Wharfedale and beyond
Stage 43, Thursday 16 October 2014: Ilkley to Grassington, 17 miles
A total change in the weather, with a welcome mild autumn day, not a drop of rain, and a bit of sun towards the end. Today I was following the Dales Way, a popular long-distance path, which for this its first stage followed the River Wharfe closely all the way. After Addingham, the first great highlight is Bolton Abbey, the ruins of a great Augustinian monastery.
Beyond the abbey there are paths through the Strid Woods, popular with tourists at most times of the year. The countryside opens out beyond Barden Bridge, with views across to distant moors and the village of Appletreewick.
Just after here, bridge repairs forced a road diversion into Hartlington. No repairs thankfully to the great mediaeval bridge at Burnsall, where I had time for a pint and crisps at the thriving Red Lion Inn. The last stretch saw limestone figuring more widely, both in a couple of scars (limestone cliffs) across the river, and the distinctive valley-shape just beyond, until the final loop into the busy gateway village of Grassington.
Stage 44, Friday 8 May 2015: Grassington to Kettlewell, six miles
The day after the 2015 General Election. Another triumph for greed and insularity over the public spirit. A good time to get away from news media.
This simple walk by the Dales Way is a perfect little opener for a longer journey. This is quintessential limestone country, so there’s comfortable walking on grassy paths most of the time.
A little bit of light rain was settling in, but nothing to make life uncomfortable. The heavens opened just after I pitched my tent in Kettlewell’s village campsite, and delivered a squally inch of rain that conveniently stopped just before I struck camp the next day; but I managed to pick up the lost sleep from the night before without too much difficulty.
Stage 45, Friday 9 May 2015: Kettlewell to Artengill, 19 miles
Though I had a long day ahead of me, I waited for the rain to ease, which about 10 it did. Even in the village it was noticeable how quickly the becks had swollen, and I had a little concern that the flood meadows of the Wharfe, the first half of my day, would be inundated. Things weren’t too bad though, and I enjoyed looking out towards Buckden Pike, a familiar fell from other visits.
The first stopping point was Hubberholme, with its perfect little collection of farm, pub and church – I had enough time for a sandwich and orange juice at the George, which I hadn’t been to for years, and was pleased to find had not succumbed to the gentrification malaise. (Yes, the new responsible me, an orange juice instead of a couple of pints at the lunchtime stop of a long walk.)
George Inn, Hubberholme
Strictly, I was in Langstrothdale now, but the dale-scenery still feels like Wharfedale as I continued to the dalehead at Beckermonds. Here, there is the first serious climbing of the day, up to the tributary-dale of Oughtershaw Beck, and with it a much wilder scene. Passing Nethergill Farm, I called rhetorically out ‘What about a nice cup of tea then’, only to see its sign offering hot drinks. It was then a major base for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and they kept an open kitchen for passing wayfarers.
I left the Dales Way at Camhouses, cutting up to the Pennine Way and then taking the Pennine Bridleway to my wild camp site. Trouble is, I didn’t know that was what I was doing: the product of using old maps on which the latter was not shown. Instead, there were vague paths across limestone country that I thought might be tricky going.
And because I wasn’t looking for the Bridleway – something so big and distinct that mountain bikers and horse riders can’t miss it – I followed the invisible course of a mapped footpath that left me incontrovertibly on the wrong side of a wall. And over that, wandered about a bit, albeit in very attractive surroundings, Ingleborough dominating the view, until I saw a ribbon of gravel with two-wheeled machines on it.
Ingleborough from the Pennine Bridleway
From there, things were much more straightforward, and I made good time where I thought I might have been suffering furlongs of clag. The limestone stretch immediately after Newby Head was especially rewarding, and would have had many options for a tent, but I pushed on to the path junction as planned, and soon found somewhere to settle in.
Forward to the Northern Pennines
Accommodation and logistics
Hebden Bridge Hostel
I stayed at my sister’s in Armitage Bridge again, for the night before the start. The next two nights were at Hebden Bridge Hostel, using the local bus services to and from Cragg Vale and Haworth; I’d long wanted to stay in this famous small town, and the hostel is the right place to sample the lifestyle. Ilkley has a few B&Bs and I chose the comfortable 1 Tivoli Place.
Kettlewell camp site
I carried the tent for the Dales section, using the Kettlewell camp site on the first night and having a wild camp on the second. The Kettlewell site had only just re-opened and boasted an excellent facilities block – and a welcoming owner too, who insisted on making me a cup of tea when I got in.
Wild camping is not legal, of course, but high on Dent Fell there was no-one around to ask, and with a late Saturday finish and early Sunday start it would have been a surprise to be challenged.
As mentioned above, the bus services from Hebden Bridge helped me get around. I used Ilkley’s rail service to Leeds, for the journeys to/from the south.