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Moody and broody: Dales images for Bavaria

Friday 14 November 2008

The people of Bavaria, rightly proud of their native countryside, are about to see the Yorkshire Dales at their broody best, says our countryside commentator John Sheard, thanks to a photo exhibition by a Dales woman dedicated to capturing the national park in its rarely seen moments

THERE are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of photographs of the majestic scenery of the Yorkshire Dales national park. They are sent round the world on millions of picture post cards, hang on a thousand kitchen walls as calendars, and are tucked into a million family scrapbooks.

Mist on Brow
Mist on Brow

The same must be said of the even more towering landscapes of Bavaria, where Adolf Hitler built his favourite home, the Eagle’s Nest, on the top of a mountain and the spectacular scenery of the Sound of Music was filmed just over the border in Austria.

These photographs, both here and in the Alps, tend to have one thing in common. They are mostly shot on sunny days, with blue skies and great fluffy clouds, when the world is at its brilliant best. But anyone who lives in the mountains knows that there are just as many dark days, when the clouds close in and the mist comes down and the land takes upon a very different, almost sinister, charm.

Langstrothdale

Langstrothdale

There is a self-taught photographer living in Selside, a tiny hamlet high in Upper Ribblesdale, who has the luxury of being on the spot to whip out her cameras whenever a dramatic change of weather produces some of these dramatic images.

Not for her a long drive into the hills when the weather looks promising. She can capture much of the famous Three Peaks skyline virtually from her doorstep. Nearby flow the upper reaches of the River Ribble and its many tributaries, roaring down from the fells, where the salmon gather to spawn and the wildlife lives with little interference from man.

This is where Hilary Fenten, a tireless worker for countryside conservation, lives and taker her pictures. She is chair of the Skipton and Craven branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, and her husband, Wilfried – who was born in an air raid shelter in Germany as the RAF bombed his home town – is now one of Europe’s leading experts on “responsible tourism” in areas like national parks, both here and in Bavaria.

Hilary has captured the brooding mystery, which even British visitors rarely see

And this is the link between the two areas. Skipton is “twinned” with Simbach-am-Inn, a small town in Bavaria, and Hilary is a member of the Dales party which swaps visits between the two centres. Now, she has been invited to stage a second exhibition of her Dale’s pictures in the Museum Zolhaus on the River Rhine for two weeks next month.

To the Austrians who do not know the Dales, our fells and moors – rarely covered in snow these days, unlike their mountains – will seem perhaps small. But Hilary has captured the brooding mystery, which even British visitors rarely see. And for contrasting scenes of England, she has thrown in shots of London and the Cumbrian coast.

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