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