Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Long Walk Part 1. The Yorkshire Dales and the Howgills

Skipton to Newbiggin on Lune.

Day 1

Skipton is a few miles outside the southern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The National Park was extended in 2016 by 24%. The extension is in the North Eastern part of the park and now includes the Northern part of the Howgill Fells and up towards the A66. It extends west to the M6. This extension meant that this first section of the walk was entirely within the Yorkshire Dales – even though parts of it are in Cumbria and even a small amount in Lancashire.

The official start of the Long Walk was at the Truman statue in Skipton.

The Truman statue in Skipton

This is a bronze statue of the Yorkshire and England cricketer which was unveiled in 2010. We left Skipton via the beautiful Castle woods. The weather was dry but quite cool with a brisk north easterly breeze. We crossed the A59 and entered Skipton Golf Course. We had a fine view of the £13m flood alleviation works which has been developed by engineering firm Ove Arup.  Skipton and the surrounding area has suffered some serious flooding events in recent history. The scheme involves the building of two flood storage reservoirs on Eller Beck and Walter Hill Beck and the installation of flood walls in the town centre which should protect the town and surrounding area from further flooding.

As soon as we entered the National Park we were on fine open moorland.

Into the National Park

We were walking with cousins Ian and Rachel who kindly helped us with logistics and were joining us for the first few miles.

We celebrated the ascent of our first peak – Sharp Haw (357m) with a group selfie.

Group selfie

We were following the Dales High Way on this first day and we went down to the hamlet of Flasby.  The Dales High Way is a 90 miles Long Distance footpath from Saltaire in West Yorkshire to Appleby in Cumbria. The return to Saltaire from Appleby can be made on the scenic Carlisle to Settle Railway.

The Dales High Way took us on through Hetton- where we somehow walked past the pub- and then over several miles of open moor up to Weets Hill (414m). The view from the trig point encompasses Pendle to the west, but its outstanding view is of the limestone country to the north. All three of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks can be seen and even Malham Cove is visible.

All that remained was to walk down the lane to Malham. Of course it was not downhill all the way because after Goredale Scar we had to climb up again.

We found a permitted footpath that kept us off the road and led us down into our destination for the day Beck Hall at Malham.

23km | 750m ascent


Day 2

The following morning we were off bright and early heading for Malham Cove in lovely spring sunshine. Our destination for the day was Horton in Ribblesdale. The Pennine Way was also going that way so we routed along it.

The first feature is Malham Cove. The large, curved feature was formed by a waterfall carrying meltwater from glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago. Above the cove is a fantastic limestone pavement.

Limestone pavement

We walked through a limestone gorge which led us out onto a huge plain occupied by Malham Tarn, which is a glacial lake. The surrounding area is a wetland of international importance. Unusually in May 2017 the area was extremely dry having not had any rain for several weeks. This was soon to change!

North of the Malham Tarn Estate, which is managed by the National Trust, the route heads once again onto open moor with excellent limestone scenery. The route climbs gently to Fountains Fell –the 4th Yorkshire peak after Pen y Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. The view from Fountains Fell was spectacular with Pen y Ghent looming large.

Pen y Ghent in the distance

The route drops down to the Silverdale Road which we followed for a mile or so before following the path across the moor and onwards to the ascent of Pen y Ghent.

Pen y Ghent is part of the Yorkshire 3 peaks challenge. This involves the ascent of Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in less than 12 hours, a journey of 38 km with 1500m of elevation. Luckily we were here on a weekday and there were not many other people walking. At weekends the area can get very busy and this puts pressure on local resources and on the path itself.

A lot of the paths used on the challenge have been rebuilt using 300kg flagstones. Work is underway on the northern side of the hill to replace a badly eroded gravel path.

Path maintenance

A lot of the paths have been built in the heavily used areas and our feet were longing for some nice soft grass after several hours of these stone flags.

As we descended, Jan our host at Middle Studfold Farm, called to offer us a lift to the house from the middle of Horton in Ribblesdale. We accepted!

25.3 km | 950m ascent


Day 3

Middle Studfold Farm is a country mile from Horton in Ribblesdale. It is an exceptionally good B&B and offers evening meals too. In the morning we decided to walk along the river back to Horton and to the start of the climb up Ingleborough. The river was very low due to there having been no rain here for 4 weeks.

Thr river levels were very low

It was a very pleasant start to the day with wild flowers beginning to bloom and lots of very young lambs enjoying the sunshine. We weren’t following any particular long distance path, just our own route from Horton to Dent.

The climb to Ingleborough from Horton in Ribblesdale is quite long and mostly gentle. It was in our minds that we had a long day ahead of us and we were moving along steadily. We were pleased to catch up with another walker and exchanged a few words. It turned out that this 83 year old was an ex fell runner and was just getting out to do what he could these day. I’ll be very happy if I can be walking in terrain like this in 20 years time!

The top of Ingleborough (723m) is a bare moonscape of broken limestone. We paused for a flag photo on the trig point.

Ingleborough summit

The onward route is extremely steep downhill off the top of Ingleborough down to Chapel-le-Dale. We crossed magnificent limestone pavements and passed a huge shakehole, Braithwaite Wife Hole. We crossed the road at Chapel-le-Dale. There is a pub here and we had a terrible lunch there, but we won’t go into that.

The last of the 3 peaks is Whernside – a high whale like lump. It is the highest of the 3 peaks at 736m. The ascent is pleasant enough to begin with but then it becomes very steep for about 500m and I found this quite tiring. I was pleased when it eventually became less precipitous and we could stride along to the trig point. It was mid week so we were alone up there but I can imagine it becomes very busy at weekends and holiday times.

The summit of Whernside

It was already 15:30 and we still had about 10km to walk. Although this was prevailingly downhill there was a lot of paving or rough stony tracks. Our feet were getting quite sore so when we eventually got down to the River Dee we were very pleased. There was no water in the River Dee, which was a bit of a surprise.

The very dry River Dee

We walked along the River Dee, which eventually did get a little water, towards Dent. We were now in Cumbria on the western slopes of the Pennines and still within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The village of Dent is on the Dales Way and Dales High Way and the George and Dragon is a popular stop for walkers. It is one of those that the companies who transfer baggage use. We were very pleased to arrive eventually at 17:45 and enjoyed a pint (or two) of the traditionally brewed craft beer from the local brewery.

All 3 of us were very tired after a long day walking in the sun and wind.

32.1 km | 1100m ascent


Day 4

The next day we were walking over the little visited Howgills but first we had a lovely, gentle walk along the River Dee (now flowing a little more strongly) towards Sedburgh. After 4 miles we crossed the river and at Brackensgill proceeded to climb around the shoulder of the Frostrow Fells through woodland and a walled track to emerge through a gate onto open pasture overlooking Sedbergh with an excellent view of the Howgills beyond.

Sedbergh is a small town in Cumbria though historically it was in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Sedbergh dates back to Saxon times. Sedbergh school is an independent boarding school in the town. It was established in 1525. The schools are the main employer in the town but Sedbergh has become England’s book town with independent book shops and dealers who operate from the Dales and Lakes Book Centre. Other major sources of income are farming, retail and tourism.

We contributed to the economy by buying some excellent chilled blackcurrant drink that helped us on our way to the next stage of the journey – The Howgills.

The Howgills

The Howgills are the hills on the right as you drive North to more interesting mountains in the Lake District and Scotland. They are visited much less and are very quiet. They are also grassy which to us was most welcome after several days of paved tracks and rough stony lanes in the Dales. The Howgills are in Cumbria and in 2016 became wholly in the Yorkshire Dales National Park when the boundary changed. They are separated from the Lake District in the west by the River Lune which runs along the M6. They are formed from Ordovician and Silurian rocks rather than Carboniferous limestone found elsewhere in the Yorkshire Dales. They are characterised by the lack of walls and fences.

The climb up from Sedbergh was initially steep but opened out onto gentler grassy slopes. There were a series of minor summits as we made our way North.

Minor summit along the way

The highest point on the Howgills is The Calf at 676m.

The summit of The Calf

We were hoping it was going to be a nice grassy path all the way down to Bowderdale where the Howgill bridleway meets the Lune Valley and the A685. It was quite nice and grassy and a lovely clear day with far reaching views but those undulations took their toll so we were once again pretty tired by the time we got down.

Far reaching views from the Howgills to Lakeland

That wasn’t the end of it though – we had an interminable 3km walk along a lane to our destination: Brownber Hall.

Brownber Hall was our favourite stop on C2C in 2016 and this walk was arranged so we could stay there again. This year it was even more fabulous because it is licensed. A further development in the very near future is a restaurant.

Thus ended stage one of the 2017 pub crawl with some very nice Eden Best – a gorgeous, light chestnut best bitter.

Cheers…

27.3km | 1010m ascent

The gpx file for days 1 – 4 can be found here.

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The Long Walk 2017 – aka a 172 mile pub crawl

One of the most enjoyable adventures we had in 2016 was walking the Coast to Coast with our Border Terrier Archie.

Archie

Archie is 10 years old now but he’s pretty fit so we decided to do another long walk. C2C was great fun but there were bits of it we enjoyed more than others. We decided to plan our own route creating a long walk through challenging upland wilderness in the North of England.

The attractions of planning our own long distance walk.

  • Lots of planning with maps out!
  • Discovering new and interesting places.
  • Covering vast areas of the country.
  • Being autonomous.

The logistics can be challenging. Planning a walk over a two week period creates an organisational challenge – especially when a small dog is in the team. There are a limited number of accommodation providers who are willing to accept even a small, well behaved dog, so our route and distance between accommodations was largely dictated by where we could find to stay. We carry all our own stuff so camping is not an option. We carry as little as possible and wash stuff out at the end of each day. After a couple of weeks everything is getting quite riffy.

Pre-booking accommodation is essential given the limited options. The down side of this is pre-booking usually requires part payment in advance, so not getting there is not really an option.Wasting a deposit would not sit well with my northern roots.

We had a time window of 13 days. Two days were needed to travel to and from the walking area so we had 11 days to walk.  We have kind relatives living on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales who were willing to help us out with logistics. A rough plan emerged to walk North from Skipton taking in the Yorkshire 3 peaks and the Howgills.

The Dorset flag reaches Whernside the highest point in the Yorkshire Dales

The Howgills – rounded green hills. Fewer visitors than the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. 

Then there would be a link day when we would walk west from Newbiggin on Lune to the Lake District. We then reckoned we could have a splendid 6 days walking around the highest bits of the Lakes. At the planning stage I tried to create a walking day of about 6 hours. As it turned out some were longer – none were shorter!

Our first night was with our relatives in Burley in Wharfedale and then they took us to the start of our walk which began at Skipton. At the end of the walk we were kindly scooped up at Windermere and returned to Burley.

Understanding relatives provided a taxi service and began our walk with us. 

Accommodation on the walk was at:
1. Beck Hall, Malham.
2. Middle Studfold Farm, near Horton in Ribbelsdale.
3. George and Dragon, Dent.
4. Brownber Hall, near Newbiggin on Lune.
5. Haweswater Hotel.
6. Lacet House, Ambleside.
7. Horse and Farrier Inn, Threlkeld.
8. Littletown guesthouse, Newlands near Keswick.
9. Wasdale Head Inn.
10. Britannia Inn, Elterwater.

The places we chose to stay were prioritised because they were dog friendly. However – they were predominantly pubs or were licensed. Brownber Hall was a return visit as we had voted it the top place to stay on our 2016 C2C.

The moor bewteen the Howgills and the Lake District. 

It was overall the winner this year too, although some of the others also warrant a return, most notably The Wasdale Head Inn, Littletown Guesthouse and Middle Studfold Farm. The only place we would definitely not return to, even if they paid us handsomely, is the Horse and Farrier at Threlkeld!

The stuff we carried was the same as C2C in 2016

We once again chose the hair shirt method – not using a company such as Sherpa to transfer our baggage. We carried the minimum amount of stuff to be safe and comfortable on the high mountains in the Lake District whatever the weather, so we had all the usual clothing and equipment required for that.

In addition we had a change of clothes to wear in the evening. A small amount of toiletries and some medication and first aid stuff. We started with 2 maps and 4 days food for Archie. We posted the remaining food for Archie to Brownber Hall along with the Lake District Maps.

Long distance walking is low intensity exercise and we seem to mange perfectly well on minimum fuel. We eat as much as we can manage at breakfast and then most days we don’t really eat anything else until the evening. I know this will not suit most people but it suits us and we didn’t lose any weight! This may be due to the attention we gave to liquid and solid refuelling every evening, of course.

Helvellyn

The weather was out of our control. When looking at the route options between accommodations I did bear in mind foul weather alternatives. Unfortunately we did experience a few unsettled days in the Lake District. On the walk to Wasdale Head the conditions were such that no amount of gortex could prevent us being completely soaked. There are no sun terraces with rows of deck chairs at the Wasdale Head Inn. Drying rooms a plenty though – says it all really.

The Long Walk was a great success. All 3 of us enjoyed it enormously.  So for 2018 – how about the Southern Upland Way.  Another long distance coast to coast walk in the borders of Scotland?

The Sport of Ageing

I suppose that being over 60 I can still be classified as being middle-aged, towards the end of middle age and heading towards old age. There is of course chronological age and biological age. That nice machine they have at the gym that tells me I’m only 45! A dexa scan tells me my bone density and % of body fat are average for a 20 year old.

As the body ages, muscle size and strength reduces, flexibility reduces, aerobic capacity reduces, bone structure and density changes – it’s all happening and it’s all a natural process. Ordinary people become more sedentary as they age. Older athletes reduce the rigour of their training. Metabolic function changes, my thyroid doesn’t produce any thyroxin for example and the synthetic substitute is a poor replacement. I am basically very healthy and fit. We live in a nice place and have an active outdoorsy lifestyle.

Kayaking near our home.

For better and for worse, your body never ceases to change through ageing. My approach to training and sport choices and level of activity will reflect that by evolving from year to year in appropriate ways.

The changes in my body have meant a dramatic reduction in running speed. To keep this in perspective I am still ‘good for age’ but it’s still very annoying! Also my body finds running very strenuous and complains more loudly and often than it used to when I was younger. This means I can run less as I don’t want to exacerbate injuries.

I spend more time these days on strength and conditioning than I used to. In practice this means weight training with dumbells and kinesis. It means regular Iyengar yoga classes.

Chair headstand at our yoga class.

At a simple accessible level it is a 2 minute daily plank! Some days even that is too hard!

I no longer feel the need to push myself to do things I don’t really enjoy. I no longer swim in the sea year round for example! I still swim regularly, but only in the pool when the sea temperature is in single figures.

Sea swimming

I did not take up my ‘Good for Age’ place at the London Marathon in 2017. I loved the 2016 event and ran well ensuring an automatic entry to all the big city marathons in the world in 2017 and 2018. But, for reasons I can’t really explain I just didn’t want to do it. Maybe it’s a case of been there done that and got a drawer full of T shirts.

Finishing London Marathon 2016

I have not entered any triathlons this season- yet. I am still training. I still swim, bike, run and I enjoy it. At present – that seems to be enough. Racing is not on the agenda at present.

My Ironman trophy

I still ride Audax events.

I keep up my AAARTY.

There are many inspirational people out there riding huge distances who are much older than I am – mainly men. I continually ask myself, ‘Am I having a nice time – is this fun?’ The effects of ageing on my body have made stuff that used to be fun, much less fun because it hurts and the results are poor. So evolve – focus on what is fun. Focus on what I can do now rather than what I used to do.

My attention has been diverted from training by normal family events earlier this year. My father was very ill for a while. He is 91 and lives close by so we were able to give him the care and support he needed to get well and regain his independence. We also had the great joy of the marriage of Kathryn our daughter.

Kathryn’s wedding

This focused our attention for a number of weeks.

A big change in my life that has affected the training I do is personal. My husband Ian who has never really been interested in doing much exercise himself whist being very supportive of everything I do. Last summer a change occurred and he decided we should get mountain bikes. Now Ian is normally one of those reactive people so when he becomes proactive I tend to sit up and take notice!

Since we got those bikes last June Mountain biking has gradually become a more important part of our lives. We now ride as much as 3 or 4 times a week TOGETHER and have a lot of fun.

Mountain biking

He has become (rather annoyingly) very good and much fitter. I now ride my mountain bike more than my road bike. As a further development he gradually succumbed to riding my old Dawes Galaxy with straight bars that I did LeJOG on and doing some gentle road riding.

Dawes Galaxy ready for the Grand Tour of the Highland and Islands

We have a tour of the West coast of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides planned for a tour in June. A distance of about 600 miles with enough hills to make the elevation the same as the height of Mount Everest!

I can feel my strength and speed just disappearing as time passes and I am determined not to let it mar my enjoyment. I can still do loads of stuff. There is still lots of stuff to do and lots of adventures to be had!

Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

It’s All In The Planning

There are some of us who are proactive, who like to be in control and others who are reactive and are happy just to go along with whatever’s happening and be happy with that. I fall into the proactive category and I spend a lot of time dreaming up ideas for trips and adventures. I much prefer to organise, plan and book our own adventures rather than go on an organised trip. For me a lot of the fun is in the planning and I love eventually arriving at places that I have anticipated in the planning process months before.

Last year we very much enjoyed walking Coast to Coast with our dog Archie. Archie enjoyed it too.

Archie and his support staff

Archie is 10 years old now so we decided that this year we should do another long walk while he is still able to join us. None of the Long Distance Footpaths appealed very much so I decided to plan our own route. The bits of C2C which I enjoyed most were the moors and mountains: I did not enjoy the lowland parts on lanes and through endless fields. So after a lot of poring over maps I decided on a walk starting at Skipton in North Yorkshire. The route goes North through the Yorkshire Dales and Howgills as far as Newbiggin-on-Lune and then West following the C2C West as far Kidsty Pike in the Lake District. After that I have booked 6 nights’ accommodation in the Lake District and we have a circular walk planned. The route can be varied according to what the weather throws at us, but hopefully we will spend a lot of time on the tops.

Ian on the Langdale Pikes on New Year’s Day 2017

My husband Ian has become more tolerant of cycling in the last year to the point where he enjoys it mostly. In 1978 I bought some OS maps of Harris and Lewis and fully intended to get out there to explore. It never happened and I still haven’t been. I really enjoyed the touring aspect of LEJOG and the Scottish part of the route was fantastic.

Little Loch Broom in May 2013 on LEJOG

I was very sad that we didn’t make the extra effort to get out to Ardnamurchan Point which is the most Westerly point on the British Mainland on LEJOG.

To combine these elements in a tour with Ian seemed like a good plan for 2017. We are starting at Oban and have agreed on manageable distances for each day so we have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. We will be visiting Mull, Ardnamurchan and Skye en route to Ullapool, where we get the ferry to Stornoway on Lewis. From there we cycle up to the Butt of Lewis in the North before riding all the way down the islands to Vatersay in the South.

I have promised Ian there will be no midges or big hills!

Both these trips have been planned over several weeks of poring over maps and websites. All the accommodation is booked for both. We are mostly staying in Hotels and Guest Houses.
Later on in the year we are off to San Francisco to visit our daughter Jenna and her fiancé Jay. At present the plan is just a line on a small-scale map. Initially we go North to Inverness  – that’s Inverness in California not Scotland – which is where their wedding is taking place in April 2018.

After that we are going on a HOT road rip taking in Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Utah, Nevada, Death Valley and back North to Yosemite and San Francisco.

Now is the time for doing rather than planning but I look forward to getting some detail on that trip soon. Now where are my walking boots?