Above: The High Fields, Coverdale, limited edition print.
The first time I came to Coverdale I was driving from Durham to Dow Cave – a pothole in Wharfedale. As I pootled into Wensleydale I worked out that if I took the road over the end of Penhill I could cut off a substantial corner. It was one of my better decisions but I doubted its wisdom at first.
My little blue Morris 1000 van, nicknamed The Jellymould, struggled up the near vertical hairpin bends of Capple Bank with a groaning gearbox but finally made it to the highest point of the road. I pulled over and got out.
From here a great swathe of Yorkshire was laid out. To the left lay Wensleydale, with the ridges of Swaledale beyond. Ahead lay the Vale of York and, beyond, the North York Moors. To my right lay the undiscovered country of Coverdale but, looking across the grouse-chattering moor, I could see a promising line of fells.
I got back into the Morris, crossed the moor and came through a tiny village into a small (by Yorkshire standards) dale of green fields, heather and bracken uplands, and limestone farms. Lost in trees in the valley bottom flowed the little River Cover. I turned toward the Dale head and my destination.
I’ve made the journey to the Dale dozens of times since, and it’s always wonderful. As you drive east Coverdale grows narrower, the hillsides steeper, the ground more barren. Green hedges become drystone walls. Driving up the rise to the watershed, the bulk of Great Whernside looms up on the left. Across the moor to the right lie drove roads to Waldendale and Bishopdale. To either side of the cattle grid at the Dale Head is the Dark Age earthwork of Tor Dyke.
This place is close to heaven. Behind, Coverdale’s modest length of seventeen miles disappears into the distance. Ahead, the heights of Park Rash fall away into Wharfedale. Above, larks seem to sing in a summer sky, even in winter.
(From Places of Pilgrimage by Ian Scott Massie, published by SPCK)
Copies of The High Fields, Coverdale print and the book of Places of Pilgrimage are available from Masham Gallery. For print CLICK HERE, for the book CLICK HERE.
Below: Coverdale, watercolour