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The little dales 10 BISHOPDALE

The little dales 10, Bishopdale

Yorkshire Life Magazine, May 1978 pp.38-39

Photographs and text by

Geoffrey N. Wright

(courtesy of the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes and Yorkshire Life Magazine)

The following is a transcription from the above Magazine:

© Thoralby Through Time

"BISHOPDALE, taking its name probably from the Old English personal name of Biscop and not from any ecclesiastical connection, was a deer-chase owned by the Lords of Middleham. By the early seventeenth century its ownership had changed, and passed out of the hands of the citizens of London, the two dozen farms and houses of its own township eventually being bought by the yeoman who had lived by tenant right on their holdings. About half that number survive today and most of the farms bear datestone witness that they were rebuilt in the seventeenth century and early eighteenth centuries.

© Thoralby Through Time

1. View down Bishopdale, from Kidstone Bank.

Stretching six miles from Kidstones to Aysgarth, Bishopdale carries the only classified road linking Wharefedale with Wensleydale (B.6160). A two mile climb from Buckden crosses the summit of Kidstones Pass at about 1,400 feet before plunging down to the flat valley floor, glacier-smoothed and fertile. Limestone scars etch the upper sides of the valley, echoing the landscape of the major dales, but unlike them Bishopdale has no settlements for most of its length. Instead, scattered farms are sited away from the road, those on the east side turning their backs on it, while those to the west are two or three fields away.

Bishopdale's secret delights are to be found off the road, by following the footpaths (none of them signposted, incidentally) and lanes. Dalehead is dated 1747 and Smelter, the next one down on the eastern side, 1701, its elaborate dated doorway forming part of a rare period-piece facade. Almost opposite is Longridge, of 1653, with its two-storeyed porch and other fine details, while West New House, easily seen from the roadside, is one of the best Pennine long-houses, and Bishopdale's oldest farm, dated 1635. Nearby, the trees of Foss Gill mark the spectacular series of fourteen waterfalls which bring the beck down 800 feet from High Scar. Only the entrance gates, drive, and stable block remain of The Rookery, a large mansion built by the Lodge family in late Victorian times, and which together with many others, remember fondly as a Youth Hostel in the post-war years. On the opposite hillside are the remnants of the LODGE plantation but only the "d" one is identifiable now.

© Thoralby Through Time

2. One of fourteen waterfalls in Foss Gill, Bishopdale.

© Thoralby Through Time

3. Elaborate doorway at Smelter, Bishopdale. Note the round headed windows.

Newbiggin, Thoralby and West Burton are Bishopdale's villages. The last two were Danish and Saxon foundations but Newbiggin was a newcomer only in 1230. Five centuries later there was only one road into it when Street Head Inn was established opposite the lane end, soon becoming an important coaching-inn. Another road now leads to Newbiggin from Cross Lanes, by the school founded in 1748, and in Newbiggin the road ends at a farmyard, but continues as a walled track steeply up to Wassett Fell. Houses, farms, and free-standing small barns straggle along the street, and again date stones point to much 17th-and 18th-century building.

Across the valley Thoralby is on the sunnier side, larger village with a green, a Methodist chapel, a village hall with the rare distinction of being a listed building (datestone 1704), the George Inn with its cobbled forecourt, and many inviting lanes leading off, either up the dale or towards the fells. One goes to Littleburn Hall, early last century a handsome Georgian house of Lord Rokeby, with a stone bridge nearby built in 1814 supposedly as a memorial to Wellington - presumably anticipating Waterloo! Another lane passes Old Hall, with its twin-gabled front, stone-mullioned windows, and datestone of 1641.

The road climbs out of Thoralby to Aysgarth, passing the elegant Warnford House with its fine walled garden. Across the valley is a flight of ancient lynchets below West Burton, while above the parklands of Sorrelsykes trees all but obscure the trio of jolly little follies below Morpeth Gate, that walled lane which winds round Penhill's flanks.

© Thoralby Through Time

4. The most prominent of the follies in Sorrelsykes Park above West Burton.

described West Burton in my Waldendale feature. Sufficient to say now that it has the only school in Bishopdale, and like the farms in the main part of the dale, hides its charms away from the road. So does Bishopdale Beck, which continues north-eastwards to join the Ure below Hestholme Bridge. Bishopdale is part of Aysgarth parish and has no church of its own, but architecturally its vernacular buildings more than compensate for that. Being the main through route between Wharfedale and Wensleydale does create traffic problems on summer week-ends - a hazard not encountered by walkers seeking its quieter lanes and field-paths.

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