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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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