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Limestone Way 4

Monyash – Castleton 16 miles

 

It had been a wet night.  Terra Nova didn’t make the solar 2.2 for very long and the reason was a bit of a design flaw that would manifest itself in steady rain.  The tent remained dry (apart from some condensation), but periodically during the night I had to knock  off the pool of water that would gather in the dip on top of the tent.

As usual I woke early and lay in the sleeping bag listening to the steady rain pattering away on the tent enjoying being dry and warm, but not enjoying the thought getting up and donning my still rather soggy gear.  Eventually the pattering stopped and I used the break in showers to get the tent down and start the walk to Castleton around 7 am.

With the rain holding off, it was a short walk out of town to a green lane and it wasn’t long before I was walking through another, quite extensive campsite at Knotlow Farm, complete with Yurts.  Even with the poor weather the site was quite busy and there were one or two people up and about, most of them dog walkers.

I took a rest in a convenient bus shelter in Flagg before embarking on a long road walk as the rain started once more.  This was a trudge now in the sort of steady drizzle that insinuates its way into every nook and cranny, gradually soaking me to the skin.  The route was climbing steadily as well – on another day the views back over Flagg would have been an enjoyable distraction.

At the top of the hill the trail left the road and took to a track, the rain now horizontal.  This wasn’t enjoyable as the track became terribly stony, hammering my already sore feet.  The map showed a pub up ahead where the A6 was to be crossed, and the thought that there might be an outside possibility of it being open was the only thing keeping me going.  It wasn’t.

I was toiling badly, and with little or no shelter to be had I took a seat on the leeward side of the pub, which afforded at least a little protection from the rain.  It was downhill all the way now to Miller’s Dale on a sheltered track and as I reached the village in the Dale I was seriously contemplating just phoning a cab.  After passing under the old railway viaduct that now carries the Monsal Trail, I couldn’t even summon up the energy to walk the extra 100m or so to investigate whether or not the pub was open.

Resting a while on a convenient wall I contemplated what was coming up next.  The way down into the Dale had been relatively steep – looking at the map it was the same on the way out.  Initially the climb was steep up to a farm, then it was back to the stony track, climbing slowly all the time.  Here it looked like the cattle had digestive problems, judging by the generous number of pats along the path, creating large brown islands in the steady stream of water.

This was high above Monk’s Dale and despite the driving rain and low cloud the surrounding countryside was magnificent, even if I wasn’t really enjoying the experience.  A stone step stile in the wall offered an opportunity for a seat and a rest and it was with some surprise that a couple of older gentlemen came meandering down the path wearing no more than light jackets and shorts.  “Oh we always take a walk down to the pub this way”, was what they said when they stopped for a chat.  I’m guessing they were on the way down to Miller’s Dale, meaning that the pub had actually been open.  Bugger.  The rain was still pelting down and they didn’t seem unduly bothered by it.

Waving a goodbye, I stumbled on at a snails pace along the track emerging onto a road, which blessedly was heading downhill.  The road descended steeply into Monk’s Dale, crossing the bottom of the dale,  a rather serene spot where the steep slopes that enclose it opened out into a little oasis.  There was a very welcome bench here that beckoned, and I stopped to rest a while, guzzling a full pack of emergency jelly babies.

The way then passed into the initially narrow Peter Dale.  While the limestone here was spectacular, the going under foot was not.  Cattle had been grazed in the Dale, and where the limestone cliffs stood close together leaving just a narrow gap, the ground had been churned into a stony morass.  On another day this would have been delightful, but the mud, rain and the stone underfoot left me turning the air blue.

On top of all that the batteries on the GPS that I had just replaced decided that they had no charge in them, meaning another lengthy stop to replace them with new ones.

Still, the path improved as I made my way up the dale, the sides becoming less steep and the ground open.  It was actually fairly pleasant, for a while at least!

Moving on to Hay Dale I got the sense that I was on the last leg, even if at this stage it was all up hill.  This was a bit easier under foot, no cattle here but sheep, which thankfully tend to have less of an impact on the condition of the ground.  The rain had come back with a series of regular squally showers and it was head down as I rejoined a section of the Pennine Bridleway before emerging on a quiet road and a quick breather.  The path had gained some height here and there were dramatic views to be had back over the ground I had covered early in the day.  Next was a weary scamper over a busy A road and one final steep climb which eventually opened out onto the hills above Castleton.

The End!

There was the distinctive bulk of Mam Tor in the distance heralding the end of the walk.  The paths were well trod, and the going was easy, for a while at least.  To cap it all off, as if by magic, the cloud which had been dropping copious amounts of water on me at various points of the day parted to reveal blue sky and sun.  Suddenly I was too warm in the waterproofs as I began the descent into Castleton in glorious sunshine.

What a great finish it was too, through the spectacular Cave Dale.  Moments before I had been alone on the path, but as if by magic walkers appeared from all directions, as seems to be the way when approaching honey pot sites.

It was slow going, however, a mix of fatigue, sore feet, loose rock and the limestone (which had all the characteristics of sheet ice) all playing their part on the way down.  It was with some relief then, that I reached the entrance to the Dale and the signpost marking the end of the Limestone Way.

Day Rating 8/10

Despite the rotten weather on the final day this was a good days walk.  Interesting Limestone features mixed in with some dramatic scenery.  Would it have scored better in better weather?  Undoubtedly!  There was also the small matter of a reduction in pinch stiles for the day, which certainly helped things move along.  The finish was worth waiting for, and the sun coming out made for a nice bonus at the end of the day.  Needless to say, I made for the nearest pub where I lingered for a while before walking the last leg to the YHA.

Trail Rating 33/40 (82%)

A hugely enjoyable, and different trail with real marked changes in the landscape between Staffordshire and Derbyshire really adding to the sense of the journey.  Hedgerows giving way to walls, giving way to limestone Grassland and rolling hills changing to rugged limestone crags.  Interesting historical sections like the old turnpike just outside Thorpe.  The way marking in Staffordshire may well have been non-existent, meaning if you tackle the Limestone Way a map with the route on it is vital.  In some places it is so seldom walked there was very little evidence of a path on the ground!

There was a huge improvement once across the border into Derbyshire.  That’s not to say that the way marking was perfect, just that they cropped up on a fairly regular basis!

The scenery was great, the hospitality and pubs great and this is a little gem of a path – with one down side.  Pinch stiles.  They are everywhere on this route and essentially turn it in to a 50 or so mile obstacle course, especially with a large pack on.  It’s a minor gripe though, and one that is quickly forgiven (if not forgotten).

Having accidentally booked the train a day later than planned, I also had an extra day to explore Castleton, taking some time to visit the ruins of Peveril Castle, with its stunning views high above the town, and Peak Cavern, taking a tour down this fascinating cave.  All in all a very pleasant way to round off a walk!

 

 

 

 

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Limestone Way 3

Bonsall – Monyash 12 miles

Leaving Bonsall

Despite the extended party going on in the village, I had turned in for about 9pm, the steady beat of music lulling me to sleep in the tent.  I awoke early and packed the gear away, drying the dew laden tent as best as possible.  It was a fine morning, but the weather forecast was ominous predicting heavy rain after lunch.  Fortunately the pub had an outside loo which the landlady kindly left open for me, meaning I had access to the cludgie, and more importantly water as I used much of mine making breakfast.

Nice wide grassy track leaving Bonsall

It was 7 o’clock by the time I hit the road having a steep climb up some narrow village roads back to the path.  This section carried on through Bonsall to Matlock, 3 or 4km away and the original start/finish of the trail before it was extended to Rocester.  Passing through the upper town I was soon in fields and climbing steadily with fine views back to Matlock in the distance.

The paths here were wider and well worn and even at this time of day there were a few other walkers out and about in the distance.  The pinch stiles were coming thick and fast once again, many of which had an added booby trap in the form of a highly sprung gates.  These resembled a bear trap in the way they would snap shut while I was trying to negotiate them, switching between trying to trap me or propelling me forward like a rocket as they shut behind me.

One of many booby traps

The way marking here wasn’t great, but the path was obvious and widely used through to Winster through lush grassland.  Despite the booby traps this was again delightful.  There was plenty of cattle around too which varied between non-plussed and curious in demeanour, including a very large bull sat in the middle of the path – it didn’t bat an eye as I passed.

The route passed high above Winster, and having covered the 4km or so from Bonsall fairly rapidly I took a breather on one of a number of conveniently placed benches.  On another day this was a place to linger and admire the rolling Derbyshire Countryside.

Robin Hood’s Stride

There was a bit of a missed opportunity here as well, a pub high above the village with a campsite attached which was quite busy.  The extra milage added on to the previous day would have been a struggle though.

There were a few dog walkers out and about here and I even passed a large group of rather miserable (and overloaded) looking DoE award hopefuls. I always wonder how many of these kids are put off backpacking for life by the amount of gear they end up hauling around with them.

The fields were left behind for a while as the path took to a rough track then road, descending steeply towards the prominent limestone crags at Robin Hood’s Stride.  The crags themselves were impressive lumps, lying almost jumbled on the ground and looking like large pieces of rubble that a passing giant had dumped there. Disappointingly  there were quite a number of warning signs to discourage walkers, the usual “Private Keep Out” and “Keep to the Path” nonsense.    A rare excursion through some woodland followed, a murky walk through a conifer plantation.  Leaving the wood the path turned back on itself, and turning a corner, Youlgreave was spread out in front of me marking the approximate halfway point of the day.

The official route didn’t go into the town, instead following the bank of the River Bradford which had carved out its own, fairly deep, river valley below the town.  In all honesty, at this point I was knackered and so I made my way up the steep bank to find somewhere for lunch, only to find everywhere closed (it was still only 1130) for at least another hour.  This left me with a dilemma – do I wait for the pub to open and risk the weather (the weather front had been following closely most of the morning but had yet to catch me up), or just push on and hope that I could beat it to the campsite at the end of the day.

Being knackered, the first option won out – I figured I was going to be beaten by the weather anyway, so I would only be postponing a soaking by pressing on – I needed a good rest and lunch so waited for the pub to open, reading my book in the meantime.

The rain came on during lunch, but I had a good long break and rest, leaving around 1.30.  Waterproofed up to the hilt I walked back down to the river, the still water dimpled by the steady rain.  It was slippery, much of the path worn down to the underlying limestone (treacherous at the best of times) and as I started the steep climb away from the river I got a soaking from the lush vegetation surrounding the path.

Youlgreave

The gradient eased as the path took to a road for a while then continued through old estate land.  I was sweating with the effort too meaning that even with the waterproofs on I was soaked to the skin.  The rain was now horizontal and sweeping across the land in visible waves.

For a while the trail took to open country, blessedly with few stiles, and there were a few other hardy fools braving the weather, mostly in the distance.  The world was grey and hazy, the rain coming down in a thick mist that blanketed almost everything.  There was, however a bleak, brooding and almost majestic feel to the land as Lathkin Dale approached.

And the rain came down

This was one place I wasn’t looking forward to.  It looked steep on the map and it was.  The way down had slabs of limestone set into the ground as steps, but it was treacherous in the wet and a painstaking business getting to the bottom.  On a dry, warm day this would have been one of the highlights of the trail, and even in the rain it was spectacular.  The way out was a worse, with the steep steps like ice and I have to admit to being pretty drained once out the other side.

The steps down into Lathkin Dale

Passing through One Ash Farm there was an old bunk barn selling ice cream on an honesty basis in what used to be its kitchen/common room.  Glad of the chance for somewhere dry I sat for a while listening to the rain pattering relentlessly on the roof.  It was a bunk barn no longer, and being nosey I stuck my head through a door into what had been the sleeping accommodation.  The place was filled to the ceiling with junk, giving a clue as to why it had fallen (sadly) into disuse.

From here it was less than 3km to the campsite at Monyash and there was nothing else for it other than to get back out and brave the weather.  From here the trail left the open fields and took to an old lane, possibly an old packhorse route, squeezed in between two stone walls.  While this did mean an end to the pinch stiles for a while, the lane was thick with high vegetation which encroached on the narrow path.  By the time I reached Monyash my trousers and boots were sodden.

I’ve never been so glad to reach a campsite in my life.  The site was soggy, and my tent even soggier as I put it up, but once inside I warmed up nicely getting into some dry gear before donning my soggy boots again and walking to the pub.

 

Day Rating 8/10

Despite the weather a really good days walking.  The morning was superb (and dry), and despite the rain I did manage to appreciate the afternoon – in a pseudomasochistic kind of way!  Fortunately the pub was open, doing food (and good beer), although it was going to be rather wet overnight.

 

 

 

 

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Limestone Way 2

Ashbourne Heights to Bonsall- 13 miles

The first pinch stile of the day

Despite the campsite being busy and rather a lot of rampaging children, I had quite a comfortable night at the campsite.  As usual I woke early, but with a shorter day there was no time pressure so I was able to potter about and attempt to dry the tent that was saturated with condensation.  More importantly, there was a tea wagon on the site which was doing breakfasts.  It was a lovely morning to sit outside (if a bit chilly) so after packing the gear I mooched round for a bacon roll and a coffee and a natter with the owners who were also keen walkers.  It also saved me worrying about lunch as they did sandwiches as well!  (Thanks for the free shortbread too!)

Tissington

After leaving the site it was a short climb back up to the trail before walking back down the same field to a rather tight pinch stile, something of a feature of the walk.  Next was a road walk, climbing up to cross the A515 at a rather impressive gate that lead to the very attractive village of Tissington.  The Avenue was a typical approach to a country house and it was a lovely walk in the morning sun.  The village itself looked like a tourist honey pot, with loads of craft shops and tea rooms, not to mention the impressive Tissington Hall.  Had I passed through later in the day I would most likely have lingered a while.

Crossing the Tissington Trail

They way out the village passed through some lovely hay meadows, although the high vegetation which was  covered in dew, did give me a bit of a soaking.  A narrow quiet road turned into a farm track, crossing an old railway which now carries the Tissington Trail.  Suddenly the views opened out superbly over the narrow Bletch Brook.  It was a steep drop down to the water course which was little more than a trickle before climbing up to another attractive village, Parwich where I rested on a bench before negotiating some awkward stiles and climbing out the village.

There was a definite change in the landscape now, and after wandering through some more fields, the way started to climb past a sadly derelict church.  Gone were the soft meadows and hedgerows, replaced by rough grazing and stone walls and the extra height climbed gave a wonderful vista over the surrounding rolling countryside.  The ups and downs were more frequent now, along with the pinch stiles – I should really look where I’m going standing right in the middle of a cow pat while trying to negotiate a particularly narrow one.

Parwich

Here the path took to the road again, Pasture Lane, and here there were well preserved extensive rig and ditch systems in the surrounding fields – the population here must have been considerable when they were in use.

Leaving the Village

The road became a track, and suddenly there were walkers everywhere.  Up until this point I hadn’t seen a soul, but they were obviously making the most of the good weather, possibly from the nearby town of Brassington.  This was now some gorgeous limestone grassland, along with some rocky outcrops – the trail starting to live up to its name.

Derelict Church

The trail itself bypasses Brassington, by quite a way and I had a good rest watching the cyclists toil up the steep hill out of the village.  After walking down this road for a short distance the trail once again took to the fields, the 1:25000 map showing that I had no less than 10 boundary crossings over the next kilometre or so.  The worst point was crossing another old railway, this the Midshires Way and High Peak Trail and also an off road cycle route, with two horrible tight stiles in quick succession.  I was beginning to curse them, and my backpack – the two just don’t mix!

Next stop was Grangemill, nestled in a narrow valley and a number of old quarries.  I was very glad to see the pub, even if the outside did look a little worse for wear.  The inside was, well, like walking into the 1950’s – and that’s not in a good retro 1950’s way.

A couple of rehydrating lemonades later I made my way up the steep climb out the village, complete with evil stiles, to start the last leg to Bonsall.  There was a nice stile free road walk at the top, but again the map was showing the route crossing more field boundaries than I could shake my walking poles at!  The landscape was an interesting patchwork of small enclosures in various states of repair .  Despite the plethora of stiles it was lovely walking in Limestone Country, even throwing some more lovely grassland into the mix.  It was however slow going.

Crossing an old railway bed

Eventually the descent into Bonsall started down a lane before cutting through fields towards an old chapel.  Here to posts acted as a narrow gate to the road.  They both had barbed wire attached and as I passed through my sack caught on a barb, holding me fast.  All I’ll say is that that when I finally got free, the post was no longer in situ.

Evil double stile

My next mistake was an assumption I had made when planning the walk.  I had arranged camping at the Barley Mow and thought it was in the middle of the rather spread out village (going by the beer glass sign on the map).  I was wrong – cue a descent into the market square and the realisation that I had just walked to the wrong pub.  Mine was around 1km away, back up the hill.

Part of the 1000m hurdles

There was a festival on in the town with music going on in their small park along with various fancy dress and copious amounts of beer.  The Barley Mow was heaving, and the landlady gave me a warm welcome and a well earned pint.  It was an entertaining evening with morris dances, some rather drunk guys in drag and some fantastic live music!

Day Rating 9/10

Arriving in Bonsall

Superb day, spoiled a little by the crazy number of pinch stiles, all of which were a bloody nightmare to negotiate.  The scenery was outstanding, lots of wildflowers and wildlife made for some great walking.  The weather helped too – rounded off with a great night in the Barley Mow, although I was quite early to bed.

Bonsall

 

 

 

 

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Limestone Way 1

Uttoxeter to Ashbourne Heights – 15 miles

Uttoxeter Racecourse

This trail was a bit of a spur of the moment decision back in July.  I had a long weekend off scheduled at work and decided to add a few lieu days to walk the Limestone Way over 4 days.  I’d booked the trains via a website called “trainsplit” – it can provide some significant savings over normal fares by “splitting” journeys at intermediate stations.  Having booked the tickets I realised I had booked the return journey for the second day after finishing – I’d just have to spend an extra day in Castleton then!

Wild flowers on the water meadows

I’d booked into the campsite at Uttoxeter Racecourse which was right next to the railway station.  There was due to be a race meet the next morning which was a huge stroke of luck.  The access from the station was open meaning I only had a walk of a few hundred yards, rather than the mile or so walk to the main entrance.  Having a bit of time I took a wander into the town centre and sampled a few beers at the local Wetherspoons.

The Staffordshire Way

The trail itself starts in Rocester, 4 or 5 miles away and rather than get there by bus I had decided to walk via the Staffordshire Way.  The route passed the racecourse so it was a simple case of crossing the railway and setting off towards Rocester.

Passing through a rather grotty industrial estate next to the station carpark the path emerged onto rough farmland, once a large system of water meadows.  The farmland was teeming with wildflowers and wildlife making a nice distraction from the noisy A50 which I would have to use to cross the River Dove.  The road was busy as I took to the walkway next to it then dropped down to cross underneath the road via a rather low underpass.  Emerging from the underpass put me on top of the original Dove Bridge, a fairly narrow but attractive stone bridge.  Looking back at the dual carriageway and its constant stream of traffic, it was hard to imagine how it all once squeezed across this old bridge.  It took a moment for me to find the correct path, finally realising that the Staffordshire Way did, in fact, go through that overgrown patch of brambles and nettles.  The route would roughly follow the Dove all the way to Rocester and I was expecting a bit of a riverside walk.  Instead, after emerging from the nettles and crossing a stile the path started to rise, taking to the fields high above the river.

There was no clear path here and it was rapidly becoming obvious that this wasn’t a well travelled route.  This was confirmed at one point where the path passed along a track between woodland which, to say it was overgrown, was an understatement.  Thick nettles growing up to head height were intermingled with brambles, doing their level best to rip my skin and clothing.  Here I found a new use for the walking poles -they did a great job of bushwhacking!

Nearing Rocester

I was now meandering between field edges and woodland, the field verges thick with wild flowers.  Ahead a seemingly random billboard appeared, a large orange “Doveridge” emblazoned over it, and I have to admit to being quite puzzled as to why such a large sign was seemingly positioned in the middle of a field.  All became clear when I emerged onto a track that had been hidden by the thick undergrowth and passed underneath the sign, the entrance to a large range for clay pigeon shooting.

A very rare waymark

I walked through the range passing several young turkeys, amongst other fowl, that were apparently unconcerned by my presence.  The path turned to bridleway and was easy walking.    The approach to Rocester was marked, not so much by the huge property that I passed, but the rather garish bright yellow signs with JCB marked on them, Rocester being the international headquarters of the company.

Close to the start of the Limestone Way

Extensive playing fields heralded the impressive Abbitsholme school and from there it was a short riverside walk into Rocester and the start!

There was nothing to mark the start, other than the route on the map, so I made my way to the village centre to try and find something for breakfast.  There had been a cafe at one time, now shut, so I had to make do with the local happy shopper.

The view into Derbyshire

It was a steady climb out of the village, fortunately away from the very large and obtrusive JCB building that dominated the view behind me.  It wasn’t long before this was left behind and the landscape  changed for the better.  I had recrossed the Dove on entering Rocester and I was blessed with some fine views over the river into Derbyshire.  This was delightful walking over a rolling landscape, a much better experience than the rather mundane Staffordshire Way.  The way marking, however, was abysmal.  Non-existent wasn’t quite accurate as I did encounter one around Ellastone, much to my surprise, at least 5km into the path!  There were a few dog walkers out and about here, but soon after it was bush whacking time again.  Crossing a road I entered a field that had been left to its own devices.  There was nothing here that even looked like it could be a path – I had to take a compass bearing to avoid wandering about the field like a lost sheep!

The River Dove

The route here was climbing all the time, with plenty of stiles to add to the fun.  Eventually, after some careful route finding, the path emerged onto a long ridge with some fine all round views.  This really was lovely walking and again, it was obvious that very few people walk these paths.  The route was feint in most places, and I wouldn’t see a soul until I crossed into Derbyshire.

Where’s the path?

A short section followed along the busy A52, and a rather scampered crossing onto a gated road where I stopped to rest and admire the view.  Walking round the corner I encountered a herd of cows, one of which was obviously not happy by my presence.  It’s the first time I’ve been nervous round cattle, and it was certainly making some very un-cow like noises.

The landscape was changing as well, the soft rolling hills were gradually turning rugged as I headed towards Thorpe.  The path took to a track at Coldwall Farm to cross the Dove once again and enter Derbyshire, where the way marking immediately improved (which wasn’t really difficult).  The bridge was a complete surprise, a large impressive structure that wouldn’t have been out of place on a major road, certainly not built for a farm track.  It turns out that this was part of an old turnpike route that had fallen out of use.  The milestone still in situ with “Cheadle 11” on it was a nice bonus too.  It was a short climb to Thorpe where I left the path to head for my campsite.  I decided to stop in the pub for food (and one or two pints) rather than walking to the site and walking back.  The food was great and the beer (especially the chocolate beer) better!

Ashbury Heights campsite was busy, noisy and expensive for a backpacker.  The facilities were superb though and it was a nice site.  Most importantly it was close to the route and meant that in the morning I was pretty much right on top of the path.

Coldwall Bridge

Day Rating 8/10

View from the bridge

A day that got better as it went on.  The Staffordshire Way was a little boring, but from the start, despite the dreadful way marking, the Limestone Way got better and better.  The number of stiles was a killer though!

 

 

 

 

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YWW Day 8

Staxton to Filey Brigg (12 miles)

It was an early start this morning as we had a train to catch from Filey.  With an hourly service from the station it meant that if we missed it, it would have a knock on effect for our connections to get back to Glasgow.

Ready for an early start

Ready for an early start

I had woken at around half past four, even before the alarm had gone off.  Rather than lie there, I found out if my father was awake (he was) and suggested that we get on with it.  A petrol station across the road had provided us with breakfast/lunch so there was no need to break open the stove, meaning we pitched the tent and packed up in what was an eerie, still silence.  It was pitch black, or would have been if not for the street lights on the road.

Early morning light over Flixton Wold

Early morning light over Flixton Wold

It wasn’t long before we were on our way, the walking poles clacking loudly on the tarmac just as the first light began to creep in from the East.   We were heading for Wold Lane which would take us back up to Staxton Wold, a stiff climb to start the day.  It was slow work, not helped that half way up the hill where a track crossed our way we missed the path and spent 10 minutes wandering about an old quarry.  It’s amazing how easily one can miss the correct path in the dark.

Eventually we emerged into the fields at the top of the Wold and passed the RAF base, feeling a little bit naughty with all the CCTV cameras around.  The place was well lit up giving a strange luminescence to the surrounding land.

Crossing Flixton Wold

Crossing Flixton Wold

The base was quickly left behind as the path started to descend into a sunken lane, plunging us into near darkness.  Thank god for head torches!  As the path dropped we slowed our pace, keeping a lookout for the left turn that was coming up.  We needn’t have worried as the fingerpost loomed out of the dark showing us where to go.  The path here was a steep climb in between hedgerows with a soft, almost sandy/chalky surface.  It was also pitch black in there, such was the denseness of the vegetation, almost like entering a tunnel.

Part of the Flixton Wold roller coaster ride

Part of the Flixton Wold roller coaster ride

At the top, the Wold opened out before us, grey and muted in the limp light.  It was a bit of a roller coaster here, the path following every lump and bump towards Flixton Wold as the light increased to full, if somewhat greyish and overcast, daylight.  To add to the atmosphere, early morning mist had gathered at the bottom of some of the dales, especially Lang Dale, adding to the eeriness of the morning.

Mist in Lang Dale

Mist in Lang Dale

On reaching a quiet road, we stopped for a while to have breakfast – it was still only around 7 a.m. – as I’d not really been hungry when we set off.  The next stage was a drab little walk along the road to Camp Dale, the last of the Wolds we would encounter on the trail.  The track crossed the dale then climbed up onto the bank on the other side giving fine views down its length.  Here there was a final Wolds Way bench and acorn telling us that there was only 7 miles to go.  We should be finished by lunchtime then!

Camp Dale - only 7 miles to go.

Camp Dale – only 7 miles to go.

The path here dropped into the dale and turned into Stocking Dale (saying goodbye to the Centenary Way which had been sharing a route with us for a long time), this place being another site of a deserted medieval village, although there really is nothing to be seen on the ground.  Stocking Dale, unlike many of the other dales we had walked through, was quite heavily wooded, lots of scrub trees amongst the more mature ones.  It was also rising steadily, the dale petering out on a farm track, the only evidence of its existence just a small dip in the ground.

P1030981

There was a real feeling that this was the final stretch to Filey and as we crossed a road at Stockendale Farm the sun threatened to appear for a while.  To the north there were fine views towards the North York Moors, with the lower ground in-between covered in low lying mist.

The small village of Muston heralded the outskirts of Filey, we stopped on a bench for a while to rest before walking through the village.  It was still stupidly early, so unsurprisingly the pub wasn’t open for business.  The path passed up what looked like a garden path alongside some pretty houses before we had to take our lives in our hands crossing the A165, busy with rush hour traffic.  From there it was downhill, skirting hedges and the local secondary school, before we were walking through the streets of Filey itself.

Close to Muston

Close to Muston

Once in the centre, it was straight to the Tourist Information Centre with an ulterior motive.  I collect cloth badges from these walks, and was happy to find that the Wolds Way had its own, which was duly bought.  There was also the small matter of ditching the backpacks, which the staff there kindly allowed us to do (though it was, apparently, strictly against their rules) meaning we could walk unencumbered up to Filey Brigg.

Filey

Filey

The route here wasn’t well signed, but you couldn’t really go wrong – turn left at the beach and walk to the long sticky out bit. There was one last kick in the backside, a steep climb up steps to get back up to the correct hight for the finish, leaving us with a gentle stroll to the monument that marks the end (or start) of both the Wolds Way and the Cleveland Way.

Turning towards the Brigg

Turning towards the Brigg

It was so tempting just to keep walking!

Still, there was a train to catch, so we retraced our steps, this time taking a route along the beach, to the TIC, picked up the sacks and made our way towards the station with plenty of time to spare.  This meant there was the chance to stop for some celebratory fish and chips before the short shuffle (I had certainly stiffened up) to the station, just as the rain started.

The finish

The finish

Day Rating 7/10

Not the most exciting of days, but had some pleasant and interesting sections on it.  The path over Flixton Wold was surprisingly hard work and Camp Dale made a fine finale to the Wolds experience.  The finish at Filey Brigg was a bonus, and although we didn’t go all the way onto the Brigg it certainly added to the finish.  A nice symmetry with the start on the Humber.

Overall Rating 67/80 (83%)

Now to walk back!

Now to walk back!

A fine trail that rates in the middle for me – not one of the best, there were no what I would call “outstanding” days.  That isn’t to say that the trail is bad – far from it (it possibly didn’t help that we were walking in late summer/early autumn, when most of the wild flowers and summer vegetation were over).  What I would say is that this is a hugely enjoyable trail with some great scenery, history, lovely little villages that nestle in the Wolds and some cracking surprises – it is also not as easy as it looks – while most of the walking is gentle there are quite a few ups and downs for the unsuspecting walkers.  This also has to be one of the quietest trails I’ve walked, with very few users on it – only the occasional dog walkers near villages.  This isn’t that surprising as the route is actually quite remote – there are very places that are passed through between stops.  One real bonus (that many other paths are lacking) are the number of benches on the route.  The carved trail benches are a work of art in themselves, and every single one of them has been placed thoughtfully at a great location.  Not only that they always seem to appear at just the right moment.

Well worth doing, and to risk a cliché, a very good trail for an introduction to trail walking and those who are looking to cut their teeth on a long distance path.

 

 

 

 

 

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YWW Day 7

On the trail again

On the trail again

Wolds Way Campsite to Staxton (12 miles)

Peeking out the tent after waking up I found the morning was cloudy.  The sort of grey black stuff that looked a little threatening, rain a real possibility.  Still, it was dry so we swiftly packed the tent up and started an ad hoc breakfast of beans, bacon and cheese, plus a little porridge on the benches outside the utility block.  As we tucked into our al fresco grub we were presented with the sight of a very large range rover depositing its very large driver into the toilet block.  He must have driven no more than around 100m from his caravan to the toilet block.  Words fail me.

Pesky Wabbits

Pesky Wabbits

The walk to Staxton would be different from the previous days, more along the line of a ridge with views out towards the North York Moors.  Leaving the campsite we dropped down the hill to rejoin the main route, passing along the edge of a large mixed plantation, again with a plethora of “private” and “keep out” signs.  There was even one warning dog owners of Fox snares located in the wood.  All in all it was a very pleasant  woodland walk to start the day, and the temperature was perfect.

The offending path.  This was full of Lupine booby traps

The offending path. This was full of bunny booby traps

At the edge of the wood the views suddenly opened out north and we were walking through fields again.  A rather novel warning sign appeared.  “Rabbits at Work”.  It was needed – without it I would imagine there would be a queue of people at A&E with various broken bones in their feet and legs.  The critters seemed to be engaging in some sort of civil engineering project judging by the size of some of the (well hidden) potholes adorning the path!

The view North

The view North

The only downside was the lingering cloud.  On a better day we would have been able to see the sea!  This was a great ridge walk which meandered its way along field edges, hedgerows and woodland, all the while the world spread out on our left shoulders.  Another Wolds Way bench appeared and we spent a little time conjecturing on the unusual layout of the church and spire in East Heslerton.

An unusual church

An unusual church

A large pig farm was passed, hidden in the trees, the noise and smell incredible.  I’m fairly sure I can still smell it now!

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This was open country with big views, arguably one of the best sections of the trail.  Suddenly we were back on road again, dropping steeply towards Sherburn, and here for once is a nice bonus, the path having been routed through an adjacent field to avoid the road.  Much nicer.  It was still a bit early to stop, so we stayed with the trail (which bypasses the village) cutting along a sandy farm track before a short road walk led to a steep, but mercifully brief climb.  This section was a bit of a roller coaster, up and down the hill on a bridleway and through woodland complete with shooting butts.

Panorama

Panorama

The guidebook mentioned another tea room at Potter Brompton, and once again we diverted off on the assumption it would be open.  Fortunately this one was, and although a little expensive, the fare was superb.  We even managed to eat outside in their pretty gardens as the sun began to make an appearance.

Another bench looking weathered

Another bench looking weathered

As we walked back up the lane to the trail an old chap caught us up, he had seen us pass on the way down.  He joined us for the walk and we chatted all the way up to Staxton Wold where he left us to walk back.  It seems he loves walking in the area, but there are so few people that he can walk with he takes to ambushing walkers and tags along with them for a while.  He could fair shift for his age though (he was carrying a bit less than us).

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From there we walked up to the RAF base, a station that was one of the places where radar was pioneered in the early stages of the second world war.  We left the trail here, turning left to walk down a green lane to the village of Staxton itself, a steep drop that we would have to revisit in the morning.  Our campsite for the night was a big field (campsite apparently) next to a pretty little camping and caravanning club site, part of a larger complex which included a carvery pub and an antiques centre.

Acorn

Acorn

To be honest the carvery was average at best and the beer not particularly great (their Theakstons was ok), but it was food and drink and hot, which is all that really matters.  The facilities on the campsite were pretty decent, but the big problem was the noise from the busy A64 which didn’t let up until well after midnight.  In retrospect we could have pushed on and wild camped somewhere better, but that’s never really a good idea near a military installation!

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Day Rating 9/10

The tearoom

The tearoom

The Wolds Way campsite was great (if a little breezy) and at least had a small shop meaning we could cobble together stuff for an evening meal and breakfast.  A really enjoyable and varied walk with constantly changing wide open views.  A great lunch stop as well not too far off route.  Just a pity about the campsite – ok for one night – I wouldn’t want to holiday there!

Our impromptu walking companion (on the right)

Our impromptu walking companion (on the right)

 

 

 

 

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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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