Saturday, 19 November 2011

What on earth do you want an allotment for?

"What on earth do you want an allotment for?"!!!!
We've got a big enough garden & don't have enough time for that.
But Di wants space to grow squashes & courgettes in the summer, & we need a decent patch for all the strawberry plants we have, and.....and.....
So when Eddie says "Who wants an allotment?", guess whose hand goes up first!

With bookings tailing off we have more time for 'home' projects - emptying gutters, weeding the polytunnel site (Yes, that too!)(Still in the planning stage), general maintainance to do,& so on. So last Saturday a group of us met at the allotment site to begin to prepare paths, make space for the shed & to start work on our new plots.. Lovely sunny day, thank goodness. And we will be looking forward to gleaning info off some of our gardening neighbours.

And so, this Saturday afternoon, John actually got down to work on our plot (another nice day - not bad for mid-November!)& found (despite weedkiller treatments a few months ago) nettle & willowherb roots & plenty of big stones in the first 4 or 5 feet of the plot. At the same rate it'll take another 8-10 hours to clear! And then there's the Orchard Group's plot, just opposite ours, which will need doing as well and....

But, no doubt, it'll all be worth it in the end & there'll be some wonderful produce to eat & share next year & make all those aching muscles seem a distant memory.........................?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Thermal Imaging

We took an opportunity presented at Clapham's Energy Day, organised by the Clapham Sustainablity group, to have our house checked with a thermal imaging camera.

The images have a temperature scale at their base (the air temperature at ground level was 10.5°C), so on the left, which shows the roof above the two B&B bedrooms, shows a roof surface temperature of around 5°C - well insulated & nice & cosy!

The photo on the right shows the road side of the roof & the stairs window. Despite showing red walls, the temperature scale still shows that this was at or below air temperature.

The temperature in the top left corner is that of the spot in the middle of the image.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Visit Britain Inspection

A busy week, but successful.

Old friends visited from Canada, Greece and the south in the same week as the overnight stay by the Visit Britain inspector. Di, not satisfied with our 4* silver award last year, wanted a 'Breakfast Award' as well, which meant an overnight stay, rather than a day visit.

The standards had been raised in the last year which had meant extra things to do, just to retain our existing award. So, new fittings and extra touches done, little touch ups of scratches and dents in plaster repaired & painted, winter hanging baskets planted, etc, etc...

Several experiments - smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, fruit muffins - meant an overfed husband(!); ideas from neighbours - marmelade muffins - (to die for! - Thanks Rachel!) resulted in success!

Needless to say - thrilled to have retained the 4* silver, and to have been given the Breakfast Award too!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Homeowners Day at Gayle Mill

A day of illustrated talks about pre-1919 houses in the Yorkshire Dales with practical demonstrations & a walkabout to illustrate pointers to age and how each building has developed through time.
Gayle Mill started as a cotton mill in the late 18th century but was converted into a sawmill about 100 years later. Originally powered by a waterwheel, its first turbine was installed at conversion & this still ooperates the machinery - a 52inch circular saw and several lathes. For the full picture, go to - they do tours on the first Sunday of every month & at other times. They also have hands-on training days in several craft activities - as varied as knitting socks, to making gates!
So, what did I learn? How to look at our house in its own environment; what it is about our house that is specific to its position; and looking for date & status indicators, and how to maintain it into the future.
A really interesting day in a fascinating building, in a lovely setting overlooking Hawes.

Monday, 3 October 2011


This summer seems to have been cool & damp with only the odd fine sunny day, apart from the splendid weather of the last week. But it can't have been as bad as my memory suggests - the Clapham Community 'Give & Share' stall in the village (Saturdays 10-12) has seen plenty of fruit & veg, including potatoes from the village potato field, beans, apples, plums & quinces.

Our own veg plot has had successes & failures - not one gooseberry from 5 plants, only a few raspberries, very small beetroots & a handful of runner beans, but oh! the turnips have been magnificent!

The three community beehives here at Crooklands have also produced sufficient for us to share with them (the bees), producing nine pounds of delicious, delicately flavoured honey, whilst leaving them plenty to help feed them through the winter.

Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross

Sunday 25th September, the annual Three Peaks Cyclo-X race, a particularly masochistic and challenging way of 'doing' the Dales' hills. When not able to ride, you carry your bike up & down near-vertical slopes!

John & Ann, who we met as guests last year brought their family with them this year. Having set them up with a hearty breakfast, Ann Katie & Chris drove off to the first rendezvous, while John cycled off to the start at Helwith Bridge ("just to get warmed up").

We turned the rooms round in time to take Jack up to Cod Bank, where the cyclists descend from Ingleborough. As you can see, it's a good spot for thrills & spills, grim determination, and, in John's case (bottom photo), apparently calm confidence.

Looking forward to next year!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Nidderdale Show

Monday was our first free day for quite a while, so we took the opportunity to go to the Nidderdale Show at Pateley Bridge. We've been several times before, but not in the last year or two, and always enjoyed it. The weather stayed dry and we had a good day again, meeting up with good friends Chris & Christine Ryder from Scaife Hall Farm ( - Christine was the inspiration behind us becoming a B&B.

We came away with a rucksack full of spring bulbs, so providing we get busy planting, there should be a bright & colourful welcome early next year.

Jack was exhausted when we got home - so many other dogs to chat to! Pampered pooches around the show rings, not a hair out of place, transported in their own little chariots.... We watched the terrier racing too & might enter Jack next year!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

When out for a walk with Jack last Thursday, we found a kestrel sitting on the side of the road. It was lovely to see such a beautiful bird so close up, but equally, worrying that it was not trying to fly away!

So we contaced the RSPB who suggested taking the kestrel to the Falconry Centre near Settle. We contacted them yesterday to check on how the bird was doing. It is eating well, but they had nevertheless contacted a vet to come and check the bird professionally.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Gaping Gill

7am. Nudge Diane, sleepy, next to me in bed. Lovely morning - do you fancy doing Gaping Gill? Ooooohhh, errrr, NO!
7.30am. Left the house. The valley mist has almost gone. It's bright & sunny, only a light breeze. The Bowland Hills behind Keasden, across the valley are clear & full of colour.

A brisk walk the quarter mile to Newby Cote. Nothing moves. A gentle "Coo" from Richard's racing pigeons as I go by. Over the stile & up the track. Short stop at the top of the first pull to remove the 'top' - it's a lovely day!
As the wall to the right veers away, head for the shallow valley straight ahead & follow up that until after about ½mile a tractor track comes in from the left. Follow that uphill to the right. On top there's a level area of "moss". Keep walking, now "off-piste", in line with the escarpment coming off Simon Fell and you'll see Fell Beck against its backdrop. As you get closer, you'll see the tented city that is the Craven Pothole Club's Gaping Gill Winch meet. Time 8.15am. Its taken 45 mins brisk walking.

£15 gets you down (& back up again!) They start 9am weekdays & 8/8.30 weekends. Morning waits may be about an hour, afternoons possibly 2 hours, depending on traffic. Message is - get there as early as possible. And they don't stop except if a flood is forecast.

Descent is damp (ascent is wetter!). The shaft varies in width. Mosses give way to bare rock as the daylight recedes. Soon you're at the bottom & being ushered away from the chair on uneven ground. Need time for your eyes to adjust to the low light. A huge cavern, towering height, did the guide say 100yds long, 300 ft to the surface? Three (more?) waterfalls falling into the chamber, air swirling with spray. Dimly lit. Next time take a torch, with a focussed beam, so you can see details. Photos, don't use flash.
Take it in. Absorb the feel. Gosh! Been down here an hour. Time to go home.
What a wonderful morning!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


A really busy July and finally one night off . We've had walkers & tourers & cyclists, visitors coming by train & car & motorbikes, and people just escaping to the peace & quiet. Some know the area better than we do, others discovering the Dales for the first time and seeing what a beautiful part of the country this is.
Working in the garden was interrupted one day by a succession of probably over 50 old cars, mostly of pre-war vintage (similar in appearance to my Dad's first car - a Morris 8). We later found out that there had been a rally at Harrogate, at which a Dutch couple who stayed with us, had been with their Triumph TR3. What a wonderfully deep throbbing sound! It was absolutely spotless - outside, inside, engine - absolutely gleaming! A pity it rained!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Pygmy Shrew!

Sitting on our kitchen doorstep this morning, in the sun, without a care in the world, was this little one - a pygmy shrew. Nose to tail no more than two inches! It hopped in & out of the crevices between stones in the wall & between the paving slabs.

We did move it though, further up the steps & popped it under the lavender bush where it can get access to more wall and away from being under Jack's nose!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Bees again!

The last week has been the busiest for Crooklands bees! Tuesday saw Sue and James help me go through the 3 hives we now have on site. First was to check that the new queen had successfully hatched, mated and returned to my first hive; and all was successful, as not only did we see new eggs, but spotted the new queen!

Then it was to go through the new hive, as I had not seen any pollen going in for some days. It was evident that the queen had left, so, after some manipulation, hope the new queen cell hatches with the same success as my first hive.

Finally, on Saturday, had to re-unite the queen that had left this pictured hive and taken up residence in the nuc box that I had set up in case the bees decided to swarm. Hopefully that has been successful too. In all, must have spent close on 8 hours dealing with bees in a week! John has declared himself a "Bee widow"!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

We have had a number of guests recently who are all keen gardeners, yet all of us do not know what this perennial is! It is about 3 feet high, the leaves are rounded at the base, yet palmated further up. All have admired it, but what it is remains a secret so far!

Have resorted to e-mailing Julie who planted the garden in the hopes she can give us the name of what is a lovely shrub!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Bees

It's two months now since our new bees arrived making a total of three hives at Crooklands. It's been a difficult year for beekeeping as weather patterns have been different from last year, with early sun & warmth followed by cold & damp, & latterly close & thundery, which has resulted in grumpy bees!

The Clapham Bee Group, of which Crooklands is one has been trying to "grow our stock" by encouraging new queen bees to develop. With the help & advice of our BBKA inspector(, we hope to raise 3 or 4 more queens this season.

As we only began a year ago, it is still early days - we are very much still on "L" plates - we do not expect to take honey from our hives yet, but hope to soon. Home produced honey for the Guests' breakfast table? - not yet, but we, or they, the bees, are working on it!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Ingleborough sheep gathering

Bright & early, 5am, Monday 27th June, meet at Bleak Bank Farm, our neighbours, a quarter mile down the road. A glorious morning, almost cloudless, a party of about 12 people, set off for the summit of Ingleborough, where at 6am we meet farmers from Cold Cotes. Other farmers are on Simon Fell to the north-east and under the cliffs of Ingleborough to the west, to drive sheep and lambs off the fell for shearing.

Jack, our Jack Russell terrier, out on this sort of exercise for the first time, meets collies & herding dogs about their business, rather than in the farmyards or on walks. Actually shows some instinct for herding too!

With people staked out across the fell, we sweep across the hillside, gathering sheep down to Clapham, Newby, Bleak Bank & Cold Cotes, then after a hearty breakfast start the business of sorting sheep & lambs back to their respective farms. Only after lunch did shearing begin.

My job in all of this was to feed sheep in to the shearers, & once shorn hold them to be marked & released. Sheep can be, NO - ARE difficult.. Needless to say, I am black & blue all over my legs. clothes & boots covered in poo, red marking paint, and wool snippings but return home at 7pm exhausted & having had a wonderful day. Thank you John (Dawson) at Bleak Bank for a great day. Thanks too to Judy for great food & the photo above.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tawny Owl and chicks

More of our resident owl...

A few nights ago, having seen the owl at dusk, I went out quite late & heard two soft squark/squeek calls coming from different parts of the tall ash tree at the corner of the garden. Young ones? So, I stayed out & in the gathering darkness could see movements from one branch to another & occasionally, the adult bird coming back to the tree. Later still one of the chicks flew onto a branch only 15ft from me, but it was so dark that I could only see a bundle of fluff!

Yesterday afternoon, walking Jack in the field, he set off after a rabbit which chased off into the barn. Rabbit, then dog, then I chasing into the barn resulted in owls retreating to ash tree in broad daylight! Hence pictures above!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Repeat Visitor

Here's our latest repeat visitor, but, as you can see, not universally popular!

It's been seen both morning & evening at both recent weekends. First indication was a disgorged waste sac of fur & bones left on a tree stump.

We are also playing host to dunnocks & blackbirds nesting & have seen willow warblers in the garden, but haven't seen their nest yet. And jackdaws in the neighbouring barn.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Royal Wedding

What a splendid day in every sense! The crowds in London obviously enjoyed the day.

Here in Clapham, a "Street Party" was held in the childrens play park, with loads of food, face painting for kids & communal singing. A scroll had been prepared listing all residents of Clapham, Keasden & Newby, and all children in the villages were presented with commemorative "Kate & William" mugs to mark the occasion.

A great day!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Spring evening

A glorious spring evening, cloudless, warm. Dragged, willingly up the hillside by dog, searching every clump of spindle grass for the inevitable rabbit. Neighbours are having their tea outside; another tending his racing pigeons; a friendly wave & "hello". Sheep scatter as we climb the stile & progress up the hill. The views are long & brilliant, the air fresh. In a great ring around are Ingleborough (north), Pen-y-Ghent (east), Pendle Hill (SE), Bowland Knotts (S), Caton Moor (SW), the sun glinting off the wide expanse of Morcambe Bay & then the hills of the southern Lakes disappearing into the haze. Aaaahhhh!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Some lovely local walks

The glorious weather of the last few days has given opportunity to get out & do some of the walks that we've been storing up for days like these.

Saturday: We had offered to give a guest a lift to a wedding reception at The Traddock Hotel in Austwick. Conveniently in time for a quick pint & bowl of chips at The Game Cock, the three of us (John Diane & Jack, our terrier) set off up into Crummackdale - lovely, peaceful valley between Norber & Moughton Scars. There were climbers on the cliffs, as we wandered along bridlepaths, past a quiet spot (Wash Dub - ideal for a picnic!) where there are a couple of clapper bridges across the beck.

On Monday we had thick blanket fog all day. Complete contrast on Tuesday, as fog cleared to a beautifully sunny day. We went to Horton & took a short wander down the Ribble (above) and back via the Pen-y-Ghent Cafe for a cuppa & cake & chat.
Wednesday: Di told her two males to "Go & climb Ingleborough - I want you out of the house!"
So we did! From the path up from Cold Cotes we cut across to the main path from Ingleton & up to the summit. 6 legs definitely better than 2 on the steep bits! Back home via Newby Cote - the closest path onto Ingleborough from home.
Thursday: Not quite enough time to do the walk we wanted to but in the same area. From the "Gated road" between Thornton-in-Lonsdale to Dent, & with splendid views up Kingsdale, a circular walk over the limestone scars at the southern end of Gragareth & back to the car via two tracks, Turbary Road & Tow Scar Road. The highlight of this was stopping in a grassy area for a break, lying back in the sun, no wind, & no sound other than the wonderful song of skylarks fluttering high into the sky. BLISS!

Lambing time!

Lambs are beginning to appear in the local fields and with the arrival of some wonderful weather, buds are bursting and the snowdrops are giving way to seas of yellow daffodils. It's been fantastic weather these last few days!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Catrigg Force

After several days of damp or wet weather, the sun came out last Sunday (between the showers!) - enough to tempt us out for a nice long walk with Jack, our Jack Russell. One of our recent guests had recommended this and others in the area and there was plenty of water falling over here!
Then just a short walk back into Stainforth & back home to tea & cake!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Stocks Resevoir

We got to Stocks Resevoir at last, having been defeated a couple of weeks ago by snow, slush & ice on the road over Bowland Knots.
There's a well marked circular walk around the resevoir of about 8 miles, from the main car park on the road between Slaidburn & Clapham. Yesterday, a thin skim of ice covered about half the surface, giving an impression of absolutely calm water & resulting in some beautiful reflections of sky & trees. A real shame we hadn't brought a camera! We have resolved to return in the spring & summer as there are wildflower meadows beside the lake and late autumn colours should be wonderful.
There is a hide not far from the car park for birdwatching. We saw cormorants, Cananda & Greylag geese & many species of duck.
There are informative maps of the circuit in the main carpark also showing several other waymarked paths & cycle tracks.