A trip back to 1981…
I’ve already mentioned my BBC ‘career’ and how it took me to Coldstream. A few years before that – just before Christmas 1981 – it took me to the Yorkshire Dales, not far from Settle. This time I remember exactly what the job was – recording a Christmas Special at Russell Harty’s house. I can even remember some of the peculiarly contrasting guest list. There was Victoria Wood’s husband doing conjuring tricks, Russell’s next door neighbour (a Coronation Street actress), a local celebrity chef cooking a turkey and (I’m really not making this up) Edna O’Brien, wearing the sort of expression that suggested her agent might have one client fewer in the morning. Basically, if you have seen the Alan Partridge Christmas Special you’ve got the idea. if that wasn’t enough, the assistant producer was Sid Waddell. Yes, that Sid Waddell. He was exactly as you would imagine, and it was almost impossible to keep a straight face while holding a conversation with him because you were always mentally hearing excited hyperbole about Jocky Wilson coming from his mouth. And he never stopped telling jokes.
But I digress… I had read about the Settle-Carlisle railway in a colour supplement a few months before. It was described as ‘the King Lear of railway lines’ which certainly grabbed my attention. I loved the pictures of the tracks crossing what seemed to be a forbidding wilderness, and when I saw the shot of Ribblehead Viaduct standing dark and solid against the elements in the bleak surroundings of Blea Moor I was hooked. At the time the line faced a very uncertain future indeed, and when I was asked to work in the area for a few days I couldn’t wait to take a few pictures while it was still possible.
In time, of course, the Settle-Carlisle survived and Ribblehead Viaduct is a grade 2 monument and a tourist attraction. I’ve seen it a few times since and it is always an awe-inspiring sight, but I’ll never forget my first sight on that snowy morning 42 years ago.
To celebrate the virtual walk reaching Ribblehead I had my negatives from that day scanned in high resolution. For the first time I have a better record than the original set of crummy 5×3 prints. I think they look great – here are a few.
After paying his respects to the viaduct Lego Marchbanks decided to find a bed for the night at the Station Inn, located a stone’s throw from the southern end. Unwittingly he walked into a photo I took there after my own pilgrimage in 1981.