Due to the lockdown restrictions in the previous months travel was limited. However, I did not want to miss an opportunity to see the famous hay meadows in Swaledale I drove over to take a look one day in July.
My route over was via Kirkby Stephen and then heading into Swaledale from the western end. Its not my normal route into the dale but I wanted to check out a couple of locations first.
As you cross the boundary between Cumbria and North Yorkshire you enter Birkdale, one of, if not the smallest of the Yorkshire Dales. There is a fine marker post right by the roadside near the boundary which is often missed by passing visitors.
A lovely weathered stone not only with crisp engraving on the front but a benchmark on the side. It stands at 1681′ above sea level.
This is one of the reasons for my visit, the sheep pens of Black Scar House. I have seen many sheep folds on my walks but this is one of the finest. The little hut in the middle adds real character to the scene.
It was a pleasant day so I sat on a nearby rise and produced this watercolour sketch.
Within the drystone walls much of the floor is either cobbled or flagged. The small hut (complete with fireplace) is obviously where shepherds would have taken shelter, and still do. These pens are still in use so if you pay a visit please treat it with respect and leave it as you find it.
A short distance down the road and up on the fellside is this, Birkdale Cross. A pillar of rock that stands about 1 metre tall. There are no marks or engravings but it obviously sereved some purpose in the past. Close by is this tumbled down fold. We are going to take that road into Swaledale proper.
Passing through Keld I headed on towards Muker. I couldnt resist stopping to take a couple of shots from the “regular” locations.
One of the most photographed barns in the dale, near Angram.
Classic dales barns set neatly into the hillside. They are known locally as Cow ‘us (Cow House) as they were used to store hay and for overwintering livestock.
One of the finest views in the dale with a patchwork of fields and numerous barns dotted throughout. The light yellow fields show where a crop of silage has already been cut and baled.
We soon arrived at the village of Muker where I parked up.
Tucked away in the village are these small barns, extensions of some of the houses. This one has special memories for me, it was the subject for one of my earliest paintings which I sold at the start of my painting career. Probably back in about 1988.
The footpath leads out into the pasture land on the edge of the village and it is simply a case of following the flagged path through the meadows.
As it is July many of the colourful early wildflowers of the meadow are past their best. There is still plenty of interest though, the buttercups have been superseded by the Dandelion-like flowers of Rough Hawkbit.
Dotted amongst the yellow is the vibrant pink of wood cranes-bill as well as other varieties of plants that make this habitat so special.
The path leads though four main fields at the valley bottom.
Passing through the last stile you are met by the winding River Swale. The signpost indicates plenty of options to extend the walk. Today we are heading left. We are not going much further on this outing.
I had come to see this scene in particular. I had planned on doing a plein air sketch of this scene.
I completed a pen and wash sketch, probably taking about 40 minutes in total. The composition was there for me, the leading lines of the tumbled down wall taking the eye to the main focal point of the barn. I was pelased with this sketch.
Job done I headed back the way we came.
The weather had turned dull and clouds were moving in. Still time to take a few more photographs though.
Behind us a heavy rain front was creeping down the dale.
I managed to get back to the village before we got drenched. Summer in the dales can come with some unpredictable weather.
The village centre boasts a village shop, a tea room, a gallery and this, The Farmers Arms. It was tempting to call in for a drink but as luck would have it they were shut. Hey ho, a good excuse to call back sometime.
Time to head home. I drove along the dale, through Gunnerside ahead of the rain.
One last shot of the dale, beautiful in any weather.
From here it is simply a case of heading “over the hill” from the neighbouring Arkengarthdale and down to home. I am fortunate to have the Yorkshire Dales so close to hand. And it’s always a joy to re-visit.
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