Hallo landscape my old friend

This is my third day in the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales, and I realise I’m feeling high on the scenery.  This has set me pondering, why are some landscapes so special for people – and maybe especially for maturing men.

Dentdale is the most westerly of the Yorkshire Dales, and one of my favourite places.  Dent Station is the highest mainline station in England, on my favourite railway, the Settle to Carlisle.

I have been coming here for twelve years.  When I get out at Dent Station and the train goes off, I am usually alone on the platform – and high on the slopes of the Pennines.  Looking down from here along Dentdale, it really feels like meeting a well-loved friend again.

When you’ve befriended a landscape, there’s deep reassurance in coming back over many years, and finding that your friend is still handsome, and has hardly changed.  With so much else changing, at least Nature can sometimes give us some sense of stability.

I’ve realised that many of my favourite places are not completely wild, but have a harmony between the natural and the human.  Here in Dentdale, the upper fells are uncultivated for miles, but there are sheep grazing, and dry stone walls.  In the valley there are small fields curved around the contours and the streams, and these fields reach up the lower slopes of the fells and then give way to the wilds.

If landscapes are especially important to maturing men, it may be because they need a sense of constancy from somewhere.  And nurturing places to be alone.  The sheer beauty and harmony of somewhere like Dentdale makes it very nourishing, and I’ve often come here alone, when I was feeling bruised and baffled by life.

My favourite place in Dentdale is Arten Gill viaduct.  Here you can enjoy the beauty of Victorian engineering, see the trains, and look North along the valley.  There’s a deep sense of constancy as you look down at the daily life here, with the rhythms of the farming year, and the walkers and cyclists.

Whatever crises and riddles you’re facing, a few days in a place like this should bring you some calm, help you relax into the longer rhythms of Nature, find some deeper source of wisdom.

Landscapes also offer you physical adventures, a chance to stretch and test yourself, which can take your mind off its daily worries.  Getting lost on the fells or doing a really long hike gets your body and mind back to survival, and makes you appreciate the daily benefits you take for granted.

Alan’s Top 5 Things to Do Around Dentdale:

  1. Take the Settle – Carlisle railway, north and south
  2. Walk over Blea Moor to the Ribblehead Viaduct
  3. Hike up Arten Gill to Hawes, visit Wensleydale Creamery
  4. Take the train to Kirkby Stephen, rent a bike and see the Smardale Gill Viaduct
  5. Walk along Dentdale to Sedbergh, for tearooms and bookshops

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