Return ticket to the Dales

Ade Edmondson takes to the air as he documents another summer in Yorkshire’s most famous landscape. Grace Hammond reports.

The Dales are spectacular but they are also challenging for those who live and work in some of its remote communities. Ade Edmondson spent many of his childhood summers in the Dales with his family, and in this series he returns to meet old friends and make new ones.

He revisits some who have already featured in these pages, including farmers Clive and Amanda Owen and their five children as they prepare for another eventful summer on their remote farm in Swaledale. He also drops in on mother and son farmers Carol and Phil Mellin who have set up a sheepdog training enterprise on their farm near Keighley.

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In the opening episode, Ade starts his summer tour in a helicopter. His first point of call is Ravenseat Farm where the school holidays have arrived and Clive and Amanda Owen are taking advantage of the vastness of the farm and Amanda has some good news to share that will change life at Ravenseat. Ade spends the night in the Owens’ newly-refurbished Shepherd’s Hut where Amanda uses the river as a place to cool the refreshments.

Ade says: “What a fantastic idea for a hotel – bottle of beer in the river, this has surely got to be the most picturesque mini bar in the world.”

We are introduced to community choir the Buckden Singers in Upper Wharfedale, whose members include Yorkshire Post columnist Sue Woodcock, as they rehearse for the big event of the year – their annual summer concert. The choir started back in 2007 under the leadership of conductor Anne Vetch who moved to the Dales for a slower pace of life. Its 45 members include singers of all abilities who come together to share the love of song and the spirit of community.

We also meet for the first time Dales estate agent Brian Carlisle who runs the family business JR Hopper & Co, one of the biggest estate agents in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We follow him as he takes on an unusual sale in the Dales – the 40ft waterfall of Catrigg Force in Ribblesdale.

Does Ade have a mission to make us all fall in love with England? “It’s an accident – but I do seem to be doing a lot of programmes with the word ‘Britain’ in the title,” he says. “I’m not overly patriotic, I just happen to think there’s a lot more to Britain than meets the eye. Most of my adult life has been spent touring Britain with comedy shows, but I’ve mostly toured the big towns and cities.

“In 2008, I started touring with my band The Bad Shepherds, and, being a much smaller concern, and being a folk band, we were playing a lot of small towns and folk festivals and it was then I started to see a lot more of Britain. It was so refreshing to find that it’s not just a typical High Street with all the same shops, it was also an eye-opener to find that there are lots of British people that are passionate about doing idiosyncratic things – keeping old customs and traditions alive, not in a ‘museum curating’ way, but because these customs and traditions are still relevant and still really good fun. Most of the feedback I’ve had has been people saying how pleased they were to find out that so many people were still doing such diverse things.

“I think the world of the Dales is completely different to where a lot of us live. The appeal lies in the families we follow, their lifestyles, the scenery and the remoteness. It’s such a massive area and it’s surprising the time it takes to get around it. I still haven’t seen it all, and I even got lost a couple of times making this new series.

“Yes we meet up with The Owens again – they’re an outstanding family. I think a lot of us dream of living the simple life, and they seem to have won the ‘simple life’ lottery. They live a life that you feel could have been lived in pretty much the same way around 100 or 200 years ago and they seem unfettered by the modern world. Of course they’ve got machines and such, but it’s a pretty rugged life, and yet it seems to bring them a lot of happiness – they’re like the modern-day Waltons. I’ve been up to see them a few times now and they’re as lovely in real life as they are on the screen.

“We also visit Phillip Mellin again, the young lad whose Dad had just died, he was helping his mum cope with the farm and was also starting a sheep dog training business. He’s grown a lot in the last year, and his voice has dropped an octave, and he’s still plugging away at it.

“We do follow a new young lad, William Wildman who is only 15. He’s unusual in that he spends all his free time raising prize winning sheep – he’s already got a flock of 200. It’s so fascinating to meet teenagers like him that aren’t obsessed with consoles and the usual stuff that teens are in to. I do like the Dales, I feel an affinity with them because they seem so familiar to me. I was born in Bradford, which is just on the border of the Dales, and we used to go into there a lot when I was a nipper – for days out and picnics and the like. It was where we used to go on all our school trips and as a teenager it became the place where me and my mates would go camping, hoping to get served in the pubs and meet girls... (not particularly successfully in either endeavour).

“But then I also like Dartmoor, The Malverns, The Peak District, The Lakes... why limit yourself to one area? I think what makes The Dales interesting as a TV programme is that it’s a surprisingly remote, rural area that throws up some interesting people who are really up against it. It is shockingly photogenic too.”

The Dales, Monday, ITV1, 8pm.