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Farmer and ranger create shelter on Swaledale moor

Reeth, 8 May, 2017

An isolated garage on Whitaside Moor – which symbolises the coming of the motor car to the Dales – has been converted into a shelter for walkers and mountain bikers.  

The garage was built in the 1940s by the Sunter family of Robson House Farm for Joseph Sunter’s first car, a Standard 12.  It had to be put by the roadside, as there was then no track down the fell to his farm.  The Sunter family would complete the last leg of their journey home in a tractor, once the car was safely locked away.

When a farm track was laid, the garage became redundant and fell into disrepair.  It was then that Norman Sunter, Joseph’s grandson, had a chance conversation with his Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) area ranger, Michael Briggs.

Mr Sunter said:  “Over the years we’ve seen hundreds of people sheltering behind the garage.  Instead of standing behind it, I thought they might as well shelter in it.   I was wondering whether to just take the garage doors off and leave it open, but Michael said he would like to do it up. And they’ve done a very good job.”

Showing the resourcefulness typical of the YDNPA’s ranger service, Michael Briggs assembled a group of volunteers to carry out the renovations and raised funds for the work.

Three businesses chipped in: the Dales Bike Centre at Grinton; the Dales Trail Series, a running event across Swaledale and Wensleydale; and 'Ard Rock Enduro,  a mountain bike festival held each August in Swaledale.  In total, the materials for the project cost less than £900.

Rangers and Dales Volunteers cleared the garage of rubbish and accumulated soil; removed the old doors; rebuilt some sections of the walls; added a new roof and lintel; installed some benches and laid a stone aggregate floor. Mr Sunter helped by disposing of a lot of the rubbish and debris.

Michael Briggs said the shelter could not be in a better place:  “It is right at the end of a bridleway that connects Swaledale to Wensleydale at Castle Bolton, via Apedale.  It also links well to other bridleways spreading in all directions to Low Row and Gunnerside.  

“What is so satisfying is that this was an idea from a farmer, who was making a generous offer. It was great to be able to take it up and bring the project to fruition.  It cost the Authority nothing but time and it was something a bit novel for our Dales Volunteers to get involved with.”

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