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I’m usually one of the first to have a moan about Man’s impact on the countryside but even I enjoy the sight of good old, solid Dales farms and barns. There’s something about them which seem to make these grand old buildings fit in so naturally; sculptures in Yorkshire’s dales which seem as though they’ve been there forever. Most of them will be no more than a couple of hundred years old; sadly, many feeling the affects of old age and neglect. Recently I drove very slowly on the road from Tan Hill to Keld, not because of that frightening stretch of tarmac with its one-in-four bend, but due to admiring the isolated farmhouses dotted along that bleak dale and marveling at the fortitude of the farmers. I stopped at Thwaite just before the sun disappeared behind Buttertubs for this classic view at the top of Swaledale. Somehow it wouldn’t seem the same without those local-stone barns and walls enclosing ancient smallholdings. The National Park Authority is happy to have people like me eulogising over this wonderful dales ‘furniture’ and for tourists to drink in the heritage – unfortunately no one particularly wants to pay for their upkeep; farmers don’t want to plough money into buildings they no longer use and can’t afford to maintain – and which they’re not allowed to pull down. The barns can’t be converted for other use because of strict planning regulations… as laid down by the National Park. One entrepreneur has an idea for converting the inside of barns into a ‘holiday pod’ (see this month’s magazine) – the barn will look exactly the same as it does now on the outside but inside it will be a holiday home with portable mains and water (parked outside as if it were a tractor in the field). It’s at an experimental stage at present but I welcome any ideas which might preserve these iconic features.

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