It’s the kind of scene which has greeted visitors to the Dales for centuries.
However, come July those same rolling fields, dotted with barns and drystone walls, will be seen by an audience of more than three billion people in all four corners of the globe.
Upper Swaledale will provide part of the backdrop for stage one of the Grand Départ as the Tour de France peloton makes it way from Leeds to Harrogate via Skipton, Hawes, Buttertubs Pass and Ripon. And for a few hours at least people might outnumber sheep. Arguably one of the most picturesque spots throughout both of the stages, demand for accommodation has been high with most bed and breakfasts booked out before the start of the year.
Swaledale already attracts thousands of visitors a year, and thanks in part to the Coast to Coast route which passes along it, the area has also long been popular with walkers. The Grand Départ should further raise the profile of God’s Own Country.
It will be the first time the Tour has visited the north of England having previously only made visits to the south coast and London.
Scotland had been the favourite to secure this year’s event, but Welcome to Yorkshire saw off rival bids and in the last few months momentum has been building. The Yorkshire Festival 2014 – a programme of cultural events building up to the main event – got underway in March and having passed the 50 days to go mark the years of hard work are about to come to fruition.
“Yorkshire is a world-class county and it will deliver a world- class event,” said a Welcome to Yorkshire spokesman. “This is Yorkshire’s moment to shine. It will provide a wonderful advert for our county and hopefully it will prompt people who maybe haven’t visited before or not been in a while
“With the recent success of British riders, notably Chris Froome in 2013 and Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Briton to win Le Tour in 2012 shortly followed by a gold medal time trial performance in London, the popularity of cycling has never been higher.”
Technical details Nikon D3s, 70-200mm lens, 1/250th @ f8. ISO 200. TJ100338.
Picture: Tony Johnson
Words: Sarah Freeman