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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