26 View from Cautley Crag


26-alison-oneillAlison O’Neill – Farmer, Shacklabank Farm

It’s timeless is that view; absolutely bleakly beautiful. It’s the only place in the Howgill Fells where you really feel like the Ice Age made any impact, because it’s the only place where you’ve got the U-shaped valley gouged out; everywhere else is rounded and soft. It just creates this absolute drama. And it’s higher than it looks here, when you’re up there you feel like you’re on the top of the world.

It’s so special because Rough Fell sheep graze here – that’s the breed of sheep I keep. My grandfather would always say ‘there are no flowers in the Howgill Fells, but the flowers of the fellside are the sheep’. They were originally bred for wool. They’re larger sheep, long legged, with beautiful temperaments. Also my fell pony stallion came from Cautley Crag; he would have grazed on here.

At the bottom of Cautley Crag here there’s a small Temperance Inn – The Cross Keys. My grandparents lived at the foot of the Howgills and, before they were married, Granddad invited Grandma for a walk across the Howgills. So Grandma would have stood here looking at the view and thought how beautiful it was. They walked down the valley bottom here, went into The Cross Keys, had ham and eggs and he asked her to marry him.

I was born in Sedbergh at the foot of the Howgills on a family farm. When I was 16 I left home and travelled. I didn’t think I wanted anything to do with it because it was hard work. But when I was in my late 20s I suddenly wanted to return to the land, and so I came back.

I came here with £60 and nothing else; I was a month off having Scarlet, my daughter. It’s a really hard living to make. I know some people think it’s being a bit dramatic, but it is kind of tough. There have been a couple of times when I could have just given the farm up, thinking ‘this is crazy’. But it’s the life I’ve always wanted. It’s kind of like you’re born to it. I love the land, and animals, and I wanted to give Scarlet the life I had – to give her that freedom, and those choices, and to grow up in a beautiful place that’s very safe.

We thought we were doing OK, and then Foot and Mouth came and wiped everything clean, and we had no money. It was horrendous. I kind of felt that a lot of it was my fault – because I’d wanted the farm and a lot of people had said financially it wasn’t a good idea.

So then I thought – ‘what else can I do?’ I like walking and I like people, so I trained to be a walking guide. The idea was just to do a few walks from the farm – to sell the view. I won a competition with Country Living Magazine with this whole concept of a farm holiday and got some PR through that. Six months after that people came here from The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, lots of glossy magazines, and then the holidays started to sell. It went really well. Then I started getting calls from ladies who wanted to buy the clothes I was wearing in the pictures – which seemed crazy – so then I decided to make up some skirts and waistcoats using tweed. I now have a factory make them for me.

I still do the walks, and I do the tweed, and I go and give talks. I still farm – my sister and other members of the family come and help out. I have 250 of my own sheep, but I shepherd others. We call it stick and dog gathering – that’s what I do. I don’t have a quad bike; I have a fell pony and try and do it in the old fashioned way, just walking the hill looking at the sheep. Most people don’t have time for that, but it’s kind of how I was brought up.

I do talks for all kinds of groups – farmers’ groups, landowners, WI – and I have so many letters from people that say I’ve inspired them to go back to the land: to start working on the land again, to get businesses going. People think you need money but then realise it’s more about passion.

My granddad always said that what was important was having that land beneath your feet, and having a view, and knowing it was yours. Of course we never really truly own anything; it’s all kind of everybody’s. I really do live off the view though. If I didn’t have a view I wouldn’t have a business.

27 Hawkswick dawn


27-roger-gibsonRoger Gibson – Drystone Waller, Fencer and Landscape Contractor

This is Lower Littondale. It’s just above the village of Hawkswick, on Hawkswick Moor, looking back down towards Cracoe Fell and the bottom end of Wharfedale. I chose it because a lot of my work’s based round here, and it is a cracking view. Wherever you look there, we’ve worked: we’ve drystone walled, we’ve planted trees.

We make up all the walls in that area. So if a gap falls, we go to it. There’s a drystone wall, just down here near the river, that we restored. It was a 120 metre stretch that needed completely rebuilding. It’s part of an ongoing restoration programme that the local farmer’s doing. I’ve said many times that the drystone walls are like a jewel in the National Park’s crown – they’ve got to be maintained.

These walls, because they’re dry, they do move. You’ve got your dry weather and your wet weather and your frost and your snow, and unless they’re maintained, eventually they become very loose. It gets to a point when it’s easier to pull it all out and rebuild it from scratch – that’s what we did with this wall here. It took us about 22 days.

When you pull an old existing wall, you’ve got all the materials there, because it’s been built before. It’s a little bit like a jigsaw, you’ve got to have an eye for it. When you rebuild it you rebuild it in your own style, so you may put some stones in differently than the chaps before you. We often remark on how the old guys would have done it, as we’re building these walls.

These walls are dug out and then built with an A frame. You start with your big stones at the bottom – your footings – and then you slowly build up and finish with your small stones at the top. You need two or three rows of what we call throughs, which are stones that go right through and connect each side. And then, in all of it, you’ve got your filling – you pack the wall to make it strong.

I come from a farming background. It’s not just working with livestock on a Dales farm, a lot of it is building walls and hedging and fencing; that’s the part that I’ve taken on into my landscaping work.

I was taught to wall by someone, but I was often sent off on my own. I think the first wall I put up fell down, twice. And the third time I remember thinking, ‘I’m not going to go back again, this is it now’ – that was a good learning curve.

I love my work. It’s satisfying to create out of natural things. I look upon it as an extension of a lot of the skills that I learnt on the farm in Sedbergh.

There’s no place like the Yorkshire Dales anywhere in the world. When you go travelling anywhere, the best thing about it is coming back – a lot of local people tell you that. You can never beat that feeling you get when you come past Kilnsey Crag and turn into Littondale, it’s a special place.

28 Langcliffe Brow


28-dave-taylerDave Taylor – Deputy Director, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust

My connection with the Dales, and Ribblesdale in particular, goes back many years. Growing up as a southern lad, we used to come on family holidays to the Dales. In later years I studied geology and geography and grew to understand the landscape and the factors that shape it. I was attracted north to Sheffield University, which was the first time I lived in Yorkshire.

In the first week at Sheffield I went on a trip with the Caving Society, which on reflection was a fairly terrifying experience. We stayed in the caving club building in Horton-in-Ribblesdale; so that was my first real taste of the Dales, crawling around underground! A year later I came as a budding geologist to Horton, training to map the local rocks. Those were great experiences with friends; out exploring the landscape, learning how to measure, understand and read it – combined with work for the pub landlord, helping on his farm stacking straw for the winter and having a lot of fun. That week left a real impression on me, an incredibly positive one.

Over the following years there were coincidences that brought me back here: wandering across Malham Moor and visiting Tarn House; hitch hiking from the Lake District through Settle and over Buckhaw Brow, before the by-pass was built, and seeing the view of Giggleswick Scar and Settle. All these memories were steadily building up a connection with the place.

Life then took me all over the world in environmental education and adventuring: to South Devon, Asia, the Antipodes and then to South Africa. In 1997, I landed a post with the Field Studies Council at Malham Tarn Field Centre. I’ve lived in Ribblesdale ever since, only a few miles south from that experience I had as a young geology student. I spent five years working at Malham Tarn and I must have travelled up and down the hill to Langcliffe Brow en route to Malham with thousands of students, colleagues and friends. I would often stop and get them to sit on the limestone and take in this view. For me it’s the richness of the dale in terms of the human activity that’s shaped how it looks. It’s not a pristine one by any stretch of the imagination, but for a geographer that’s all part of the rich tapestry that makes up a view.

In the backdrop there are the Three Peaks and in particular the massif of Ingleborough. There is the quarried landscape at Helwith Bridge with the striking exposures of gritstone and limestone. The caravan site in Little Stainforth marks the importance of visitors to the area’s economy. The River Ribble, the wonderful limestone terraces, meadows and field patterns, field barns and walls, the winding Settle-Carlisle railway, the pockets of woodland and the glaciated faults at Stainforth Scar. This view is constantly changing throughout the year and is something I have got strongly attached to.

I have worked at the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust for 11 years which has enabled me to widen my involvement in the Dales. We have developed a very successful outreach, training and education programme which has supported a broad range of people to come and enjoy and understand the landscape. My work also involves developing practical conservation work. It is a true privilege to be in a place I love, able to shape and support how it might evolve in decades to come with a group of wonderful, dedicated, passionate, inspiring people.

I was lucky enough to have those formative experiences as a young person – I had great teachers and people who really inspired and excited me to find out why the landscape looks like it does. Those are magic moments in life – the sparks – which have led to a lifetime of fulfilment and enjoyment. Now I’m in a position where I think, ‘great, I can create those sparks for other people’. They don’t all catch fire, but some of them will.

29 Howgill Fells

d11045-howgills29-david-butterworthDavid Butterworth – Chief Executive, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

No matter how good a photographer is, they can’t really capture the essence of ‘place’. You really need to be there to appreciate it. It’s a whole landscape experience.

I picked this view because it’s unusual in Dales’ landscape terms. It represents a different kind of landscape, in the north of the Park. I also picked it because of its political significance. The current boundary of the Park goes right along the top of the Howgills. So you can stand at the highest point – on the Calf – with one foot in and one foot out of the Park, thinking, what’s this all about? It represents for me man’s stupidity about designating landscapes on political, administrative, or bureaucratic boundaries, rather than for the value of the landscape itself.

That particular boundary was designated in 1954; it’s the boundary between Westmoreland and the West Riding, as was. And here we are in 2013, and we’re just about, hopefully, to sort out that unfinished business and designate the whole of the Howgills. For me, that would be a fantastic professional achievement. Natural England have been carrying out a review of the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District for about two and a half years, or for 54 years, depending on how far you take it back! We expect a decision by the end of 2013. It’s a big deal. It would make the Park about 25% bigger – a substantial increase in landscape.

I walk in that area quite a bit. The Park is 680 square miles, but finding solitude and feeling that sense of isolation and the spiritual feeling you get with that, is very difficult. You get it in the Howgills in a way you don’t get it in other areas. If you’re in that particular landscape for any length of time it is like a spiritual experience. The most amazing thing is the contrast between this sense of isolation and the fact that the M6 and the West Coast Mainline is half a mile away from you. You get these massive infrastructure projects cutting right through the middle of that landscape. You get all that traffic noise and the noise of the railway and then you turn a corner and you can’t hear a thing. To be in a National Park and see these huge projects is quite bizarre, but I love it. I think buildings or structures like railway viaducts can have a hugely positive impact in many cases. Whenever they’re first put there there’s an absolute hue and cry, but they become such a significant part of any landscape. What it shows for me is the interaction between man and the landscape, which is just brilliant, assuming we don’t bugger it up and build inappropriate structures!

I’ve worked in the Park since 1991, and been Chief Executive since 2001. I’m not a planner or an -ologist, I’m not from that kind of background. My skills, for what they are, and my experience as a Chief Executive, are in terms of driving performance through the organisation. So the things I’m most proud of are the collective things: the fact that the performance of this National Park Authority is as high as any in the UK. Every year we sweep a load of awards for what we do both inside and outside of the Authority; for work on the Limestone Country Project, for major construction projects, for low carbon emissions. When I see the performance across the organisation, and see how that motivates people, particularly at this difficult time (because we’ve lost so many staff with the recent cut backs) that’s what I’m really proud of.

30 Pen-y-Ghent from Gorbeck


30-gary-lodgeGary Lodge – Farmer, Westside Farm

I didn’t know where to choose really, I just like it round here. This is above Langcliffe, looking back over where I work, land that we farm, our house, and Pen-y-Ghent in the background.

I like this view because all the walls are actually up, whereas on quite a bit of land they’re not maintained that well. We try and keep them up – I think it’s important, round here, to keep it how it was, and how it should be. I do quite a bit of walling. In the autumn, when we’re not so busy at home, I go out and do drystone walling for other people. It’s something I quite like. I learnt walling from my dad – I just went with him and picked it up, and then just practiced really. It’s quite rewarding when you’ve done it and it looks tidy.

I’ve lived here since I was one. I always helped Dad when I was a kid, and I just enjoy it really. I like the variety – different stuff every day, and looking after stock. We have about 1400 sheep, about 6-700 acres of land, and we rent some as well. So a lot of what you can see here is land we work on. It’s a nice area to work in, most of the time.

We used to have about a hundred cows of our own. Now we just take in other people’s cows, for summer and for winter, at so much a head. We sold the cows a few years ago because I’m more interested in the sheep.

I do a lot of showing prize sheep each year. We take the best ones and compete against other farmers. It’s a hobby really, and it’s showcasing your sheep, so when you go to sell them they’re worth more. It depends what breed you’re on as to what’s important: with Swaledale it’s all about markings – the colourings on the face and the legs; with some other sheep, like Texels, it’s about the shape and muscle they have; we have Swaledales mainly.

I like working with stock, and I enjoy lambing time. If you look after them properly, it’s rewarding. You buy a tup and see how his offspring is. You keep trying to improve what flock you have. We enjoy showing, and trying to better ourselves all the time.

Dad always used to give us a sheep for our birthdays or for Christmas, and we would look out for that one when we were feeding. We still have favourites now – often the show ones; if they’ve done well in a show, you keep a look out for them. I don’t remember getting upset as a kid when they were killed, I think if you’re brought up with it you get used to it.

You do get to know the sheep and a lot of them we’ll recognise because you see them every day. They all look the same to most people, but they’re completely different, with different personalities. You have some that seem to always graze in a particular part of the field, or two or three of them who are always together. It’s as if they have friends and stick to them – they’re quite human like that.