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Day 9

Early morning at Ravenstonedale ( it was brass monkeys)

Early morning at Ravenstonedale ( it was brass monkeys)

 

Sedburgh to Appleby (12 miles)

I’d had a fine meal and couple of pints at the pub the previous evening before making my rather stiff and slow way back to the tent.  The skies had cleared into a quite lovely evening and I sat and read for a while with the porch of the tent open.

Sunrise

Sunrise

It was cold overnight and I awoke early with a sore back and a deep chill that, even with a shirt and a fleece on in the sleeping bag, seemed to have crept right through me.  It was around 5.30 a.m. and, taking a look outside the tent I was greeted with a magnificent dawn view.  The sun was hiding behind the hills in the east and a full moon was riding low in the sky to the south.  In retrospect, it wasn’t just cold, it was bloody freezing.  I’m truly amazed there wasn’t a frost on the ground it was that cold and for once I was glad it was a bit of a walk to the ablutions – it gave me the chance to warm up.

The view from the road, just outside Newbiggin-on-Lune

The view from the road, just outside Newbiggin-on-Lune

I slowly packed things up while getting the stove on the boil for breakfast, and more importantly, something hot to drink.  I was also hoping that in the meantime the sun would spread its light onto the tent to dry it off a little, the condensation on it was incredible.

Unfortunately, the sun lingered behind the hills and the campsite was still in shadow as I struck the tent, wanting to be on my way.  So it was, I eventually hefted the rucksack onto my back (groaning bitterly) and set off to retrace my steps to Newbiggin-on-Lune.  It felt heavy, it was heavy and boy, I was glad this was to be the last days walking!

Looking back at the Howgills

Looking back at the Howgills

This part of the walk was shared with the coast-to-coast for a few miles.  I reached the Great Asby road, crossed a cattle grid and began to enjoy the walking.  The sun had finally appeared in full and was warming things up nicely.  Although on paper this was a road walk, the road itself was unfenced with a huge grassy area that could be walked on, a boon for my rather sore feet.  There were fine views here of the Howgills, their now cloudless tops leaving me muttering to myself about weather forecasts etc.  The difference a day makes!

Climbing Great Kinmond

Climbing Great Kinmond

A rare waymarker post marked the point at which the Dales Highway left the road behind, leading onto a nice wide grassy path.  It was easy walking with fine views, not only of the Howgills, but of the Lake District as well, its hills gently gathering clouds in the west and for a while I walked with a couple of other Dales Highway walkers who had caught up with me.

The view from Great Kinmond

The view from Great Kinmond

At Sunbiggin Tarn the path turned north, away from the Coast to Coast and started to rise towards the final high point, Great Kinmond, and its rather impressive outcrop of Limestone Pavement.  A short road walk was followed by a lovely grassy track which meandered through rather stunted and wind blown looking hawthorn.  I paused here a while, enjoying the soft grass and the superb views back towards the Howgills.

One of the orchids in the pavement

One of the orchids in the pavement

As I sat enjoying the view a couple of walkers appeared from the west and passed by me, heading up towards Great Kinmond.  Noticing their C2C guidebook I asked if they were walking it, and receiving an answer in the affirmative politely suggested that they might want to go a different way!  I’m guessing that they saw the other walkers ahead and, as all good sheep do, followed them.

Looking towards Great Asby

Looking towards Great Asby

Great Kinmond was a fantastic spot.  I love the look of the Limestone Pavement, there is something inherently pretty about it, the stone almost has a luminous quality to it.  Also fascinating is the plant life that lives in all the fissures, and up here there was a plethora of orchids, always nice to see.  The view wasn’t bad either – wide, almost a 360 degree panorama.

Wild flowers in grass pasture

Wild flowers in grass pasture

So began the gentle descent into Great Asby, the hills to the north providing a wonderful backdrop.  The easy walking was regularly interrupted by gates and the horrible stone pinch stiles that are such a feature of this part of the country – it would be fair to say I was knackered at this point and each one became a major obstacle.  I passed through the cluttered farm at Clockeld (complete with very free range chickens) and into a lovely lane to the village.  Although this was my first visit, it really shouldn’t have been.  Due to a slight navigational error, I completely bypassed the village while walking the West Morland Way last year – it was supposed to pass right through the centre!

"Roman Bridge" - Great Asby

“Roman Bridge” – Great Asby

Unfortunately the pub was shut, dashing my hopes and dreams somewhat!  There was, however, a nice comfy large bus shelter which had lovely wide benches in which I stopped for lunch.  It also had the added advantage of getting me out the sun for a while, which for the first time on the walk had really been splitting the skies.

A serene Skelwith Force

A serene Rutter Force

This was the last stretch now with a road walk to Howe Slacks where I would revisit the Westmorland Way.  I was almost there when I turned to see a herd of young bulls running up the road, followed by a tractor.  I stopped on the verge to let them past (there’s always one that wants to have a nosey) then carried on up the road.  I reached my turning, a lane leading down to a small farm, only to find the herd corralled into a sort of hard standing area at the head of the lane.  That was fine, no problem.  I turned into the lane and started to walk down it.  I was halfway down when I noticed they had started to follow me.  Again, not really a problem, they are usually just nosey beasts.  I passed through a gate in the lane, next to a field of what looked like young heifers.  Lets just say I was glad to be in the lane and not in the field – they went ballistic (I’m guessing after spotting the bulls) – running -no – charging around fairly aggressively and stampeding up the fence line where I was walking.  I’ve never seen cattle act like that before, and it is the first time I have been truly concerned being close to them.

The view over Appleby

The view over Appleby

Needless to say, I quickly left them behind, entering some rich pasture land which was a lot drier than my previous visit.  I also harboured some hope of spotting a red squirrel (as I had on the Westmorland Way), but I had no such luck.  Rutter Force was running slightly more sedately than my previous visit and was looking very photogenic in the afternoon sun.

Appleby

Appleby

The route stayed with Hoff Beck, parting with the Westmorland Way, a delightful river walk, although a field with cattle proved to be a rather rough and energy sapping experience.  It was with some relief then, that I emerged in Hoff to find the pub open.  No more than 3 or 4 km from the finish it proved to be a welcome break which was much needed.  It has only recently re-opened (a few days before) after a long while closed – the landlord and his wife are both walkers too and I spent a pleasant hour or so nattering.  I hope it is a success!

There were still a couple of challenges to complete, a steep climb up the river bank to avoid a collapsed boardwalk and a nice nippie sweetie just to finish me off.  The brow of the hill did give a great view of Appleby though.  From there it was a walk down a very muddy lane to emerge into a housing estate close to the town centre.

The way home

The way home

I entered Appleby the same way I had left on the Westmorland Way, this time though it wasn’t raining!  All that was left to do was to enter the tourist information office and claim my certificate and sign the guest book!

Day Rating 10/10

Superb days walking, helped by the weather of course.  Fine views throughout, and it was nice to finish with a very pleasant river walk.  Great Kinmond was a great final little hill, despite its diminutive stature it was a fantastic place to survey the surrounding area.  Great day and a great trail.  I spent the night at the Midland Hotel, right next to the station.  It meant a steep climb out the town, but also meant I only had a matter of metres to go to get to the platform and my train home the next morning.

P1030530

Trail Rating 80/90 (89%) (86/90 (96%) if the weather over the Howgills had been fine!)

Superb trail, and despite a few days of pretty adverse weather it still scores highly, even with my petty 4/10 near the end!  Nice and varied, with plenty of big views, but for me the highlight was really Malham to Ribblehead and the limestone landscape.  Dentdale is a favourite of mine as well and I really felt that the trail just got better and better as I plodded north.  It coincides with no less than 9 other trails over its length as well ((In no particular order) Dales Link, Centenery Walk, Dales Way, Pennine Journey, Pennine Way, Pennine Bridleway, Westmorland Way, Coast to Coast and Ribble Way (some of the names may not be exactly correct!), and despite this the trail seemed fairly quiet.  One I would highly recommend, and definitely do again (in better weather!)

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Day 8

 

Sedburgh to Ravenstonedale (12 miles)

It had been a comfortable night in the bunkhouse, if a little strange, rattling around such a large place by myself.  As usual I was up relatively early and spent a bit of time pottering around and making breakfast in the fantastic kitchen.

The forecast for the day had been superb – sun all the way apparently.  On looking outside it was obvious that something wasn’t quite right.  There was low cloud clinging doggedly to the slopes just above the bunkhouse, thick and uncompromising.  I had a decision to make – take the lower poor weather route, or cross the Howgills on the official route hoping that the cloud would burn off.

The view over Sedbergh

The view over Sedbergh

The forecast was good – I took a chance and decided on the Howgills.

It was a steep, steep climb immediately from the bunkhouse which was almost right on the path and there were some good views over Sedbergh just before I passed through a gate onto the open hillside.  The path I was following ran alongside Settlebeck Gill and I followed this steeply up the hill and into the mist.  I have to admit to extreme laziness in terms of navigation, although I had map and compass with me the GPS made things nice and easy (I say that – I still managed to wander off route!) following what otherwise would have been an awkward route up the hill.

Horses in the mist

Horses in the mist

It was a long old slog, and after what seemed like an age, I finally reached the clear bridleway which was the main path across the hills.  At this point a few shapes loomed out of the mist, a few of the horses that live on the hills.

Visibility was dreadful – it was like walking through a TV set that had been disconnected from its aerial.  I’m sure the views were great.  I’m sure that I would have stood a while and admired the sublime views from the ridge up to the Calf.  I’m sure that the ridge walk over West Fell would have been airy and spectacular – had the weather forecast been anything close to correct.

The trig on the Calf

The trig on the Calf

There’s not much else to say about the walk over the tops other than I eventually made the trig point on the Calf with no sign of the cloud lifting.  Rather than take the ridge route over West Fell (there was no point) I continued along the bridleway which dropped into Bowderdale.  This was nothing short of purgatory, a nasty stoney path that meant I could never really place my feet flat on the ground.  I was cold, wet and thoroughly hacked off with the Met Office and the fact that I had blatantly chosen the wrong option for the day.  All in all it was rather dispiriting.

It seemed like the Bowderdale path went on for ever, but eventually it started rising again to meet up with the ridge coming down from West Fell.  It was a relief to be out on open ground again, and I took a good long break where the paths met.

The low route through Bowderdale

The low route through Bowderdale

The cloud seemed to be a lot higher on this side of the hills and as I looked back at them after passing through the hamlet of Wath the forecast sun began to appear.  It was suddenly muggy and warm, forcing me to take off the waterproof jacket and fleece that I had needed to put on well before the summit of the Calf.

As I walked along the road to Newbiggin-on-Lune the sun came out with a vengeance and the cloud all but lifted from the Howgills, leaving them swathed in sunshine.

The cloud lifting from the Howgills (now I'm on the other side!)

The cloud lifting from the Howgills (now I’m on the other side!)

My accommodation for the night was the lovely campsite on the outskirts of Ravenstondale where I pitch up, then take a wander down to the local pub

Day Rating 4/10

Ok so it’s a low rating, all down to the mist on the Howgills.  It turned into a damp, cold and miserable tramp, even if the sun did come out towards the end of the day.  In terms of anticipation, this was probably one of the most anti-climactical days I have ever had.  The rating is purely down to my experience on the day.

The sun came out near the end of the day

The sun came out near the end of the day

I am however going to give it a provisional 10/10 for the overall trail rating (it’s my blog and I can do what I like) as I’m sure that in any other weather conditions it would have been one of the best days on the Dales Highway.  In fact, I had been assured by other walkers that the Howgills were not to be missed!

However, the day was just a slog and the low level route off was not a pleasant hike.  That could quite easily be down to the weather conditions as well though.  The sun did eventually make an appearance at the end of the day, and it was galling to walk along the road to Newbiggin-on-Lune and see the hills with completely clear tops.  The campsite was lovely though, with a fantastic aspect and very quiet  with only a couple of other tents on the other side of the field.

Old Limekiln near Ravenstonedale

Old Limekiln near Ravenstonedale

 

 

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Day 7

 

Dent to Sedburgh (7.5 miles)

The morning view from the tent

The morning view from the tent

I awoke to a quite stunning morning in Dent, clear blue sky and the sun shining.  There was a heavy dew though and a bite to the air.  It must have been clear overnight as it had been a little cold at times.  Despite the sun the cold air meant that the tent was taking its time to dry out.  It was still soaking as I put it away in its stuff sack!

Ready to go

Ready to go

The owner at Conder Farm is quite willing to do breakfast for the odd camper.  He had a picnic bench outside his front door and it was a morning for an al fresco breakfast.  Wonderful.

After a brief diversion to get some lunch from the village shop (bumping into a couple of Dales Way walkers and the 4 friends from yesterday) I made my way through Dent and out the far side to pick up the Dales Way again.  It could only be described as stunning.  A fresh morning river walk in the sun.  It was over all too soon as I reached Barth Bridge with its precarious steps and “door” stile.

Leaving Dent

Leaving Dent

Here I managed to make a wrong turn, heading up the wrong lane (one too early), no doubt being distracted by the lovely display of wild flowers along the verge.   Looking at the map I was heading in the wrong direction, but rather than drop downhill there were a few options that would get me back on the right track.  It was at this point that the batteries on the GPS decided to expire, meaning that I had to stop, remove the backpack and huddle around inside for some new ones.

The Dales Way

The Dales Way

As I sat replacing the batteries, a ewe and her lambs came running up, obviously mooching for food and not in the slightest bit concerned with my presence.  In fact once I set off, the followed me to the edge of the field.

As impromptu diversions go, this wasn’t a bad one, and in fact I was furnished with some fabulous views of Dentdale from what looked like little used tracks.  The only downside was I had a number of old ladder stiles to negotiate before I got back on route.

The reason I went the wrong way

The reason I went the wrong way

Back on the official route I followed the narrow road up to the remote Lunds Farm, to be greeted by a rather enthusiastic Jack Russel.  From there, a rather curious enclosed bridleway took the path onto the open hillside.  It was wet and muddy in places, sometimes so narrow that a large quad bike would struggle to pass through and in other places it was as wide as a good sized road.  Eventually one wall ended, although I was still climbing, and I passed the group of four women who were lounging on the grass enjoying the sun (who can blame them?).   I stopped and chatted a while, explaining that I had managed to go the wrong way, much to their amusement!

Panorama from the diversion

Panorama from the diversion

From there it wasn’t far to the top of the hill, and at the brow the Howgills appeared, glorious in the sun with blue sky and just a few wispy clouds overhead.

Here disaster struck.  My SD card for the camera was full.  “No worries”, I thought, “I have a spare”.  The spare had a capacity of around 12MB and had space for just 1 photo.  Bugger.

Despite the warm day it was a wet and soggy descent into Sedbergh alongside Holebeck Gill, bog cotton and sphagnum moss weren’t in short supply.  There were still fine views of the Howgills and the town across Garsdale, and I lingered a while to enjoy them.  The forecast for the next day was superb and I was looking forward to the traverse of the Howgills – I was also contemplating the fact that I needed to find a new SD card for the camera as a matter of urgency.

Back on track

Back on track

The track turned into a lane and I was soon passing between farms and typical country houses before reaching the busy road into Sedbergh.  This, I would suggest, isn’t the best route into the town, and made for a nasty little section to walk along a road which had no pavements.

I passed the caravan site as my destination was a bunkhouse in town, and headed for the town centre.  I spent a while wandering about trying to find a shop which might just sell SD cards, with very little success.  Eventually I asked a local, and as a last resort they suggested I try a small office supply place up a back alley.  It was the last place I looked, and to be honest I hadn’t got much hope.  Amazingly they had one – 2GB as well, which should be more than enough for any walking trips in the future.

Last look at Dentdale

Last look at Dentdale

Finishing my quest I made straight for the nearest pub for a couple of light refreshments before heading up the hill to the bunkhouse.

The Howgills Bunkbarn sits just above the town on the lower slopes of the Howgills (as the name suggests).  As bunk barns go, it is a little expensive, but it is in fact worth every penny.  In stark contrast to the Station Inn, this ranks as one of the best places I have stayed in – ever.  I also had the place to myself!

I dumped my gear and walked back down into the town to get some food, and for some breakfast supplies.  I bumped into the group of 4 women who invited me for a drink, and I spent a very convivial evening at the Dalesman before heading back up to the bunkhouse.

Day Rating 10/10

The Howgills (my last photo)

The Howgills (my last photo)

 

Once again another stunning (if short) day.  Dentdale was just fantastic in, and the diversion quite possibly was an improvement on the original route, even if it did add an extra mile or so onto the day.  The Howgills looked really enticing as well and I was looking forward to a spectacular day tomorrow.  Once again a fabulous days walking.

 

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Day 6

Ribblehead viaduct an the Station Inn

Ribblehead viaduct an the Station Inn

 

Ribblehead to Dent (7.5 miles)

Despite the quality of the accommodation I slept pretty well overnight, and because it was warm, managed to get a number of items dry.  Also, despite the problems with breakfast (and my subsequent very late departure), it was rather good.  So, at 10am, I managed to leave Ribblehead – luckily I was only going the short hop to Dent and Conder Farm Campsite, a favourite stop over of mine from the Dales Way.

Looking back at Ingleborough

Looking back at Ingleborough

As I left it was overcast, threatening rain and muggy.  The enforced late start meant there were a large number of walkers out, including four ladies who were also walking the Dales High Way on a similar schedule to myself.

The location of the inn meant that I passed almost directly underneath the viaduct, a really impressive view point.  I even manage  to catch a train passing over it.  It’s not long before I’m back on the official route, passing the remote signal box  at Bleamoor.  There was a steady stream of trains every few minutes, surprising me with how busy the line actually was.

The signal box

The signal box

The path here is part of the three peaks route to Whernside and was well maintained – it needed to be.  Without the work the path here would be a quagmire.  The railway was crossed via an extremely impressive aqueduct which also carried Force Gill.  Then began a long steady climb along a very stoney path which was hard on the feet.  There were plenty of rest stops, and I spent a few enjoyable moments looking back towards Ingleborough, dominating the view behind Ribblehead.  The line of the railway which had entered a tunnel was visible by the line of ventilation shafts which littered the slopes of the adjacent hill.   Despite the cloud cover, there was very little wind and a warm humidity which hadn’t been present during the last few days.

Railway and Ingleborough

Railway and Ingleborough

At the brow of the hill, the view opened up to the east, giving a first glimpse of the very top of Dentdale and the Arten Gill Viaduct.  This brought back some good memories of the Dales Way, which passes almost directly underneath it.  The path here had changed into a lovely lush grassy track.  I paused for a while to rest close to some grouse butts, an enjoyed the stillness of the day.  It wasn’t silent though, the constant burble of skylarks, another call which I could only describe as sounding like a squeaky hinge (possibly a Bull Finch having listened to the RSPB website) and the occasional grunt from a Grouse all disturbing the stillness of the day.

Looking into the top of Dentdale

Looking into the top of Dentdale

Dent Station was also visible from here, and it only demonstrated how far it actually was from the village it was allegedly serving. Would a better name not be Dentdale?

Wolds End

Boot of the Wold 

After an enjoyable rest, just watching the world go by I continued on to the Boot of the Wold, a series of gates entering a walled lane which heralded the descent towards Dent.  The view opened up here and I was treated to an exquisite view over Dent and the lower part of the Dale.  The cloud had broken up as well, and at times the sun was breaking through dappling the landscape below with a mixture of light and shadow.  The RAF seemed to be out enjoying the reasonable weather also, a number of jets flying up Dentdale at my eye level, and in between, a number of the propeller training aircraft appeared as well.

First view over Dent

First view over Dent

While the views were fantastic, the path wasn’t.  The soft grassy track was left behind and was instead replaced with a hard, rocky and uneven surface which began to take a toll on my feet.  It was with some relief that Deepdale appeared to my left heralding the final push to the bottom of the hill.

Panorama of Dentdale and Deepdale

Panorama of Dentdale and Deepdale

The track finished on a road at Whernside Manor and it was with some interest that I noticed the way mark for Wainwright’s Pennine Journey – a book of his which is a must read for any walker, detailing his walking holiday immediately before the outbreak of World War 2.

Finally, I met up with the Dales Way to complete the last mile or so into Dent across lush pastureland.  The whole of Dentdale had been one of my favourite sections of the Dales Way, and Dent especially so.  I was making for the stunning little campsite at Conder Farm, which, despite its rather rustic facilities is still one of my favourite campsites.

Back on the Dales Way

Back on the Dales Way

However, before I could reach Dent there was the small matter of a thunderstorm to negotiate.  As I had approached the village the sky had been getting darker and a large swathe of heavy rain was falling in the distance.  The wind had risen considerably since reaching the road at Whernside Manor, but the worst of it looked as if it would pass in front of me, the wind blowing it across my path rather than towards me.  I took a chance an pressed on, hoping to get to Dent (and the pub) before the heavens opened.  I was literally 200m away, when the rain came down in floods.  Rather than take a soaking I took refuge under a reasonably sheltered hawthorne hedge.

Lightning appeared just after this photo. I got very wet soon after

Lightning appeared just after this photo. I got very wet soon after

While I was reluctant to put the waterproofs on, common sense won the day and I relented, completing the journey to Dent.  Rather than head for the campsite, I walked straight to the pub to dry out and await the passing of the rain.  A couple of pints later the sun had appeared with the cloud all but disappearing leaving the village swathed in sunshine.

After the storm in Dent

After the storm in Dent

Walking back to the campsite I pitched the tent and used the opportunity to dry a few things out.

Day Rating 10/10

Another quite fabulous, if short day.  Once again, there was a real change in the character of the walk – the rather bleak and imposing Ribblehead to the softer and gentler feeling Dentdale.  Dent is one of my favourite places, it really is somewhere I should spend a bit of time walking (I’m sure I said that in the Dales Way blog again).  The village itself was lovely in the evening sun, and the campsite almost perfect.  A quite lovely days walking.

Lovely evening in the village

Lovely evening in the village

 

 

 

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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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The Westmorland Way 7

By the River Kent in Kendal

By the River Kent in Kendal

Kendal to Arnside (17 miles) 

This was our longest day on the Westmorland Way, more by necessity than anything else.  Most of the day was to be flat, as for much of it we would be walking along the old Lancaster Canal.

Leaving the town behind

Leaving the town behind

It was a later start than we intended, meaning that we would be pushed for light towards the end of the day.  We wandered down to the River Kent, and despite the cold, grey morning (at least it was dry), it was a pleasant enough walk out of the town.  Just before we turned down a lane past a shoe factory, the way briefly touched  the canal, or certainly what was the canal.  It more resembled a railway track bed than an old waterway as this section had been in filled.  More about the canal later…

Looking back towards Kendal

Looking back towards Kendal

The path dropped back down to the River Kent and, once again, we were treated to a delightful riverside walk.  Even on a gloomy morning this was a pleasure to walk, leaving me dreaming of what it would be like on a balmy summers day.  The only annoyance came where the path crossed a minor road.  The gate to the fishermen’s carpark was locked.  The only access was a tiny gap between the gate and an overhanging tree, making progress with a large backpack impossible.  In the end, rather than taking the pack off and throwing it over, it was quicker just to climb the gate.

Sedgwick House

Sedgwick House

Eventually we emerged at a bridge just below the impressive Sedgewick House, where our route left the river.  There was a little climbing here, up towards the West Coast Main Line.  First we crossed the canal by way of a completely redundant bridge, a rather odd and sad sight over the in filled canal.  Soon there were fine views north, back over Kendal, complete with patches of blue sky, rainbow, and in the near distance, rain.

Climbing to cross the dry canal

Climbing to cross the dry canal

We were lucky though as the wet stuff passed us by, and gradually the sun was attempting to make an appearance at the crossing of the railway (by way of a new footbridge).

A few fields later we were back with the canal, this time for quite a distance down to Greystone, around 7 or 8 km away.  The canal here had not been filled in, and once again this was really enjoyable walking – not to mention that it was a complete contrast to anything else on the route.  We could have been forgiven for thinking that this would have been easier going, but the grassy towpath was wet, muddy and slick making things surprisingly tiring.  It was with great delight then, that a pub appeared at Crooklands, the temptation too strong to miss.

At the top - looking towards Kendal

At the top – looking towards Kendal

The rain came down for a while as we lingered a little too long in the pub before setting off again.   From here the act of 1960’s vandalism becomes all too obvious.  Not only had the northern reaches of the canal been filled in from Kendal, but here the canal had been blocked off no less than three times.  Twice by the M6 and once by the A65.  Really, would it have cost that much more to install tunnels instead of culverts?  Apparently there were strenuous objections at the time, but as with many developments from that era, the projects were pressed ahead regardless.  It is a real pity as this section of canal was quite simply one of the prettiest.  As an aside, the great hulk that is Farleton Knott was looming over us – a familiar sight and shape to anyone who has regularly travelled on the M6.

First sight of the canal - this time with water in it

First sight of the canal – this time with water in it

The M6 was crossed for the last time, by way of a road bridge diversion and soon we were in Greystone.  It was here we left the canal, returning to field walking.  The railway was recrossed, and after a muddy scramble across a ploughed field, we reached the A6 which took us into the lovely little village of Beetham (with a very inviting pub).

Farleton Knott from the canal

Farleton Knott from the canal

I must admit to giving the pub a longing look as we passed, but time was against us so it was a case of pressing on regardless.  The generally flat walk of the day gave way to a stiff climb into some quite outstanding woodland (obviously a local shoot, with many “Keep Out, Private Property” signs and Pheasant feeders around) as we worked our way to the Fairy Steps, a narrow cleft in Limestone Cliffs.  The views were outstanding from here, Arnside Knott and the town itself visible just a few km away.  The cleft itself, to quote the guidebook, is something of a “fat man’s agony”.

The Lancaster Canal

The Lancaster Canal

It’s tight.  Having a full pack on made it interesting (nothing to do with the size of my gut…honest) and eventually I spewed forth from the bottom and settled down for the entertainment as my father tried to negotiate it!  This was a special section of the walk and a marvellous spot on the route.

Church in Beetham

Church in Beetham

A couple of horrifically muddy fields later, we crossed underneath the railway taking the line into Arnside and began our ascent up the Knott.  Unfortunately the light was fading fast, and we only managed to get lost in the woodland on the slopes, missing the path to the top.

Approaching the Fairy Steps

Approaching the Fairy Steps

With head torches on we decided just to make for the hostel and call it a day, rather than blunder about on the Knott in the dark.

It wasn’t long before we reached the hostel, and settled in for the night.

The view from the Fairy Steps

The view from the Fairy Steps

Day Rating 9/10

A really fine, and different days walk, with plenty of variety and interest.  The Fairy Steps was a special place, and we were lucky to get there in good weather as the sun began to set.  It was a popular place with quite a few families up there enjoying it.  A nice way to end what had been a top quality trail.

Breathe in!

Breathe in!

We finished the trail the next morning, walking down to the pier on the waterfront on the way to the station.  It was safe to say it was freezing, a light fog out over the water with the viaduct carrying the railway over the bay shrouded in fog.

P1020982

Overall Rating 59/70 (84%)

An outstanding trail that just about has it all.  River walking, moorland, mountainous sections, waterfalls, lakes and canals just to mention a few items of interest.  It got off to a slow start, but just got better and better as the days went on.  After day one it could quite easily have taken the “easy” option of heading over the hills, but instead took a lovely low level route past Shap Abbey.  The section through the lakes was just sublime (but when has it been anything other than sublime!), with they day through to Windemere really being the highlight of the walk.  Scout Scar and the Fairly Steps were two special additions to the route.

The railway viaduct across the bay in the morning mist

The railway viaduct across the bay in the morning mist

This is up there as one of the best long distance routes I think I’ve walked (especially as it doesn’t officially exist!), and it probably deserves a little more recognition – possibly even being way marked (we did go wrong several times – not badly enough to get hopelessly lost, but occasionally way marking would really have helped).  We were lucky, for the most part with the weather, but there were some very wet moments, which does change your experience of a walk.  In fine weather this would probably have rated even higher!

Highly recommended as a LDP.

 

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