Day Four: Nethergill Farm to the Station Inn at Ribblehead

We woke up early and had “eggy bread” for breakfast, which is the British version of French toast, without the syrup. After breakfast, Fiona gave us a tour of the farm. The old stone barn and outbuildings were beautifully restored; everything trimmed in bright blue. 1. Day 3 Nethergill FarmWe admired the chickens happily pecking and preening in the barn yard, and farther out, the sheep grazing in the pastures.  Fiona and Chris were committed to sustainable agriculture, and had ambitious plans for the future.

Silke croppedUnfortunately, we couldn’t linger because the morning didn’t look at all bright. The path up to Cam Houses would be soggy, and the walk on the moors would be tough, especially if it rained. We set off along the gravel farm track that ran past Nethergill Farm, heading for Swarthgill Farm, which was abandoned. We passed through the empty farm yard and entered the Dales Way through a swinging gate.

Once on the moors, it felt like we were climbing up the inside of a bowl. Overhead the sky was a dome of passing clouds. The path was easy to follow, but the hillside was steep enough to make us edge our boots sideways to keep from sliding, and everywhere we stepped there were little streams and bogs, and wet rocks to slip and slide on.048

As we crossed one of the stiles, we heard gun shots, and saw men and dogs swarming down the hillside.

“Is it hunting season do you think? I asked Silke.  She was skeptical, but as we watched the dogs running wildly, I reminded her that Nethergill Farm had been built as a manor house for shooting parties. But what did they shoot? We climbed higher, picking our way carefully over and around the muddy, sloppy streams, and bogs. Despite the starkness of the moors, I loved the remoteness. Dales Way 066After an hour, we came to Cam Houses, which was a cluster of outbuildings, and an old stone farm house. The backdoor of the farmhouse was opened and we stuck our heads in and “helloed.”

A woman came to the door and said, “Can I help?” We asked if there was a chance for some coffee. “I’ll make you some,” she said. We sat on a bench in the mudroom, drinking our coffee. Our hostess was making a big breakfast for the hunting party we had seen on the moors. She said there were sixteen “guns,” the men carrying the shotguns. The “beaters” scared the grouse so that they took to the air, and were shot. The men with the dogs retrieved the carcasses. She said last weekend they had killed 300 grouse. Ugh.

050     A few more miles of climbing up to Holme Hill, brought us to a sign marking the Pennine Way, and an old Roman Road. We watched a few sheep amble by, and decided to eat lunch beside the great cairn marker. The sun had come out and we were enjoying the view until we noticed dark clouds hanging over the hills to the north. Dales Way 071Quickly packing our things, we started off and down came the rain. When it started to hail, we got out our rain jackets and gloves. This was the highest point of the Dales Way, and the weather was taking note. This was also a watershed – the rivers to the north would all be heading toward the North Sea.

052As we crested the hill, a wide valley spread out below us, and across the valley marched the spectacular arches of the viaduct for the Settle-Carlisle Railroad, built in the 1870’s to transport coal from Lancaster, in the south, to Scotland. Off in the distance we saw a low, stone building standing close up beside the road – the Station Inn — our next stopping place. As we got nearer, the sun came out and the sky was clear and blue. A beautiful end to the day’s walk. 054




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Day Three: Last Day on the River Wharfe

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.
The bridge at KettlewellSunday 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. 16. Day 2 Kettlewell to Buckden
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. Dales Way 053

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. footbridge kettle well to yockenthwaiteWe crossed a wooden footbridge and continued beside the river, now on our right, shallower here, and ruffling brightly in the sunlight. 20 Day 2 Deepdale to BeckermondsI 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.

21. Beckermonds FarmAfter 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. 18 Day 2 Buckden to Yoceknwiathe 023We 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. Dales Way 062No 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.

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Day Two: Walking the Dales Way from Grassington to the Lake District

Day Two: Grassington to Kettlewell

8 Bridge End Farm, GrassingtonWoke 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.

Grassington cropped

flickr: the guardian

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. 9 Day 1 The Dales Way first markerBehold! 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 Dales Way 047over 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. Dales Way 045I 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.

13 Day 1 near RibbleheadAbout 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. Row of flowers croppedWe 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. Dales Way 051


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Walking the Dales Way, from Grassington to the Lake District

Day One: Arrival in Grassington

We woke to a lowering sky and intermittent showers, just as the two old codgers at The Friendly had predicted. By the time we arrived at our lodging, Bridge Edge Farm, just outside of Grassington, the rain was coming down steadily. Not a very auspicious start to a week of walking in the Yorkshire Dales., our landlord, greeted us with grave courtesy and only half concealed pride in his picture-perfect, 17th Century farmhouse on the banks of the River Wharfe. He reminded me of a very serious Friar Tuck with his wide girth, small round head, and dark fringe of bangs. But his hospitality was genuine, and our room with its low ceiling and wide beams, was wonderfully cozy. Lots of little china figurines, heavy chintz curtains, and puffy down comforters.

Grassington Falls by Andrew Bowden

Grassington Falls flickr, by Andrew Bowden

After tea and some delicious home-made scones served in the formal parlor, we changed into hiking pants, warm sweaters, rain jackets, and hats. We stuffed our ponchos and gloves into our backpacks, and set out for Linton Falls. It would be a good time to test our rain gear, and Robyn recommended a short walk,about a mile down stream, where we crossed the River Wharfe on a suspension bridge, just above an old mill.

Dales Way Sign from flickr Alfred Noakes

Dales Way Sign from flickr- Alfred Noakes

According to our  pocket-sized map, which I had stored in a plastic envelope, the Dales Way, the footpath we would be following for the next seven days, ran parallel to the river, and coming down off the suspension bridge, we saw the path, barely visible in the high, wet grass. The Dales Way sign was a slab of weather-beaten wood, vaguely arrow-shaped, nailed to a post. This was our first sighting, and we realized Dales Way markers blended in so naturally with their surrounding they were going to be a real challenge, like finding clues in a scavenger hunt.

Grassington Flickr by Jaunty Jane

Grassington by Jaunty Jane Flickr

We  followed the path along the river till we reached the main road into Grassington, just across from Bridge End Farm. Grassington, is a village much smaller than Haworth, catering to bikers, and walkers, (in England the term hiker is seldom heard.) But not much was happening that afternoon. So, after visiting the Yorkshire Dales National Park Museum, and wandering around the village looking for a bank, we gave up, and decided to have a late lunch/early supper. None of the restaurants opened until 6:00, so we settled for a tea room that served soup and sandwiches. We were grateful for the warmth of the crowded little shop, and the cheerful fire. Most of the guests seemed like us, to be waiting for a break in the weather.

It was almost dark by the time we started back to Bridge End Farm, and the wind was howling. We hurried down the hill from town with the rain driving straight into our faces and crossed the River Wharfe on the main bridge, the water below frothing and darkly dangerous in the half-light. How were we going to walk the 8-10 miles we had planned for the next day?

Robyn greeted us at the door with the latest weather report. The temperature was 9’ centigrade, which meant somewhere in the 40’s, not counting the windchill. Tomorrow, Saturday, would be clear in the morning, with showers in the afternoon. It didn’t sound promising.

Wet, cold, and discouraged, we brought our boots and damp clothes down to the warming room next to the furnace in the basement. Many of the B&B’s we would be staying in advertised drying rooms and now I understood why. It was vital that all our gear, especially our boots, which were not waterproof as advertized, be dry by next morning.

After a hot shower, I felt better and snuggling under my down comforter, I started reading an introduction to the Yorkshire Dales that I had found in the lounge. It was hard to concentrate with wind blowing through the trees,  and rain hammering steadily at the windows. Eventually I fell into a dreamless sleep.




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Walking the Moors in Bronte Country

Hidden away in the moors and sheep country of the Pennine Hills in southern Yorkshire is Haworth, a lovely old village of dark stone houses, and stone roofs. Birthplace of the Brontёs: Branwell, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, the gray of the buildings is offset in late summer by a kaleidoscope of flowers cascading from window boxes.  Dales Way 036

My friend Silke and I had come to pay our respects to the Brontёs and to spend a day walking the moors described so vividly by the sisters. We had decided to test our boots, and our endurance with a day hiking on the moors, before facing the real challenge which had brought us to England, a week-long hike on the Dales Way about an hour north of Haworth.

We spent the night at Haworth Old Hall, a bustling village pub dating back to the 16th century, with several rooms for rent.  1 Haworth Old HallBreakfast was at 8:00, brought to our rooms by our charming host, Johnny. Unshaven, and still in his pajamas, he was blurry eyed, but cheerful. A simple breakfast of porridge, toast, and coffee, set us up for the day. We set off for Top Withins, the abandoned building which was, according to local legend, the site that had inspired Wuthering Heights. From Top Withins we would walk across Stanbury Moor to a nearby village, and from there back to Haworth.

At the top of Sun Street, which looks pretty much as it did when the Brontes lived in Haworth, we rounded the corner to an even narrower street that took us past the Brontё parsonage, much grander than I had imagined, and then along a narrow lane, through a gate and onto a hillside of open meadow. At the bottom of the meadow, we passed through a kissing stile, a complicated u-shaped metal pass-through in the stone wall, with a tricky gate latch. Once through the stile, we consulted our map. Haworth Moor was at the end of Cemetery Road, through another gate and over a cattle grid. Clumps of heather spread a purple haze over the hillside. Dales Way 041 The moor rose on our left, a great empty curve along the horizon. It was a perfect morning, vast dome of sky, nice breeze, and the sun already warm on our backs. A narrow footpath led down through a stand of gnarled trees to a small creek, or beck. We crossed on a low bridge made of slabs of gray stone. Then we began to climb out of the valley, passing through squeeze-stiles, over step-stiles, always among the grazing sheep. The path was narrow and steep, eroded in places to a ditch. Rough roots tripped the unwary and loose stones slid away under our feet. It was noon by the time we reached Top Withins, a stone ruin set on the brow of the highest hill with a lone tree standing guard.  Dales Way 042We sat down to eat our lunch and enjoy the view spread out below dotted with sheep, yellow wheat fields, stone walls, and the darker moors that rolled away into the distance.

Before we had finished eating, thunder heads appeared on the horizon.I reluctantly pulled my boots back on and we started across Stanbury Moor. I found going downhill difficult. Before long the soles of my feet were burning like grilled sausages. We reached Stanbury about 2:00, and stumbled on a cozy little pub called The Friendly with a sunny front room, and a couple of old codgers enjoying their afternoon pints. A cheerful lady barkeep brought us two enormous bowls of coffee, and we chatted about our day on the moors, and their dire weather predictions for the weekend.

Revived, we set off down the main street toward Haworth, crossing a  bridge past the reservoir we had seen earlier in the day from a higher elevation. Across the bridge we found a bridle path that led up the hill to Haworth and by 4:30 we had reached the top of Sun Street again. Lyn at photo shop 003Before starting back down the hill to Old Haworth Inn, we stopped in a charming tea room for some homemade ice cream, a very satisfying way to end the day.  We had passed our first test .

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