12 December 2014

New Friends

On October 27th 2012 I joined a walk along the Dales Way link route from Menston to the start of the trail in Ilkley. It was the Dales Way Association's AGM and the walk was a chance for members to get to know each other before the business meeting in the afternoon. There was a woman walking on her own and she didn't seem to know anyone else but we're a friendly lot and soon she was chatting to other walkers. She told us her name was Eileen and that she'd walked the Dales Way many times with her late partner Roy.

After the meeting Eileen came up to the committee and gave us a substantial cheque. She asked us to use it in memory of Roy to improve the route that he had loved so much. Coming to Ilkley that autumn was the first time Eileen had been in the Dales since Roy had died and an incredibly brave thing to do, to walk with strangers on a route that meant so much to them. 

Eileen made new friends that day and we have seen her every year since and finally the improvements she initiated are finished. On Monday I joined Dales Way committee members and Yorkshire Dales National Park staff at the newly renovated suspension bridge over the river Wharfe at Hebden.

If you are walking on the Dales Way please take a moment to stop and read the little plaque on the side of the bridge and think about Roy and Eileen and the happy times they spent there. 

28 November 2014

Black Friday v Small Business Saturday

I've just watched a video of shoppers in Bradford pushing and shoving each other to the floor in the race to cram the biggest/newest/cheapest tv/playstation/gizmo into a supermarket trolley and elbow their way to a checkout where it will no doubt add to their mounting debt and New Year misery. And all in the name of Black Friday. 

Who thought that one up. It wasn't an independent trader that's for sure.

Small businesses like ours don't have 50% or 30% of even 20% to cut off our prices in a mad pre-Christmas promotion. When we price a walk guide book that figure has been carefully worked out to cover the cost of printing (we could get a cheaper deal by printing in China but we don't want to when there's a perfectly good printer less than 20 miles away in the Yorkshire Dales), of transport and distribution and research and licences to OS for the use of up to date maps and software and office costs and wages  ....well I could go on but you get the picture. 

It's the giants - the supermarkets, the online retailers, the Tescos and Amazons of this world, who play fast and loose with their pricing and ruin small businesses along the way. We, the supplier, don't get a say in the price the big boys charge or the discounts they offer. So when a walker searches online for Dales Way by Colin Speakman for instance they'll find it for sale on our website for £11.99 and on Amazon at £7.79 - a whopping 34% discount. 

We're grateful to every single customer who buys one of our books wherever you buy them from. Without you we wouldn't have this business that we love. We're not sitting in judgement about where you shop or how much you pay. But there is one thing you can do. Support Small Business Saturday on December 6th. 

Buy your books from the bookshop, your cheese from the deli, your bread from the baker and your gifts from the Makers Fair. It'll help keep us all going for another year and I promise you won't get crushed in the rush.

20 November 2014

Silver Linings

Some of you might remember how gutted I was when earlier this year I had to give up my allotment. Well just look at these!

A tiny crop of winter spuds grown in a pot. There are 10 more where these came from and I'm planning new potatoes for Christmas Dinner if they last that long.

The spuds join crops of strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, caulis, enough courgettes to open a restaurant, tomatoes, spinach, fennel, coriander, mint, chives, chillies and lettuce all grown in pots and tubs or corners of the garden. 

Yes, I still miss the peace and quiet of my canal side plot and the undemanding companionship of other gardeners but I've grown more this year than I ever managed in the allotment and I have it on good authority that two families are enjoying Plot 29.

Success all round wouldn't you say? 

17 November 2014

Seize the Day

I went for a walk on Thursday. Hardly earth shattering news, especially for a guide book publisher, but it taught me something important.

On Thursday morning my partner checked the weather forecast, packed a sandwich, grabbed his maps and said, I'm off for a walk, are you coming?

Nope, I shot back - I'm far too busy, too much to do, too short notice, it's alright for some people ...... 

Five minutes later I was running down the street, laces flapping, hat askew, shouting wait, wait, wait for me.

We fell onto the train in a flurry of coats and bags and sticks and dog and looked at each other.

What changed your mind?

I'm not sure. You set off and my heart just plummeted. My to-do list suddenly felt like a great weight around my neck and I knew I'd get nothing done. 

I'm not generally a spontaneous person. I like a plan, I enjoy organising outings and knowing what to expect. I love a diary with lots of things to look forward to and I rarely just up sticks and go. But I miss out. We run our own business and I work from home. There is no reason in the world that I can't seize the moment and go. Just look up at the sky and head for the hills and have fun.

And on Thursday that's just what I did. Took the train to Horton-in-Ribblesdale then followed the Pennine Way to Hawes where a welcome pint and the luxury of a ride back to Garsdale station in the Little White Bus awaited. Fourteen miles of buffeting winds and scudding clouds, of Cam Fell and Snaizeholme, of scenery and solitude and of fun. Now how easy was that.

Oh and by the way I got more done on Friday than I'd ever have thought possible. That to-do list is toast.

18 August 2014

Beyond Excited

I am beyond excited. A small parcel arrived this morning containing this. A brand new copy of Ordnance Survey map OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western areas. 
Yorkshire Dales - Southern & Western Area
I've got one, a very dog-eared copy that's my go-to map for many of our days walks from home, but I'm not sure this one will ever see the side of a fell or the bottom of a rucksack. No, this one will be hidden behind glass, opened wearing those white gloves they wear on Who Do You Think You Are and left in my will to the most deserving grandchild. 

Because LOOK!

The route of A Dales High Way enters the map between Addingham and Skipton at the beginning of the walk and leaves some 50 miles later on the climb over Frostrow Fell to Sedbergh. The section shown above is one of my favourites of the whole 90 miles, the walk over springy limestone covered turf beneath the caves of Attermire Scar on the way to Settle.

Attermire Scar
Addingham High Moor between Addingham and Skipton

3 July 2014

This is one Midge we didn't want zapped

Anyone who knows me, and many of you who don't, will know by now that I come from Dent. The most beautiful dale in the Yorkshire Dales in that most astounding of counties - Yorkshire!*


Last weekend was the 6th Dentdale Music and Beer Festival. A remarkable annual event that has grown in popularity year by year. It is organised by local volunteers, supported by local businesses, it's free to attend and any money generated is ploughed back into the local community.

In their own words:
"After the foot-and-mouth outbreak in the early 2000s, the local community proposed and investigated an idea to regenerate the area and to raise much needed funds for local projects. In 2002, the first music event was held in the village and proved to be such a success that it grew hugely year-on-year. In 2009 the festival became two events with a free family orientated event remaining in the village under the new name of Dentdale Music and Beer Festival"

This year must have been the best yet, the crowds were huge and friendly, the sun shone, the beer flowed and the music was great

We ate, we drank, we bopped and we sang along and when Midge Ure belted out "Vienna" he had us in the palm of his hand. 

Eat your heart out Glastonbury - we've got Dentdale.

*Any remarks about Dent being in Cumbria should be addressed to Whitehall

17 June 2014

Haytime - hard work and happy memories

Growing up on a hill farm at the top of Dentdale I had very mixed feelings about haytime. The days in the fields turning and scaling the mown grass with an old fashioned wooden rake were long and hard for a young girl. We had very little machinery, an old grey Fergie tractor, a mower and a sled to cart the loose hay back to the barns, so it was all hands on deck as we worked fast to beat the rain. 
Dad setting off to the hayfield with his basket of pop

Leaning on his rake
But we had fun too. All us farm kids had to work and on a fine sunny day in July before the start of the summer holidays our classroom would be almost empty with just the children of the shop keeper and the vicar sat at their lonely desks. Our mothers worked with us in the fields and all of them carried a yellow duster. When one of them spotted the school inspector's car chugging up the Dale out came the dusters and a ripple of golden semaphore sent us running home to pull on pyjamas and jump into bed. 

These days I love to see the hay meadows filling the valley bottoms with a sea of yellowLook closer though and you'll see that amongst the meadow buttercups and yellow rattle are the blues and whites and pinks of speedwell and chickweed and clover. 

A hay meadow in Dentdale

In the upland hay meadows of valleys like Dentdale you can find over 120 species in a single field. This abundance of wildflowers is a result of centuries of traditional farming practice. The grass is allowed to grow in late spring after the lambs go off to the fells with their mothers then cut for hay in the summer. As stock goes back onto the fields in autumn and early spring their hooves break up the soft ground and cause ideal conditions for the flowers to germinate.

We mustn't take them for granted though.  In the last 70 years over 98% of our hay meadows have been lost. So if you're walking or cycling through the Dales this month, if you're watching the Tour de France, if you're on a coach trip or a day out and you're loving the flowers, please think about all the generations of Dales farmers whose hard work keeps this glorious landscape alive.