Meadows of marvel to be found at Muker

Mukers upland hay meadows produce their best displays in mid-June. Picture by David Hill.
Mukers upland hay meadows produce their best displays in mid-June. Picture by David Hill.
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For a small, remote Yorkshire Dales village, Muker has certainly had its fair share of attention.

This village of around 250 people has starred on screen on a number of occasions.

In July 2014, the Grand Depart of the Tour de France swept through the streets in this corner of Swaledale during stage one of the spectacle that took riders from Leeds to Harrogate but its televisual exposure dates further back.

It featured in the ‘Hampered’ episode of All Creatures Great and Small as the venue for the Darrowby Flower Show, while the murder scene of the 1982 film Evil Under the Sun was also shot here.

Continuing that chilly theme, it is a skeleton, found on Muker Common in the early 20th century, that hints at the early occupation of the area, with the bones said to date back to Bronze Age times.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place Names, the name of Muker is Norse in origin and means “the narrow newly cultivated field”.

Fittingly, agriculture is the mainstay of the local economy, seeing off the rise and fall of the village’s boom as a lead mining centre during the late 18th century and as a major centre for hand knitting - industries that spurned many of the thatched cottages and workshops that are found here.

Many of those farming incomes are, in keeping with any other pretty Dales villages and many others besides, topped up by tourism diversifications to service the walkers and campers who flock throughout the year.

One sight that is worth the trip for those looking to tramp through the local countryside is Muker Meadows, a Site of Special Scientific Interest just north of the village itself.

These 12 traditionally managed meadows contain a wide variety of wildflowers and grasses including such evocatively named species such as wood crane’s-bill, melancholy thistle, pignut, Lady’s mantles and rough hawkbit.

A good circular walk starts from the village and heads north on flagged footpaths through a series of meadows for a little less than a mile before crossing the River Swale and back again to return to Muker.

Tanya St. Pierre, project officer for the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust which worked with farmers to restore some of the meadows in Muker, said: “Muker is a very beautiful village anyway but the meadows are a feature of the village that people come in the summer months to see - it’s one of the village’s star attractions.

“Mid-June is the best time to go and see the meadows looking their best before they get cut.”

These rare examples of upland hay meadows are known to contain up to 120 different botanical species.

FACTS

Many will know the village for Muker Silver Band, which is celebrating its 120th year having been formed in 1897 Formed to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Muker Show is held on the first Wednesday in September and will celebrate its 113th annual occasion next year.

The Farmers Arms is the popular village pub where Chris and Karen Stanley became its owners in September.