Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Settle to Saltaire

So – this is it, the final leg of our Dales High Way Backwards and what a leg it has turned out to be. We’d been watching the weather forecast hoping to get a couple of clear days when last week’s heatwave was announced. It was a no-brainer - a quick rearrange of the diary, a couple of phone calls and we were off. 
We're off

We caught the first train to Settle, had a bacon butty in the Naked Man cafe and were soon high in the hills above the town. I love this bit of the route. Even on a grey day the light shining on the limestone lifts the spirits but on this strange autumn/summer day it was just magnificent.

Sun glorious sun
Passing Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scar we headed past Kirkby Fell where a tree lined path brought a few minutes welcome shade. Who'd have thought we'd be saying that at this time of year?
Lovely, lovely shade
Even the cows couldn't summon up the energy to move out of the way.

A climb down Watlowes - the Dry Valley ...

A bit of a scramble
...brought us to the top of Malham Cove where we perched vertiginously on the edge.
Don't look down
The sunshine had brought the crowds out and we heard later that Malham Car Park was completely full. Most people had stayed by the Cove though and we soon left them behind as we headed towards Gordale Bridge and the tea van.
Mmmm - a cuppa
We made a quick detour to pay our respects to Gordale Scar before tackling the long pull up to Weets Top. It is here that the underlying geology of the area changes from limestone to gritstone along the line of the Mid Craven Fault. For walkers the contrast is dramatic as you leave the springy green turf of limestone country and head onto the wet, boggy peat that covers the gritstone layers.

Limestone to the left, gritstone to the right
The sun had dried up the worst of the bogs and it was a pleasant hour and a half’s walk down into Hetton and the luxury of the Angel Inn. We’ve had a drink at the Angel before and even occasionally eaten there but the hotel has always been well outside our price range. This time we decided to push the boat out! We’d suddenly realised it was A Dales High Way’s birthday – 4 years to the day since we’d first left home to walk the 90 miles all in one go. We had to have a celebration! We arrived dirty, sweaty, thirsty and with a mucky little dog who had thrown herself in every peat bog she could find in an effort to keep cool. Would they offer us a room or hose us down? We got a room – in fact we got a suite. The Angel did us proud and though it may be many a long year before we can afford another night there it was worth it. Happy Birthday Dales High Way!
A great treat
Next day we followed the beck for a couple of miles to the tiny hamlet of Flasby..
Jess loves water
...before climbing up towards Sharp Haw. There are numerous paths here - above, below and through the bracken and it’s hard going for half a mile or so. There’s a bridleway marked by posts and that’s the official route but it’s probably best to just follow the obvious trods. We took a detour to climb Rough Haw first.
Rough'a on the left, Sharp'a on the right
These two little hills are locally known as Sharp’a and Rough’a and give great panoramic views on a clear day. It was an easy walk then down into Skipton where the bustle of the town came as a bit of a shock. We soon found a cafe for lunch and a welcome rest out of the sun where the waitress took pity on us and crushed ice cubes into our water bottles before we set off again.
Payment please
The route out of Skipton took us past an old tollhouse, a reminder that the track was a turnpike road from 1755 till 1803.
No wonder they call it the Roman Road
It’s a long straight path over Draughton Height to Addingham where more welcome beer awaited. We spent the night at Lumb Beck Farm, a lovely farmhouse B&B at Addingham Moorside.
The lovely Lumb Beck Farmhouse
It felt a bit odd sleeping out so near home but we wanted to do it properly and arrive home at the end of the walk – not before. Lumb Beck Farm is right on the route and within minutes of polishing off the bacon and eggs we were panting up the fields to Addingham High Moor.
The view from our window
It’s a short, sharp, shock of a climb then an easy walk along the escarpment to White Wells, passing some of the best known prehistoric rock art on these moors, the Swastika and Piper’s Crag stones. Sadly the flag was not flying so no cups of tea were to be had at White Wells and we continued to climb onto Rombald's Moor.

We had a quick break at the Twelve Apostles - Yorkshire's own Stonehenge - where Jess finished off the breakfast sausages
and before we knew it Salt's Mill was in sight and our Dales High Way Backwards was over - we were home.
Home at last
So - what was the conclusion, what did we learn? Well, we learned that lovely though it was to walk A Dales High Way from north to south it really is best done the other way. One of the joys of the walk is reaching a high point every day and looking ahead to what comes next. It was fun to do it in 3 sections though and was easy to organise - much more spontaneous than planning a whole week away. I loved going "off-piste" - wandering off the route to explore Twistleton and staying at Dale House Farm. I also loved choosing overnight stops to suit the circumstance - the Angel for a special treat and camping in Dent to enjoy the music festival. And the other thing I learned was that no matter what anyone says about no such thing as bad weather - only the wrong clothes, there really is nothing like a day in the hills with the sun on your face.

Happy walking

Tony, Chris and Jess
September 2011

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dent to Settle

The last two months have fairly whizzed by but finally we found a couple of days to walk the second section of our “Dales High Way Backwards”. And what a couple of days! After the rain of the Appleby to Dent walk it was wonderful to see some sun.

The sun was shining as we walked down into Dentdale

We got the train to Dent station and followed the Dales Way down the valley to pick up the DHW near Whernside Manor.

Joining the Dales Way at Lea Yeat

We followed the Craven Way all the way up to Boot of the Wold at the foot of Whernside. It’s a steady climb on a rocky track that gives way to a grassy, green lane and is very good walking.

The Craven Way

The views are fantastic all the way up though we had to turn round to get the best ones.  At Boot of the Wold we had our first break, perched on a lime kiln, and watched as a tiny two-carriage train chugged over Arten Gill viaduct and pulled into Dent Station. This is a real WOW point. The curve of Dentdale spreads out below with the Howgills and Lakeland Fells visible in the distance.

We left the track and headed up Whernside. Immediately conditions changed and we found ourselves yomping across wet peat on our way to the summit. The tarns were clear and calm, though freezing cold, the sun on my face more than made up for the soggy feet and we were soon at the top.

Whernside tarn

When I was a girl and living in Dentdale our sheep grazed on Whernside. There are few gates or fences on the tops and the sheep from neighbouring farms live side by side, each flock keeping to its own section of fell, a phenomena known as hefting. I had fun trying to work out which farm the sheep we saw were from by the coloured marks on their wool. A bit of a memory test!

As  we’d made good time and were enjoying the day we decided that rather than head straight down to Chapel-le-Dale and our accommodation we’d have a bit of an explore. We left Whernside after the first steep descent and wandered off west along the ridge, accompanied all the way by great views over Kingsdale to our right and the slopes of Ingleborough to our left. After a couple of miles we turned and headed back towards Chapel-le-Dale across the limestone pavement of Twistleton, the perfect location for filming an alien landscape. Dr Who anyone?

Limestone pavement at Twistleton
At Chapel-le-Dale we had a short rest in the sunshine and a quick peek in the church. The memorials to the people who died during the building of the Settle-Carlisle railway line are very moving – not just the men who were working on the line but women and children too.

Dale House Farm
We'd booked B&B at Dale House Farm. It’s about half an hour off the DHW route but worth the short detour. If you’re too tired to make it and you can get a signal just give the farm a ring and someone will come and pick you up at Chapel-le-Dale. We walked, following a lane for a short way then cutting across fields to God’s Bridge where we joined the road for about 10 minutes before heading down to the farm. The accommodation is my favourite sort of B&B – a self-contained mini-apartment with its own entrance, a main bedroom, a mezzanine room with twin beds and a bathroom. Breakfast is served in the room and the whole experience was very relaxed. The farm breeds Kune Kune pigs and we had a quick cuddle of the piglets before we were offered a lift to (and from) the pub for the evening. Breakfast was excellent – home reared bacon and sausage!! 

A Kune Kune piglet - 2 days old

The next morning we could have had a lift back to the main route but we’d caught the exploring bug and decided to work our way across Raven Scar and head up Ingleborough that way.

The view from our window

The climb from Dale House Farm was not as steep as it looked from our bedroom window and we were soon above the limestone terraces. After a bit of to’ing and fro’ing along a wall to locate a stile we found ourselves on another huge limestone pavement with Ingleborough rearing up ahead. Crossing this was easy enough with the mountain to head for but would be more difficult on the way down as there are no clear paths.

Heading towards Ingleborough
We joined the very obvious track that comes up from Crina Bottom and followed it all the way, reaching the broad, open surface of the summit after a short, sharp climb. The weather was glorious, if a little windy and I stood at the edge looking back towards Whernside and our route of the previous day.

Looking back
There was no time to waste though. It was already midday and we had another 11 miles to go before we reached Settle and the train home. Besides, I’d promised myself a mug of Elaine’s excellent coffee when we reached the tearoom at Feizor.

Ingleborough was busy and we met a fair few walkers coming up as we headed down towards Horton-in-Ribblesdale. As soon as we cut off though and followed the DHW into Crummackdale we were entirely alone.

Leaving Ingleborough behind

It is the most glorious valley and we walked in perfect solitude all the way to Wharfe, stopping only to sit awhile at the clapper bridge at Wash Dub Field before pushing on to Feizor and cake! This day just gets better and better.
Revived and refreshed our route took us over Smearsett Scar before dropping down into Stainforth  and a final riverside walk into Settle where a decision awaited – straight to the station or miss the train and go to the pub till the next one? Guess which won!!


Till next time
Tony and Chris - no Jess, she was on her holidays
August 2011

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Appleby to Dent

Devising A Dales High Way took us a long time and we walked every inch of the way not once but many times - selecting, altering and discarding paths. Finally in September 2007 we walked the route in its entirety prior to writing and publishing the Route Guide the following year. Since then we’ve been back and forth lots of times, Tony’s even walked the 90 miles as a three-day challenge, but we’ve never walked the trail from north to south – Appleby to Saltaire. So this summer that’s what we’re going to do. We're walking the route backwards in three chunks; Appleby to Dent, Dent to Settle and Settle to Saltaire.

We set off on June 21st to tackle the first section, driving to Dent and pitching camp at High Laning.

Setting off
The following morning, in driving rain with cloud hanging low over Rise Hill, we walked up to Dent station to catch the train to Appleby. The local bus passed us on the way but ludicrously we couldn’t get on. Although the bus goes through the village on its way to Lea Yeat it’s only licenced to pick up passengers from Lea Yeat BACK to Dent. Finally, we reached the station to find a big crowd of locals heading for Carlisle to the races. No waterproof leggings for them, just their Sunday best and a pocket full of optimism.
Leaving Appleby on the riverside route to start the walk felt quite different to wandering along the valley bottom at the end of a week in the hills.

It's very green
I remember walking down into the green of the Eden Valley with the Pennine skyline always ahead and enjoying that final leg through farming country as a pleasant half day to wind down at the end of the trail. As a starting point however, although it’s still lush and pretty, you have to turn round to see the long distance views of the Pennines and I was glad when we reached Great Asby and began to climb. As expected on the first section we encountered cows, cows and more cows. None of them gave us any trouble but we’re always cautious, especially as Jess was with us. We have a tried and tested method for getting through cattle which involves slipping the dog’s lead through her collar so she can be released quickly to run away in case of bother. Something that suits her as she’s not keen on the beasts at all.

High points ...
The highlight of the first few miles was without a doubt the waterfall at Rutter Mill which was in full spate after the rain. The low point was the landslip at Cuddling Hole which we were disappointed to find has still not been fixed.

...and low

At Great Asby we stopped to eat our sandwiches in the bus shelter where we were delighted to meet a couple finishing their lunch on the last leg of THEIR Dales High Way.
Friendly horses

It was an easy walk then up the lane and through the fields above Clockeld Farm to the open moorland and limestone pavements of Great Kinmond.
Happy to be back amongst the limestone
Black clouds and rain showers had hung over us all the way but when we reached the top and looked south there was blue sky over the Howgills and we ended the day in Newbiggin-on-Lune in the sunshine.

A glimpse of sun over the Howgills

We spent a very comfortable night at Tranna Hill – us upstairs and Jess in a dog basket in the porch.
Brenda Boustead
The landlady, Brenda, is a walker herself and was one of the very first people to walk A Dales High Way. There’s an impressive map on her kitchen wall showing all her Wainwrights and long distance trails and she certainly knows how to look after walkers. Wet clothes and boots were soon dried by the boiler, our room had a bath as well as a spacious shower and as there’s no pub in the village we were offered a lift to the Black Swan in nearby Ravenstonedale.

This section of the route is well served with accommodation. As well as Tranna Hill there’s the 10 bedroom Brownber Hall, also in Newbiggin-on-Lune and plenty of places to stay in Ravenstonedale, including the King’s Head which has recently undergone a re-furbishment and is due to open again soon.

The following morning the bad weather had caught up with us again and we sat at breakfast looking out at where we knew the Howgill Fells to be hiding in the clouds.

Archive photo of the Howgills!!
Togged up in our waterproofs we decided to follow the “alternative” route over to Cautley. A short walk along the busy main road soon brought us back into Ravenstonedale. When we were devising the route we tried out a number of field paths to avoid this road but they all proved to be more trouble than they were worth.
Walking up to Adamthwaite

A very quiet lane, which is little more than a farm access road that has been surfaced, climbs out of the village. The long distant views are fantastic and the walking is easy up to the farm at Adamthwaite. We walked through the farmyard and onto a rougher track which continued for a mile or so before the route drops down to the Cross Keys in Cautley.

When we’ve walked this way before it’s been a broad green way. Sadly this time a combination of heavy rain and cattle had turned the path into a bit of a quagmire and the going was tough.
Scary cows

It was made even tougher by a large herd of cows on the path. We took our usual avoiding action and headed up the steep hill with Jess to circle round them. Usually this works and once there’s enough distance between us the cattle lose interest and we can cut back to the path in front of them. Not this time. The herd headed along the track at speed bellowing loudly all the time. It was clear there was something worrying them and sure enough we spotted half a dozen calves, separated from their distraught mothers and lying right by the gate. It was quite a race to see who got to the calves first. Fortunately we won and were able to shoo them back towards their anxious mammas before the whole herd blocked the gateway completely.
What with the mud and the cows it was a tough half hour but we soon recovered thanks to the wonderful views and the sunshine – yes finally the sun had come out.

We knew that the ford above Narthwaite was unlikely to be passable after all the rain so we followed the track down to Handley’s Bridge and headed down the road to the Cross Keys Temperance Inn where coffee and cake were waiting.
Refuge at the Cross Keys

Suitably cheered up we set off in shirt sleeves to Sedbergh. This may be a bad weather alternative route but the path along the hillside above the River Rawthey is quite possibly one of the prettiest bits of A Dales High Way. It’s easy walking with the Middleton Fells in the distance and made for a very enjoyable couple of hours.
Archive photo looking back to Wandale Hill and Harter Fell

Finally we reached Straight Bridge on the outskirts of Sedbergh. We could have gone into the town and picked up the route from there but instead cut across to Lane Ends and the start of the final leg.
The Howgills from Frostrow Fell
It was a wonderful evening for our last climb up Frostrow Fell with only the sound of curlews breaking the silence. All too soon we were at the top and could see Dent in the distance with our tent waiting for us.
Avoid the boggy bit if you can
The route goes through Lunds Farm, on the edge of the moor. There’s an ancient walled track that leads from the moors to the farm but it’s very often wet and boggy so we avoided it by walking on the other side of the wall. There’s some smart new walling going up and new tarmac on the lane so with luck one day the track will be improved too. I wish we’d had a machete though – there’s a couple of bushes that present something of an obstacle course. If anyone’s got room in their pack for some secateurs give them a trim will you!

We were quickly in the valley bottom and back to Dent. I grew up in Dentdale and it still feels like coming home even if home tonight is under canvas. We’d chosen late June to co-incide with Dendale Music and Beer Festival and we stayed on for the weekend to enjoy the music – and the beer.

July’s a busy month for us but in August we’ll be back in Dent to pick up the route for another 2 day walk – this time to Settle. Watch this space.

Tony, Chris & Jess
June 2011