Yorkshire Dales: On the lookout for spring as winter’s tail stings

PIC: Simon Hulme
PIC: Simon Hulme

Standing atop the rocky hills above Langcliffe with the hulking, snow-capped frame of Pen-y-ghent in the background, this inquisitive group of sheep appear to be posing almost nonchalantly for the camera.

Or perhaps they’re on the lookout for the snow that swept across large swathes of the county over the weekend – an unwanted sequel to the so-called ‘Beast from the East’.

Winter has cast a long shadow this year and even these hardy animals will be hoping that spring arrives sooner rather than later, especially with the lambing season already upon us.

This is deep in Dales country and snow in March is not uncommon though the scale of the recent sub-freezing temperatures perhaps is.

The sheep aren’t alone in wishing to see winter melt away. Pen-y-ghent is one of Yorkshire’s famous Three Peaks, over which hikers ramble, runners and cyclists race. They will doubtless be itching to get back out on 
this rugged and breathtaking terrain.

The official walking route is 23 miles and the target time is 12 hours. The fastest cyclists do it in under three hours and there’s an annual race to sort out bragging rights.

Standing at 694 metres, Pen-y-ghent is the highest point on the Pennine Way and though it is the lowest of the Three Peaks – Ingleborough (723m) and Whernside (the highest at 736m) make up this hilly trio – it’s still a pretty fine hill.

In the grand scheme of things they’re tiddlers, really, but a challenging walk for most of us and coveted jewels in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Pen-y-ghent is also the most photogenic of the three, with its distinctive limestone escarpment on the eastern flank, caused by a savage storm in 1881 which washed away all the topsoil.

Its name comes from the old Cumbric language, which is related to modern-day Welsh. So the word ‘pen’ means ‘head’ and it’s thought ‘ghent’ could be a tribal name which was attached to the hill. Whatever the story, it looks impressive no matter what the season.

Technical details: Nikon d3s camera..80-200mm lens, exposure 400th sec at f5.6, iso 200

Picture: Simon Hulme

Words: Chris Bond