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Day 3

 

Gargrave to Malham (8ish miles)

Once again it had rained overnight and I awoke at around 5 with the pattering sound on the tent.  It was a shortish day, so I took my time and even had a lie in till around 7 at which point the rain stopped.  I packed down and made breakfast, once again amused by the disorganised exploits of the DoE group who were also busy preparing themselves for their day ahead (I was like that once – it does take a while to learn a routine).  I even surrendered my spare emergency matches to a couple of kids who had used all theirs up trying to light their trangia stove.  They even managed to use the whole pack!

Flasby Beck and the curious cows

Flasby Beck and the curious cows

I went for a shower and on the way back spent a few moments watching a rather ambitious sparrow trying to pick up what looked like a large goose feather and fly with it (rather unsuccessfully).

In the meantime the sun had come out and the tent dried off nicely, and by the time I left the sunglasses were on and the DoE group still breaking camp.  The first step was to get back on to the route (how on earth did I miss the very obvious large mansion the day before?), retracing my steps the mile or so to Flasby  , a very small but pretty hamlet.

Flasby Beck looking North this time (watch out for the Buzzard!)

Flasby Beck looking North this time (watch out for the Buzzard!)

Flasby Beck would be my companion for the next few kilometres, almost until reaching Hetton.  This was delightful walking, with the path in turns down close to the Beck, then high up on the bank in green pasture.  At one point I passed through a gate into a field of young bulls, who immediately started following me.  Just curiosity and nothing more sinister, but they did  follow for quite a distance before losing interest.  Slightly more concerning was the buzzard which seemed to be rather upset by my presence, passing over me a little closer than usual.  Had the wind not been so strong it is not beyond the realms of possibility that I could have had a large bird of prey attached to my backpack!

Still Flasby Beck

Still Flasby Beck

The sun was out, the walking was serene, it was a bit windy – what could possibly go wrong?

Close to Hetton I felt a spot of rain.  On turning round it was like a wall of water, a sort of grey wall, was approaching from the south.  This would set the tone for the rest of the day.

There was nothing for it other than to press on.  I had considered stopping at the pub in Hetton, but it was still early and to be quite honest, it looked rather pretentious.  A sign outside reading “There is a charge of £8 if customers wish to eat their own food at these tables”, is not a very welcoming sight.  I had the impression that if I wanted to go in a full decontamination procedure would have to be implemented.  Of more concern was the fact that I was barely 5 miles into the day and I was toiling.  Badly.

Close to Hetton

Close to Hetton

I walked through the village and turned onto Moor Lane bridleway, a long slog in the rain that was reminiscent of the previous day along the Roman Road.  The views back to Hetton were fine on the few occasions that I stopped to rest for a moment.  The bridleway was a walled path here and full of sheep.  For a while I felt like a shepherd!

At the end of the walls the path burst out above Winterburn Reservoir.  A couple caught me up here – finally some other people walking the Dales High Way.  We walked together for a short while, talking about various long distance paths in the UK.  On an aside, the DoE group had appeared down by the shore of the reservoir (identified by their large map cases and badly packed rucksacks), wandering about like lost sheep and generally looking…well…lost.

Winterburn Reservoir.  It was wet.

Winterburn Reservoir. It was wet.

It was another long and steady slog up to Weets Top with the rain now passing over in waves.  There were a lot of fell runners here, taking part in what looked like an organised event.  Nice day for it.

In fine weather it would have been stunning here, but it was miserable and I press on.  I did manage to find a fairly sheltered spot to have a quick bite to eat though.  Even amongst all this, what was obvious was the abrupt change in geology on passing over Weets Top.  There was spectacular Limestone Pavement everywhere, just magnificent to look at.  As I walked down the road towards Gordale Scar the hose was turned on, turning it into a river.  Remember the plans I had talked about?  Well, I had planned to walk into the Scar, but, to be perfectly frank, I was shattered, soaking, miserable and just looking forward to getting into the YHA at Malham.  I carried on.

The campsite at Gordale House with the Scar behind

The campsite at Gordale House with the Scar behind

The campsite at Gordale House did look fantastic, (although the water in the beck was looking uncomfortably high), but even better was the tea wagon at the bottom of the hill.  It was open and I gratefully scoffed a bacon roll and a coffee.  It was here I left the official route to make my way into Malham, via Janet’s Foss waterfall.  With all the rain it had a spectacular flow over it.

This was now a lovely walk through the woods alongside Gordale Beck and it was busy with day walkers from Malham.  For a while the sun even came out, and I even nodded off for a while on a stone bench while the rain held off.  It wasn’t long before I reached the Pennine Way and the last short stretch into Malham.

Janet's Foss

Janet’s Foss

It was only three o’clock when I arrived, and the reception to the hostel wasn’t open.  I was too knackered for anything else so went and sat in their lounge with my feet up until opening time.

A sub 10 mile day and I struggled badly.

Day Rating 8/10

You may think that is quite a high rating for a day on which I struggled.  Well, the walk along Flasby Beck was a delight (at least until the rain came), and the rest of the walk was of high quality as well.  Just because the weather was bad didn’t make it a bad day!  The real tipping point is when the path crosses into limestone country.  It felt as if a threshold had been crossed, and there was a total change in character to the scenery.  It was spectacular and wonderful.  I wish now I had walked into the scar as planned, but the extra mile onto the day would probably have wiped me out!  The good news was that I was under a roof for the night, especially considering that the forecast was pretty grim overnight

Approaching Malham (ignore the camera strap)

Approaching Malham (ignore the camera strap)

 

 

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Day 2

Addingham to Gargrave (13 miles)

On the way to Addingham

On the way to Addingham

I had made plans for the day.  It was relatively short so I would leave early and spend some time in Skipton and have a good look round the castle.  I had plans – best laid and all that…

I awoke early the next morning after a night which had brought some fairly heavy and persistent rain.  In fact, it was still raining as I lay nice and snug in my sleeping bag enjoying the rather tranquil pattering sound of water hitting the tents flysheet.  It is strangely hypnotic.

As an aside I did however discover one of the (probable) reasons that Terra Nova discontinued the Solar 2.2 tent.  The design means that rain pools on the top of the tent, leaving quite a big puddle there if not periodically shaken off.  It wasn’t really a problem as the tent was bone dry inside and I spent an entertaining few minutes sloshing the water off the roof.  This, for no apparent reason, was strangely satisfying!

Fast running beck

Fast running beck

With the rain steadily falling I pottered around inside the tent packing all the gear up (the advantage of using a 2 man tent on a solo walk is you can have everything inside in the dry) into my backpack.  Fortunately, the rain did eventually stop and I managed to pack the tent down in relatively dry conditions.  Even so, the flysheet was sodden.

I set off in a light drizzle, and instead of heading back up to the ridge I set off across the fields, via some rather awkward stone stiles, to pickup the route at Addingham Moorside.

This was a lovely, if a little soggy descent, towards the town.  Rather than follow the official route, which skirted the edge of Addingham, I had decided to go through the town to pick up some lunch items.  I scampered across the busy bypass and found a Co-op at which I could resupply.  A few minutes later a monsoon had started outside – it was a good excuse to browse for a while.

The view from the Roman Road above Addinham

The view from the Roman Road above Addinham

There wasn’t much else in the centre and, once the hose had been turned off, I set off again to start the steady climb towards Draughton Height as the sky darkened ominously.  There was a good 2km of road walking to be done along what is known locally as the Roman Road, which gives you an idea of its character.  It was a bit of a slog up this road, although there were some fine views back towards Addingham.  Eventually the road turned to track and the rain that had been threatening finally arrived.

It is fair to say I don’t remember too much about this section – on a good day there would be fine views to be had – I was too busy pressing on into a strong headwind and driving rain.

Beech wood near Skipton

Beech wood near Skipton

I will admit to a “What the hell am I doing?” moment at this point as I was concentrating solely on reaching Skipton.  It was a steady miserable trudge along what became a not very interesting path in the wind and rain.  I’m sure there were views on the way and the Beech woodland seemed very nice but I wasn’t really interested.  I’m ashamed to say it but I got to Skipton spotted a Weatherspoons (pretty much the first pub I saw and right on the route) found a table and collapsed in a rather soggy heap.

Looking over Skipton from Park Hill

Looking over Skipton from Park Hill

Remember those plans I had.  Well, an hour and a half (and two pints) later I was on my way, not really concerned about visiting the castle after all.  It had brightened up in the meantime, and as I turned the corner into market square I discovered it was market day and a large number of very attractive pubs.  I was kicking myself.

Sharp Haw

Sharp Haw

It was a stiff and breathless climb out of Skipton up onto Park Hill, a point at which a gun battery had battered the walls of the castle during the Civil War.  The pimple of Sharp Haw, the next high point on the route was visible off to the North West.

The sun was out now, completely changing the aspect of the day.  It was warm and pleasant (if a little windy) as I crossed the golf course and once again started a steady climb up to Sharp Haw, a distinctive little hill which was an obvious landmark.  Gradually it grew closer until a last little sharp climb left me at a ladder stile which had to be crossed to reach the trig point on the other side.   Naturally, I made use of the nearby bench for a few minutes and enjoyed the fabulous view back towards Skipton.  From the top it was even better, a fine 360 degree panoramic view – I could even see my campsite in Gargrave, frustratingly in the opposite direction of which I would be walking.  It was very windy here, enough to blow off the rain cover from my backpack giving me my cue to leave.

Looking back towards Skipton

Looking back towards Skipton

The path off Sharp Haw was quite simply awful.  I missed the suggested route and instead ended up walking through what could only be described as a quagmire.  Still a path but up too much mud for my liking.  It was with much relief then that the way entered an enclosed farm track to finish the descent to Flasby.

The view on the way up

The view on the way up

It was here I left the route turning left instead of right along Flasby Beck to follow a footpath towards Gargrave.  This was through some old estate parkland and was a quite lovely little walk, apart from another quagmire just before reaching the road.  This I followed all the way in to Gargrave to the campsite, nestling by the canal.

Panorama from the bench near the top of Sharp Haw

Panorama from the bench near the top of Sharp Haw

I pitched in a small field, along with a number of DoE kids, some of whom seemed greatly impressed with the tent, and relaxed and read a while.  It was amusing watching them pitch their tents, sort out their (copies amounts) of kit and start to cook their dinners.

Not long after it was a short walk to the pub for a meal and a well deserved pint.

Sharp Haw trig

Sharp Haw trig

Day Rating 9/10

A harder day than expected and a real walk of two halves.  A high score despite the morning weather.  The first half was a pretty walk to Addingham, followed by a long trudge along the Roman Road to Skipton.  There were some great views here, but to be honest, the day didn’t lend itself to enjoying them a great deal at this point!  I never gave myself the chance to explore Skipton, something which I regret, as it would have been nice to even just wander round the market for a while.

The way down

The way down

The second half was a delight.  Big views, lovely scenery and some sun made a huge difference.  The view from Sharp Haw was just sublime.  All in all, another good day, just blighted by the morning weather.

On the way to Gargrave

On the way to Gargrave

 

 

 

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Well, I’ve finally got around to starting the blog for this fantastic walk!

The very attractive church in Saltaire

The very attractive church in Saltaire

Introduction

Things kicked off with a day at work.  I had booked a couple of lieu days onto the start of my holiday week meaning I would be starting from Saltaire on the Thursday.  This meant I was travelling down on the Wednesday by train.  With the trains booked and the day fast approaching I began to get worried about how much time I had left myself to catch the train.  I would finish work  in Edinburgh and have 2 hours to get to Glasgow and catch the train – during rush hour it can take over an hour just to get onto the M8!

Fortunately, I managed to swap to an earlier shift.  By early I mean middle of the night!  This was a rather unsociable  3.30 a.m. start.  I’d be finished by about 11 and have plenty of time to catch the train.

I was really looking forward to the train journey, a short hop to Carlisle then a trip along the famous Settle – Carlisle line, one of the most spectacular railways in the UK.

To say the journey down was worrying would be an understatement.  In a reversal of the norm, the rain grew heavier and the cloud lower the further south I travelled.  Once on the Settle – Carlisle line, it was as if someone had turned on a hose.  It was moody, atmospheric and ruggedly beautiful.  I was glad I was inside a train – not so glad that I would be spending the next week walking in it and sleeping in a tent!

The Swastika stone replica

The Swastika stone replica

I had been looking forward to a sneak preview of the walk such as Ingleborough and Dent Dale, but it wasn’t to be.  The cloud base was barely 100m above the ground blotting out any views of the surrounding hills.  However, it was still a journey of contrasts.  One moment travelling through soft pastoral fields; a cutting, then out onto rough, wild, moody and spectacular moorland.

One change at Settle later, I finally arrive at Saltaire, a mill town which has much in common with the world heritage site at New Lanark, a place that is close to home.

The name of the town and the founder sound like they are straight out of a Dickens novel, Titus Salt moving his business there in 1850, away from the appalling conditions in Bradford.

Fortunately the rain had subsided and it was dry and mild as I made my way up the hill to the hotel for the night, where without much ado, I piled into bed to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Canal Lock

Canal Lock

Saltaire to Addingham Moorside

The hotel furnished me with a good breakfast setting me up for the day nicely.  It wasn’t an early start, but I found myself joining the steady flow of kids making their way to school down past the very pretty sandstone buildings that make up the main street of Saltaire Village.  I stopped in at a sandwich shop to buy up lunch, the lass behind the counter didn’t seem particularly pleased with the extra custom – I wish now that I had carried on down the hill to the slightly busier and friendlier looking sandwich shop!

The path has a very gentle start, following the serene Leeds and Liverpool Canal for a short distance to a lock which provided a distraction for a few minutes as a very pretty narrow boat emerged from it.  It was now time to turn north,  crossing the River Aire and passing through a small housing estate heading towards Ilkley Moor.  The first climb of the walk, (out of the small valley  that Saltaire nestles in), passes through some quite lovely ancient woodland.

Climbing through very pretty woodland

Climbing through very pretty woodland

This had an airy almost otherworldly feel, the light having a pleasant greenish tinge to it, probably due to the trees not yet being in full leaf.  Above the path are impressive blocks of sandstone that have weathered into some fascinating and attractive shapes.  It’s a joy to walk through, and it was almost disappointing to emerge at the road at the top of the hill, even with the views back towards Saltaire.  It was busy up here with runners and dog walkers, obviously a popular local spot despite the rather dreary morning.

The darkening sky was concerning, but a delightful beck surrounded by woodland swathed in bluebells was a very pleasant distraction.  Gentle rain started to fall as I crossed a equestrian training area, complete with a warning to beware of galloping horses.  The route had been rising steadily and the first real change in character was evident on reaching the Otley Road, its rather precarious crossing and panoramic views.

Lovely Bluebell Woods

Lovely Bluebell Woods

The steady climb continued up the ancient packhorse route over the Bleak (especially on a grey dreich day), Bingley Moor.  There was plenty of birdlife around though, Lapwing (very upset by my appearance), Grouse, Curlew (with its evocative call) and even (I’m pretty certain it was) a Red Kite!

The rain was on and off now and it was a bit of a boring trudge past an old waymark stone , although there were good views to the back, up to the diminutive stone circle called the twelve apostles which apparently dates from the Bronze Age.  This was the high point of the day and the views to the North and East were superb.  On another day I would have lingered.

The (diminutive) Twelve Apostles

The (diminutive) Twelve Apostles

This is obviously a very popular walking area, and the route here has a rare waymarker.  The path has been recently stone pitched with large flagstones in an attempt to reduce the impact of thousands of feet, but it does make the going hard underfoot, especially when walking with a heavy pack.

I met a couple here and had a chat about long distance paths.  They were out on a training walk for the Pennine Way later this year.  Good luck to them!

Dales High Way Waymark looking North

Dales High Way Waymark looking North

Soon the character of the walk changed again, less bleak and a little softer, as Ilkley came into view and the sky was beginning to look a little brighter.  The cafe, easily identifiable from a distance, had no flag flying but the large group of people milling around outside gave me hope that it might be open.

Overlooking Ilkley

Overlooking Ilkley

The large group of people turned out to be a school group of young kids having their lunch on the picnic benches at the cafe.  Unfortunately it was shut, so I picked a comfortable spot on the ground, dispensed with the back pack and scoffed my sarnies.

Suitably refreshed, I set off onto towards Addingham High Moor along another well used and well maintained path.  It was easy, gentle and very pleasant walking here, high above Ilkley and once again steadily rising.  The sun had come out too, and the day had suddenly warmed considerably.  Eventually this turned into a lovely ridge walk, passing the swastika stone, a prehistoric rock carving, amongst others on the moor.  It more resembled an amoeba than a swastika!

The cafe was shut

The cafe was shut

The views were superb, and I spent some time lingering on a giant boulder, tracing the route of the Dales Way below (which I walked over 4 years ago now) from Ilkley to Bolton Priory, the ruins of which were just visible in the distance the other side of Addingham.

Soon I parted company with the main route which turned sharply north to descend into Addingham.  I kept along to the end of the ridge, passing a handsome Red Grouse who sportingly stayed still enough for me to take a few photos, and a memorial to the crew of a second world war RAF bomber crew that crashed on a training mission.

The view North towards Bolton Priory

The view North towards Bolton Priory

It wasn’t long before my destination came into view, the campsite for the night.  The sunglasses even had to be used for the last mile or so as the sun came out again!  I made it to the campsite, pitched and relaxed for a while, intending to sit outside and cook some food.  However, a very large black cloud was heading in my general direction, and 20 minutes or so after the tent was up, the heavens opened.

Nearing the end of the ridge

Nearing the end of the ridge

Needless to say I spent the rest of the evening in the tent, reading and generally staying dry – there wasn’t much else to do!

Day Rating 9/10

Red Grouse

Red Grouse

A cracking day with lots of interest – a canal walk, lovely woodland, bleak moorland, stone circles, prehistoric carvings – not to mention some pretty decent views.  Really enjoyable stuff, although Bingley Moor to the stone circle was a bit of a bleak and boring slog.  Just a pity the cafe was shut for lunch.  The ridge walk for the second half of the day was the highlight.  As first days go, it’s a good’un.

Descending to the campsite at Addingham Moorside

Descending to the campsite at Addingham Moorside

 

 

 

 

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Firstly

A Happy New Year to all my visitors, wherever you hail from!

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The choice of walk this year was a local one – a figure of eight from the small village of Twechar taking in a couple of Roman Forts and the Forth & Clyde Canal.

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There was a blue sky and a bitter wind as we set off to Barhill Fort, a hugely important relic of the Antonine Wall and one of the best preserved sections.

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Close by is an Iron Age Fort giving some stunning views across the Kelvin Valley.  We get a nice aerial display from a buzzard enjoying the strong breeze.

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We followed the line of the wall, the defensive ditch remarkably well preserved, heading towards the large bar and restraunt at Auchinstarry.

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The basin was busy with walkers and boats, although the pub was unfortunately closed.

From there we followed the South side of the Canal bank, heading along a network of paths towards Croy.

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The path was steadily rising and eventually burst out the trees with extensive views east.

Here we turned back towards Twechar, heading up and over Croy Hill, once again following the line of the Antonine Wall and the remarkably well preserved ditch.  It is easy to forget that you are walking in between the urban sprawl of central Scotland, and this section is even slightly reminiscent of Hadrians Wall.

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We passed Auchinstarry again (the pub was still shut) and completed the walk by following the canal back to Twechar and the car.

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Happy New Year all!

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