The lonesome farmstead of Mountain View lies at the foot of the bulbous Howgill Fells, in a small valley branching off from Upper Rawtheydale that forgoes any kind of official name, presumably as so few people ever need to refer to it. Instead it appears to be labelled merely as ‘Backside’ on most maps, a moniker derived from that of the small beck that threads its way through it1 before joining the River Rawthey down below.
The Howgills are desolate, remote and generally one of the lesser visited parts of the Yorkshire Dales—especially with the much more renowned and dramatic Lake District just a short drive away. The land is notoriously difficult to farm, with the high rainfall resulting in very acidic soil that needs constant liming to support suitable crops or fodder. Even historically, human habitation in the area has been something of a novelty, with tiny settlements often consisting only of a single dwelling, limited to the depths of the undulating depressions that form the roots of the fells.
I located this property scouring maps and satellite imagery for dwellings in just such a location on the edge of civilisation: isolated, and at a fairly high altitude. It’s a strategy that yields a decent amount of success—with the decline in farming as Britain’s industry started booming in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, Rural Flight took hold, and the exodus to the nation’s cities appears to have started from the top down, with the challenging upland areas seemingly being the first to evacuate. You can often take a decent stab at whether a place is abandoned, by pure geographic context, although it often takes an in-person recce to confirm the state of affairs.
In the case of Mountain View, the absolute catastrophe that constitutes the state of the roof should have immediately given it away, but alas Google’s imagery hadn’t updated and still showed it pleasingly intact in my overhead scan, although from the state of the outbuildings I filed its exploratory outlook under ‘optimistic’.
A warm Midsummer’s day found me outside the front door after confirming my initial hunch in a cursory scout undertaken a few months prior, on a bleak and foggy afternoon that wouldn’t have rendered photos anywhere near as vivid and vibrant as what the place deserves—the house is certainly aptly named, overlooking the domed form of Yarlside, and with absolutely stunning views down to the mouth of the valley and beyond—Not that any occupants will be appreciating them for a while—the interior has been absolutely destroyed, to the point where upstairs and downstairs are effectively one and the same.
Water ingress over the years of dereliction has obviously rotted through the rafters and the upstairs floorboards which have now given way and lie sprawled and splintered across the kitchen floor. I’m not normally one to shy away from entering a place of dubious structural integrity, but in this instance I was perfectly content documenting from the sidelines. Besides, you can pretty much see everything from the outside, gazing through the cracked ribs of timber that once constituted the ceilings.
Doing some research into the place after my previous visit, I discovered that this unlikely old ruin once received the Hollywood treatment and graced the silver screen in the 1998 crime-thriller ‘B.Monkey’2 a movie no-one likely remembers, although the director Michael Radford was also responsible for the much more well known (and received) ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and Academy Award winning ‘Il Postino’.
Despite being filmed in England by a British director, it doesn’t seem as if the movie ever saw a UK release, and was pretty much relegated to the dusty annals of cinematic mediocrity until fairly recently, when events surrounding the alleged sexual assault of actress Asia Argento by Harvey Weinstein during filming, earned it a token passing reference in media outlets covering the story. Mountain View features prominently in the film’s climactic final scenes as an idyllic escape, whilst the protagonists try to begin a new life within its walls, and avoid catching up with their pasts. I’ll spoil no more here — it’s far from a masterpiece, but certainly not unenjoyable and worth a watch if you manage to find a copy.
It’s now hard to imagine a film crew being here – cameras whirring, clapperboards slapping, amidst the bustle of runners, catering staff, lighting technicians and all the rest of the coordinated mayhem it takes to create an hour and a half’s worth of entertainment. All is quiet in Mountain View, save for the odd call of a hunting buzzard or the exclamation of a curious sheep. It seems that after wrapping in 1998, the place was promptly emptied of fixtures and fittings and then subsequently just left to rot in the unforgiving upland climate. After all, there’s no place for stragglers here in the bleaker precincts of the Western Dales—and not even Hollywood fame can save you.
- These tiny, less significant dales in the region are often referred to by the names of their watercourses—‘becks’ and ‘gills’ that hint to Scandinavian etymological origins. I always thought there was a difference between the terms, but according to this blog, the two are totally interchangeable.
- This blogger would appear to have been the first to make the connection—the house appears to have been in a much better condition upon their visit in 2009, although even then, the photos hint to a precarious interior that would ultimately worsen into full scale disintegration.