Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Stainforth Force

click photo to enlarge
When I was young and growing up in the Yorkshire Dales one of the things that I found puzzling was the use of the words "force" and "foss" to describe waterfalls. In the area where I lived and roamed the Ordnance Survey map showed Scaleber Force, Stainforth Force, Catrigg Force and Janet's Foss. However, the precise nomenclature of the the map-makers wasn't observed by the locals, and foss and force were used interchangeably when speaking of these places. It was only when I was older and had some knowledge of the etymology of these and other words associated with landscape and settlements that I realised this didn't matter, and that our imprecision came from the English developments of the root Norse word.

Both "force" and "foss" come from the word that Norse settlers brought to England in the ninth century - "foss" or "fors".  In fact, the Norsemen who settled north west England were, in the main, Norwegians who came from earlier settlements in Ireland and the Isle of Man. This contrasts with the Norse settlers of eastern England who were mainly Danes (though with some Norwegians). These geographical and cultural differences can be plotted on maps using "test words" that are held to be specifically Norwegian: for example "brekka" (now "breck" meaning hill), "gil" (now "Gill" or "Ghyll" meaning ravine), or "slakki" (now the suffix "-slack" eg. Elslack). I'm not absolutely sure, but I think "foss and "force" are also of specifically Norwegian origin.

My photograph shows the River Ribble in spate at Stainforth Force at a point where it tumbles over steps of limestone into a very deep pool. I used my photographic assistant (aka my wife) as scale, human interest, a compositional element and because her bright red hat made for a sharp point of colour in an otherwise gree/brown/white scene.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On