it’s got every designation going for it. It’s got internationally important wetland status – usually you get it for birds, but we got ours for plants and insects. There’s an insect occurs on there somewhere that doesn’t occur anywhere else in Great Britain – a wingless caddis.

I was born and brought up on a farm, but it wasn’t big enough to support more than one family. So I went farming for a dairy farmer for two years. Then I went into the building trade for a bit. Then I got married and worked on a private estate for about five or six years. I’ve been working here just over 24 years. I like the variation. There’s hardly ever two days the same. When you’re farming you hardly met anybody, because you were working with animals all day; private estate you worked by yourself or with whoever was there helping you. When I came here, I started working with all sorts of different people: volunteers, other workmates, people from other properties.

We do all sorts of work with schools. It gets kids out doing something different from what they would do ordinarily. You get some kids out of town, and they’re frightened to death of getting mucky. Taking them out and seeing something different is just brilliant.