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Dales Way


Day 6

Grayrigg – Bowness-on-Windemere (08/04/10)

So the last day finally arrived.  A short bus journey back to Grayrigg followed by a quick hop down onto the trail itself.  On the way out of Greyrigg we were spotted by the local sheep, some of which came hurtling over towards us at full speed.   The sheep in the field next to us thought they were getting fed – the sheep in the field over the river (a lot of sheep) assumed that the ones nearest to us were getting fed and wanted some of the action.  I have never heard anything like this in my life, around thirty odd sheep giving it rooty-toot in unison.  What a noise (imagine the zombie noise from Shawn of the Dead x 10).  It was only when we finally disappeared from sight that they gave it up as a lost cause, either that or the hill just blocked the sound!

I think the Dales Way certainly has the variety and constant changing scenery to make it a classic British Trailwalk, and this section through to  Burneside was no different.  It reminded me very much of the Eastern end of the Ridgeway, which we walked in the summer of 2009.  Hedges had started to replace walls and the ground was much more rolling.  There is an  attractiveness  about this as your curiosity drives you on to see what might just be over the next rise.  It is interesting and engaging walking.

Just before reaching Burneside we were talking about having a break, and in fact there was a nice spot, albeit next to the A6 at the entrance to the farm.  For some reason we kept walking, and what we found put a huge grin on my face.  Billy’s Tea Stop.  This place is an oasis in a barren wasteland of no pubs/tea rooms/shops, and what a place it is too.  All done on an honesty box, with suggested “donations”, you can partake of tea, coffee, orange squash, beer, ice cream, Kendal Mint cake, flapjacks (yum!).  There is even a radio and TV with videos (limited choice, Bob the Builder Live! was about the most watchable) and you can even purchase a fleece if you so desire!  Last, but not least, has to be a special mention for their homemade Damson Gin.  If you go there…..

TRY IT!


the bloomin’ stuff is like Ribena.  Lovely.  There is a visitors book and it seems their little shed has had plenty of visitors.  It looks like it being run by a couple of kids to fund their maintenance of a few farm animals.  (Pig, goat, chickens etc.)  Well good luck to them and I hope that it continues to be a big success, it really is the most welcoming and unexpected thing on the whole trail.

Reading the Visitors Book at Billy’s Tea Stop

Would you believe though that someone had complained about the quality of the tea in the visitors book.  Heathens!

After depositing a good amount into their honesty box, and taking some of the Damson Gin, we left with the wind really in our sails and stormed past Burneside, heading for Staveley.  We were just too late into the pub at Staveley (I suppose it doesn’t really matter a great deal, but would the path not be better routed through the town here to give better access to the services?) to get nibbles, so a quick pint and off we went.  Disaster had struck me by then as my Platypus Hydration system had worked loose and flooded the bottom of my sack.  Fortunately I had only socks and thermals down there which I wouldn’t need any more.  If it had happened the day before it could have been a huge problem.

A couple of longish climbs out of Staveley were quickly forgotten when looking back over the ground that we had covered.  This really is the most wonderful area – I keep saying it – and the walk certainly can take your breath away at times.  Back up onto a quite “moorish” section, obviously in quite a popular walking area (close to Windemere) given away by the tea room (sadly shut at this point) that seems to be exclusively for walkers.

A Wheatear poses just long enough to get a (rather shakey) photo. Near Hag End

The walk into Windemere again is varied and you do get the feeling that the Dales Way is beginning to wind down to its finish.  Unlike most other trails I’ve done though, the end here creeps up on you and smacks you about the head if you’re not concentrating.  Out of nowhere Bowness-on-Windemere appears before you, along with a quite stupendous view up the Lake itself.  This has to be the best finish to any of the trails I have done, even beating the spectacular Ridgeway finish on Ivinghoe Beacon which was pretty special.  This actually gives you a real satisfying feeling of completion which often I have found missing on other trails.

Day Rating 9/10

This was probably the best days walking of the Way.  Ok there are one or two short sections that do detract from the overall enjoyment, but it was consistently good from start to finish.  The end of it bumps the score up just by itself, not to mention that there is a good pub at the bottom of the hill welcoming you properly to Bowness-on-Windemere.  Superb.

Overall Trail Rating – 47/60 (78%)

One of the best.  I wont say it is a walk in the park, especially with a load on your back.  The walking is generally easy, but the one aspect that slows you and is pretty energy sapping are stiles.  Pinch stiles, stone stiles, ladder stiles, you name it they are all there and take some getting over.  Some of the kissing gates can be fun to negotiate too, being a little too compact when wearing a large rucksack.  This is just splitting hairs though.

Out of all the trails I have walked so far, this most certainly makes it into the top 3.  Fantastic.

The End!

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Day 5

Dent – Grayrigg (07/04/10)

One of those magic moments

Lets start with the campsite.  With easy access from the Dalesway, it is right on the town and as the photo above shows, it’s in quite an outstanding location.  It was £4 a night for a pitch too, which isn’t bad in this day and age.  The owners of the site, while being a tad eccentric, also do a superb breakfast.  The downside is that the facilities are a bit of a shambles.  The shower was pretty grim, the mens urinal was al fresco and the toilets – well you needed to take a seat warmer with you, that’s all I’m saying.  It could be a quite wonderful campsite here, just let down a bit.  Pity!

We were up fairly early and used the opportunity to have a quiet wander round the village before striking the tent.  Dent really is a must visit gem, and has the feel of  a sleepy little place stuck in a time warp.  I love it.  We left fairly late, mainly so we could get to the shop and buy some lunch.  Very nice cornish pasties from the village store.

As with the day before the walk through Dentdale is outstanding, if a little heavy on stiles – did I mention I hated stiles?  It also brought home one of the other outstanding features of this walk.  Sheep.  Lots and lots of sheep.  I find it very difficult to recall, other than when in the middle of a town, any point on the walk at which you couldn’t see a sheep!  Still, with many new born lambs, and those a few days old, we were provided with plenty of entertainment (steady!) as they romped around their fields having a whale of a time.  There were also a couple of occasions today where rather friendly sheep would come right up in the expectation of a feed.  I even had a lamb try to suckle on my walking pole!

Some rather expectant locals

Eventually we had a breather just outside Sedbergh, much to the chargrin of a couple in a very large BMW.  We must have been making it difficult for them to park their bus, poor souls.

The whole section from Sebergh to Crook of Lune is quite wonderful, with little bits of everything included.  Old railway viaducts, a (rather tricky) ford, a short section of river walk that was almost reminiscent of the West Highland Way along Loch Lomond.  The weather had brightened and again we were blessed with a fine day for the walk, stopping just before Lincoln’s Inn Bridge for our lunch.

It seemed to take forever to get to Crook of Lune bridge, a large packhorse bridge that was pretty narrow.  Taking anything larger than a car across would be tricky, testified by the large number of scrape marks along it.  I had a much bigger problem though.  Bollock chafing is not funny, especially when things get red raw.  This meant a passable John Wayne impression for most of the day.

Up towards the M6 now and a stile that consisted of two large piles of stones either side of a barbed wire fence.  Wouldn’t be good to lose your footing here.  We crossed the M6 into a farm that looked like a set on from disaster movie, but thankfully the path quickly skirted round.  Unfortunately it seems that some of the attached fields are in a similar state, the corner of one field (right at a crossing point on a stone wall) being nothing more than a gloopy swamp.  Just what you need towards the end of the day.  Grayrigg, just off the Way was now in sight, and we were now pushing the last couple of miles in a race to catch the last bus to Kendal where we would be staying in the YHA.

The final destination for the day, nestling comfortable into the surrounding countryside

We reached Grayrigg with about 15 minutes to spare.  Strangely enough the bus wasn’t on time, and was even late enough for us to consider phoning the psychic (who could apparently predict the future) advertising their services at the bus stop.  Maybe we should try this with the National Rail Enquiries?  It would certainly add interest to organising a journey by public transport.  Perhaps it would have predicted the cancellation of our train from Glasgow?  Who knows….

Day Rating – 8/10

While this was quite a long day it was consistently good.  The only place it lost marks was around the M6, but it was brief and over very quickly.  No real places to stop in the pub, unless you walked into Sedbergh but again a hugely enjoyable (if a little painful – oooh chafing) day.  All that was left was a short stagger from the bus to the hostel in Kendal.  Why do they always put you at the very top of the building?

Cracking view Gromit

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Day 4

Swarthgill Farm – Dent (06/04/10)

We started this day fully expecting to get another soaking.  Again the great walking gods played with us, content to blast us with an icy wind blowing right up the valley.  For some reason I had assumed that the farm track up to Swarthgill would carry on up to Cam Houses and the Penine Way.  How wrong I was.  On a fine spring/summers day this would be a quite spectacular walk.  Today however it smacked of sado-masochism, all be it with a rather amusing start when we ended up with around 15 odd Sheep and Lambs following us (along with vocals) over 1km.  Probably looking for their breakfast!

It was nothing short of a bog trot on this section.  The ground was saturated and if you weren’t careful it was entirely possible to be up to your knees in mud.  There is a fairly stiff climb up to the buildings at Cam Houses where we stopped and chatted to a couple of farmworkers.  Apparently the snow over the winter had been horrific up there, completely burying the generator.  There used to be a bunkhouse here as well, but it has since been renovated and turned into a cottage for the farmer.  They even said that the bunkhouse at Swarthgill was booked out over new year for the next 6 years!!  Popular place.

It was a slog from here up to the Pennine Way, and the highest point on the Dales Way at the Cam Highway.  The fingerpost at the junction was quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated moment of this walk.  What a relief to get back on a good surface, and suddenly it was possible to walk at a nice solid pace.  Thankfully the rain had held off so far, and the walking was easy, down towards the rather spectacular Ribble Head Viaduct.  We met a young family, with three fairly youngish kids coming up the other way.  They were doing the Ribble Valley Way, eventually finishing up in Richmond.  Good luck to them!

Dropping down over the river was rather pleasant but soon it was back up and onto the boggy stuff at the other side.  A signpost at Winshaw on the way up looked as if it had been there a while

Eventually we got to the road that drops down into Dentdale, with some relief.  I’m not that keen on road walking – it seems to play havoc with my body, but just for once it was a pleasure to be on a hard surface.  As soon as we were in the valley and out the wind it warmed up and the sun came out!  It even gave us time to pity a few cyclists coming up the road towards us.  There is a stiff climb for them from underneath a railway bridge, not only that, the road climbs all the way from Cowgill. (Note – the Youth Hostel in Dentdale is now shut – and looks as if it has been for a while).

The Dale here, in my view, is one of the highlights of the walk.  It is peaceful, sheltered and some of the views are stunning.  It is also the home to some rather friendly, but rather unsavvy chickens, who were happily wandering around on the road in front of fairly substantial lorries.

Didn’t anyone teach you the green cross code, hen?

As we progressed down the Dale the way left the road for the fields.  The evening turned fine and we were treated to one of those golden sunlight moments as we made our way towards Dent.  I can’t help but get the feeling that this is a rather special place where time has almost stood still and things are pretty much as they were forty or fifty years ago.  This is an area I will return and visit.

As a last piece of entertainment before our stop in Dent, we were treated to a rather enthralling display as a Ewe gave her chasing shepherd (complete with dog) a run-around for at least 10 minutes.  Very amusing for us – it looked very hard work for him, especially when making a despairing leap for the sheep and ending up on his face.  I may have offered to help, but truth be known I was bloody knackered.  Hey ho!

A campsite in Dent was the order of the day, and a very short walk later, we were in the pub.  Good beer, well priced food and lots of it, at the Sun Inn.  The pub (the Sun) here does cash back too, which is really worth knowing about, especially if you are spending the night here.  A mention must go to the other pub (George and Dragon) which hosts beer from the Dent Brewery.  We didn’t go in but it looks a little more up-market than the Sun and it has the Walkers Welcome sign in the window.

Day Rating – 7/10

The early stuff over Cam Houses brought the score down a bit.  It could have been as low as a 5/10, just because of the mud.  Dent Dale  pushed the score right back up.  A 7/10 is just about right in the end.

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Day 3

Kettlewell – Swarthgill Farm (05/04/10)

The decision to stay at the hostel proved to be an inspired one.  As we had breakfast it became apparent that, not only had it been raining for some time, it had been raining pretty heavily.  Putting the tent down in that would have been horrible!

What on paper looked like it could have been a fairly pleasant and gentle walk to Buckden, became, after a brief stop for supplies at the particularly well supplied village shop (they do cash back here, very useful), a mud fest.  Not only that, the river had risen rapidly and this had us casting nervous glances at it from time to time.  Occasionally the path would be right at the bank, and the water only a few centimetres below.  If the rain persisted the river could well burst its banks.

This aside, it was quite a spectacular walk in places, with many becks raging down hillside into the Wharfe.  An unfortunate side effect was extensive flooding here and there where the water overflowed from the becks.  In many places the water on the path was up well over boot level.  Thank god for Gaiters!   At this point I would like to say that the Tilley Hat is one of the best walking gear purchases ever.  I don’t care if it makes me look a tit – it is brilliant – rain or shine!

The first participant in the inaugural “Dales Way Snorkeling Contest”

Hubberholme was only 8 or 9 km from Kettlewell, but as the pub was right on the path (and was the last until Dentdale) we stopped to Dry Out and Wet In!  Joy of joys they had an open fire that made the place nice and cosy.  After fueling up and sampling the ale, we lingered, not only to dry our sodden gear out, but in the hope that the rain might ease up a little.  By the cut off time we had set to leave the rain had eased to a fine mist and actually looked like stopping.

Just beyond Hubberholme the Way has a short diversion due to quite a spectacular landslip.  Here we came across a small group of walkers – heading in our direcion – looking for Buckden with no idea of where they actualy were.  I have a feeling that if they hadn’t come across us they would still be trying to find the place!

The rain had now stopped,  and with the Wharfe rising steadily the way felt as if it was moving into a remoter area, despite the fairly regular stream of traffic following the road on the other side of the river.  This was now starting to become a little more enjoyable, even if it was still fairly muddy.  There are an amazing number of buildings up here around Deepdale.  All barns?  They have been something of a feature of this walk and it seems that almost every second field has some sort of barn/building in it.  The ones closer to the path here seem to be used as community centres for the local Jackdaw population, chattering and flitting about in their rather impudent squads.

The sky was still rather threatening, and the water still running pretty high

Beckermonds was soon reached, a little oasis in the wilderness, and a rather sharp and nasty little climb up to the rather attractive hamlet of Oughtershaw with its rather elderly looking Peacocks.  From here it wasn’t far to our stop at Swarthgill Farm where the plan was to pitch the tent for the night.  It is worth pointing out though, at Nerthergill Farm, about 1/2 mile short of Swarthgill, they have a small “Walkers Barn” where you can help yourself to some Tea/Coffee biscuits for a suggested “donation” in an honesty box (I seem to remember they even had some post cards).  It’s nothing special but I can imagine it being a lifesaver in pretty grim weather and if you were continuing on towards Cam Houses would make a good stopping place.

As we arrived at Swarthgill (they looked pretty busy with the Lambing season in full swing) we were offered the use of the bunkhouse.  It is a fantastic facility.  Great kitchen, games room (table tennis is just right after a good hike……erm…..I think not) and a very nice lounge.  The downside is I think it is a busy place and often booked out.  We were lucky as a large party had only left that afternoon leaving it empty that night.  Great showers (peat stained water is quite odd), although it is slightly weird staying in a place that empty.  Highly recommended!

Day Rating – 7/10

I’m feeling generous (mainly due to the open fire at the pub).  Even though we got a soaking this was a cracking section of the walk.  If the weather had been better it’s possible this could have made an 8 or even 9.

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Day 2 – Appletreewick – Kettlewell (04/04/10)

Despite it being a bit chilly, it had been a fairly comfortable night under canvas.  A little bit of late night rain had given way to a clean and very crisp morning, although there were a few threatening looking clouds about that would linger for most of the day.

The early section from the campsite was a really pleasant walk along the river bank, and apart from the group of Scouts who had set off in the same direction some ten minutes earlier, we were alone for the first part of the walk to Burnsall.  It is worth mentioning that there are some quite horrific pinch stiles on this section at a farm just outside Appletreewick.  They are so narrow, there is barely enough room to get your body through, let alone a fully laden sack. They really do impede progress!

Burnsall is quite a lovely little town, but by the size of the river side car park, it looks like it gets a tad busy.  Today the car park was shut, mainly due to the waterlogged ground, so the place itself was relatively quiet apart from a sprinkling of dog walkers around.  The church is really worth the visit, although it is slightly off the route.  The pub by the bridge looks quite nice too, but 10 am is just that wee bit too early to be stopping for a pint.

As we progressed there were a few more folk out and about, and it’s always nice to stop and have a chat occasionally. Strangely, many folk seem to have no idea of the existence of the Dales Way.  On the flip side, many of those that did know (about 70% of folk we chatted to over the way…yes I know not really a scientific poll) had actually walked the whole thing at one time or another.

The suspension bridge.  This has to be one of the strangest bridges I have ever crossed.  It is akin to an earthquake simulator and doesn’t lend itself too well to walking across with a large pack on.  Half way across the sides get a touch low and you have the rather unnerving feeling that the bridge is trying to throw you off into the river.  All good fun.

Where are the wide load tags?

From here it was only a short step to the church at Linton.  On another day we would have crossed to the rather interesting church Via the stepping Stones, but the little bit of rain overnight had increased the river level just enough to cover them all. A slight detour ensued and the place is well worth a visit.  An Easter Service was on as we passed so the place was an absolute hive of activity.

From here it was a short walk into Grassington for a lunch stop in one of the many enticing Tearooms lining the main tourist street.  What was noticeable was that this was the first climb of any significance, and even then it wasn’t particularly arduous.  It also brought to mind that since leaving Ilkley the path had been slowly and surely rising all the way, fairly logically you would probably suggest, seeing that most of the walk has followed a river.  The museum in Grassington, rather disappointingly, was shut – probably because it was a Sunday – which meant we continued out onto the spectacular Moorland and Limestone Paving over the town.

The waymarking, or lack of it up here, presented a bit of a challenge (even on the low section it looked like many of the disc markers had been pulled off or removed).  So far, as a general rule of thumb the river was always there to guide you if unsure of the route, but the number of paths and lack of waymarking made routefinding a bit of an educated guess using the guide book map, without resorting to map and compass.

It was spectacular up here, although the wind at this height was bitter.  The clouds were rolling past quickly, and it was dull, bright or hailing in a kind of round robin.  This obviously hadn’t discouraged people from being out walking, as the area was absolutely mobbed.  This gave way the further from Grassington we got and it turned into quite a spectacular afternoon walk.

5 minutes after this it started hailing!

The moorland walk didn’t last, and eventually the path dropped quickly down towards the Wharfe. Suddenly the sun was out and it was a warm and pleasant spring day.  The last mile or so into Kettlewell felt like an Olympic hurdling event, with the number of step stiles over such a short distance.  Did I mention I hate stiles?  Also, along the whole section from Grassington there had been a huge number of dead rabbits.  These must have been hit very hard by the harsh winter, although I can’t help feeling that many of the scavangers might have had a good time of it.

The fields here were full of sheep and lambs, romping around in gangs like naughty schoolchildren  (That’s the lambs and not the sheep.  Just in case you were wondering) in the afternoon sun.

The 500m hurdles, looking back down the Wharfedale towards Grassington

The plan was to stay at the campsite in Kettlewell, but on hearing the weather forecast for the next day, we chose to spendvthe night in Ketllewell Youth Hostel, a decision that proved to be well made!

Day Rating – 8/10

A stunning day with plenty of variety and interest for the walker.  The only thing stopping this getting a 9?  All those flaming step stile in the last half mile into Kettlewell.  EVIL!

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The Dales Way

Day 1 – (Ilkley – Appletreewick 03/04/10)

Prologue

Unusually, we had planned to start walking the same day we travelled, so an early start ensued on a cold, grey and slightly damp morning.

East Dunbartonshire currently must be the road building capital of Britain, or at least it seems like it at the moment, so the taxi into Glasgow Central Station took it’s time over a rather unusual route.  Fortunately, we had booked the taxi so we were at the station reasonably early.  Just as well we did.  The Plymouth train from Glasgow had been cancelled and would now be departing from Edinburgh (who knows why?).  Cue a hasty assault on the nearest train to Edinburgh, which just about got us there in the nick of time.  It’s actually been quite a while since I took a long trip on a train, and (apart from the cancellation issue) I’d forgotten how pleasant it was.

Anyway, the weather wasn’t that promising.  Grey skies and plenty of rain on the way down to Leeds.  It was still cold but nothing that a large Mocha couldn’t soon sort out while waiting on the Ilkley train.

The Walk

Ilkley surprised me.  Having experienced so little of Leeds and Sheffield, and not the nicest parts either, I was a bit dubious about what to expect from a places that, on the map, looks a bit like a satellite town.  I apologise  for this misconception unreservedly.  Ilkley is a bustling, attractive vibrant place (it was mobbed).  I will go back and spend some time there in the future I think.

The rain had stopped, the sun had come out and it had made for some ideal walking conditions at the start of the walk where the standard “starting” photo was taken.

Always check the map before you set off. (Yes I made the quite embarrassing mistake of making for the bridge rather than the river side).  Fortunately, my father is a bit more switched on than I am  *coughs*It’s not that way it’s this way*coughs*.

The path passes quickly out of Ilkley and into some very pleasant farmland, filled with walkers (Easter Weekend and all).  There had been a fair bit of rain around so the going from the start was quite muddy, and slippery underfoot but the sun had come out with a vengeance making for an extremely pleasant afternoon of walking.

Just as we entered the farmland on the Wharfe there were a large number of what looked like Sand or House Martins flitting around doing their aerobatics at a fairly low level.  I think this has to be the earliest I have ever seen these birds in Britain!  Summer is most definitely here…….well not quite yet.

The overriding feature of this walk is the river, which wasn’t particularly high, but it is a constant companion all the way to Appletreewick.  There is the odd moment of variety where the path meanders away to take in a small village, an old mill complex (turned into quite a stunning residential area) and Bolton Priory.  Before getting to Bolton Priory the paths had been fairly busy, the busiest I have ever seen any trail.  That was small fry compared with the grounds of the priory, which were pretty full, inclusive of ice cream vans.  The stepping stones were just about covered by the water, although it didn’t stop a young lass of about 12 or 13 attempting to get across.  Lets just say having wellies on didn’t really help the poor kid as she ended up almost waist deep in the water while trying to bridge the gap between two stones.  Rather her than me!

There is large, and suitably busy tea room a little further up the river from the priory that makes a nice stopping place for a cuppa.  A shop next door has all the usual tourist tat that can be found at many of these sites, but it is pleasant nonetheless. The walk then passes through a woodland that, we got the feeling was just ready to explode into life.  Already the daffodils were out in force, but wild garlic (a feature of the whole route) was in abundance and even the bluebells were beginning to come to life.  I think a couple of weeks later with the walk and this would have been spectacular.

At this point I think I will mention the fact that I hate stiles, especially with a load on my back.  (I have come to the conclusion they are the “spawn of Satan’. Yes I hate them that much!).  I have a bad feeling………

Into Appletreewick (or Aptrick as the locals seem to call it) and our campsite which is right next to the path.  It was mobbed, a fair few tents and caravans shoehorned into a relatively small area.  Fortunately the owners don’t turn away walkers, so we pitch down next to a group of Scouts who are doing their Chief Scout award.  Good luck to them.  The facilities at the campsite are superb (really good showers) and there is even a mobile shop that comes in the morning.  The pub in Aptrick is a cracker too.  The Craven Arms is a snug place with decent food, but their beer is superb!  Chatting to the Landlord, he really does take pride in looking after his beer properly – good man – and it pays off.  One Two of the best pints I’ve ever had.  This pub is worth a visit just for the beer.

The site at Aptrick just as we arrive

Day Rating – 8/10

A fine introduction to the trail and a very enjoyable days walking.

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