36 View from Stags Fell


36-tessa-levansTessa Levens – Peatland Restoration Officer, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

This view’s from Stags Fell, which is above Simonstone near Hawes, in Wensleydale. It’s one of our peat restoration sites. I did the peat survey behind where this is taken.

It’s very rare that we get to see a view like that: we’re normally in hill fog or drizzle or something, because most of the survey work we do is in the winter. Most of our sites are grouse moors. Even the ones that aren’t we still can’t go on in bird nesting season, so that takes out April to June. We’ve got a window in July when we try and get surveys done, and then we can’t get on the moors as often over the shooting season which is August sometimes up to December.

You come down out of the hill fog up there, and the Dales open out – you can see so far. It’s good to have that space; not seeing people sometimes is quite nice! I live in Leeds in one of the back to back terraces and my view’s of other people’s houses, so I like being out on the moors.

I suppose I do look at landscapes differently now – I can’t help it: I see the peat! I probably bore my friends with it, but I‘m always saying ‘I’ve worked there’ or ‘I’ve surveyed that hill’. There’s nothing there as far as some people are concerned, but we get to see it in detail; we get to see all the plants that are there, and all the birdlife that comes back in February/March time. We do get views that a lot of people don’t see because they tend to stick to footpaths further down, though this moorland is open access. We also get to see all the damaged blanket bog as well, which again lots of people won’t have seen, because it’s often right up on the tops, away from the footpaths.

Peatlands are an important habitat that store huge amounts of carbon when they aren’t degrading. Globally, they contain twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. Restoring damaged bogs can also improve water quality, protect archaeology and preserve a landscape that lots of people enjoy visiting.

Peat is formed from partially decomposed plant material and it can hold a lot of water. It’s mainly made up of sphagnum mosses, which grow on the bogs. As the moss dies it doesn’t rot away properly because of the acidic and anaerobic conditions. There are different kinds of peat bog – such as lowland raised bogs and the blanket peat, which tends to be on the tops and is fed only by the rain. Blanket bogs are a globally rare habitat and only about 4% of what we have in the UK is undamaged, for reasons such as drainage, overgrazing, fires, or peat cutting. Much of that damage is historic, but it takes so long for peat to recover: about ten years for a centimetre of peat to form, and it can be cut or burnt or drained really quickly.

Manmade drains called grips were cut into peat in the past; it was government funded and was mainly to try and drain the land for agricultural improvement, but they’re just eroding and washing peat away.

My job is to go out and do the work on the ground: so doing the surveys of sites, writing restoration plans and then overseeing the restoration and revegetation work itself. On site we block up the manmade drains with peat dams and use timber sediment traps in the more natural-looking gullies. The dams and sediment traps are designed to slow the water down enough to let the peat sediment settle out. The idea is that it’ll stabilise enough to let plants like sphagnum mosses and cotton grasses establish behind the dams and it will eventually, hopefully, re-vegetate completely. They’re working very quickly in some places and the pools that have built up behind them are already filling with either cotton grasses or sphagnum, which is exactly what we want to happen.

37 Howgill Fells from above Raisbeck


37-jan-hicksJan Hicks – Textile Artist and Smallholder

This is up on Orton Scar, with the Howgills in the distance. It’s a view that I know well because I walk there a lot with the dogs. One of the things I really like to do on a summer’s evening is go up there. During the day I don’t get a lot of spare time, but in the evenings you can walk up there, take your sandwiches, sit and eat your tea and look at the view – it’s just fabulous.

It doesn’t show so well here because you’re higher up, but looking at the Howgills from lower down, you get these rounded shapes in the hills. Wainwright referred to them as sleeping elephants, because they all sort of curl around each other.

We’ve been here 20 years. We just loved it here and so moved up from Oxford. As walkers, and rural people, we ended up with this place with ten acres. You’ve got to keep the land in condition. You can’t just have ten acres of land and leave it, so we got some sheep. Initially we just had them as lawnmowers, but then I got into keeping the Angora goats. I’ve always knitted, and done textile stuff. I got the goats and then I got into the rare breed sheep, mainly Manx Laoghtans and Gotlands, which I keep for their fleece.

I’ve only got about 20 ewes at the moment. It’s just a matter of checking them every day, feeding them during the winter, and routine maintenance, like doing their feet and worming them. And then you get periods of really intense activity, like lambing and clipping, and hay time. I love it; I can’t imagine getting up in the morning and not having to go outside, even if it’s only for half an hour to go round and feed and check everything.

I produce knitting yarn. I’d always done knitting, and it’s great to be able to use your own wool, to make things from something you’ve known since you lambed it. I send the wool down to a company in Cornwall that does small scale spinning. I tend to dye the wools landscape colours, because they’re the colours I’m comfortable with. I mix my own colours and do all my own dying. I sell the yarn and use some of it. I’m also an artist – textile art, felt and wall hangings – and most of my stuff is based on landscape colours and landscape views. I belong to a women’s co-operative which has a shop over in Caldbeck called The Wool Clip, so I have a good outlet for knitting yarn and kits for people to knit jumpers and socks and scarves.

In 2005 I did a piece with a friend who’s also an artist. I’ve always loved the Uffington White Horse down in Berkshire. Of course there’s no chalk here, but I got talking to this friend and we decided that we’d do our own and that we’d do it in fleece. We got 500 Swaledale fleeces up onto Wild Boar Fell, half way up, and did a wild boar in fleece. It was 300 feet long and 120 feet high and was there for about three weeks. It was a fantastic thing, and an amazing thing to do. It was quite interesting getting it up there, and getting it back down again!

Once you’ve got into keeping animals, you start learning to do the things like drystone walling, and just keeping the place up. You just learn as you go along, with help from the locals – who think you’re completely barmy. I do have a principle that if something needs doing I like to be able to do it myself, so I clip all my own sheep, and I do my own walling. It’s a really nice community round here. People will always do something for you, there’s a lot of barter, and trading labour. If you need something done that you can’t do yourself, someone will always do it, and you just help them out some other time. Haytime – there’s three of us who have very small bits of land, and a bigger farm up the road. Everybody just mucks in, because he doesn’t have the labour to get all his hay in, and we haven’t got the machinery, so we all just help each other. And if you run out of hay or straw in the winter, somebody will always find you a few bales of hay, and then you help them out when they’re stuck. It works really well. It’s a real traditional sort of community.

38 Upper Wharfedale from Moor End


38-martinMartin Davies – Countryside Property Manager, National Trust

This is the view looking up the valley from Moor End. I chose it because it gives a great view of a ‘classic’ U-shaped glaciated valley: moorland on the fell tops, steep valley side woodlands and the River Wharfe flowing through what is very much a working living landscape, rich in wildlife.

I’m responsible for the overall management of all the land in National Trust ownership within the Dales, which includes Upper Wharfedale, Malham Tarn Estate, and Braithwaite Hall etc. Our ownership stretches over 20,000 acres, but it is spread over a large geographic area and is very diverse. You’ve got this bleak and open landscape on Malham Moor, and then you go to Wharfedale which forms a slightly softer and more intimate landscape in comparison. We have some really stunning hay meadows, extensive areas of limestone pavement, steep gill and valley side woodland, tarns and wetlands, blanket peat habitat and several small mansion properties – a wide range of interesting places.

We look at the management of our land and how it contributes to the wider landscape – we are often trying to unpick past management which was promoted after the Second World War to try and improve food production and become more self sufficient. This included the large-scale drainage of moorland peat; reduction in native woodland cover; the loss of many flower-rich meadows; hard engineering of rivers and increases in livestock numbers.

These changes in some instances have had a major impact on the hydrology of many upland river systems. The drainage ditches in the peat (the peat acts as a natural sponge and releases water slowly) have increased the speed and amount of water feeding into the steep gills that drain the moor tops, which is then causing erosion of the gills. This brings high volumes of water and gravel into the main river system, which increases the height of the river bed. There has been work in the past to build up the banks to stop the river breaking out and flooding. What’s actually happened in places is that they’ve built up the banks that much, the river’s higher now than the rest of the flood plain, so it actually wants to break out and do something quite dramatic. But of course the flat valley floor is the most important bit for the farmers: that’s where they produce the hay and the silage, which feeds the stock in the winter.

It’s quite a challenge; the river is trying to re-naturalise itself and the National Trust aims to work as much as possible to allow natural processes to take place. However, the farming community would like to keep the flood plain protected as it is. It’s about reaching that balance and working closely with our farm tenants to start the process of allowing the river to slowly naturalise, and giving time for the farmers to adapt their farming practices as the river changes. It’s quite complex.

We’ve been working in partnership with other bodies and our farm tenants over the years. This work has included blocking up of drainage ditches (grips) on peat habitats; restoration and new planting of both gill and valley side woodlands; a series of soft-engineered river bank repairs, and flower-rich hay meadow restoration. This is all to help improve the hydrological function and wildlife diversity of Upper Wharfedale.

I personally love walking, mountain biking and kayaking. I feel very privileged to both work and play in such a special place and feel it gives you much more of an insight into how much everyone involved puts in to managing the Dales.

39 Coverdale from Flamstone Pin


39-dave-higginsDave Higgins – Project Manager, Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust

The River Cover goes down the bottom of the valley here: you can see where it is from the line of trees. Coverdale’s not a well visited dale, but it’s lovely when you get down to the river. There’s a real nice habitat mosaic there. You’ve got a lot of trees and woodland along the river bank, and the river looks just how you expect a river to look: a nice mix of gravels – with very little fine sediment, which is important – but there’s also woody debris in there. In terms of fish, you’ve got your salmon, brown trout, probably sea trout, bullhead, stone loach, minnows, and native crayfish.

We’ve had the Coverdale Biodiversity Project going on up there for the last two years now, which involves the large-scale management of the riverscape. What we’re doing there is looking at the catchment (which is the area that drains into that particular watershed), and using models such as SCIMAP (a fine sediment model) to work out where water flows, and possible diffuse pollution sources (small pockets of pollution with lots of them spread across a catchment). We then use restoration methods such as willow spiling, bank protection or gill planting.

Willow spiling is a fantastic way to spend a couple of days. We use fence posts up here rather than willow rods, just because of the nature of the bedrock and the gravel. You knock fence posts into the river bed, and then you have three or four metre willow rods which you just weave in and out to make one long hurdle. You angle it in at the upstream end of the bank, so it deflects the water around it and this protects the bank. It makes a permeable barrier, so it slows the water down and as it passes through the willows it allows fine sediments to deposit out behind the hurdle. This is a restoration method for places where you’re getting quite a lot of severe erosion.

Coming up onto this hill we’ve got the Yorkshire Peat Partnership working on the top to block the grips and restore the peat soils, then we’re working down in the bottom, and you’ve got the National Trust working in between.

Coverdale is a landscape with a lot of variety: you start off on these moorland plateaus and then work down on to the hill slopes, and then find yourself in these little valleys, and all the way you can walk from top to bottom, finding little out-of-the-way waterfalls and lovely little streams. But I think it’s the character of the people who live here as well. Until this job I’d never really mixed with farmers, or lived in a rural community, but it’s one hell of an experience. They’re all approachable, they’re all friendly. It’s the whole mix, and each dale has its own uniqueness.

I was brought up in Hull, which is quite urban, with rivers you probably wouldn’t want to go paddling in! My mum used to bring us on walking holidays up in the Dales. I’ve always been interested in natural history; I played rugby at school, and I think I was the only one in the team who would go and spend Saturday night owl-spotting!

This is a great job, especially when you’re outdoors and wading in rivers, catching all the fish and insects and seeing what lives there. I used to go to places like Grassington, sit on an eroded bank side and just enjoy watching the river. But now you look at that bank and think ‘that’s eroded’ and you need to do something. You look at the landscape in a completely different way. That’s great in one way, but it also means that you’re going around looking at negative things, thinking ‘how can I improve that?’, rather than just looking at it – because it is a beautiful landscape.

40 Sunset from Addlebrough

d12017-addlebrough40-roger-gaynorRoger Gaynor – Dales Volunteer, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

This is taken from the summit of Addlebrough, looking right into Wensleydale towards Hawes. I think it’s the best viewpoint in the Dales. Addlebrough’s got this beautiful shape. Here, you can just see the rim of limestone that goes all round the top of what’s really Wensleydale’s own Table Mountain. You stand there and it’s like opening up 360 pages of a story book of the Dales: you can see where the Ice Age has carved out the dale; there is a deep feeling of ancient history with carved stones and a burial cairn at the summit; it was said to be a lookout station during Roman times; and then you get the stone walls as well.

I think you have to walk to the summit of Addlebrough to really appreciate Wensleydale. For me it’s the most majestic dale because it’s got this flat base. You can be within it and not really know you’re in a dale, but once you get higher up you can see how wide it is, with the fells sort of keeping it together. It’s fantastic.

I became a Dales Volunteer in 2005. I was approaching retirement and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something to keep me interested as I go along’. I’ve spent a lifetime managing trees and woodlands, so you could say this is a busman’s holiday really!

The first year was a training and induction programme, which was really high quality. The staff here are all so committed and skilled and knowledgeable. I thought I knew something about the Dales before I came for the interview. I realise now that I was only scratching the surface. I’m still learning all the time, so it’s been a great opportunity for me. I’ve learnt to read the landscape much better. In 2005 I could have stood at the top of Addlebrough and still enjoyed the view, but now when I’m at the top of somewhere like Addlebrough, I think, ‘how was that valley formed? Was it a glacier, was it meltwater? Why are the fields that way? Why are these mounds here? Are they Iron Age settlements?’

Volunteers do a vast range of duties. We’re looking at the very fabric of the Dales – the wildlife and the structure of the landscape as well. You really feel as though you’re doing a worthwhile job.

I’m really keen on the Park’s education and outreach programmes. They’re so important in passing the National Park message on to future generations. On a very regular basis I, along with other volunteers and staff, take school groups and other groups out into the Park. It might just be for a general walk, or more specific to field work they’re doing. I love that kind of work.

Whether we’re working in a woodland, or on a footpath, or building a bridge somewhere, we’re often approached by local people. It gives us an opportunity to strengthen links with local people, and get to know what’s important to them. The visitors are important and help support the local economy, but the people who live here are really important; it’s very much the landowners and farmers who keep this view here from Addlebrough.

I’m out there on a regular basis repairing footpaths, restoring the habitats and so on. I sometimes look at views like this and think, ‘this is quite a rugged and, in a way, a fairly wild landscape, and yet here we are doing all this work to protect and conserve it’. So it’s not really that rugged, not that wild perhaps – it is actually quite a fragile landscape and that’s why we’re doing this work. Looking at this view you know that without all the different organisations and all the different people involved in caring for that view it would suffer, and the harm that’s caused would take years and years to put right – in fact some of it probably could never be put right. So whilst it’s a rugged landscape it’s still very fragile and really sensitive to change.