Day Two: Grassington to Kettlewell
Woke up to bright sunshine pouring in our window. Thank goodness! Temperature in the 60’s. A great day! We dressed and packed in a hurry because the Sherpa Van would be coming to pick up our bags, and deposit them at our next destination. I had given the transport service our itinerary, and we trusted that our belongings would be waiting for us when we showed up at the end of the day. Our showing up would depend on our map reading and trail detecting skills.
Robin’s wife, Beryl, appeared at breakfast, a large and somewhat dour woman who had lived in Grassington all her life, on a sheep farm. She wasn’t enthusiastic about our day’s hike. “There’s really nothing to see,” she said as she set out a platter of scrambled eggs. We ate quickly, thanked our hosts, and took a picture of Bridge End Farm in sunlight before heading into Grassington.
The church bells were ringing 11:00 by the time we found a bank, waited in line to get sandwiches, water, and some fruit for our lunch. As we left the store, a group of about ten walked by. Silke and I wondered if we would be joining a parade on the Dales Way. We followed the group past the church and onto a farmer’s lane. Behold! our first Dales Way sign pointing us through a gate and into a sheep paddock. Lots of sheep up close and personal, and of course their hard packed little offerings were everywhere. The group kept going up the lane and disappeared.
Showers were forecast for the afternoon, and Kettlewell, our next destination, was eight miles away. The Dales Way follows three large rivers valleys: the River Wharfe, the River Dee, and the River Lune, so I thought we would be walking beside the river. Not so. When we reached the top of the first hill and looked back over the wide valley, we were swept away. Maybe Beryl was used to such vistas, but for Silke and me it was glorious. Nothing edged out the emptiness of sky. A dark smudge of trees below in the valley marked the River Wharfe. All around us silence. We inhaled the freshness of the day. Keenly aware of weather, we watched great sails of clouds overhead showing signs of rain. No time to linger. I went first with my trusty little book of maps, at least I hoped they were trusty. Silke followed with the camera.
As we had feared, the Dales Way signs were few and far between. We looked across each pasture for openings in the stone walls, which probably meant a stile. The best place to find a Dales Way marker was next to a stile. My book of hand drawn maps, which detailed a days walk on each page, was charming, delightful, and certainly better than nothing, but we had no way of knowing which of the many barely visible paths through the pastures, some made by the cows and sheep, was the path we wanted.
About 1:30 we stopped for lunch. It was chilly when the sun disappeared behind one of the huge clouds, and the wind blew in gusts. We didn’t linger, and followed a stony farm track through a copse of pine trees downhill onto a metal road, which means paved in Dales Way jargon. My feet disliked down-hills and metal roads. Luckily, we soon came to a Dales Way arrow, pointing us over a stile and into a pasture. Up and down we went over the stiles and through the pastures. There were step-stiles, through-stiles, ladder-stiles, squeeze-stiles, kissing-stiles,and various combinations. I never knew there were so many styles of stiles, or so many sheep.
Coming down off the high pastures, we could see the roof tops of Kettlewell, and came upon a metal road that ran alongside a beautiful stream that was rushing down the hill to join the River Wharfe in the valley below. We passed a superb display of gardens fronting a row of stone houses on our way down. Flowers really flourished in this climate. At the bottom of the hill the road came to a T and at the juncture was a patch of grass with a picnic table where a couple we had met earlier in the day was having a snack. Not ten minutes after we sat down to talk, the sky opened, and we felt the first big splats of rain. Our friends hurried off, zipping up their jackets and pulling on their hoods. They still had a good hour of hiking. We scurried around the corner to the Blue Bell Inn. Our timing was perfect, and ta da! our bags were waiting for us.