From Kettlewell to Nerthergill Farm
We spent a lazy afternoon at the Blue Bell Inn, sitting in the pub and chatting with the other guests. Silke tried one of the local brews. I sampled the hard cider, delicious, but after one mug I was totally smashed.
Sunday was a sparkler of a day, and we were back on the trail by 9:30. Our destination was Nethergill Farm, thirteen miles away if my little book of maps was accurate. For today, most of our time would be spent criss-crossing the River Wharfe. After Kettlewell there were to be no more towns for several days, only hamlets and sheep farms. We spotted the first Dales Way sign easily, always a triumph, and headed into a sunny pasture. From pasture to cool shade along the river, and then back into another sunlit pasture where a black-faced sheep stared curiously.
From Kettlewell, we followed the river to Starbottom, and from there to Buckden, where we crossed the river and stopped for a quick lunch. Others had discovered the same luncheonette, and the outside tables were taken up with bikers and cyclers who were following a road leading to Cray. We had been on the trail for three hours and only come about five miles, not exactly a world’s record. The next hamlet was Hubberholme. I loved the names: Kettlewell, Starbottom, Buckden, Hubberholme, Yockenthwaite. It made me think of hobbits, and the Shire.
In our eagerness to make time, we missed George’s Inn, a landmark on my map, without taking note, and retraced our steps to where the Dales Way sign pointed us to a bridge just across from the inn. Now we had the river on our left. Over a couple of stiles and we found ourselves beside a crowded sheep pen, where the men were sorting out the sheep with red marks on their backs from other sheep.
The land was boggy with many ladder stiles, and gates. On to Deepdale, which was not even a hamlet, there being only two farm buildings. We crossed a wooden footbridge and continued beside the river, now on our right, shallower here, and ruffling brightly in the sunlight. I couldn’t resist taking off my backpack, and dipping my feet in the cool, clear water. Lovely relief. The afternoon sun was hot, and we took a short breather, and enjoyed the beauty of the country side.
After another mile we could see Beckermonds. We crossed the Wharfe River for the last time. It continued on its way to the Irish Sea. We followed a grassy lane between two stone walls that led to a metal road. No sign, or arrow. After consulting our map, we turned right and trudged up to the crest of a hill where the road formed a T. Still no signs. We turned left, and kept climbing. A line of motorcycles blared past and disappeared over the brow of the hill.
By now my feet were shouting in protest. Did I mention I have neuropathy? But my feet didn’t bother me as much as the possibility that we might have missed the path. The thought of retracing our steps back down the steep hill on a metal road was too discouraging to even contemplate. We pushed onward, down the hill, looking for Oughtershaw, the last little hamlet before Nethergill Farm. My map showed a telephone box at the bottom, and sure enough we spotted a bright red telephone booth at the crossroads, not just a box, but a booth. Hallelujah! Our spirits revived, we crossed to a gravel farm track. At the second cattle grid, a small sign for Nethergill Farm cheered us even more. That last mile was a slog, one burning foot in front of another. Finally an impressive stone building came into view, much grander than any farm house we had seen so far. No sign of life. We knocked and stepped inside, and “helloed” loudly. An attractive woman appeared who introduced herself as Fiona. “Leave your boots here in the hallway,” she said. They were definitely disgusting after a day in sheep country. We followed her into a high-ceilinged living room, cool and elegant. Fiona, who was an artist, said the house had been built in the eighteenth century, by a cousin of Charles Darwin. She disappeared for a few minutes, and reappeared with a tea tray and some home-made flapjacks, tasty bars made of oats, and honey, and dried fruit. We craved flapjacks from then on,but never find any as good as Fiona’s.