A Day in the Dales...

29th October 2011
Its funny how being a landscape photographist opens doors to other, seemingly unrelated, areas of expertise. Not that I would consider myself expert in either geology or the UK weather, but when you’re out in the very early morning or late evening, standing high on hills of limestone so weather beaten that it has cracked and fissured to a depth of several feet you can’t help wonder at the geology of the place – and at the power of the weather that made it that way.

We all moan – on a very regular basis if our national sterotype is to be believed, about the weather – but that tends to be a very ‘here and now’ sort of moan. Annoyance with persistent drizzly rain or the kind of temperatures that have you racing for the barbie on those two good days each year are absolutely not the same thing as observing and recording the kind of weather that gouges valleys out of otherwise flat land using only millions of cubic metres of ice and rock, or that erodes several metres depth of good arable land down to its bedrock with only water and wind over a few hundreds of millennia. Especially if that same weather then goes on to crack and erode that rock to the extent that trees, admittedly small and scrubby ones, are able to grow in the cracks. Some stuff – the weather.

If it sounds as though I’m waxing a little lyrical I guess its because I‘ve just had a photographic moment atop a limestone pavement in the Yorkshire Dales. I’d come up to Yorkshire to shoot waterfalls and, to make a proper trip out of the one day workshop that I’d booked, I was accompanied by my Good Lady for the weekend and we had done everything that non-photographic tourists would be expected to do. We’d bought cheese from an outlet totally preoccupied with Wallace & Grommet, dodged several hundred leather clad gladiators on the best, and fastest, selection of motorbikes I’ve ever seen in one place and even bought a Christmas present or two from the quirky village shops we found on our Grand Tour of the Hills. I’d wanted to finish up on the limestone pavement at Malham, having seen large numbers of pictures by other photographers in books, on the web and on the postcards that all the other tourists were buying. It wasn’t to be. A wrong turn, a mild fuel crisis and a cup of tea in Deepdale meant that Malham was too far away at the end of the day to even hope to get photos of the limestone patterns there. Rats.

We headed back to the B&B through Kingsdale, my Good Lady at the wheel and me doing impromptu origami with the map. But wait! Whats this? At the south end of Scales Moor, as Kingsdale meets Twistleton Dale, in a place imaginatively called Twistleton Scar End – theres a Limestone Pavement! We call a halt and I leap out of the car, gather the kit and yomp off into the evening as she goes in search of a parking place thats not on an impossible incline. Its about a kilometre, over the River Twiss – don’t you love the names these places are given, and with Georges Scar on my left, the path to Twistleton Hall ahead of me and a near vertical climb between me and my goal I’m rushing so as not to lose the light. The bank of cloud away to the west will knock out the sun before it properly sets so there isn’t much time. Adjust the pack, take a very deep breath and go for it. The contours on the map I’m looking at now make it look a doddle – theres even a path to get you up there for goodness sake. But I don’t have time for paths, or a glance at the map – that sun is getting closer to the cloud by the minute. Three slips, two stops and eight minutes later I’m there and, even though breathing seems to be a problem, I’m not disappointed! Theres even a small scrubby tree as a reward! Magic!

Half an hour later I’m brought back to reality by the sound of rocks being disturbed amid breathless, muted, swearing. My Good Lady has joined me, navigating without a map and simply by aiming at the nearest large hill in the hope that was the one I'd chosen, she gets her breath back as I finish the photos and pack away. I can’t describe how beautiful it was sitting on the very edge of the hill, feet dangling over the edge with seemingly nothing below us but the valley floor and the town of Ingleton in the far distance as the sun was finally enveloped by the cloud away to the west. We sat and watched the shadows chase over the landscape, swallowing everything up and seemingly turning the volume down to zero as it went. It was totally silent, not a soul of any description in sight. There are moments when you just know its better to watch and enjoy rather than try to capture it all. This moment was definitely one of those. All we had to do now was fall off the hill in the pitch dark, and find the car...

Let me know what you think of the pictures...




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