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Monday, 26 September 2016

The Dales High Way - The Return, August 2016, Day 9

Thursday 25th August 2016 - Newbiggin-on-Lune to Appleby-in-Westmorland
Distance:  12.7 miles
Weather:   Rain to start then overcast and warm for the rest of the day

We had breakfast at eight o'clock  so we could get an early start and we were on our way by nine after a good chat with our landlady, Brenda.  We can highly recommend her establishment - she knows how to look after long distance walkers.  The first part of today's journey took us along a minor road which we soon left to join a footpath also used by the Coast to Coasters: we saw lots of them as they passed by on their way from Shap to Kirkby Stephen.  Amongst them were three 14 year old  boys who were camping and they gave us a cheery wave as they tramped past. We also met a group of five Dales High Way walkers who were eating up the miles and keen to soldier on to Appleby. 

We crossed Ravenstonedale Moor and then traversed Great Kimmond and the impressive limestone pavements.  The guide book had promised excellent views but the low cloud had other ideas.  From Great Kimmond we trekked through cow filled meadows which fortunately were congregating a long way from our path and stiles.  The farm yard at Clockeld was as mucky as last time but soon a quiet lane led us into Great Asby.  The lawnmower goats were in place and we knew the Greyhound pub would be shut so we had brought lunchtime provisions.   Then, as we approached the church, we saw a sign  and lo, the church was holding an exhibition, 'Knitted Bible Stories' and, more importantly, they were serving tea and cake.  We toddled in and enjoyed the delights of knitted figures representing all the major bible stories from the old and new testaments including a splendid depiction of the Last Supper.  The church also had the most lovely pew runners made of felt with wool provided by the local sheep.  The runners were decorated with images, themes, patterns relating to the village and it is well worth visiting the church to have a look.  We enjoyed some homemade cake and a big pot of tea whilst we chatted to the volunteers.

We were soon back on the path and following an alternative route via quiet lanes to Hoff as we knew the official route was extremely boggy.  So we walked along minor roads and enjoyed hamlets, farmhouses and delightful woodlands.  I was on the look out for Red Squirrels but, alas, they were all hiding.  The hamlet of Drybeck included Drybeck  Hall, built in 1678, with its chickens, two beautiful horses and a laden plum tree.  At Hoff village the pub, which had been closed and sporting a' For Sale' sign on our last visit, was now open for business.  We sat outside and enjoyed a drink before heading off on the final stage to Appleby.

The path hugged the banks of Hoff Beck-  a neglected path which was muddy and full of nettles, brambles and thistles.  The mud was thick, sticky and red - true Eden Valley mud.  At Bandley Bridge we crossed the beck and as we did so a dog came running towards us followed by its owner.  This turned out to be our saviour from some very frisky cows in the next field.  The dog walker lived in Appleby and walks these local paths everyday so we asked her which was the best to use (we had a choice of two).  Indeed, we asked which was the least muddy and least cow infested.  We were informed that both had cows but the higher path was less muddy and the cows were young milkers so likely to be more placid.  Our new friend kindly offered to lead the way and we followed in her wake.  Sure enough, the path was relatively mud free and there were cows which trotted over as soon as they spotted us.  Our guide talked to the cows which then decided to follow us all the way across the field and it was with great relief that we crossed a stile and left them behind.  I shall now call our guide the cow whisperer. Handshakes, thank yous, goodbyes and a short cut into Appleby were shared and we were soon in the middle of town and collecting our certificates from the tourist information office. 

Our second Dales High Way was complete and what a joy it had been.  The scenery, the villages, the towns, the pubs, the cafes, the fellow walkers, the food, the weather, the cows, the locals, the B&Bs, the guide book - they have all helped make this a walk to remember.  Get out there and do it - you will not be disappointed.

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Dales High Way - The Return, August 2016 Day 8

Wednesday, 24th August 2016 - Sedbergh to Newbiggin
Distance:  10.9miles
Weather:   sunshine, warm breeze

Breakfast with Suzy is always good - freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade marmalade and jam and all served on good bone china and silver service.  Suzy recommended 'On the Roll' take away for our lunch time food and it was good: efficient, well-priced and a lovely lady who runs the business.  So lunch bought and within minutes we were back on the trail and starting the long, slow slog up to
The Calf which is the highest point on the Howgills.

It was warm and overcast and still as we followed the steep and rocky path past Settlebeck Gill.  We met two chaps on a day out from Newcastle who were walking a circuit up to the Calf and down Cautley Spout.  On we went  and reached Arant How where we met our Cambridgeshire friends from the previous afternoon.  We chatted and admired the view as we caught our breath and then we were off again.  It was quite a slog and seemed harder than last time (heavier packs and five years older).  Eventually we reached the trig point with a great sense of achievement.  The views were incredible with 360 degrees of stunning landscapes: The Lakeland Fells, Morecombe Bay and The Howgills.  Again we caught up with the Cambridgeshire boys and took photos and chatted.  They headed off for Cautley Spout whilst we found the faint path to take us to Hazelgill Knott and the heart of the Howgills. 

Until now we had seen lots of people including a lady from Kendal who had run up the fell.  Now as we left the main path, we had the fells to ourselves and we were enveloped by the sleeping elephants.  We found a spot for lunch but it was damp so we walked some more and found a dryer spot to sit and take in the splendour of our surroundings and imprint the memory of them.  West Fell was next and then it was a gentle, soggy descent to Bowderdale and a cooling paddle in the beck.  Then, joy of joys, we walked past the garden with the mini Howgills and we spoke to the owners again.  They were amazed we were so excited to see them.  A short walk and we arrived at Tranna Hill and our bed for the night.  It had been a day to remember.

The Dales High Way- The Return, August 2016, Day 7

Tuesday 23rd August 2016, Dent to Sedbergh
Distance:    7 miles
Weather:     warm and sunny

A great breakfast, a chat with fellow guests and our hosts at the excellent Sun Inn and we were on the trail by ten o'clock.  We planned an easy day today as we had the wonders of the Howgills to look forward to tomorrow.  So today we were following a route to Sedbergh of our own devising as we thought the fields and paths would be sodden or still flooded after the deluge the previous day.

We followed a minor road out of Dent and it was a delightful walk with stone cottages, farms, occasional meetings with polite, brightly coloured cyclists and  the River Dee popping back to see us as the road and river wended their ways along the dale.  I recognised part of the route from last year when I was completing the final stages of  The Pennine Journey.  The views of the dale were beautiful and we could see the Howgills ahead looking gorgeous in the sunshine.  We could see we had made the right decision to walk along the road as many of the fields we passed were still flooded  with marooned sheep looking...sheepish.  We walked through dappled woodland with huge Oak, Beech and Ash trees towering over us.  We passed an old, empty watermill with the mill stones propped against a wall.  Birds twittered and rustled in the hedgerows amongst brambles, ferns and wild flowers.  Moss covered stone walls shined emerald green and, always, the sound of gushing water tumbling over rocks.

Now we could see the Howgills in all their glory and beneath them the shining town of Sedbergh.  Through a gate onto Holme Fell where the sheep grazed on rich, green meadows and we found a convenient bench to sit and enjoy the scene and watch a paraglider attempt to launch himself off The Calf (our highest point on tomorrow's walk).    We set off on the final stage of the day's journey and turned right and downhill through Sedbergh Golf course which was busy with  golfers.  Our path was blocked at the River Rawthey as the footpath was being replaced so we headed across the fields to Millthrop which is a hamlet filled with stone cottages and pretty, flower filled gardens.  We also saw a trampoline upside down on top of a green house - I am sure it wasn't supposed to be there... 

We crossed the river on a fine stone bridge and entered Sedbergh.  Lunch was eaten in a café and we visited the tourist information office followed by a sit on a bench in the sunshine by a lovely bee friendly public garden.  It  seemed everyone wanted to talk to us as we sat there in the sun.  First three gentlemen from Cambridgeshire, who were on a reccy for a walk they were leading in the autumn, asked us which we thought was the best route out of town and up onto the Howgills.  We also gave them advice on a place to buy their lunch for tomorrow and where to buy hats and sunscreen.  They departed with queries answered and then another chap stopped for a chat who had just been doing interviews for a project manager with the task of raising the Sedbergh's profile with the help of volunteers as there is no money in the pot.  Again, Mrs C and I had lots of advice and suggestions - Yarn bombing, scarecrow festivals, litter picks and so on.  It turned out he knew a teacher I used to work with at home (it is a small world).  We shook hands, wished him well and off he went.  Next a young woman on a bicycle stooped for a chat.  We were in our element.

Gin and tonics at The Dalesman and then we headed to our B&B, Wheelwright Cottage and our landlady Suzy.  This was my third visit to this B&B and it was just the same - simple, comfortable with  a good breakfast.  As we showered and changed for dinner, the church bells were ringing out as it was practice night at the church.  Phone calls were made to our dear husbands and then, on Suzy's recommendation, we had dinner at the Red Lion - excellent pies.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Dales High Way - The Return, August 2016 Day 6

Monday 22nd August - Ribblehead to Dent
Distance:   8 miles
Weather:    poured with rain until 2pm then overcast

We looked at the weather this morning and a command decision was made by me and agreed by Mrs C: we would catch the train from Ribblehead to Dent Station.  This is a ten minute train journey which would save us 3 miles walking through the deluge which greeted us when we opened the curtains this morning and had accompanied our interrupted sleep last night.  As we were preparing to leave we met a couple from Stratford-upon-Avon who were also staying at The Station Inn and were walking The Dales Way which converges with The Dales High Way at  Dent Dale.  They had also decided to catch the train whereas the other Dales Way Walkers at the Inn were determined to continue to do the whole day on the trail.  Time tables were consulted ( a handy notice above the bar in the Station Inn gave us all the information we needed) and we walked two minutes to the station through the sheeting rain.  We sheltered in the warm, dry waiting room and the train arrived promptly and we were off.  Our new companions (R & I ) sat with us and a chap opposite chatted to me about the weather and the floods in Carlisle and Cockermouth last winter.  The train guard waved us off the train saying we were mad .  I checked our route and R & I asked if they could accompany us which we were happy to agree to as they were good company as we splashed downhill along the river/road. 

As we approached the River Dee, we could hear it thundering which was a surprise to me as on previous walks along Dent Dale the river was no where to be seen.  Then we reached the bridge and the riverside path we were going to follow and we saw the river in full spate.  The path was flooded and the trees overhanging the river were being tossed about by the force of the water.  I consulted the map and I suggested we walk along the quiet road to Dent - all agreed immediately.  The rain continued to pour: every beck, spring and stream coming down the dale sides was a torrent.  In places, the road was covered in rushing water which hurried to join the overflowing river below us.  We met a couple of ladies heading the other way and they told us that the water was quite deep in places further along the road.  We soldiered on, chatting, getting wet feet and laughing in the face of adversity.  Suddenly we noticed a river pouring across the road from the fields on the right.  Someone said, "Shall we take off our boots and paddle ?"  This was dismissed and we waded through with boots on and the water was over our ankles.  The force of the water was strong and scary but we made it across.  We continued along the road with many more flooded sections.  The Tesco delivery van passed us and gave us a cheery wave - nothing stops them. 

Eventually we arrived in Dent which, thankfully, was flood free.  R had said he would get us all hot chocolates so we headed for the pub and enjoyed lovely hot chocolate drinks as we chatted and dried out in the bar.  Goodbyes were said as R & I still had to walk to Sedbergh for their next night's accommodation.  They checked our maps for a drier route and then they were off.  We walked the short distance to our accommodation, The Sun Inn and shut the door on the weather.

The Dales High Way - The Return, August 2016, Day 5

Sunday 21st August 2016 - Stainforth to Ribbleshead
Distance:   11.5miles
Weather:   Overcast with signs of a blue sky at last but with scattered showers

I had an excellent breakfast of scrambled egg and salmon - a treat for the weather weary walker.  I met the fellow guest who was from Warwick and was heading up Ingleborough today.  My excellent breakfast was enjoyed in a delightful conservatory overlooking a beautiful walled garden - so civilised. 

Mrs C arrived and we were on the trail by half past ten.  She was to be my companion for the last four days of the walk.  We walked back over the damaged packhorse bridge had a quick look at the Force and re-joined the Dales High Way at Little Stainforth.  We were on our way to Smearset Scar which is another limestone delight.  We were in Feizor  as quick as you can say "a pot of tea and a slice of cake please" and soon enjoying those refreshments at the Feizor Tea rooms which we visited last time.  We had just finished our tea and cake when Co-op Alan appeared followed by his fellow Liverpudlian walkers.  There were introductions all round and best wishes for the day and then we went our separate ways.  We were now heading for Crummack via the pretty hamlet of Thwaite.  It was lovely walking with meadows, stone walls, woodlands, hedges full of rowan trees loaded with berries and wildflowers including thistle and cranesbill.  We crossed Austwick Beck via the Wash Dub Field bridge. 

Just before Crummack we were looking for a footpath to set us off on the alternative low level route to Ribbleshead via Selside avoiding Ingleborough (we climbed Ingleborough on our last trip).  This alternative route was fabulous:  on the left, Ingleborough brooding and its top hidden by low cloud, and on the right and ahead, acres of limestone pavements, crags and scars.  Crummack Dale nestled below us  and beyond, Pen-y-gent also brooded under its usual mantle of cloud.  We stopped for lunch by Sulber Gate and had time to enjoy the amazing views and what a fantastic spot this was to appreciate the limestone dales in all their geological glory.  We also spotted the Bronze Age stone wall mentioned in the guide book. 

Soon we were descending to Selside through sheep filled meadows where we startled a hare which tore off down the field ahead of us.  We passed the sign for Alum Pot which warned us we needed to pay 50p for the pleasure of entering the pot hole.  At Selside we saw a neat row of railway cottages and we crossed the Settle-Carlisle railway line with no trains within sight or hearing.  A bit of hair raising road walking and then we found the path rising over the fields towards more limestone crags.  At Colt Park we descended again to the road for another half a mile of road walking.  The traffic was light but it was fast and furious and there was not a lot of verge in places to escape the hurtling cars.  It was a relief to see the welcoming lights of the Station Inn and, more importantly, to see at last the grandeur and immenseness of the Ribblehead Viaduct.

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Dales High Way - The Return, August 2016, Day 4

Saturday 20th August - Malham to Stainforth
Distance:  10.3miles
Weather:  light rain to start followed by steady, continuous rain

Malham Youth Hostel was greatly improved since my last visit in 2011.  A decent night's sleep and a good breakfast set me up for the day.  I was on the trail by half past eight and it was dry for the first twenty minutes.  There was nobody about except a few hardy campers.  I sat on a rock and contemplated the cove in all its glory.  It is a magnificent place with the sound of the busy beck and the twittering birds.  I girded my loins with a couple of jelly babies and then I was off up the stone steps to the limestone pavement.  I took my time and admired the view frequently whilst plodding behind a pair of chattering blokes in matching shorts. I skirted round the back of the limestone pavement as I knew the limestone would be tricksy with all the rain.  I met lots of sheep who looked at me quizzically and I soon arrived at the stile leading into the dry valley (one of the highlights of the walk last time). 
The heavens opened at this point and then I saw the Highland cattle scattered along the path ahead.  At that moment I spotted a lady from my room at the Youth Hostel and knew she and her husband were heading the same way as me this morning.  They kindly walked with me past the cattle and safely up the limestone valley which, in the rain, was quite silent and empty.  Of course the Highland Cows did not even look up as we passed them - totally chilled.  The rain stopped as we reached the top of the rocky 'staircase' and we parted company.  I did not miss the turning this time as Mrs C and I did 5 years ago. 

The next stage was across the moors of Langscar and Nappa Cross.  There were lots of cattle but they were scattered across the hillsides and so I did not give them a second glance.    I followed the Pennine Bridleway down to Stockdale Farm surrounded by soggy sheep.  I reached the gate leading to Attermire Scar and the caves.  A sign had been pinned to the gate inviting the curious to visit an archaeological dig high on the hill side below the caves.  I decided to give it a miss as the rain was falling in earnest and the dig site was up a steep path.  After a snack and a drink and then my rucksack falling onto a muddy path, I set off for Settle through the driving rain which sheeted across the fields.  I passed some stoic Highland Cattle and Swaledale Sheep who stood rock still enduring the weather. 
Eventually, I reached the bright lights of the town.  I had planned a visit to the Naked Man Café for tea and cake but, as I was once more dripping wet,  I gave it a miss.  Instead I now had three major priorities; find a toilet, find somewhere to eat my lunch out of the weather and buy food for the next day's walk.  After a visit to the tourist information office to locate the public loos I sorted the first priority.  A visit to the parish church sorted out the second - I ate my lunch perched on a step in the  porch and watched the rain persisting down under a memorial to the workers who died building the Settle to Dent section of the great railway.  A visit to the Co-op sorted out the third priority.  It had a handy bench just inside the entrance so I was able to sort out my purchases which included a copy of the Craven Herald for stuffing into my wet boots later.  I then sat for a while contemplating the falling rain before I set off on the walk to Stainforth.   A gentleman said hello and an old lady wearily sat next to me as she sorted out her shopping.  I asked her if she was alright and she said that yes she was fine just old.

So I set off for the final stage of the day - three miles to Stainforth.  Over the bridge and along a footpath past the Settle United Football Ground.  Settle were playing in the pouring rain which did not look like much fun.  There were no spectators apart from the manager and the linesmen.  I left the river and walked along a quiet road where I met the gentleman from the Co-op.  He was heading back to his campervan which was set up at Little Stainforth Campsite.  We had a good chat about walking - he leads a group from Liverpool and takes them walking once a month.  We shook hands and wished each other well and then I turned right for the river and the bridge above Stainforth Force.  A couple were stood on the bridge and asked me where the waterfall was so I pointed them in the right direction.  I followed them down to have a look at the Force but not before a dozen cyclists came hurtling down the hill, over the bridge and up the other side.  The lovely pack horse bridge had a hole in it where a motorist had driven into the parapet recently.

The rain now decided to start pouring hard again.  It was half past three and I could not go the B&B early, and I was dripping, wet so I retired to the pub, The Craven Heifer.  It was full of the cyclists who had just passed me on the bridge and they were all sinking pints like it was the last time they would ever drink.  And, joys of joys, the fire was lit and glowing warmly so I put all my wet stuff around the fire along with the cyclists' gear. 

I ordered a gin and tonic and sat by the fire and gently steamed along with my gear.  The cyclists were interested in what I was doing so we had a good chat.  One chap told me about his job as a restorer of our wonderful peat bogs and moors - what a fantastic job.  Another chap was a ranger on the Malham estate for seventeen years and he told me that the wall which descends down the middle of the dry valley above Malham Cove divides the lands of 2 monasteries - Fountains and Rivaulx. 

Eventually the cyclists wobbled off into the rain and I gathered my stuff, booked my dinner at the pub and headed for my B&B, Holly House B&B.  The owner was lovely.  I stuffed my sodden boots with the Craven Herald and retreated to my room which had a lovely view of the garden and the church beyond.

The Dales High Way - The Return, August 2016, Day 3

Friday 19th August - Skipton to Malham
Distance:  14 miles
Weather:  overcast for first 3 miles then persistent rain for the rest of the day (it rained cats and dogs and cows).

Mrs R  kindly drove me to the station to catch my train as today was my first solo day on a long distance trail.  I arrived in Skipton at ten past nine and I was on the trail by half past after purchasing a 15p banana from Skipton Market and two Yorkshire Curd Tarts from the bakers.  I decided to take the alternative route out of town as it doesn't increase the mileage and, more importantly, it is guaranteed cow free.  I was so glad I took this delightful route as it follows the path by the canal and river through Skipton Castle Woods with great views of the castle walls and the general green loveliness of a woodland in high summer.  It was a bit convoluted to get back on the official route after the woods but it was well worth the diversion.

 A left turn at the Craven Heifer and I headed steadily uphill towards my first goal of the day - Sharp Haw.  The sky was full of ominous clouds but I soldiered on to reach the summit. which was windy with fabulous dramatic views and dark clouds heading my way. 

After a slight hesitation with my navigation as I wasn't sure which path to descend, I plunged down the other side of Sharp Haw and into another delightful wood.  I found Helen's memorial seat and enjoyed one of the delicious Yorkshire Curd Tarts which was a taste sensation and the discovery of the trip.  Then the rain started and forgot to stop for the rest of the day.

In the woods the rain was not a problem and I was making good progress and feeling confident on my first solo day and then I found a field of cows with the path running through the middle of a cow meeting. They saw me and all turned to look as though I was late for my presentation.  In fact I could not see the path or see where the gate/stile was on the other side so for a moment I stood considering my options.  I decided, as always, that discretion was the key and I skirted the field until I found a locked gate further down which I started to climb over (I know - needs must).  The cows were still watching me and started to take a keen interest in my next move.  After pausing for a moment I clambered over the gate and hot footed it down the field towards a gate with the cows following me.  I reached the gate before them and quickly put the gate between me and the cows which all lined up along the gate and watched me walk down the farm track and round the corner...

I entered the hamlet of Flasby where the official path heads across the fields to Hetton.  I knew from last time that there would probably be cows in those riverside meadows so I took the road route of two miles down a quiet lane which would have been quite pleasant without the driving rain and wind.  My plans for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in The Angel at Hetton were scuppered as I was dripping wet and I do not think they would have liked a sodden hiker steaming by the bar.  It was now lunch time and I could not find any shelter in Hetton - no church porch or bus shelter - so I ate my lunch under a dripping tree at the bottom of Moor Lane where the postman gave me a cheery wave as he drove by in his nice, dry van.

Moor Lane was a steady climb towards Weets Top.  The rain continued to fall and I was surrounded by the moors shrouded in wet, slow moving clouds.  All was going fine and then I saw cows on the path ahead of me - what is it with cows and paths?  I retreated and considered my options again.  After consulting the map and exploring the possibility of scrambling over walls, I was on the verge of returning to Hetton.  I decided to head up the path once more and see if the cows had moved on and, thank heavens, they had.  All the cows and their calves had sauntered off down the valley and well away from the path.  I walked quickly by them and once again put a gate between me and the bovine beasts.  I now had a clear run to Weets Top which I was just going to pass by but I decided to go and bag the trig point.  I now headed steeply down hill to Hawthorne Lane and Gordale Scar.  It was too wet to go and look today.  I plodded on secretly looking forward to a hot cup of tea at the mobile café but it wasn't there!  Janet's Foss was next but the path was wet and slippy.  Then it was one and half miles into Malham and the Youth Hostel.  I made full use of the drying room and had an excellent dinner at the hostel with a fine glass of Rose - cheers.