Born in Skipton on 15 January 1928, into a staunch Primitive Methodist family, he was himself a Local Preacher for over 40 years. Leaving school at 15, he began his journalistic career as junior reporter on the Cravan Herald; then, after National Service with the Royal Navy, joined Harry Scott on the staff of The Dalesman, becoming its editor from 1968 to 1986. From 1951 he was also editor of Cumbria. A prolific writer, editor and speaker, he published many books, as well as numerous articles on the Yorkshire Dales, Lancashire and the Lake District. Their range included biographies, topography, social history and natural history.
In 1996 he was awarded an MBE and an honorary doctorate at Bradford University. In 2007 he received the Golden Eagle Award from the Outdoor Writers' and Photographers' Guild and in 2009 was named as Yorkshire Dales National Park's 'greatest living cultural icon'. An honorary member of the Yorkshire Dales Society, he later became its President and its first Patron. He was also associated with such organisations as the British Deer Society, the Cumbrian Wild Life Trust and the RSPB.
He died on 7 October 2015.