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]

Monday, 24 October 2011

From Top Withins

Saturday – From Top Withins to Illingworth

Distance: 10 miles (1000 feet of ascent)

Time: 0750 to 1230

Weather: Fine, with increasingly blue skies


The sun was just peeping above the horizon as we set out on Saturday morning to demonstrate how to make a meal about navigating our way back to Halifax:


Someone had made a really early start (or had camped somewhere else nearby) as there were wet boot-prints on the slabs of the Pennine Way passing Top Withins.

Pausing on our way down towards Haworth (not that we were going down to Haworth, but we were heading in that general direction), we looked back to see that our pitch was now bathed in glorious golden morning sunshine (that tree sticking up above the hill on the horizon is next to Top Withins, and we were just above there):


The early route issues weren’t really navigation issues. It was more that I was taking us along the route that I had hastily plotted without putting any thought into whether it was sensible. As a result we (completely unnecessarily) walked three sides of a square before reaching Bronte Falls. I didn’t manage a passable shot of the falls, so I’ll make do with one of ‘Bronte Bridge’:


I was surprised that we only met one fell-runner on the walk down towards Haworth (Mick was very admiring of her running style), but once down onto flatter land we did meet plenty of dog-walkers, including three old-dears, who were most concerned that we must have been cold camping up by the ruin overnight. They were relieved when we told them that we did have a tent with us!

Having skirted Oxenhope, a bigger meal was made of navigating our way. It’s actually pretty rare that we have to backtrack, but this was one of those occasions. Our mishap was witnessed. We’d exchanged a few words with a builder shortly before I’d dug out my compass and declared that we were heading the wrong way. As we passed him again he reassured us that there was a path heading that way. There was indeed a path, but not heading in a direction that was useful for us.

A plethora of paths just past an unnamed (on my map) reservoir saw us further discombobulated, and if it hadn’t been for the position of the sun and the needle of the compass my sense of direction would have taken us off in the wrong direction. All was very pretty looking back:


Heading up past Thornton Reservoir the moorland was so desolate that it was hard to believe how close we were to civilisation. My legs (particularly knees and hips) were pleased to hear that we were now within 3.5 miles of Ma-in-Law’s house. The thoughts of sinking into a soft sofa was bliss. The thought of a steep hill was not.

Happily the climb up onto Thornton Moor wasn’t as violent as the climbs of the previous day and we both agreed that we were glad to have walked the route in a clockwise direction (although if we had done the short and gentle day first I probably wouldn’t have been so wrecked for the second day).

The meandering route I had plotted from Ogden Water to the finish was abandoned in favour of a shorter walk along roads and by lunch time we were back. Gladly I sank into the sofa and had a cup of tea put into my hands (you can always rely on Ma-in-Law to have the kettle on within 30 seconds of you walking through the front door).

The trip was just what the doctor ordered and I’d happily go and walk it again. In the meantime, I must do something about my woeful lack of fitness. It’s not in any way reasonable to hurt so much after 24 miles of walking, spread over 2 days.

Not that I’m expecting anyone else to want to start and end a walk from Ma-in-Law’s house (although she’d undoubtedly put the kettle on for you if you did), but this is (more or less) the route we took (excluding the first and last mile, which I’ve cut off the edge of the map):



  1. Well done Gayle - I must get out soon for a short backpack - have a new rucksack to test...

  2. I would say 'come with us this weekend!' except that I know that you'll be in Fort William.

  3. Thanks Gayle - your offer is appreciated - it's a great shame I can't come with you.
    See you soon.