Places in the heart

A brother and sister have spent the last year asking those who live and work in the Yorkshire Dales National Park to pick their favourite spot. Ahead of the release of their book, Frederic Manby caught up with the pair.

For the last year, in between his day job with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and her writing commissions, brother and sister 
Mark and Sarah Butler 
have been creating a book showing some of the people who work in and for the National Park. It is a big landscape but Mark’s photographs and Sarah’s essays more than skim the surface.

From the chief of staff in his suit, to fencer, waller, landowner, habitat expert or country ranger, the book lets the subjects tell their own story accompanied by their favourite view.

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Some are quite sure of their choice, one chooses the view over his trout farm, another says candidly he has not got a favourite view.

There is even agreement on the nicest view (Ingleborough and Booze).

The book, Working The View, is still in progress, scheduled for launch next May, with photo features on 40 people working in the national park.

The Yorkshire Post has been given 
access to the early pages, three of which are reproduced here with abridged texts.

Mark’s photographs also feature 
in a show which runs from November 3 until Christmas at the Mill Bridge 
Gallery, Skipton, North Yorkshire.

More at

David Butterworth, chief executive, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, chose a view of The Howgills, near Sedbergh.

“I picked this view because it’s unusual in Dales landscape terms. It represents a different kind of landscape, in the north of the park. I also picked it because of its political significance. The current boundary of the park goes right along 
the top of the Howgills. So you can stand at the highest point – on the Calf – with one foot in and one foot out of the Park, thinking, ‘what’s this all about?’ It represents for me man’s stupidity about designating landscapes on political, administrative, or bureaucratic boundaries, rather than for the value of the landscape itself.

That particular boundary was designated in 1954; it’s the boundary between Westmoreland and the West Riding, as was. And here we are in 2012, and we’re just about, hopefully, to sort out that unfinished business and designate the whole of the Howgills, which, for me, would be a fantastic professional achievement. Natural England have been carrying out a review of the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. We expect a decision by the end of 2012. It’s a big deal. It would make the Park about 25 per cent bigger – a substantial increase in landscape.

I walk in that area quite a bit. The Park is 680 square miles, but finding solitude and feeling that sense of isolation and the spiritual feeling you get with that, is very difficult. You get it in the Howgills in a way you don’t get it in other areas. If you’re in that particular landscape for any length of time it is like a spiritual experience.

The most amazing thing is the contrast between this sense of isolation and the fact that the M6 and the West coast mainline is half a mile away from you.

You get these massive infrastructure projects cutting right through the middle of that landscape. You get all that traffic noise and the noise of the railway and then you turn a corner and you can’t hear a thing. To be in a national park and see these huge projects, is quite bizarre, but I love it. I think buildings or structures like railway viaducts in the landscape can have a hugely positive impact in many cases. Whenever they’re first put there there’s an absolute hue and cry, but they become such a significant part of any landscape.

What it shows for me is the interaction between man and the landscape, 
which is just brilliant, assuming we 
don’t bugger it up and build inappropriate structures!

I’m not a planner or an -ologist, I’m not from that kind of background; my skills, for what they are, and my experience as a chief executive, are in terms of driving performance – through the organisation.

So the things I’m most proud of are the collective things, the fact that the performance of this National Park Authority is as high as any in the UK.”
Roger Gibson, waller, fencer and landscape contractor chose a view of Hawkswick, Littondale.

This is Lower Littondale. It’s just above the village of Hawkswick, on Hawkswick Moor, looking back down towards Cracoe Fell and the bottom end of Wharfedale. I chose it because a lot of my work’s based round here, and it is a cracking view. Wherever you look there, we’ve worked: we’ve dry-stone walled, we’ve planted trees.

We make up all the walls in that area. So if a gap falls, we go to it. There’s a drystone wall, just down here near the river, that we restored. It was a 120m stretch that needed completely rebuilding. It’s part of an ongoing restoration programme that the local farmer’s doing. I’ve said many times that the dry-stone walls are like a jewel in the National Park’s crown – they’ve got to be maintained.

These walls, because they’re dry, they do move. You’ve got your dry weather and your wet weather and your frost and your snow, and eventually they become very loose. It gets to a point when it’s easier to pull it all out and rebuild it from scratch – that’s what we did with this wall here. It took us about 22 days.

When you pull an old existing wall, you’ve got all the materials there, because it’s been built before. It’s a little bit like a jigsaw, you’ve got to have an eye for it. When you rebuild it you rebuild it in your own style, so you may put some stones in differently than the chaps before you.

You start with your big stones at the bottom – your footings – and then you slowly build up and finish with your small stones at the top. You need two or three rows of what we call throughs, which are stones that go right through and connect each side. And then you’ve got your filling – you pack the wall to make it strong.

I come from a farming background. It’s not just working with livestock on a Dales farm, a lot of it is building walls and hedging and fencing. I was taught to wall by someone, but I was often sent off on my own. I think the first wall I put up fell down, twice. And the third time I remember thinking, I’m not going to go back again, this is it now – that was a good learning curve. Apart from five years in the Lake District, I’ve lived and worked here all my life. I’m quite passionate about it. I like the people here. There’s no place like the Yorkshire Dales anywhere in the world. You can never beat that feeling you get when you come past Kilnsey Crag and turn into Littondale, it’s a special place.

Anthony Roberts, landowner and fish farmer, chose a view of his trout pond with Kilnsey Crag in the background.

My great-grandfather bought the 
Kilnsey estate. He sadly never lived 
long enough to move here. My grandfather also died young, and so my father 
inherited it aged about eight, I think. So 
it’s been in the family since the 
beginning of the 20th century. It was about 5,000-6,000 acres. Now I farm about 1,000 acres.

We started the trout farm here in 1978. It was just a tiny little raceway right at the top of the site. There was nothing else here on the site at all, except the old generating house. We discovered the quality of the water was ideal for producing trout, so we started selling to the public. The old generating house became our farm shop.

We used to sell half a dozen trout in a plastic bag – they weren’t even gutted in those days. And then we grew slowly, and we eventually built this farm shop and restaurant, selling locally sourced foods. Now we produce about 35 tonnes of rainbow trout a year.

It’s become a very popular spot for people to stop and take photos of the crag. It is part of the Turner Trail – Turner used to do a lot of painting in this area. He was commissioned to do a picture of the crag. No-one’s ever discovered whether he actually completed it, but he did sketches.

The crag was formed during the Ice Age. It’s very unusual because it has this overhang at the top. Of course it’s a Mecca for climbers. Some of these are “free climbers” who use no ropes or pitons at all. Apparently they have to complete it in less than 20 minutes, because after 20 minutes your grip goes. My father once had a sheepdog that fell from the top to the bottom, and we thought, well that’s it. But it got to the bottom, shook itself and ran off!

I’ve lived here all my life, and I just love the landscape. I think the older you get the more you appreciate it. I mean you go up on the hills where some of the views you get are fantastic, and you wouldn’t get them anywhere else in the world. We have a lot of very nice people living up here; the communities are great, and the old farmers are tremendous characters.

I suppose everyone likes to think you leave a little bit of a legacy – like the 
lakes we’ve made – but when you’re standing up there on the hills it makes 
you realise how transitory we are as 
human beings, when you compare 
how long all this has been here in the past, and how long it’s hopefully going to be here in the future.

I think part of your brief is to look after it and hand it onto the next person who will responsibly do the same thing.