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.


  1. Can you send me your email address to

    You've won a prize in the Dales Way blog competition

  2. Hi Steve

    Just to say I really enjoyed reading your Dales Way blog (and the Herriott Way for that matter, as well). It reminded me of my own DW trip a few years back - which I completed with my wife - something we both often look back on with great fondness.

    Interestingly (or not, as the case may be) I note your comments on the section beyond Holme Park Farm and Burneside as initially feeling like it was simply there to make the link. We felt that, too, and think that next time we would follow the DW to Sedbergh area then pick up the Dales High Way to Appleby.