We saw many sides of Ingleborough, but the slopes closest to Horton in Ribblesdale we walked twice. The pavements of Moughton scar are incredible in both mist and sun, the first day the clouds and mist dropped down on us as we picked our way across the limestone of Moughton edge.
But on the this first day of 2022 we went walking higher up Ingleborough and the sun emerged now and then to light up stone and grass and sky. It was a day of wonder. May the sun continue to light up this year of changes and beginnings.
Equally glorious, the millions of years of ice, water, sand and seismic activity that created this place, that brought us here. My geology book had a most lovely illustration.
Our final day of 2021, a hard year, long year, covid year but also a year that brought great change for 2022 and many good things. The day dawned wet, with low cloud. It has been raining heavily. Water thundered down with wild force enough to take the soul and cast it up into the air light as foam.
Such a splendid walk today, although we weren’t sure about weather. The wind had finally died down, but we left the cottage in a fine drizzle to catch the train down to Settle. An incredible breakfast at the Naked Man Cafe and straight up the hills.
The sun graced us, lighting up the world below.
It only appeared now and then, but drew extraordinary colours out of land and sky. Blues I have never seen and clouds like feathers that touched the earth.
I miss going to Arizona to spend Christmas with my mum, but this lovely cottage, Fawber Cottage, in the Yorkshire Dales is a good second best. Just released from Covid quarantine — I caught the stupid virus at our Christmas lunch, which was also doubling as my going away lunch.
The irony is not lost on me.
So I was stuck home until Christmas Eve, and even with trains cancelled and delayed, managed to get to New Houses to meet Mark in time for a walk. Just up the road from Horton-in-Ribblesdale, it is beautiful here. We walked further up the dale, up to Sell Gill where the stream pours into the earth, swalled up by the cave beneath the limestone.
Knitting sticks! I had never heard of them before, but they are ingenious. Were I a knitter I would have some idea how they work exactly and all the ways you could use them, but essentially they allow you to stand or walk and knit at the same time. I am not a knitter nor do I depend for life on how much knitting I can produce in a day, but I love the beauty with which this desire and this need has been satisfied.
A knitting stick is a piece of wood with a hole in the end for the needle. It’s tucked under your arm [or held fast in a belt] so you can knit with three or four needles. They learned in the 1800s that if you had a stick, you could knit faster and therefore earn more money. The money that they earned was a pittance but it was better than nothing.
It’s probable that knitting sticks, sheaths as they can be known, were used from the earliest days of knitting. Many have a ledge or slit so they can be held firmly in a belt or apron string on the right side of the waist. They anchor the knitting needle onto which the knitting is worked and allow the knitter to work close to the point of the needle. They also enable the knitter to work while standing or walking about and to “park” their knitting if they need to use their hands for other tasks like opening a gate on the way to work at a lead mine or moving a pan from the range.
In their book Old Hand-knitters of the Dales, Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby, the founders of this Museum, talk of one of the earliest recorded knitting sticks possibly being of Northumbrian origin and dating to the 15th or 16th century, a time when knitting flourished as an industry in Britain.
So practical, but also so beautiful, some simple and stylish, others more fascinating and some of them wonderfully odd. They were all hand carved as gifts, some love tokens as the exhbition title goes.
As the old illustration shows, this was a social and most companionable form of knitting. There are series of pictures taken of older folks sitting outside their doorways in their chairs, ready to chat to any passers by. They sang songs as well.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, people would come together to knit, whether it was outside their homes during the day or at their neighbours by the light of a peat fire in the evening.
They sang songs to count the rows knitted with their knitting sheaths and curved needles known as pricks. The sittings were social and also saved money, with only one house having to keep a fire going.
“perhaps the most characteristic custom of the Dales, is what is called their Sitting, or going-a-sitting. Knitting is a great practice in the dales. Men, women, and children, all knit … the men still knit a great deal in the houses; and women knit incessantly. They have knitting schools where children are taught; and where they sing in chorus knitting songs, some of which appear as childish as the nursery stories of the last generation. Yet all of them bear some reference to their employment and mode of life; and the chorus, which maintains regularity of action and keeps up the attention, is of more importance than the words.”
This was such a surprising most wonderful thing to find. We came to Hawes on this rainy day, clouds low so low over the earth. A quite miserable day. We caught the most wonderful community run Little White Bus from Garsdale station. We came to see the town, to see Wensleydale Cheese being made (but it was closed), to see Gayle mill (also closed), to see the ropemaker (closed). I don’t mind that they were closed, we came over our own holidays after all. The exhibition made it all worth it though, and the village itself. It is beautiful there on the banks of Gayle Beck, with narrow streets and alleys, houses that all seem to face inwards towards the village and the community life there.
A most glorious summer day, a second glorious summer day in the Dales and we did the famous walk to Malham Cove, carved out by water and ice. My pictures make it look empty, but it was full of people. We did, of course, have lovely moments of emptiness, but it was so busy we didn’t walk in the file of people going to the bottom of the cove. We didn’t do more than pause a moment at Janet’s Foss, but it was lovely to see the families enjoying the water.
We also had ice cream. Glorious.
But best of all were the limestone pavements up above Malham Cove, I had never really seen such pavements before. Not like this.
It wasn’t until later that I read more about how these formed–the geology of it is quite amazing.
Karst is defined as a landscape whose features develop are dependent on the presence of efficient underground drainage. Except in deserts, this is only completely achieved where there are caves large enough to carry streams and rivers, and cave passages are only formed naturally in soluble rocks where the groundwater can dissolve away the walls of narrow fissures to turn them into large caves. So karst is a feature of soluble rocks, of which limestone is by far the most important (but is not the only one). Named after the Kras of Slovenia, karst terrains are found all over the world, and the Yorkshire Dales has one of the finest. (102)
Karst is defined as a landscape whose features develop are dependent on the presence of efficient underground drainage. Except in deserts, this valleys is only completely achieved where there are caves large enough to carry streams and rivers, and cave passages are only formed naturally in soluble rocks where the groundwater can dissolve away the walls of narrow fissures to turn them into large caves. So karst is a feature of soluble rocks, of which limestone is by far the most important (but is not the only one). Named after the Kras of Slovenia, karst terrains are found all over the world, and the Yorkshire Dales has one of the finest.
… most Dales karren are much more rounded, in a style that makes them known as rundkarren. The rounding is normally developed when they form underneath a soil cover, where the soil and vegetation keep percolation water against all the limestone surfaces. In few places, notably at the top of Malham Cove it can be seen that soil has recently been stripped off the pavement along the back margin, so that these rundkarren appear to be true sub-soil features. (104)
This is difficult language to piece together, but I love how unfamiliar words like karst and karren fit this landscape. I love how it opens the earth up to understand the coming together of sea and sand, water and stone over the millions of years since the sporadic violence of tectonic movements first cast these ancient seabeds into the sky.
Waltham, Tony (2007) The Yorkshire Dales: Landscape and Geology. Ramsbury: Crowood Press.