The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 16 July 2010

Dales High Way Photos

The weather wasn’t great for a non-photographer to take passable shots, but here are the pick of a (mainly bad) bunch:

Day 1

On Draughton Moor, heading towards Skipton:IMG_1728a Looking down to Skipton (and looking forward to a cup of tea):

IMG_1729a Popping over a well-built (and quite tall) stile (on Day 3 of the trip we climbed over what felt like dozens of ladder stiles, which had superseded adjacent wall stiles; most of those ladder stiles were too narrow to allow a person with a backpack to turn around to descend backwards. Not a problem for me, as I usually descend forwards or sideways – but it caused a few tights shuffles for Mick):

IMG_1731aThat pimple on the landscape ahead is Sharp Haw, up which we’re headed just as four other groups are on their ways back to their cars:

IMG_1733aThe near lump is Rough Haw, taken from the top of Sharp Haw. That’s the direction in which we’re headed next:


Low water in Winterburn Reservoir. That boat house (on the right) isn’t going to be much use just now:

IMG_1739aToptastic campsite location at Gordale Scar, albeit the toilet facilities and yard area could do with a bit of a clean-up. It seems that no rubbish left by a camper has ever been thrown away, it’s just all been stacked and hoarded.


Day 2:

After a series of multi-faffs, which saw the first mile take the best part of an hour, we finally got into our stride and up onto Ewe Moor, giving good views (even though the photo doesn’t illustrate it well!) back to Malham Tarn: IMG_1746aAlong this By-Way the National Park is filling in troughs in the ground by dumping loose aggregate into them. Didn’t strike me as a sympathetic way of rectifying erosion, but then it’s not a subject about which I know anything, so I’ll trust that the National Park knows what its doing:

IMG_1747a Great Scar, Settle Scar and Attermire Scar, just before Settle:

IMG_1750aHeading down to Settle. It was about this point that we started to hear a pot of tea calling our names:

IMG_1751aHaving dragged ourselves away from the food and drink of Settle, we reached Stainforth Force, where Mick posed for a picture:

IMG_1752aSo did I, although what I first notice from this photo isn’t the waterfall or the bridge, but the bad hair day I seem to be having!


Day 3:

Not great weather as we cross the Clapper Bridge beyond Wharfe. Apparently it’s a popular spot, but not that early on a grey day:

IMG_1756aTwo trees stand in the vast limestone pavement (in the pissing rain), just below Ingleborough. Again, the snapshot doesn’t come close to doing it justice:


Not long afterwards the decision was made to make the mad dash for the early train, and with the weather being decidedly wet during the descent, and with us being in such a rush, the camera didn’t see the light of day again on this trip.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Little Stainforth to Horton

Thurs 15 July
Distance: 8.5 miles

We're thinking of rebranding ourselves: 'Fair Weather Walkers Am We'...

It was another wet and blustery night, but once again the rain obliged us by stopping shortly before we depitched, and just before 7am we were striding in the direction of Feizor.

Feizor boasts a tea room which is, apparently, open 7 days a week, but 7.30 was a bit early for it. That might have been quite upsetting had I not managed to wring just enough gas out of our failing canister to make 2 cups before we set out.

Onwards to Wharfe we went on obvious paths and tracks, and from the hamlet a nice walled track was picked up. Overgrown in places, it gave our legs a bit of a soaking, but it was so warm that the dampness was not uncomfortable.

A significant multi-faff (all mine) at Clapper Bridge (of which I should have taken a photo with my phone, but didn't think of it at the time), allowed us to cool down a bit before we started the next bit of ascent: over the limestone pavements to Ingleborough.

The rain started as we crossed those pavements, but even in the damp conditions we could appreciate the impressive geological features. It's definitely worth taking that route.

With rain still falling, and with the top of Ingleborough heavily clad in cloud, I gave Mick 2 options: 1) go up Ingleborough, as he's never been to the top; or 2) leave the top and the rest of the route for a better day and hot-foot it down to Horton for the 10.30 train.

Mick opted for the latter, even though we knew we were cutting it rather fine for the train.

The path was much trickier in the wet than it had been when I flew down it 3 weeks ago, and a pause was had for Mick to don waterproofs when the heavems really opened, but with some serious dedication to pace we made it to the station with a whole 2 minutes to spare (phew - it would have been a 3 hour wait for the next train).

And who, by coincidence, should we find on the platform, but Trentham Walker (who, you may recall, I bumped into in Malham when I passed through a month ago). I'm not sure if he's stalking me or the other way around!

So, our trip ended slightly prematurely (the intention had been to reach Dent on this outing), but as it goes we've split the entire route nicely. Another time we can return to Horton and spend another 3 days reaching the end of the route at Appleby.
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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Gordale Scar to Little Stainforth

Wednesday 14 July
Distance: 10.5 miles

It was a wet and blustery night, but aside from vaguely waking occasionally when the tent was shaking violently, a good night's sleep was had (a comfortable one too, on my newly acquired POE Insul Mat Max Thermo).

By the time we had succumbed to a lazy lie-in this morning, the rain had stopped and there was even blue to be seen in the sky. Slowly we pulled ourselves together, but by the time we were ready for the off, at 8.30, the sky was again looking rather dull and rain laden.

On Ewe Moor we caught up with 4 of the large group of army chaps who had been at the campsite in the Orange Tent City. After a bit of chat, Mick asked whether their packs were heavy. "Yes" they all said, and one added "35". "Thirty-five pounds?" said Mick. "No, kilos" said the army chap "so about 70lbs". We stood open mouthed. Mick asked if he could try to lift one. Continuing on our way a while later I asked him how monstrously heavy it was. "About 15 kilos, maybe 20" he said.

Having enjoyed excellent views back to Malham Tarn as we made our way over the moor, we started to approach the various Scars to the east of Settle and our already leisurely progress was slowed further. Some sheep gathering was going on ahead of us and not wanting to get in the way and accidentally scatter the sheep, we happily stood and watched for 20 minutes as the couple and the single dog brought in an entire flock off the moor. The dog was exhausted by the end of it, and seemed quite pleased when it wasn't made to chase the single lamb which made a bolt for freedom at the last minute.

Some refuelling took place in Settle, and Mick parted with some cash in exchange for Sorbothane foot beds, which he cut to pieces before even leaving the shop, then it was onwards, up the River Ribble.

Past Stainforth Force we went (perhaps it's just me, but I have real trouble saying Stainforth Force and getting 'forth' and 'force' in the right places!), and to the campsite just a handful of paces further on. It's not where we'd originally intended to stay tonight. We should have walked further, but I really wanted a nice shower, which was available here but not at our planned destination.

It was a good decision. The rain, which had held off the whole time we had been walking, struck the moment we had the tent up. Excellent timing for the second day in a row. This luck can't last, can it?

(Carol, JJ, LIAF - thanks for the confirmations that I wasn't making up words!)
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Ilkley to Gordale Scar

Tuesday 13 July
Distance: 20.5 miles

Two late changes were made to my plan for this trip, one following from the other. Based on Saturday's weather forecast for the upcoming week, I voiced the possibility of delaying my departure by a day so as to get the best of a not-great looking week's weather. Mick in turn decided that if I delayed the trip until Tuesday, then he could come along.

And so it was the two of us that strode out of Ilkley train station this morning, after an early start, to walk a chunk of the Dales High Way.

It wasn't a bad day for it. Cloudy it was, but pleasantly warm and only a moderate breeze. However, we knew that we had quite a distance to go, and that rain was forecast from about 4pm, so we wasted no time heading off towards Skipton.

The track from Addingham to Skipton was pleasing, being well defined and having sufficient elevation to give a good view, and arriving in Skipton it seemed reasonable to seek out a tea room. We went in the first we found, which was right at the far end of the town, and then found after we left that there are five more within ten paces after that.

Four sets of people were met coming down off the lump-in-the-landscape that is Sharp Haw as we made our way up at just after 1pm. It was a false representation of how busy our route was as not another person was then seen until we passed the almost-empty Winterburn Reservoir where three mothers with babies strapped to them were heading the other way.

The climb up to the second trig point of the day, atop The Weets, seemed never ending, so long and gentle was it. The descent was somewhat faster, thanks to its knee-killing steepness.

By this time there was rain to the west and to the south of us and we were clearly on borrowed time until it hit.

We were lucky. It was about 200 yards before the campsite when it started to drizzle, and the worst of the shower held off until the tent was up.

Our position on the campsite was decided by the presence of two groups here, one of which is rather a big one with lots of matching orange ridge tents. We've pitched about as far away as we can get, alongside the families, and so far from the facilities that most people with a car would probably drive to them.

The benefit of being so far up the campsite is that we're almost in Gordale Scar, which is a mighty fine natural feature indeed. From the point of view of picturesqueness*, there are certainly worse places to camp.

(*made up word alert)
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Thursday, 8 July 2010


I thought that I had jinxed summer this week, by taking delivery of a pair of shorts that not only fit me but seem to be made out of a decent fabric (the pair that I knocked together a couple of weeks ago had the flaw of becoming more uncomfortable the stickier I got).

Buying summer clothes has always put an immediate stop to good weather before, and sure enough, within 24 hours after taking delivery the forecast was for a considerable lump of rain to pass over the area.

About three drops fell.

The cracks in the ground on one of my routes are now so big that I fear that I may disappear down one of them:



And yet, despite ground so dry that it seems that there is not an ounce of water left in it, the nettles still continue to thrive. I had to make my way through these, measuring up to six feet high (with great care, I even avoided being stung):


Today I made even greater efforts to provoke rain. Before I walked into town, I took my jacket out of my bag. And, it did rain, but it was so warm and the rain so light, that the ground didn’t even get vaguely damp.

So, one final attempt to cause an end to the dry spell has been made. I’ve plotted a route. I’ve worked out logistics. Next week I’m off on another little solo jaunt. After what feels like months of gorgeous weather, it’s bound to rain, isn’t it?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

From Yarm to Hurworth-on-Tees

A chunk of the Teesdale Way, between Yarm and Hurworth, may seem like a bit of an odd choice for a day walk for Midlands-dwelling people, but that is where we walked yesterday, with our purpose being to meet up with Conrad, who is currently walking from Lowestoft to St. Bees.

A good evening had been spent in Conrad’s company on Sunday night, having picked him up at the end of his day’s walking and whisked him off to the nearest campsite, and then bright and early yesterday morning, I deposited the chaps back in Yarm. Leaving them to start walking, off I tootled to find a suitable place to leave the car for the day, before hot-footing it back to the Tees to loiter on a bridge, which gave a good opportunity to admire the adjacent viaduct:

IMG_1712Once Conrad and Mick had surprised me by emerging from a direction other than the one I expected, onto the Teesdale Way we went, at first finding it to be a well-trodden path (courtesy of local dog-walkers, I imagine).

Beyond the boundary of dog-walkers’ territory, the path became a little less distinct, but still not bad:

IMG_1714Then things all became a little more difficult as the undergrowth got more and more overgrown, finally descending into the realms of farce as we found ourselves wading through monstrously tall green stuff including nettles and giant hogweed (which I can confirm deserves the ‘giant’ bit of its name).

With the unpleasantness of nettle-rash, and the dire warning posters about the dangers of touching giant hogweed, progress was slowed as we wended our way through in single-file:

IMG_1718It transpired that we were a day early in tackling one of the more overgrown sections; as we reached the end of the field eight chaps in Personal Protective Equipment and wielding strimmers emerged from the woodland and made their way towards us. They warned us that we still had one overgrown section to go – and they weren’t wrong.

Some of the greenery was festooned with spiky black caterpillars:


The trials of monster plants did finally abate, and the rest of the walk was pleasant indeed, with farmland, the edge of a few villages and all nice easy walking. What was particularly notable, though, was that for a walk that mainly follows a river, in the section we walked we barely had a glimpse of the water as it was hidden variously by a bank, by trees or by monster plantage.

At Lower Dinsdale none of us felt inclined to take large three-sides-of-a-square loop of the Teesdale Way, so after lunch in front of the village church:

IMG_1720 it was to tarmac that we took for the last chunk of the day.

Chatting away, it seemed like no time had passed before we got into Hurworth, from where we were to part company with Conrad. He was to head further towards St Bees; we were to take some field-paths up to Darlington to catch a train back to the car.

We didn’t take to those field-paths. A bus stop was spotted and the timetable told us that the next bus was only ten minutes hence.

With no thanks to the bus driver, who promised to tell us when we needed to get off his bus and then completely forgot, forty-five minutes later we had successfully trotted back across Darlington, negotiated our way onto and off the right train and were striding back towards the car for our journey home.

It was great to catch up with Conrad (who we first met, 2 years ago, in a field with awful stiles, somewhere in Somerset, as we were all making our ways from Land’s End to John O’Groats), and we look forward to keeping track with what is left of his walk.

The stats for my day were 12.5 miles walked (Mick walked further, having started in Yarm) with (allegedly) 1000 feet of upness (I remember one small bank and a few minor undulations; not sure where the rest of that ascent occurred)