Swaledale

Courtesy of Leni Hatcher and the National Trust's Outdoor Nation Project

Dales Lives

Jocelyn Campbell

Although Jocelyn lives in Arkengarthdale, her heart still hearkens back to Muker, where her parents lived, and whom she and her family visited for many years.  She feels a special fondness for Muker Show, a smaller and more intimate rural show than Reeth Show.

Jocelyn used to be an Arts Lecturer, and artist, and still paints, draws and creates wonderful pottery in her retirement. She is currently involved in creating a record of trees in the local area, along with paintings of wildflowers, for the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group and shows no signs of slowing down yet!
 
The Campbells have led a varied life, living in places such as Edinburgh and the Lebanon, where Duncan Campbell was the principal of Brummana High School, a Quaker school. Jocelyn is still a Trustee of the school and visits the Lebanon regularly to keep up with news and events at Brummana.
 
But during all the time Jocelyn lived elsewhere, the Campbells made sure their holidays were always spent in Swaledale. They returned year after year to Ghyll Head, a farmhouse on the picturesque gated road over to Askrigg from Satron, which embodied their spirit of adventure; the house had no electric, a double outside (draughty!) privy and a cold tap over a stone sink in the porch – the family loved it!

Jocelyn’s special place is Swinnergill, near Muker and she can still vividly remember the excitement of scrambling up the stream and the wildness of the surroundings, where the views are stunning. She doesn’t scramble quite as much these days, but lives next door to some of her grandchildren, and takes a great interest in their explorations around the local area!  

Beside her involvement with SWAAG, she has a wide range of other interests. She sings regularly with Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Parish Choir, goes to Quaker meeting at Leyburn, and loves to chat with her family and help out with ferrying them to after-school activities; “As a local resident, there’s always something to do, so I keep busy!”

Photo by Debbie Allen - Scenicview Gallery

 

Norman Guy

Norman was born in Muker and spent his secondary school years boarding at Richmond; at that time there was no bus down the dale. When he left school, he joined the family haulage firm, Guy’s, who delivered animal feed throughout the dale. He fondly remembers childhood snowy days where “we could sledge down the carway, there was no traffic then, but nowadays I’m less keen on snow!”

He joined Muker Silver Band as a youngster in 1952, playing baritone, but swapped instruments with his brother Maurice, also a band member, to cornet, only recently changing to tenor horn. Bandmaster for many years, he says, “The band is still an enduring passion for me and has been my main interest for 60 years.”

Following the sale of the family firm, he worked as a builder for a year, until approached by Willie Peacock, who by then was driving the school bus from upper Swaledale down to Richmond. Willie retired and logistics demanded another local driver be found from updale – the perfect job for Norman for the next 22 years, enabling him to remain in Muker.

“We’re lucky in Muker, there are a lot of locals and the incomers who’ve come to live have generally been people who’ve fitted in and interested in local life.” He is accepting of the changes that have occurred in Swaledale; “There is no work for young people, who have to leave, so if people didn’t buy the houses left empty, they’d be ruins by now. But there are some who come because they like it, then just want to change things.”

Norman recognises that visitors to Muker are often hikers and recommends walking round the back of Kisdon, where “there are four different routes to and from Keld, although I particularly like the paths round the top of Swinnergill and through Hart Lakes. I’m lucky, I’ve been able to live and work in Muker all my life, surrounded by beautiful scenery and views!”

Photo by Debbie Allen - Scenicview Gallery

 

Philip Bastow, Cabinetmaker

Born in Bradford, Philip’s family moved first to Richmond, then Reeth when his parents purchased the Buck Hotel. Philip began working with wood for a local company and later set up his workshop and gallery at the Dales Craft Centre in 1982. Commissions come from all over the UK and after 30 years as a cabinet maker Philip enjoys teaching his skills to others.

Philip is a keen competitor in the Swaledale Marathon, a tough marathon over very challenging terrain. “I compete in this gruelling challenge, each year wondering why I put myself through it, then find myself filling in the entry form the following year!”

A member of Reeth Fire and Rescue Service, Philip and the crew have recently been presented with an award for 100% availability. A vital service for the Dales, the FaRS are called out not only to fires, but to assist with accidents, floods and many different occasions when tenders from full-time stations would take too long to reach the incidents.

“I love the Dales and my new-found passion is for archaeology, having just joined the local archaeology group. Nothing beats a walk to the tops of hills in and around Swaledale, either searching for remains or just for fun. The challenge I like is to vary the climb to the top, take a different route from the norm and once there just enjoy the spectacular views!”

Photo by Debbie Allen - Scenicview Gallery

 

Catherine Calvert

Catherine is a development worker and tourism operator, running Hazel Brow Farm Visitor Center at Low Row. Originally, visitors staying on the farm were interested in finding out how it’s run, but Catherine says “they were getting in the way of work, so the idea of supervised tours, to interpret the farmed landscape, answer questions and opportunities to interact with livestock, came about”.

Catherine is particularly enthusiastic about the history of Swaledale: “I think the dale’s best kept secret is the wealth of history in our landscape. There’s evidence of dwellings and settlements from Medieval to Iron Age, charcoal kilns &“burnt mounds”. Cath’s advice is to search out information about Swaledale history and look for signs on the hills around: “If you scan the hillsides, the “eyebrows” in the landscape are likely to be the remains of circular dwellings – fascinating!”

More recent history is how the Teeswater sheep, ancestors of the Wensleydale breed, were kept during the 18th C. Their curly, lustrous fleece is still prized by hand-knitters. Catherine hopes to keep a few varieties of sheep on the farm this season to demonstrate their unique qualities. “Wool has been important to this area since Roman times when the wool trade may have been equally as important as lead. You can still see some of that heritage from the names of pubs even now in Richmond, such as the Bishop Blaize and the Golden Fleece.”

She is a fount of interesting snippets of information: “In the late 17th C everyone had to be buried in wool, to support the industry. The occupier of Level House above Low Row, interred his daughter in linen. He was reported and fined £5. What an existence! It would be amazing to go back in time, but just for a day!”

The Calverts use an old house, Greensykes, a Grade II listed building, to pen and dip the sheep. “It’s supposed to be haunted by Micah Clarkson, who lived there with his housekeeper. He haunts the coal hole and flies up ladies’ dresses – so beware!” There’s also a story that if you put your ear to the floor in the parlour, you can hear the miners working at Jenkin mine.

Catherine feels the Glorious 12th, start of the grouse-shooting season, is an important date in the dale. “It’s a day to celebrate our managed landscape and tradition, an important part of the local economy, employing beaters, gamekeepers etc. Without the grouse moors we’d lose a lot of what’s special about these dales; walk up on the moor and listen for the grouse calling, surrounded by amazing views – perfect!”

Photo by Debbie Allen - Scenicview Gallery

 

Annas Metcalfe

Born and brought up at Ravenseat, Annas moved to Usha Gap on her marriage to Tom. They and their son, Philip and his family, farm and run a campsite.

The Metcalfes are warm and welcoming and have a wealth of local knowledge to pass on to visitors. “The best time of year is June; the stock are out, lambing done, and clipping and haytiming yet to come. Holidaymakers camping, but it’s not too busy, and there’s time to appreciate long, light nights. I love the meadow flowers, the clovers and buttercups. We’re lucky here, because most Swaledale farmers didn’t put fertilisers on the meadows, so the flowers weren’t killed off. The meadow flowers, the stone barns in most fields and the traditional stone walls are what makes Swaledale unique. And it’s so much more enclosed than other dales, with only one main road.”

Life as a farmer’s wife and dealing with the campsite means the hours melt away and Annas has little spare time, although she is a stalwart of St Mary’s Church at Muker and plays the organ for services, as well as arranging the flowers there. “Once we’ve had the wine party for the church and Muker Show in early September, I feel it’s time to settle into winter. I love Muker Show, it’s a chance to meet up with friends and there’s plenty to entertain us.”

Life in the dale is dominated by the weather. “Everything we do is ruled by the seasons and what the weather is like. It can be drizzling at home, but when you get up on to the Buttertubs, snow has settled and you can’t get over to Hawes. But even on a miserable day, the scenery is beautiful. I like the view updale over Muker from Rampsholme. My tip is to get off the main road and explore the little single track roads and footpaths – there’s so much more to see off the beaten track.”

Photo by Debbie Allen - Scenicview Gallery

 

Tot Haykin, Farmer

Though born in Richmond, Tot moved to Keld in 1935, aged 8. His father worked as a shepherd in Catterick, but jumped at the chance to move his family to upper Swaledale when a farm came up to let, Smithyholme. Now living in Gunnerside, Tot still keeps sheep on land at Keld and drives up every day to check on them.

Times were hard then, with no modern transport: “I remember walking with the sheep over to Kirkby Stephen (11 miles). I’d leave them in the field overnight, walk back home, then get up at 4.30 am to collect them to take to the auction mart. To fother the sheep in winter, we’d pile hay on the back of a horse and I’d walk up onto the moor.”

But life wasn’t always work. “On my 18th birthday, three of us cycled down to Gunnerside to go to the pub. We couldn’t go to the pubs in Keld or Muker, because our parents would have got to hear, but Gunnerside was far enough away for them not to find out. We keep our mouths shut round here, so nobody knows our business. As the saying goes, "See all, hear all, say nowt. Eat all, sup all, pay nowt!”

Farming is still hard work nowadays, as it has always been. “The best time of year is June; winter is over, lambing done, no better time to walk the dale and nowhere like it. From July onwards, it was shearing, haytime, cutting peats, then back to feeding the animals through winter. But after I finished work, I used to like running along the scar from Ravenseat, down Silver Hill, alongside Wain Wath, admiring the peaceful surrounding scenery. My advice is to travel as many footpaths as possible to appreciate the beauty of Swaledale; nowt better than a frosty morning with birds singing!”

Tot never married: “My father said to me, doan’t thee get wed, lad, because if tha does, a tuppenny bun’ll cost you fowerpence!”

Photo by Lesley Calvert for Gunnerside Millennium

Shelagh Thomlinson

Although retaining a house near London, Shelagh now spends most of her time at her house in Gunnerside. Shelagh, a retired teacher, is passionate about singing with the Swale Singers, a group of locals who rehearse and perform sacred and secular music regularly within Swaledale. She also supports the Thomlinson Trust, set up in memory of her husband, Hugh; the Trust provides financial support for people in the Gunnerside area for education, training and related activities.

Shelagh describes her feelings for the dale: “When I’m returning home, the feeling when I turn off the A1 to come back to Swaledale is indescribable. Despite having all mod cons like mobile phone reception and broadband, it still feels like turning the clocks back 50 years; Swaledale folk are so friendly, the pace of life is much slower and people really have time to talk to you.”

Her favourite spot is at the top of Oxnop Ghyll, along the gated road from Satron over to Askrigg. “In the evening, I take a gin and tonic and sit and watch the sun go down over the hills updale – the most amazing view, with Swaledale spread out below me.”

She puts it simply: “I live in Paradise!”

Photo by Debbie Allen - Scenicview Gallery

 

Richard Sunter, Farmer and Trials rider

Born and bred in Healaugh just outside Reeth, Richard has a flock of around 500 Swaledale sheep. He feels the end of Spring around May or June is the best time of year. By then the grass is growing and his 800 lambs “can pretty much be left to get on with it.” Angela, his wife, likes lambing time as it’s the most satisfying, with a sense of “new life”. The worst time for him is a wet winter “when you’re in a puddle all day”. He much prefers a “frosty, bright and crisp day” but last year he did spend 6 weeks thawing pipes. He likes to reflect on figures – he’s just worked out he’s dressed (cut the nails) of 1200 sheep’s feet in October. That’s hard work for you.

His favourite spot is Healaugh Brows as well as the 22 miles of footpath on the farmland. He doesn’t have much spare time but when he does he likes nothing more than Motorbike Trials riding, a sport of skill and agility, not speed. Jumping on a back wheel from rock to rock, sliding down a narrow ravine or climbing up a rocky stream. He’s very modest, he was 9th in the world, as was his daughter Katie and his two sons, John and Mark, were both experts in Yorkshire. He gets a buzz out of pitting himself against natural obstacles in all weathers, and getting to out of the way places and seeing parts of the countryside that others don’t see. His favourite event is the Scott Trial in Swaledale at the end of October – the competition dates back to 1914. It’s a sport many locals take part in.

His advice for visitors is simple; “Walk and see the whole countryside.” Angela says the great thing is “you can walk from the door and don’t have to use a car”. When you meet Richard in a field the noticeable thing is he turns his quad bike off and chats for quite a while – he says, “I’m interested to talk to people, you might be the only person I’ve talked to all day!”


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