THERE has been an ‘awful lot of weather’ over the last couple of weeks, as forecasters like to say.

Storm Arwen did its worse, I for one can’t remember seeing so many trees down all over the roads, and then straight after, there was the first snow of the year bringing everyone to a standstill.

I’ve been off on holiday for several days, and started with a paddle in the canoe on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. An abortive attempt to clamber out onto the towpath between Silsden and Kildwick saw me ending up in the water, right under the noses of some walkers, who did their level best to look the other way.

I can with a great deal of authority confirm the water is now bitterly cold.

A few days later and the canal at Greenberfield, Barnoldswick, where the waterway reaches its highest point, was frozen over - covered with the prints of ducks and swans making their way across the ice.

My canoe is now back in the cupboard where it will stay until the spring; I am most definitely a fair weather paddler.

LOOKING back 75 years ago, and the Craven Herald of December 6, 1946 reported the first sighting of snow, but only very high up on the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

The paper’s ‘outpost in North Craven’ reported that the Three Peaks had their first white caps of winter and as it was the usual custom, local folk remarked sagely to each other ‘Aye, it’ll be getting colder now’.

That it showed, remarked the then writer of the diary, ‘how tough they are in those parts’.

MEANWHILE, 50 years ago, winter arrived a week earlier and said the Craven Herald of November 26, 1971, it caught everyone by surprise. And it was not just the heavy snow that caught everyone out, but the flooding caused by when it all melted rapidly.

The paper reported how it had taken three hours to complete the 40 mile journey from Skipton to Manchester and several moorland roads higher up on the Dales had become impassable.

The snow disappeared overnight and left in its wake swollen rivers and flooded roads.

But it wasn’t just travellers who were put out - the early snow was also causing issues for the mating (tupping) season of the area’s sheep.

Snow in November was - and still is, I’m assuming, a great inconvenience to Craven’s ‘flock-masters’.

Blizzards , so the paper stated, disorganise d the flocks, and even a Dales- bred tup’s ardour ‘cools somewhat’ in extreme wintry conditions, so it seems. I did see a tup, complete with raddle, high up on a drumlin in the snow; and I have to report, he was not that interested in the ewes. One farmer talking at the time, back in 1971, recalled to the Herald how when heavy snow back in the day meant prolonged isolation.

“We still get our bad spells, but generally we can stay mobile, and the council men do a remarkable job in spreading salt and grit in advance of the snow,” he told the paper.

Interestingly, the paper mused on how if snow and lots of it was guaranteed in Craven, the area could develop as one of the winter sports areas of England - and pointed out that even the Lake District found snow ‘uncertain’. Now, that would be a thing, people coming to Craven to enjoy some skiing - perhaps to Pendle Hill or Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough .

ELSEWHERE in the Herald of December, 1971, ‘operation clean up’ was underway on the Leeds and Liverpool canal between Bradley and Cononley Lane End bridges.

A section of the canal was dammed up and drained while British Waterways workmen - before it became the Canal and River Trust - cleaned up and carried out remedial repairs. Part of the canal was also strengthened with concrete to help with leaking.

Fish were removed ahead of the work taking place by the local anglers while any fish found by the workmen were lifted out and moved to safety. Even so, a couple of pike about 2ft 6ins long were spotted.

BACK to the subject of sheep, in the December 1971 paper, the BBC programme ‘Braden’s week’ brought up the topic of the traditional way sheep were once counted in the Dales.

The numerals, said the diary writer, had been described as Celtic in origin, and proceeded to give details of some originating from Wharfedale - different areas having their own system, so it seems.

“Yan, tan, tether, pathas, pimp, setha, letha, hova, dova, dik, yan-a-dik, yan-a-dik, tethra-dik, bomfit, yan-a-bomfit, tan-a-bomfit, teth-a-bomfit, path - a-bomfit, gigit.”

And, a few more from Rathmell:_’ Aen, taen, tether a, fethera, phubs.’ Modern numerals are much easier., said the paper at the time - but not half so interesting.

AN interesting snippet from 100 years ago, on December 2,1921, a Mr Frank Snowden of Cowling, gained a ‘considerable success’ at the International Egg Laying Competition which was held at the Experimental Station, Missouri in the United States.

One of his birds broke the individual egg laying record for an English bred hen having laid 291 eggs in 365 days - phew, I’m no expert on hens, but my colleague, who keeps chickens, says it is very good, especially 100 years ago.

ALSO from 100 years ago, a Thomas Snowden of Bingley - perhaps related to the chicken man, was chosen as the prospective Labour candidate for the Skipton division.

The best ever fancy dress party was held at Skipton Town Hall - a fundraiser for the Skipton and Craven Gentlemen’s cricket clubs; and the first ever annual reunion dinner of the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment was held at the Ship Hotel in Skipton.