A Theory Awaiting Confirmation

There’s so much that could be written about the Yorkshire Dales – the rolling hills, the beautiful scenery, the ubiquitous stone walls and winding country lanes – that I’m not even going to try. It’s all been done before, by people much more eloquent than me, usually with intimate connections to animals and/or post boxes. (Ok, maybe I can match that last one for eloquence on a good day… )

So let me rather bring up just one facet of the dales that struck me: nearly all the buildings are made from the same grey stone. Grey stone walls, grey houses, grey buildings, grey shops. Which means that any town of a size larger than, say, 10 buildings, ends up looking something like this:

Richmond - Town of Grey

Of course, for every vista like that, there are a few in the opposite direction, looking out towards the countryside, which are thoroughly more beautiful. Like this:

View away from town

But given that it’s wintertime, the trees aren’t green, the hedges aren’t green, and it’s only the fields which lift the landscape to something approaching its potential.

And so, I have a theory, which I’ll have to wait until summertime to confirm. It goes like this: The landscape of the Dales in summer is so phenomenally green, so vivid and so full of vibrant foliage, that the inhabitants subconsciously build their houses as plainly as possible to compensate for this. The alternative (colourful houses, such as you’d find in Eyeries, for example) would be so stimulating, they’d all collapse in a stupor, or develop ADHD. At least, I’m hoping that this is the case, as the alternative hypotheses are less appealing. It would involve a lack of colour due to the cost (which may well have been the original cause), or due to the genuine dullness (which I don’t believe) or the sheer bloodymindedness (which is a distinct possibility) of the inhabitants.  Or government intervention to keep the towns looking “just like they always have”, which is a good thing, unless it’s a bad thing.

So, until my next visit to the area in the summertime (which will hopefully be this summer), I’ll have to work out a measurement scale of comparative colour. How much grey is required to counteract a given amount of green? Is it related to the wavelengths involved, or the relative brightness, or the number of photons reflected? Is there a Poisson distribution to which the data could be fit which could solve the mystery? Are there any other areas where this theory could be applied? Stay tuned for updates as I make progress on this thrilling quest.

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1 Response to A Theory Awaiting Confirmation

  1. Brad Nixon says:

    Um, gray stone was all they had? Poisson distribution? You math guys crack me up.

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