Talking Ravens and Burning Effigies: the Yorkshire Dales (March 2019) - Feldore McHugh


Talking Ravens and Burning Effigies - the Yorkshire Dales


A visit to my favourite part of England, the Yorkshire Dales. I stayed in the tiny village of West Witton with friends Mickey and Anna (and Max the greyhound). 

West Witton is famous for its “Burning Bartle” festival every August, in which a straw effigy is dragged around the houses in the village, then taken to a field and set on fire. It’s supposed to commemorate the unpleasant end that came to a sheep thief in the village several centuries ago. The phrase “It’s a bit Wicker Man” was invented for this kind of thing.

Some pictures from the Burning Bartle festival I attended a few years ago.  While the occasion is all good fun, there’s no doubt that there’s a bit of a sinister undercurrent. That’s poor Bartle burning brightly in the field, in the last picture.


I was staying in the very upmarket Chantry country park. So upmarket, in fact, that it seemed to come with its own pheasants; this one seemed to be incredibly tame (I think someone was feeding it), it was literally there all the time.


The weather was pretty awful during my visit, but the dramatic skies made for some interesting photographs. This was up the mountain road from West Witton. That cloud really did look like that; somehow I managed to miss the bulk of the rain.


These are the substantial remains of the Surrender lead smelting mill near Reeth, set in a beautifully bleak part of Swaledale. Lead mining and smelting has gone on here since Roman times; these buildings date from the Nineteenth century.


The highest pub in England, Tan Hill Inn, and what a bleak location it is! The tractor and Union Jack were in the car park  - clearly they're all set for Brexit.


This wonderful old pub, the King’s Arms in Askrigg, was the one used as The Drovers pub in All Creatures Great and Small (the series was filmed in the village). It’s a great spot, all stone floors and wooden beams.


After three days of rain, the sun finally came out when we were visiting Thorp Perrow Arboretum. It turned into a beautiful day.


This raven at Thorp Perrow aviary talks! You can hear it say hello on the video above at the 12 second mark. I was walking past the cage when I heard someone say hello. I  looked around, couldn't see anyone so assumed it was a strange echo. Started to walk away and someone said hello again. I eventually realised it was the raven! It's fantastic!


Walking along a narrow old lane in West Witton we encountered this modern-day shepherdess. I think the sheep may have been ewes about to lamb. They swept by us quite calmly, following the pleased-looking woman on her little buggy.


A typical Yorkshire lone tree, bent by the wind - an example of haptotropism, as anyone in my family could tell you, having had the term drilled into our heads by our botany-trained father.


Bull? Ha! We laugh in the face of your bull!


Whoops. It’s got horns...

Actually, this was a few fields after the Bull sign, and these Highland cows were  incredibly laidback about my presence. I was right beside this one when I took the picture.


Some typical Yorkshire rolling fields. The afternoon was glorious after all the rain.


All the rain over the previous three days had made this waterfall incredibly powerful. 

Doris, the cutest little pygmy goat in the world (or, at the very least, West Witton). I met Doris several years ago, roaming the farmyard, and fell instantly in love with her. At that time she was quite ill and her long-term prospects did not seem good, but today she's hale-and--hearty, and has several healthy offspring.

A feel-good story to end this blog!

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