Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Herriot Way: September 2012

The Herriot Way has been on the agenda for many years. Friends had completed the walk twenty-some years age and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience, other than a cold mud-wallow in the bogs of Great Shunner Fell – I'm not sure if their expedition was before the route over the Fell was flagged, or if they had simply lost the path.

The walk was originally devised to link Youth Hostels in a four day circuit of Wensleydale and Swaledale. Sadly only two Hostels remain in business, although Keld Lodge still offers accommodation, albeit of a somewhat higher Star Rating and at far from YHA prices.

In the event I've walked most of the route in bits over the years as part of other projects. It was still an attractive proposition, however, due to its ease of access from home, the Sherpa bag transfer service (at the inflated “no single bag” rate), the sheer attractiveness of the Dales and the walk's modest length for a punter of suspect fitness.

On a damp September Sunday afternoon my lift duly deposited me at Aysgarth, ready for a post breakfast start the following day. A couple from near Penrith (Greystoke, I think) were staying. They were halfway around the circuit, having left their car at Keld two days before.

The George and Dragon across the road provided a worthy evening bolt-hole with excellent beer and a friendly atmosphere. The food looked good too, but I was already amply fettled.

Cornlee Guest House
01969 663779

The Start from Cornlee Guest House
Cornlee is a comfortable and welcoming B&B, located directly on the Herriot Way. There is ample safe parking nearby for those who, like me, intend to start the walk from Aysgarth.
My room was spotless and very comfortable with a good TV and Wi-Fi. The food was excellent, as was the beer at the nearby pub.
Jayson and Karen are keen to go the extra mile and happily agreed to accept delivery of my bag from Sherpa on the final day (despite me heading home on completion of the Way).

Monday 10 September 2012
Aysgarth to Hardraw: 12 miles

And he's off. In the rain. Down the wrong track...

Well, more of a missed turn than a wrong track; losing the path within 100 yards of the start was a less than auspicious start, particularly as it was played out in full view of the Penrith couple. With my navigational and hill walking skills firmly established in the eyes of my fellows, the mistake was duly rectified.

River Ure
The first few easy miles to Askrigg were, with tomorrow’s route over Kisdon, the only paths on the walk that I'd never trodden before. Back in 1998 I'd walked a shortened version of “A Dales Walk”, devised by Bob Allen. That route took a higher, more challenging way between Aysgarth and Askrigg, but coincided with today's trek for the remainder of the way to Hardraw and, indeed, for much of the first three days.

The weather alternated between spells of dull cloud and deluges of rain. To paraphrase a saying from my childhood home town, “If you can see Addlebrough it's about to rain, if you can't, it's already started." The going underfoot was good, however, and the surroundings were pure, plump, wonderful Wensleydale.

Over my years of walking I've occasionally experienced sharp cramp-like pain in my feet, forcing pit stops to allow the pain to ease. When they do occur the cramps start after a prolonged period on the hoof and, once started, they tend to recur. They cramps began after a café break at Askrigg and plagued me for much of the rest of the walk.

Near Litherskew
I resisted the temptation to visit Mill Gill Force and plodded on between the downpours in soggy but wonderful surroundings. The Penrith couple were frequent companions as we passed and re-passed each other. There were frequent sightings of a couple of ladies walking behind at a similar pace, but who never quite got within hailing distance.

A final fury of rain and hail at the sublime hamlet of Sedbusk ensured a squelchy entrance into the bar of the Green Dragon.

The spread of Wi-Fi to rural B&Bs and the advent of small tablet PCs must rank as the single greatest advance for the comfort and entertainment of Billy-No-Mates solo walkers. Sad to say I missed my PC when I was out and about. However, my little Nexus 7 is small and light enough to shove in a backpack (or Sherpa van) and has enough poke for all but the most demanding tasks.

Green Dragon Inn
01969 667392

The accommodation at the pub was in an annex at the rear. It is well equipped, comfortable and generously sized. The shower proved difficult for the ham fisted to properly control, however, and I never did quite get the hang of the telly.
The pub has a good range of well kept real ale and the food was edible, but uninspiring (could have been the chef's night off).
The evening passed pleasantly enough, but was too quiet to be memorable – that's Monday nights for you! Thank goodness for the Wi-Fi...

Tuesday 11 September 2012
Hardraw to Keld: 12 miles

Disgusting. Loathsome. Repulsive. Enough of my table manners, the breakfast was good.

It was still raining at breakfast time. A route purist would have walked a two mile loop into Hawes and back, but I'm not that pure... So, directly up the Pennine Way track I slogged.

Ascending Great Shunner Fell
This was my forth or fifth time over Great Shunner Fell. It's an easy enough walk: a four miles plod up and a four miles trudge down. The views can be magnificent from the summit shelter, spanning a great chunk of the Pennines: the three peaks and beyond in the south to Cross fell way to the north.

On my first visit to the hill (doing “A Dales Walk”, if I remember correctly) I found the climb to be hard work. A much fitter me, some five years later, walking the Pennine Way, scarcely paused to draw breath. Today's visit felt more akin to my first.

The weather bucked up a bit and the sun shone. It was apparent that the hills to the south were suffering repeated heavy squally showers which continually threatened to veer north but, for the moment, stayed at bay.

I saw The Penriths gaining on me during my slow, laborious ascent. They caught up as I was munching a rejuvenating Mars Bar at the summit shelter. What appeared to be The Ladies were also heading up the hill. Other than our happy band the route was quiet, with only one, female, heavily laden, southbound Pennine Wayfarer met.

The rain hit just as we were preparing to head downhill. The temperature plummeted, the wind swirled and eddied, and the deluge began. It didn't last too long, but it was a vicious little storm and one to be repeated throughout the remainder of the day. It encouraged me off the hill a good bit quicker than the walk up it.

I eventually reached the stony, enclosed track leading down to Thwaite. An elderly farmer was working in an enclosure adjacent to the lane, whilst a woman I took to be his wife was manoeuvring a tractor. I've often been amazed at the lengths to which some rural workers will go to avoid acknowledging a passer-by. With more than a degree of ingenuity the couple managed to avoid eye contact and proved deaf to my overly cheery, “Good morning.” Is it shyness, indifference, distaste or hostility? Bloody townies!

Great Shunner Fell
Thwaite hosts the Kearton Hotel and café, and is something of an oasis at this stage of the walk. Despite the ten minutes taken to shed and store wet, muddy clothes and boots, it provided a warm dry refuge to enjoy a ham butty and tea. And what a sandwich, more of a meal really, accompanied by a fresh salad and lovely, dry chips. After ten minutes feasting and another ten minutes dressing, it time to venture back out into the elements.

It was fine at first, up the steep but rewarding Pennine Way path on the flank of Kisdon. I'd originally intended to stick with the Pennine Way along a known path all the way to Keld. The Penriths had passed me, however, just before the junction of tracks and, in the event, I followed them on the slightly shorter, higher path over the hill to Keld. I'm pleased I did. It's a stunning green path, high above Swaledale, clear throughout and carpeted in soft turf.

Rainbow above the Swale Gorge
Then the rain returned. First a warning: rainbows pleasingly displayed over the Swale Gorge; then: the deluge. It had passed well before I joined the lane to Keld Lodge and my bed for the night.

Swaledale from Kisdon
I like Keld Lodge. It's expensive, but with very comfortable rooms, a good bar and lounge serving well kept beer and an excellent restaurant. It exists as a walkers' sanctuary, sat at the junction of the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast Walk, in glorious upper Swaledale; an unbooted visitor (other than an injured or decrepit hill veteran) would feel decidedly out of place.

Keld is dominated by Coast-to-Coasters. On this occasion, as a worshipper of a lesser deity, I listened and reflected on the enduring allure of that walk, becoming engrossed whilst eavesdropping the current trail gossip: the crossing of the watershed, half-way point achieved, tomorrow's digs, blister progress reports...

An adjacent table was a creative hothouse: a group of North American women were busily deploying iPads to edit photos and update blogs. Bloody Wi-Fi!

I spent a pleasant hour reminiscing with a couple of Pennine Wayfarers who were heading north. It was also time to bid farewell to The Penriths who were going home in the morning.

Keld Lodge
Near Richmond
North Yorkshire
DL11 6LL
01748 886259

Keld Lodge is expensive, but with very comfortable rooms, a good bar and lounge, serving well kept beer and an excellent restaurant. A “must stay” for walkers in the area, particularly for those who enjoy a good natter.

Wednesday 12 September 2012
Keld to Reeth: 12 miles

Another day, another inundation. The morning started dry but dull, with heavy rain forecast for later. That settled the first of the day's quandaries: down the valley to Reeth it would be, rather than the high route through the old mines. This now appears to be the preferred option for the majority of C2Cers.

It is a lovely walk. Compared with the previous days it was decidedly crowded. I fell in with a trio of Canadians, mere youths of about my tender years and enjoyed the group's company for a leisurely stroll to Gunnerside. It's strange how the confidences and insights freely shared over an hour or two's walk with a stranger, would ordinarily take a friend months, if not years, to glean.

It dawned on me that there is a distinct lack of raptors in the northern dales. I didn't see one on the entire trip. Could the dearth possibly be linked to the abundance of cultivated game birds (farmed, not well-read)? Surely not...

The Swale, near Reeth
Gunnerside was shut. It was the teashop's day off and the pub wasn't yet open. An ever-growing crowd of walkers gathered on the cobbles outside the King's Head waiting for noon. With the gathering throng of mutually acquainted ramblers, I was beginning to feel like a bit of an interloper into other peoples' journeys and adventures. After a cold lemonade, I quietly left the bar and proceeded alone.

To avoid some road walking and to escape the pack, I crossed the river at Isles Bridge. That's was when the rain started. Heavy, persistent rain that never fully abated for the remainder of the day. I continued plodding eastwards on the Low Lane track, an alternative route that I would heartily recommend.

Calver Hill
After repeated attacks of foot cramps I searched for a sheltered spot to take a break. Unfortunately, everywhere was soaked and exposed to the elements, so on I trekked. It wasn't until a mile or so short of the pedestrian suspension bridge over the Swale that I found a dryish spot for lunch: boots off for a Mars Bar and Lucozade.

My arrival in the village coincided with the main influx of walkers, most of whom were heading for one or other of the pubs. I continued to my digs, for a cuppa, a bun and a bath.

Reeth is a favourite spot with ample venues for a pie and pint. I enjoyed a fine evening sampling the wares of the three pubs and enjoying the company of various and varied acquaintances met over the day.

I must walk the C2C again before I get too creaky. It has a social element that few other treks can offer.

Hackney House
Bridge Terrace
North Yorkshire
DL11 6TW
01748 884302

I've stayed at Hackney House before, on my partial circuit in 2009 of “The Inn Way…to the Yorkshire Dales”. It is welcoming, homely, unpretentious, great value and is handily placed only a stone's throw from the centre of the village. Mrs Keyse will go the extra mile to ensure the comfort and convenience of her guests.

Thursday 13 September 2012
Reeth to Aysgarth: 11 miles

Weather-wise today was the best day of the trip: windy, but with not a drop of rain. Great conditions for photography. Unfortunately, as I realised whilst somewhere near the Youth Hostel, I'd left my camera in Reeth. Too far to retrace my steps, especially as I was on a schedule: I'd arranged a pick-up in Aysgarth at 16:00 hours (the photos illustrating today's blog are from a 2009 walk).

I was not on top form either. I found the pull on to the moor wearing, a feeling made all the more acute after being effortlessly passed by a succession of walkers following The Inn Way. I've found that it's not uncommon on a multi-day walk to have the odd off day: today was it. On a bench near the divergence of tracks I decided to take the shorter route over Greets Hill, rather than the classic way by Apedale Head.

While pondering the route options The Ladies (last glimpsed approaching Great Shunner Fell summit) passed. They'd spent the night in the Youth Hostel. They weren’t for chickening out by taking the soft option. It was gratifying to establish that they weren’t a figment of my imagination.

At Greets Hill I stopped to chat with a couple of blokes walking The Inn Way. They were also heading for Aysgarth. We would pass and re-pass for much of the remainder of the day.

Greets Hill
The moors hereabouts are wonderfully remote, desolate and pitted with the remains and traces of a long dead lead mining past. Even the sheep population is sparse. The main activity is the breeding and slaughter of grouse. Unfortunately there were no shooting parties on the moor today. I like to see the pampered warriors being ferried in SUVs from butt to butty station, camouflaged and armed for total war. Them there grouse must be hard little bastards!

And then I had a revelation. The foot cramps had made an unwelcome return. I belatedly applied the Art and Science of the Bleedin' Obvious: I loosened my boot laces. Feet swell when walking. What are secure, comfortably encased tootsies at the start of a walk, become constricted and painfully squashed little appendages after an hour or two of effort. The design of my current Brasher boots must render my feet especially sensitive to this effect. In any event, by completely loosening the laces along the length of the foot and securing the boot only at the ankle, the condition disappeared. Later lacing experimentation has confirmed both the condition and cure. It came as a relief: I'd started to fear that I had developed blood circulation problems. In a way, I suppose I had.

From bleak Black Hill the route drops once more into the verdant, if somewhat soggy, pastures of Wensleydale. One of the attractions of this part of the world is the stark contrast between the inhospitable uplands and the green pastures and picturesque hamlets and villages of the dales.

Castle Bolton
I bumped into the two blokes again, sat on a bench outside Bolton Castle. Despite some reservations we decided to use the Castle's rather upmarket Tea Room. It was very good and welcoming and is to be recommended. Despite being armed with rucksacks, walking poles and muddy boots, we negotiated the aisles and the more genteel customers without inflicting anything other than minor damage to them or to the building's ancient fabric.

The final couple of miles of the walk are through more pastures, some woodland and over the river at Aysgarth's Upper Falls. As would be expected after all the rain the view of the falls from the bridge were impressive; I'd love to show a picture of them, but the camera...

In the event, and despite slow progress and frequent breaks, I triumphantly entered Aysgarth with an hour to spare.


Despite the weather it was an enjoyable trundle in a favourite part of the Dales. It mixes two days on less frequented paths with one day on a National Trail and another along England's favourite walking route. It is a walk of contrasts and an admirable introduction both to the northern Yorkshire Dales and to multi-day walking.

In addition to the relevant OS Explorer maps, I carried Stuart W Greig's “Walking the Herriot Way” which has detailed route descriptions and sketch maps. The book also has accommodation and camping lists, together with transport notes:

All the accommodations were found on the Sherpa site. I would happily use all of them again:

I arranged baggage transfer through Sherpa. They were as efficient as ever. My only gripe is that on this route there is a minimum of two bags per pick-up, effectively doubling the cost for solo walkers. I do not see how this can be justified where other bags are being transferred along a section. Interestingly, the company accepts single bags along the C2C route, but there was no discount where the routes coincided:

Monday, 14 May 2012

Dales Way Notes (April 2012)

Sunday 15 April 2012
Ilkley to Addingham (3 Miles)
After a year or more of lethargy it was time to again get of my bum and have a beer and blisters week along the Dales Way. The walk is an old favourite; my first long distance walk as an adult, with wife Rita; my first solo multi-day walk (yes, I really could stand my own company for a prolonged period of time) and a trusted standby for dragging myself back into a degree of fitness (and out of more than a degree of plumpness).
So, after an afternoon’s wet, chauffeured drive for the eighty miles or so to Addingham, I dropped my bag of at the Crown Inn, resisted the opportunity for a teatime pint and got deposited three miles eastwards at Ilkley for an early evening stroll back to the pub. After photos of the old bridge and the Dales Way sign, I was off. The first couple of miles were more rural than I remembered, but were heavily populated with people grabbing what was forecast to be one of the few opportunities to view the sun until sometime in September.
Ilkley is an attractive, independent market town, but one that is unmistakably on the edge of the Leeds/Bradford conurbation. Addingham has an altogether more rustic feel.
The Crown Inn,
136, Main Street, Addingham, LS29 ONS
01943 830278

The Crown Inn is a great choice for those arriving in the Ilkley area on the afternoon prior to the walk giving the opportunity of an early evening stroll from the start of the walk at Ilkley back to Addingham, shortening the opening day by a couple of miles. There was no food available on a Sunday night, but plenty of alternative venues in the village. The pub has spacious, comfortable accommodation and offers a good traditional breakfast.

It is an excellent, well-used village local, which proved welcoming to an outsider. When booking I was advised of a stand-up comedy event on the night of my stay: despite some doubts the night proved to be well attended and hugely enjoyable.

Monday 16 April 2012
Addingham to Grassington (14 Miles)
What a pleasant surprise... sun. It was a grand morning; not exactly warm, but bright: ideal hiking weather. The landlord kindly gave me directions to a short-cut to regain the route at the parish church; thirty-five minutes and a mile and a bit later I emerged on Addingham's main street – 100 yards from the pub. Ah well, it was a nice morning for a walk.
Whilst determined to walk the route from memory, without recourse to guides for other than background notes and information, I was carrying a couple of books: a venerable 1988 edition of Paul Hannon's “Dales Way Companion”, complete with detailed Wainwright inspired sketch maps, handwritten text and a tattered plastic semi-weatherproof cover (a survivor from the 1992 walk), and the latest “Complete Guide” by Colin Speakman. Until Dentdale this approach was entirely doable, afterwards a little less so. Hannon's book was the one I actually referred to when in doubt, it remains remarkably accurate, assuming a knowledge of occasional later route variations. I own a later edition of the Hannon book, devoid of the maps, handwritten format and charm: it stayed at home.
The first couple of miles of the route is much improved over how I remembered it. After a pleasant mile or two of riverside paths a nasty few hundred yards of road walking has been diverted to a field path parallel to the lane. At Bolton Bridge, though, the Dales Way begins in earnest: into the Bolton Abbey Estate and the Yorkshire Dales National Park we go (me and the walking pole that is). 
I've known Bolton Abbey since childhood. It represented an escape from the nearby industrial towns and cities to a wooded idyll, watered by the pristine Wharfe and graced by romantic ruins (no, not me: the Priory and Barden Towers). My instinctive aversion to landed aristocrats is challenged by the Duke of Devonshire's estate. As if to atone for the sins of predecessors, central as they were to the trespass battles of the thirties, the Bolton Abbey Estate is a model of enlightened access. And long may it continue...
Bolton Abbey, in its magnificent spring plumage, was busy. Only occasional caches of rubbish were seen to offend the Devonshires' largesse (why do people go to the trouble of gathering their pet's droppings, only to decorate the undergrowth with the poop bags?).
As their website says, “the Cavendish Pavilion is the perfect riverside venue for refreshments and a bite to eat as part of your family day out – serving hot and cold drinks, hand-made cakes, sandwiches and hot food”: it would have been impolite to pass without having a cuppa and flapjack.
I was somewhat humbled on the walk through Strid Wood. Admittedly I had frequent first-day faff breaks to adjust boots, rucksacks, pants and poles, but I was repeatedly overtaken by a pair of septuagenarians out for a pre-dinner stroll. I retook lead position on the downhill sections, but the buggers remained, viewed in sneaked rear-view glances, gaining ground on the nearside. It confirmed my suspicions that I was sadly out of condition (and perhaps... a little bit mad).
After Barden Bridge the day walkers thinned out a little. Extravagantly equipped twitchers were more in evidence. One chap was hoping to record the spring return of Sand Martins to the river, but, up until that point, without success. I saw one a mile upstream (confidently identified after consultations with my trusty 'phone app). I like twitchers, they're barmy too. I saw a lone female walker on the river near Appletreewick who looked as though she might be a Dales Wayfarer. We exchanged greetings and set our separate paces.
I called at the Burnsall pub for a cold ginger beer. It was warm enough to sit outside, albeit wrapped up in a fleece. I enjoyed a half hour watching the comings and goings and savouring unconnected snippets of conversation: other people seem to have much more interesting lives!
The final stretch to Grassington was as lovely as the preceding miles. If there is any criticism of the day's walk, it is that the landscape is a little too manicured and well tended, particularly around Bolton Abbey. That's not such a bad thing, mind.
It was a great first day; no blisters, but I did have occasional toe cramps.
The Foresters Arms,
20 Main Street,
BD23 5AA 01756 752349

The Foresters Arms is a good choice for an overnight stay in Grassington. It offers unpretentious accommodation, decent food, friendly, helpful staff and a welcoming village pub ambiance. As a sole drinker I was quickly recruited into a local team for a well-attended and hotly contested Quiz night. It’s popular with Dales Way walkers.

Tuesday 17 April 2012
Grassington to Hubberholme (13 miles)
The weather deteriorated overnight, with the rain bouncing off the window pane in the dawn light. It was still pouring down when the alarm sounded at 7 o'clock.
I shared the breakfast dining room with a group of ten or so mature blokes. They were a lively group of Cheshire Rotarians (Rotary Club of Northwich Vale Royal) out on their annual walking expedition.
It was gone 9:30 before I coaxed myself out into the gloom; the morning was punctuated by alternating heavy showers of rain and hail, but thankfully not the forecast wall-to-wall wetness.
The walk from Grassington to Kettlewell is one of my favourite sections of the Dales Way. Height is gained easily to attain a grassy shelf high above the valley at Conistone Dib. There were splendid views into Littondale and the surrounding heights, some, rather disconcertingly, still adorned with remnants of snow.
The lambs along the valley bottom were probably several weeks old. Those encountered on this higher ground were tiny creatures and still displayed their umbilical cords.

It's easy to guess how Conistone Pie got its name; the prominent limestone outcrop looks from a distance like a giant's jumbo growler.

Just passed the Pie a group of teenage girls, looking in dire need of recuperation and refreshment, lumbered southwards, stooped under massive loads. Ah, Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions; some things remain constant: pain, exhaustion, depression... Mine was just over the hill (not unlike my current physical condition) in the Malham area, more years ago than it's comfortable to remember. It remains a miracle that DoE participants venture into the outdoors ever again; inexplicably, for some, the experience implants a lifelong obsession.
Kettlewell was busy with motorised visitors and walkers dodging the still frequent deluges. I watched an impressive hail squall over a comforting bowl of hot soup from the comfort of the Racehorses Hotel.
The day's walk was one of two halves. The afternoon session was a pleasant amble along the river to Hubberholme. The Wharfe is a much smaller stream now and the surroundings, although still pastoral in the valley bottom, were becoming a tad less tamed. After the day's downpours occasional side streams crossing the path were swollen and demanded a little care.
I arrived at Hubberholme a little footsore, but otherwise intact.
Later in the pub I got chatting to the Rotarians who would shadow me for the remainder of the walk. One of the group was acting as support crew and baggage carrier. They'd started their day at Burnsall so had been behind me all day. The lone female I'd seen near Appletreewick was also in the pub with an older couple.
Mrs G Huck
Church Farm
01756 760240

Hubberholme is little more than a pub, church and bridge. Church Farm is the fourth structure gracing the centre of the hamlet. It is a working farm with a characterful stone farmhouse, comfortable, good-sized bedrooms and the sole use of a well-equipped bathroom. A leisurely bath in a long, deep tub, with plenty of hot water, was pure joy after a damp hike from Grassington. The breakfast and packed meal were both good.The evening meal was had at The George on the opposite bank of the river: it was tasty, reasonably priced and accompanied by a fine selection of beers.One thing to bear in mind is that Hubberholme is a mobile signal-free zone. The nearest phone box is in Buckden and the pub does not have a pay-phone.
I’d happily visit Church Farm again.

Wednesday 18 April 2012
Hubberholme to Ribblehead (13.5 miles)
The lone walker was staying at Church Farm. She was a West Yorkshire born teacher, living and working in New Zealand, home for a week or two. She was having a day off today, sightseeing with her parents.
The morning was pleasant enough, but ominous black clouds gathered towards the west. After yesterday I'd no ambition to don wet weather gear until the last moment before the inevitable downpour. For the remainder of the morning, however, there was only occasional drizzle.
Near the Yockenthwaite stone circle I met an elderly Australian couple from Brisbane. They'd probably spent the previous night at Raisgill and were heading as far as Oughtershaw today. The pair intended to skip the challenging watershed crossing the following day by getting a lift (a sensible plan too!). 
The Wharfe in Langstrothdale is a mere stream, but one which waters a wonderfully remote, ever-wilder valley. After the climb out of Beckermonds I looked down to see the Rotarians powering along the stream below. Their backup was parked at Oughtershaw, boiling water for a brew.
In early spring the two farms above Oughtershaw Beck remain firmly in winter's grip; they are stark, austere affairs in bleak, unforgiving surroundings. Both now offer accommodation and support other enterprises. Their challenging environs are positively idyllic, however, compared with the waterlogged morass which follows. It's a hard, mucky trudge along Oughtershaw side and up to the positivity arctic Cam Houses and the Cam High Road. Of the three previous crossings, this was the wettest. As someone later commented, it is hard to understand how water can stand on such  precipitous ground.
On the final pull to the buildings of Cam Houses I was overtaken by the Rotarians; the rains then came in earnest. After greetings and an exchange of banter I paused in the lee of the buildings at Cam Houses to reluctantly drag on my waterproofs. They stayed on for the remainder of the day.
I'd originally hoped to take a new alternative route from Cam Houses, via the Pennine Bridleway and the Ribble Way to Newby Head. This, however, was dependant on accommodation being found at The Sportsman or elsewhere in Cowgill: this could not be had, so Ribblehead it had to be.
The only obstacle to gaining the walk's highpoint at the Dales Way Cairn was the Cam Plantation, beyond Cam Houses. It was difficult and potentially dangerous to walk through the forest due to storm damage and recently fallen trees. After much buggering about I eventually abandoned the attempt and walked round.
At Gearstones I was glad to head off along the road to the Station Inn. On my last hike I'd walked on to Cowgill and was thoroughly knackered before I eventually reached my digs: that night I was too tired to stagger to the Sportsman for an evening meal and pint. Dire straights indeed!
As I got near to the Station Inn I encountered groups of lads labouring under immense loads. Not DoE this time, but MoD. They were young Army recruits on an exercise in the hills. Nothing builds character like a hike up Ingleborough and Whernside, with inadequate navigation skills, a full, outrageously heavy pack and driving, horizontal rain... They were also wonderfully cheerful and polite.   
I'd a good stay at the Station Inn. It has a marvellously eclectic range of visitors: soaked and tired day walkers, campers, survivalist wannabes, Army Instructors, cavers, passing motorists, long distance walkers and weirdos just out for a meal and a pint. I had an interesting couple of hours and with more than a couple of pints, with a pair of retirees who'd walked to Ribblehead from Clitheroe along the Ribble Way.
The Station Hotel,

Whilst the rooms at the Station Inn are on the small side and a tad tired, they are warm and comfortable and have all the facilities that a tired and damp walker needs. The food is excellent, as is the selection of well-kept beers. The biggest plus at the Station Inn, however, is the welcome from the Landlord and Landlady, exemplified by the ready, unsolicited offer of a lift back to the start of the following leg of the Dales Way. The bar was lively with a great mix of customers. This was my third stay at the pub, spread over a period of many years and successive Landlords: I hope to visit again.

Thursday 19 April 2012
Ribblehead to Bramaskew, Sedbergh (Planned: 20 miles, Walked: 15 miles)
I cheated a bit today. I'd booked at Bramaskew, five miles up the track from Millthrop, assuming that I would spend the previous night in Cowgill. I couldn't get digs in Cowgill. This left me with no alternative but to stay at Ribblehead and face a twenty mile walk, which I was not up for (or up to).
From Ribblehead there is a superb walk over the shoulder of Whernside along the Craven Way Track. Today began wet and misty, with limited visibility, it was not worth the extra effort; so, it was back to the official route from Gearstones across the soggy moor to Dent Head.
The landlord at the Station Inn kindly offered a lift back to the route. I persuaded him to drop me off at a very wet and windy Newby Head, avoiding the boggy waste of Stoops Moss, to rejoin the route at Dent Head.
The day improved on the walk down Dentdale, eventually becoming bright and pleasantly warm, if not quite sunny. The advanced party of the Rotarians passed me on the riverbank near Lea Yeat. They'd been staying in Ingleton and had been bussed back to the route in two groups. The rearguard yomped by near Tommy Bridge. In terms of meeting a physical challenges their performance was impressive, as a means of deriving quiet enjoyment from observing the rural scene, perhaps less so.
Downstream I was shocked to meet an aggressive leprechaun sitting in the long grass. He accosted me shouting, “Bugger off”, or worse. I didn't think that was at all polite. I wonder if it was his relative I'd trodden on earlier... (acknowledgement to Mike Harding, who once lived in these parts – he must have squashed one too!).
I didn't divert to Dent village, but ate a pack-up under the arch of Church Bridge, the space being shared with a morose backpacker who was taking advantage of the improved weather by airing wet camping gear. I'd stopped at the same spot with Rita back in 1992.
A couple were sat by the River Dee near Ellers. They'd stayed in the Sportsman and were heading for Sedbergh. We passed a few minutes exchanging observations about the route and fellow travellers before I pressed onward and, eventually, upwards (albeit, only a little bit of up-ness on this occasion, but quite steep).
Another highlight of the walk is the sudden view of Sedbergh and the Howgills after topping the long declining ridge (called at this point Long Rigg, as it happens) separating Garsdale from Dentdale. It's also the place where mobile phones spring to life. (Watson's Mobile Law: “The time taken to recover a 'phone from a rucksack, fiddle with and open the protective cover to accept the call, equals the time difference between the call being received and answered, plus 1 millisecond”). An expensive Android handset very nearly died on the approach to Millthrop.
A decision had to be made at Millthrop: to continue along the route for five further miles to Bramaskew, in what looked like deteriorating weather, or to walk into Sedbergh to arrange a lift. I'm afraid option two won. I didn't feel too guilty: I rationalised that I'd walked the missing miles three times previously and I didn't want to get wet again or even more footsore.
Unfortunately the strong mobile signal on the hill disappeared in the Sedbergh, a town apparently devoid of working public 'phone boxes. Perhaps the Dalesman pub would have a pay 'phone? It doesn’t. Some of the Rotarians were staying at the Dalesman, two or three of whom were in the bar. I joined them over a lemonade to have a good old whinge about the decline in public infrastructure, before seeking out an elusive taxi. I was more than thankful to accept an offer of a lift to Bramaskew from the Rotarians' driver (God bless him!).
Bramaskew was grand. I was the only guest. After the excellent evening meal I was happy to retire early and alcohol-free. I retrieved my Kindle from the case but fell into a long, undisturbed sleep without a word being read.
LA10 5HX

Bramaskew is a beautifully located working farm directly on one of the finest sections of the Dales Way and enjoying terrific views of the Lune valley and the Howgills. The welcome was warm; the en-suite rooms were large, clean, well-appointed and comfortable. The evening meal and breakfast were both excellent. A stay at Bramaskew is well worth the additional miles walking from Sedbergh (or a taxi for the desperate), particularly for those spending the previous night in Cowgill or Dent. I would recommend Bramaskew without hesitation and hope to visit again.
Friday 20 April 2012
Bramaskew to Burneside (12 miles)

The walk to the Crook of Lune Bridge is delightful. Firbank Fell to the west, the magnificent Howgills to the east, with the Lune watering the undulating green, well-wooded pastures in between. And the sun was shining. I have seen a Kingfisher here on a previous visit and the area remains teeming with avian life; all of it intent on procreation (trying to get their wing-over, perhaps?).
The sylvan loveliness is followed by a couple of miles shadowing the far from idyllic M6 – a rude intrusion and an unwelcome reminder of everyday life.
The motorway is crossed and forgotten; the environs of Holme Park Farm (SD 59540 95577) are encountered. It is a disgusting mess. The approach to the property, after leaving the Lambrigg Head farm road, was buried in deep slurry, before the "path" was channelled by fencing into a narrow way between paddocks. The 3 or 4 foot wide trod was a churned mud-fest, populated by a small, loose pony. Whilst the yard itself was free of loose animals, the barking of unseen dogs accompanied the passage between the buildings, evoking a twenty year old memory of being attacked here by snappy terriers which were deterred only by the spike of a well placed walking pole.
A field to the west of the farm was similarly blighted with slurry and mud. As a finale a prominent metal “Footpath” sign at a path junction (SD 59372 95545), indicated a little used path running south; there were no way-marks indicating the Dales Way path heading north-west. I believe that the metal sign did once indicted the Dales Way path.
The path arrangements in this little pocket of bloodymindedness were calculated to intimidate, inconvenience, confuse and mislead. In my memory Holme Park has always had a slightly hostile feel, mainly exhibited by aggressive loose dogs in the yard. It's sad that after so many years this hostility still festers and spoils an otherwise problem-free route. It is outrageous that the occupants of one property are allowed to jeopardise both the enjoyment of persons exercising their legitimate rights of access and the financial well-being of local service providers.
I contacted the Cumbria Rights of Way Department about these difficulties, which amounted to a wanton obstruction of a public path. I received a prompt reply acknowledging the problems and assuring me that measures were in hand to redress all the issues. We'll see... I would suggest that anyone encountering future problems at, or near, the farm contact Cumbria RoW Department (and the Ramblers and Dales Way Association too, for good measure) for action or redress. The difficulties at Holme Park should not deter anyone from using the paths. They are a mere inconvenience. Perhaps one should pity the pathetic intransigence of the culprits.
Yards later tranquillity returned; it remained so for the remainder of the day.
When I first walked the Dales Way I felt this part of the walk, or at least the section from Lowgill, was a contrived “in between” link; neither Dales nor Lakes; a cobbled together line to join the two main areas of interest. I must have been having a very bad day. The walk is glorious, with both retrospective views of the Pennines and Howgills and glimpses of Lakeland ahead. Apart from Dales Wayfarers, few outsiders savour the attractions of this underrated area of the county.
I stopped for lunch at the Black Moss Tarn. A groups of teenagers passed; they'd left Bowness in the morning and were intending to overnight in Sedbergh (and jolly good luck to them too!). The previously morose walker, last seen airing her tent at Dent, also walked by, this time with a cheery hallo. What a difference a bit of sun makes.
I'd chatted to my chauffeur of yesterday, the Rotarians' driver-cum-refreshment-facilitator, at both the Crook of Lune Bridge and next to the bridge over the West Coast Main Line, near Grayrigg. I must have been going well today, his charges didn't pass me until Burton House, near the A6, a mile and a half from home. We arranged to meet in the Jolly Anglers for a post walk pint.
I took the rather roundabout route into Burneside, avoiding most of the dodgy lane walking on the approach to the village. The traffic along the lane has not improved over the years: local drivers are born karmakaze. 
And so to the Jolly Anglers, a business graced with my custom on previous visits to the village: it was shut. The pub, whilst still operating, looks neglected and unloved. It was once a vibrant spot, catering for thirsty walkers and locals alike, as well as providing premium, on-route Dales Way accommodation. Not today; it seems it was too much bother to cater for the couple of hundred pounds worth of business walking passed the door on this Friday teatime. Doubtless, should the pub fold, it will be the smoking ban to blame.
I was the only guest at Lakeland Hills, but enjoyed a warm welcome and great facilities. An evening meal and a pint or two was had at the nearby Gateway Inn, courtesy of free lifts from Tony, the Lakeland Hills proprietor.
Mr A Hill
Lakeland Hills
1 Churchill Court
Tel: 01539 722054

Not only is Lakeland Hills the best B&B I stayed at along the Dales Way, it is probably the best walkers’ B&B I’ve stayed in anywhere. Lakeland Hills offers modern, spacious, comfortable accommodation, equipped to the highest standards; a warm welcome and a genuine, but unobtrusive, interest in their guests. There is a refreshing attention to detail: afternoon tea on arrival, an extensive library of outdoors books, a well-stocked mini-bar/tuck shop (at supermarket prices), a free lift to and from local pub/restaurants and a delicious breakfast. Tony and Caroline are experienced and knowledgeable outdoors people who know what walkers want and how to provide it.
Saturday 21 April 2012
Burneside to Bowness-on-Windermere (10 miles)
Lakeland Hills would see me again after today's walk, William (son) couldn't get over until early evening after a full day's work, so I'd booked us both for a second night. Another couple were staying too.

Tony and Caroline are interesting people, the breakfast was good, the conversation was entertaining; I didn't venture out until 10:00 am.
The riverside walk to Staveley was as attractive and colourful as any on the route. It was well populated with joggers for the first couple of miles; the day was bright and warm.
After Staveley the way takes to the hills; only little hills, but ones replete with the smell and taste of the Lakes. There are tantalising glimpses into the heart of the district from the colourful upland pastures.
At New Hall the first of many short, heavy showers struck: the annoying type, giving just enough time to don waterproofs before abruptly stopping and the sun shining through. Sheltering under a tree from one such shower I chatted to a couple from Leeds on their second trip along the Dales Way: this time they were walking home.

I settled down for a snack on the brow of a hill overlooking School Knott and a magnificent Lakes vista. As had become customary, I was overtaken here by the Rotarians, most now accompanied by their spouses. We arranged to meet at a pub in Bowness for a longer natter.
It was all downhill from here, as height was lost strollers and amblers became thicker on the ground, but the route famously denies a view of the lake until the final few yards and stays rural almost to the heart of Bowness. And the end comes almost by surprise: the Dales Way bench appears before one is decanted onto an urban lane and into the touristy bustle of Bowness. The pub where I'd arranged to meet the Rotarians wasn't quite where I'd remembered it to be; where I thought it was was now a bistro. Ah well, I would have only had too much to drink; it would have been nice to reprise the trip and to have exchanged contact details, mind.
There was a bus at the boat landings heading up to Windermere. After a quick photo of the swans I was off to the railway station and back to Burneside. I do like a train trip, albeit only a ten minute one.

Sitting in the Gateway with William during the evening, the other Lakeland Hills guests appeared. They were the couple I'd last seen and chatted to on the Dee, near Dent. It seems they were revising a guide book for the route; 'twas non other than my favourite walking guide writer, Paul Hannon. And a jolly fine chap he is too.

A late and entertaining night was had back at the Lakeland Hills, in good company, with stimulating and diverting conversation.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dales Way 2012

Well, not much happened in 2011; here's to a more active 2012! To get things started, and as an antidote to too much pie and beer, I’m off along the Dales Way from Monday next, 16th April 2012.

The Dales Way was my first long-distance path as an adult, completed over 20 years ago with Rita, and a route I’ve walked twice more since (in 1997 and 2007). It’s always a good standby when not too fit and when one needs to get back in the swing. It’s also a jolly good walk by any standards, without being too strenuous (although it does have its moments).

Another plus is that Sherpa services the sole walker along the Dales Way: on other walks, the Coast to Coast excepted, they have a “minimum of two bags per party” rule. There are probably sound financial and operational reasons for this, but they elude me.

Any road up, here’s my itinerary:-

Monday 16 April 2012: Ilkley to Grassington. I'm overnighting at the Crown Inn at Addingham before setting out along the way. I’m booked into the Foresters Arms in Grassington (17 miles).

Tuesday 17 April 2012: Grassington to Hubberholm (13 miles). I’m booked into Church Farm, Hubberholme (strange as it may seem this is only yards from the George Inn).

Wednesday 18 April 2012: Hubberholme to Ribblehead (12 miles). Accommodation at yet another pub: the Station Inn.  

Thursday 19 April 2012: Ribblehead to Bramaskew Farm, on the route beyond Sedburgh (miles from the nearest hostelry!). This will be my longest day, with a high level alternative from Ribblehead to Dent on the cards, using the Craven Way track. The route choice will be made on the day, depending on weather and inclination (about 20 miles).

Friday 20 April 2012: Bramaskew to Burneside (12 miles). I have booked into Lakeland Hills B&B.  

Saturday 21 April 2012: Burneside to Bowness-on-Windermere (10 miles).  
Stand by for a heat wave… 

Monday, 24 January 2011

A Walk from Filey to Arnside

The Pennine Way, Appalachian Trail, Coast to Coast Walk, West Highland Way; and now… a Walk from Filey to Arnside.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it? Never mind, the name will do for the time being.  

When I first mused about devising a coast to coast walk I’d envisaged starting from my back door. Bridlington, though, isn’t well served with paths heading west. Filey, however, a little way up the coast and linked to Bridlington by a fine cliff top path, is at one end of the Yorkshire Wolds Way, which handily leads both inland and westwards. 

Arnside lies at a similar latitude to Filey on the west coast. It is well served with named paths, including the Limestone Link which heads off eastwards towards the Dales.

With the terminal points fixed a line between the two passes through three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, two areas that should be, and one National Park. The runes look good.  

To try not to wander too far from the direct line, whilst finding safe and attractive bridging of the A1 and the rivers of the Vale of York, are major considerations in determining a viable route. Any crossing of the A1, other than by bridge or tunnel, is impracticable. Bridges across the Rivers Swale and Ure are surprisingly sparse when viewed from a walker’s perspective.   

The most compelling reason for following published routes, National trails or Regional Routes is that someone has done the field work and research and that the way is, by and large, practicable and unobstructed. My line meets quite a few of these walks: it would be currish to the authors not to use them.

Great bonus over old Alf Wainwright’s time are the computer and the internet. Bring on Memory Map, Google Maps and Google Street View. And now, the route…

Saturday, 22 January 2011

New Blog 2011 onwards

It’s my new blog for the New Year (and decade). Not for any reason other than Blogger is now available directly from my Google Apps account: boring I know, but it makes things a shade easier to manage.

I’ve still got the Dales High Way pencilled in for this year or next, albeit with a Lancashire start at Pendle Hill, linking with the published route at Hetton. The new Pennine Journey route looks good too, although I’ve already walked sizable chunks of the route on other projects; the Wainwright book on which it’s based is a good, if idiosyncratic read.

I’ve whiled away the dark nights by taking Wainwright at his word and devising my own walk between the east and west coasts: from Filey to Arnside. And a good walk it looks too. I’ll probable spend time walking sections to hone the route.   

Whatever I do I’ve first got to motivate myself to get off my arse or I’ll soon have problems wobbling to the pub!