Posts tagged ‘Yorkshire Dales’

July 16, 2013

Backpacking hot dogs on Wild Boar Fell

by backpackingbongos

It was late afternoon when I parked up off a minor lane in a scenic spot opposite the Howgill Fells.  I had picked Chrissie and Dixie up from the Western Peak District after she had finished work.  Somehow we had avoided the Friday rush whilst escaping Manchester.  The weather forecast for the weekend was for hot sun and no rain.  A bonus for us humans but not so good for our canine companions.  Therefore with Dixie and Reuben in tow the plan was for short days and extended lazy periods whilst camping high on the moors.

Day 1 – 4 kilometres with 420 metres ascent

Day 1

Our destination for the night was Sand Tarn which nestles below the western summit of Wild Boar Fell.  The distance was short but the amount of contours between the car and tarn meant a big climb.  The limestone boulder clad Stennerskeugh Clouds provided interest, before a plod across boggy moorland.

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There was a welcome wind when we reached the grassy shelf next to the tarn.  Tents were quickly pitched, boots kicked off and brews made.  It was good to lounge around the tents and enjoy the location.

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With lounging duly accomplished I spent a while simply wandering around our campsite, enjoying the surroundings in the early evening light.

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When Dixie finally came out of her tent she had powdered her face so that she could do her Alice Cooper impression.  She is well-known for this on the northern club scene.  Check out dixiedoesalicecooper.com

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After dinner I was keen to do some further exploring so set off with Reuben to the trig point on Wild Boar Fell.  We managed to spend over an hour to do the short return trip.  Every few paces I found myself transfixed by the changing colours under the setting sun.  The Howgills slowly turned to the softest velvet.  The sun as it descended was a tiny red disk amongst the haze, slowly fizzling out as the cloud overwhelmed it.  The wind had finally dropped leaving just the sound of moorland birds and the bleating of sheep.  A great moment shared with the dog on the edge of the high plateau.

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Sunset still comes late in July, so by the time it was dark I was more than happy to go straight to sleep.  In the tent I finally lost the battle with Reuben over which sleeping mat was his.  He wanted the one that I was laying on.  The inner of a Scarp is a bit of a squeeze when sharing it with 25kg of fur and muscle.

Day 2 – 10 kilometres with 480 metres ascent

Day 2

The haze did not shift overnight and the Howgill Fells across the valley were hidden under a blanket of cloud.  Every now and then the sunshine above us would disappear as banks of mist drifted by.  We managed to keep up the relaxed theme by lounging outside the tents until mid morning.  It would have been all too easy to have spent the whole day just reading and paddling in the tarn.  Finally by late morning we managed to pack up.

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I was keen to show Chrissie the Nab on the Northern edge of Wild Boar Fell.  It is one of the best viewpoints in the Dales, giving an impression of being high in the mountains rather than on featureless moorland.  The escarpment drops steeply down into the Mallerstang valley, a finger of land giving a sense of exposure.  The dogs had to be kept under close control as they were keen to get as close to the edge as possible.

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The escarpment gave a grand promenade, dry cropped grass keeping the feet happy.  We were heading for a group of cairns in the distance, giving the impression that they were people.  Reaching them they made a good foreground feature on which to photograph the escarpment in full.

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However if there is no cairn I can highly recommend taking a Reuben with you as he is more than happy to pose.  For full effect you need a bit of a breeze to make his ears flap around.

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It was an easy walk to Swarth Fell on a grassy path, the bulk of Wild Boar Fell showing itself on the climb to the summit.

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We sat for a while on the summit rocks to have lunch number one (all good days out have at least two lunches) enjoying a cooling breeze.  A large group of walkers following a woman with a fluorescent tabard passed, the last people we would see all day.

Following the wall we took a right angle and headed directly for Holmes Moss.  Our destination for the night was to be Baugh Fell and we were aware of the long descent followed by a long ascent.  Something neither of our legs were looking forward to.

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The top of Holmes Moss was covered in the most amazing display of cotton grass.  Parts of it were absolutely plastered in the stuff, this gave us something to look at whilst we sloshed through very boggy ground.

We were all gasping for water by the time Rawthey Gill was reached.  We collapsed on its grassy banks to have lunch number two, my feet welcomed the chance for a bit of airing.  Dixie decided to be a grumpy old lady and tried to take a chunk out of Reuben, he was quite clear in letting her know that sort behaviour is unacceptable.  They pretty much ignored each other after that.  The politics of being a dog eh?

Thankfully Chrissie and I did not start brawling as well.

The climb to the summit of Baugh Fell if I am honest was a bit of a grind.  An endless plod up pathless slopes, frequent breaks to catch our breath only served to show how little progress we were making.

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The plan had been to camp right on the summit itself.  However there was a perfect grassy patch right next to one of the East Tarns.  There was no hesitation in getting the tents up.  Once again there was a strong breeze to cool us down.

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Settled into our respective tents I found myself falling into a deep sleep.  The heat had taken it out of me and I was absolutely knackered.  I had to force myself to get up and cook some food after an hour.  It would have been all too easy to sleep right through until morning.

Chrissie was feeling unwell and decided to have an early night.  Dixie was already out for the count.  I fancied doing the same myself but decided to make the best of being on the tops in such good weather.  I had a stroll to the highest point with Reuben, getting a great view of the distant Lake District.  There was layer after layer of hills stretching to the horizon under a silvery light.  I stood for ages taking it all in before walking a boggy route back to the tents.

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I brewed a mint tea and walked to a nearby rocky outcrop to watch the sun set.  Reuben was sitting at my side when he suddenly sat bolt upright with his ears back.  He rarely makes a noise but he started a low growl, his eyes fixated on something.  The growl started to be punctuated with a quiet wuff, his back legs quivering.  I could see absolutely nothing in the direction he was looking, not even a sheep.  It was a bit unnerving to be honest so once the sun had set I returned to the sanctuary of a flimsy tent which is known to keep the ghosts at bay.

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Day 3 – 11 kilometres with 160 metres ascent

Day 3

By morning the wind had dropped and even at 7.00am it was hot.  The lack of a breeze meant that midges made their first appearance of the trip, not huge quantities but enough to be a nuisance.  At least they speed the packing process and we were on our way early, keen to get back to the car before it got too hot.

Looking at the map I assumed that Baugh Fell would give difficult walking across its expansive plateau.  We stayed below the summit ridge, picking a route across grassy and stoney areas.  The going was rather pleasant.  This is a hill to come to if you want to get away from it all, we had a feeling that it is very little visited.  There is a sense of space and wildness to it.

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West Baugh Fell Tarn was our first destination, somewhere to filter water and rest in the building heat.  Another spot marked for a future wild camp (it is very exposed up there though!).

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It was a long and slow plod down Baugh Fell’s endless slopes, the Howgills across the valley filling the horizon.

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It took a while to descend to the upper River Rawthey.  With an elderly boxer in tow we decided to give the waterfalls a miss as steep ground is involved to reach them.  Instead we took to the bridleway on the south side through the lush green valley.

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Sitting for lunch next to a deep pool in the river I was very tempted to go for a dip.  However I am not sure of the etiquette of being naked in front of someone elses wife.  I therefore saved Chrissie some embarrassment and kept my clothes on.

The final walk along the lane back to the car felt like it lasted an eternity under the heat of the midday sun.  The dogs tongues were almost touching the floor by the time we got back, Reuben needing to be dragged along.  Aircon has never felt so good.

July 12, 2013

Backpacking Great Whernside and upper Nidderdale

by backpackingbongos

Sometimes it’s possible to over plan and plan too far in advance.  A long-standing commitment to spend a couple of nights in the Snowdonia Mountains with my good friend Rich was postponed because of the weather.  Rain, low cloud and gales do not maketh a fun weekend.  Rich had booked a day off work and we were still keen on tramping the hills, even if it would only be for one night.  Therefore instead we found ourselves parked in the small Yorkshire village of Lofthouse on a Friday lunchtime.

As we were getting ready a chap from a nearby house was watching us intently.  He managed to grab and interrogate Rich who had set off in search of a bin.  He was very keen on wanting to know why we had parked there, concerned that we were not using the car park.  Rich explained that we were about to set off for a night in the hills and car parks often do not allow overnight parking.  ‘Good job I had spoken to you then’, he said ‘as otherwise I would have reported your car as abandoned to the Police’.  I’m sure that the local police have better things to concern themselves with to be honest.  Rich was then quizzed on what he was going to have for dinner.  With the local busy-body satisfied I felt safe in the knowledge that someone had their eye on the car.

Day 1 – 23 kilometres with 900 metres ascent

Whernside day 1

Looking at a map the night before I just came up with a vague idea of a route.  We would head in the general direction of Great Whernside, see how far we got and pitch our shelters.  There were a couple of options for the return the following morning.  With a complete lack of planning I felt strangely relaxed.

It was warm, humid and rather murky as we set off up the steep lane.  It was forecast to brighten up later before a weather front arrived in the night to give a couple of days of heavy rain.  We were keen to make the most of this dry day.

Reuben is usually pulling at the lead at the start of a day in the hills, the excitement of new sights and smells getting the better of him.  However for once I was pulling him up hill, the heat of the day meaning he was lagging behind.

The track that contours high above the valley provided an airy promenade and easy walking.  Unfortunately the views were lost in the hazy conditions.

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Once we were high and there was a cooling breeze Reuben was once again in his element.  A happy dog on the moors.

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A shooting house gave shelter from the wind and somewhere to sit whilst we made coffee and ate lunch.  The bright and airy side of the building with its large windows and panoramic views was locked.  We had to make do with the dark and dingy unlocked section.

It did not take long to reach Scar House Reservoir, the high level track was flat once we were up high.  As we approached the reservoir the clouds started to burn off and the sun came out.

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An initial idea had been to pitch at the head of Angram reservoir, however with our speedy progress and improving weather we decided to aim for the summit of Great Whernside.  There were still hours of daylight left.  Descending off the moors we took to the track on the northern side of the reservoir.  It was an enjoyable walk up a valley I have never visited before.  The scenery was idyllic and we were surprised at the lack of people out on such a fine summers afternoon.

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Sitting in a grassy meadow for food and water it was tempting to just pitch and relax in the sun.  However we still had a way to go to the summit, yet alone find a place to pitch for the night.  A track which was horribly eroded in places took us onto the moors again.  We left it at the watershed and picked up the right of way to Little Whernside, a faint path through the grass.

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The conditions had well and truly changed since we had arrived at midday.  The skies were almost cloudless and the visibility was superb.  Even the distant North York Moors looked close and we could make out a distant city which we though was Middlesbrough.  Best of all though was the immediate moorland.  It was carpeted in the bobbing white heads of cotton grass.  I have never seen it so abundant before, in places it looked like the moor was dusted in snow.

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We stood for a while under a blue sky and decided we had made a wise choice by coming up with a plan B rather than staying at home.

Steep grassy slopes led us to the summit of Little Whernside.  The small plateau gave difficult walking as it is covered in bog, deep vegetation and peat hags.  Continuing down its south western slopes the going underfoot became easy again with another display of cotton grass.

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High on the Great Whernside plateau we came across the first person we had seen on the hills that day.  Being local he had nipped up after work, a great way to spend the evening.

The summit area is vast and flat.  In clear, warm and still conditions it is a place to linger and take in the expansive views.  Moorland gives way to a rock strewn grassy plateau.  We slowly wandered around taking photos and generally feeling pleased that we were high on the hills in unexpectedly good weather.

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Conditions can change though, and quick.  Cloud starting piling in from the west, the sky soon covered in a bruised sheet.  It was the edge of the weather front that was due to come in overnight.  We felt it wise to move to lower, more sheltered ground to seek a pitch for the night.

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The skies cleared as quickly as they had clouded over.  It was a fine late evening as we descended into the headwaters of Mossdale Beck.  Steep rough ground did not initially look very promising but we soon found a grassy patch amongst the tussocks.  The air was warm and still whilst we were pitching our Trailstars.  This meant that a few midges came out to play.  Not enough to make us thrash about in a music less dance but the annoyance factor was getting high before a nice breeze started to pick up.

It was gone 10pm by the time we were pitched, making the most of the longest day of the year.  After a 14 mile day carrying his own pack, Reuben was totally pooped.  The minute we arrived he curled himself into a ball and started on an evening of snoring.  I barely heard a peep out of him all night.  It was about 11pm by the time I ate my dinner.  It was not long before I joined Reuben in the land of nod.

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Day 2 – 12 kilometres with 130 metres ascent

Whernside day 2

The rain arrived as planned in the night.  I was aware that I briefly woke a couple of times with the sensation of moisture being blown onto my face.  The wind had changed and the rain was being blown straight into the Trailstar.  I can briefly remember thinking that I should be doing something about it but was soon asleep again.  Rich said that the rain had been hammering down at one point.

I woke up dry but Reuben who was nearer the door was a bit on the damp side.  Thankfully he was wearing a fleecy waterproof doggie jacket so was nice and warm.

Later as I cooked my breakfast he did the important job of guarding my shelter.  He had eaten a lot of wet food, he becomes fussy when backpacking so gets more meat than normal.  This leads to unfortunate squeaks and a distinctive odour.  I was pleased when he decided to pay Rich a visit.

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We managed to pack during a dry period, I almost considered risking not wearing waterproof trousers.  I’m glad that I did because it started drizzling, then raining before finally tipping it down.  It was a wet old trudge down the trackless valley.  During the heaviest rain Reuben would let out a little whimper and try to bury himself in the long grass.  The looks directed my way suggested that it was all my fault.  There were no endless views across the moors that morning.

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Just before crossing the watershed at Sandy Gate we came across this nifty little shelter.  It only fits one person and Rich made some excuse about needing to sort out a camera or something.  So he sat inside nice and snug whilst I enjoyed the rain with Reuben.  Whilst there he decided that a snack was in order.  Mates eh?

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From Sandy Gate a right of way led down the long and remote valley of Straight Stean Beck.  There is no sign of an actual path on the ground which made the going rather tough through the bogs and vegetation.  With the constant rain we were on the damp side by the time we approached the first farm.  A farmer out on his quad bike was mightily impressed by Reubens panniers.  He thought that they would be a good way to knacker out his collie.

Further down the valley we entered colourful meadows, the river lined by lush green woodland.  The sun finally decided to come out for a while and we had a pleasant loiter by a drystone wall to dry out.

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A very scenic stroll along the river and we were soon back at the car.

Although made up on the hoof, the route turned out to be a fine one.  Mid summers day was well spent.  Fish and chips in Pateley Bridge were the reward for the physical effort.

Reuben slept for a week when we got home, however I think this short clip demonstrates that he had a good time.

October 22, 2012

Empty hills and the bogs of doom – backpacking the Yorkshire Dales

by backpackingbongos

The aim was to meet Chrissie and Geoff at 3.30pm in Horton in Ribblesdale.  Unfortunately soon after I got on the M1 the traffic came to a standstill, getting misplaced in Bradford later on did not help my punctuality.  I arrived an hour late to be treated to coffee and a home-made cookie in their van just as the skies opened over the Yorkshire Dales.  We were gently reminded by Geoff that it would soon be getting dark and perhaps we should be making a move.  It was gone 5.00pm by the time Chrissie and I shouldered our packs and set off.  The plan was to take a long and indirect route to Ribblehead where Geoff would pick us up a couple of days later.

The empty hills bit in the title?  Apart from a couple of runners just after leaving Horton on the Friday we did not see another soul in the hills until Sunday afternoon.  Even though we were in view of the famous three peaks all weekend.  Maybe the bogs had something to do with that……….

Day 1 – 2.8 miles with 200 metres ascent

It was felt prudent to set off in waterproofs, although the clouds had shifted it looked like rain was not going to be far away.  The Pennine way initially follows a walled track out of the village.  This meant that progress was rapid and height gain was not really noticed.

Gaps in the clouds meant that the setting sun cast a golden glow on the surrounding hills.  The unmistakable shape of Pen-y-ghent was turning a vivid shade of Orange.

The Pennine way branched off to the right to climb towards the summit of Pen-y-ghent.  We continued along the valley bottom, a great natural spectacle hidden until the very last minute.  Hull pot is a pretty big hole, a waterfall falling over sheer cliffs into its shadowy depths.  Something that you really don’t want to fall down.  Some of the local sheep though were really pushing their luck, one grazing in a very precipitous position.

We followed Hull Pot beck upstream until it forked, taking the left tributary.  Amongst all the rough tussocky ground there was a an area near the stream that gave us a reasonable pitch.  It was pretty much dark by the time we got our tents up and the first stars were just beginning to become visible.  Chrissie sat just outside my tent whilst we ate dinner but was soon driven back to her tent by the rapidly chilling air.

Day 2 – 8.1 miles with 470 metres ascent

I woke briefly at about 5.00am and stuck my head out of my tent.  The showers from earlier in the night had passed and the sky was jet black, encrusted with what looked like thousands of very bright stars.  It would have been perfect for a bit of night photography but instead I did the sensible thing and went back to sleep.

The sun had still to rise over Plover hill when I eventually got up.  The cold and still conditions meant that my inner tent was covered in beads of condensation and I had to be careful not to dampen my down jacket.  Outside there was a light frost and the rain that had fallen on our tents had frozen into mini pools.  We spent a leisurely couple of hours around camp, enjoying the warmth of the sun when it finally reached our pitch.

It was 10.30am by the time we finally got moving, picking our way across rough trackless ground.  A wall topped by barbed wire intersected our route so we followed it for a while hoping to find a decent crossing.  Thankfully there was a gate after a slight detour.  A quad bike track then took us up a wide ridge towards the large cairn on the unnamed hill above Cosh Outside.

The views from the large cairn were pretty impressive, the Ribblehead viaduct being visible in the distance under the bulk of Whernside.  After a totally cloudless morning, low cloud had started to form on the surrounding high hills.  This was now breaking up, adding to the atmosphere and drama of this lofty viewpoint.

Initially the going along the ridge was easy, the underlying limestone meaning that there was soft and springy turf under our feet.

This part of the Dales gives the feeling of large open spaces and in all directions there was high moorland rolling to the horizon.

The ground soon reverted to the usual bog and tussocks along the wide ridge, which we followed to the trig point on Horse Head Moor.  The main issue along this obviously little trodden stretch is the intersecting walls and fences, some of which are not marked on the ground.  Crossing points were not provided, even on a brand new stretch of fencing.  This was rather annoying considering that we were on access land and following the ridge line, a natural linear route.  On a couple of occasions we had to climb high drystone walls topped with wire, gingerly trying to ensure the whole lot did not come tumbling down.  The going was slow but the wide open spaces and the autumn colours on the hills more than made up for it.

At the trig point it was clear that we were not going to make our intended destination for the night, not during daylight hours anyway.  We were still a while away from reaching our chosen lunch spot and it was well past lunch time.

The bridleway down towards Yokenthwaite gave a reasonably solid surface for the descent, a relief after sloshing across wet moorland.  The views into Langstrothdale were excellent, showing just how varied the Dales landscape is.  We were leaving the high open moors and descending into a limestone dale.

It was 3.30pm by the time we reached our lunch spot, chosen as it was next to a stream to enable us to make a brew.  I have recently started to ensure that I make a coffee and cook lunch when backpacking.  Couscous being my food of choice as it is quick and easy to make.

After we had packed up we realised that there was less than two hours left before it would get dark, autumn can really catch you out as the days get shorter.  My map showed that there could be a suitable ledge for wild camping high above Yokenthwaite, a stream nearby.  From our vantage point on the other side of the valley it looked like it may be ideal.  We descended down to the road through Langstrothdale, actually rather busy considering its remote location.  The dale itself was idyllic, the low sun casting shadows on one half of the valley.

We took a steep track behind the cottages at Yokenthwaite, quickly overheating once we were out of the wind and back in the sun.  It had been one of those days that was either too hot or too cold, the sun still providing warmth but the temperature plummeting when in wind or shadow.  The track was a stern fitness test at the end of the day.

We left the right of way and started climbing across open pasture, hoping that the ledge identified above would be both flat and out of sight of the surrounding farms and cottages.

It turned out that our chosen spot was pretty much perfect.  The ground was flat with short-cropped grass which was thistle free (thistles often seem to dominate what would otherwise be an ideal campsite) and we were totally out of sight.  My tent was totally soaking wet from the previous night, the floor and inner a dripping mess.  I pitched it and left the door open whilst sorting my kit and walking the five minutes to a stream.  Thankfully with a good breeze it was nearly dry by the time the sun disappeared behind the hills.  Our wide grassy ledge was fringed by a long escarpment that dropped steeply to the valley below.  I soon had a cup of coffee in my hands and wandered along the edge taking in the last of the days light.  It’s moments like this that sum up the reason why I go backpacking and wild camping.

We had positioned our tents so that we could chat without either of us getting cold sitting outside.  Chrissie was soon asleep and I snuggled into my bag to read my kindle.  In the morning Chrissie said that there was snoring coming from my tent.  All I can say is that people in glass houses……………

Day 3 – 9.7 miles with 320 metres ascent

Another cold and still night led to an in tent shower when I sat up, my down bag was pretty saturated on the outside due to condensation.  I was glad that I was not spending another night in it.  We were up and away a bit earlier due to being behind schedule on our route.  Some texts with Geoff the night before confirmed that he would pick us up at Newby head rather than Ribblehead, cutting a few miles from the end of the day.  He had spent a couple of nights in the van parked on the high road between Hawes and Langstrothdale, we told him to expect us late morning for a tea break!

The ledge on which we had spent the night provided us with a level promenade on which to walk, easy to follow for a mile or so high above the valley.  The network of drystone walls and field barns below us was classic Dales scenery.

We followed a series of old National Trust waymarkers which led us up and into Deepdale Gill.  At its head it split into two deeply incised streams resulting in a steep grassy contour to avoid loosing any height.  We continued climbing higher into this hidden gem, pathless and off the beaten track.

The moor above was well equipped with gates and stiles to get us across the various walls and fences.  There was once again a feeling of being in the middle of a large area of uplands and apart from the drystone walls there was no sign of the hand of man in any direction.  A collection of boulders gave us the perfect opportunity for a sit down and a snack break.

The going had been easy across what was a predominately grassy moor.  The map showed a large flat area around Oughtershaw moor, the view as we approached it confirmed my suspicion that it may be on the damp side.

My expectations were realised and we spent a rather long time not moving very far as the ground became increasingly boggy, deep water filled groughs providing barrier after barrier.  It was slow and tiring and we probably covered three times the distance as shown on the map.  One false step there could have led to trouble……….

Once again the surface underfoot changed abruptly with firm cropped grass tended by the many sheep.

Woldside was a limestone island amongst a sea of bog, a relief before we plunged once more into peat, groughs and tussocks.  We were now above Oughtershaw beck, a wild moorland valley with the isolated farmstead of Cam houses at its head.

In the distance I spotted a figure and two dogs walking towards us, it was Geoff coming to intercept us as once again we were behind schedule.  Chrissie did not believe me until she saw Tilly the chocolate Lab bounding towards her.  Geoff had parked the van just below the highest part of the road and it was with relief that we got our boots off and sat on some comfy seats.  It has to be said that this is the best tea van in Yorkshire and I was treated once again to coffee and homemade chocolate cookies.  It was hard to drag ourselves away from the warmth back out onto the chilly moors.  We agreed to meet Geoff a couple of hours later where the Ribble way crossed the road at Newby Head.

Walking past the drivers cab I noticed that both the driver and passenger looked a bit canine in nature.  Perhaps it was just the relection playing tricks with me?

After a couple of days lurching across rough and boggy moorland, Cam road was a treat for the feet.  We made swift progress, enjoying the views without having to worry about plunging into a bog.  It had started to cloud up but the air was still very clear and we could see the sea in the distance.  What was not so welcome was the view of some turbines behind the bulk of Ingleborough, with the angle of the light they appeared to be very prominent on a distant hillside.  The Ribble way was well surfaced and it was all down hill to the road where Geoff was waiting for us.  A short drive and I was dropped off back in Horton in Ribblesdale where my car was thankfully still there.  An excellent and surprisingly wild backpack in what I often think of as a busy national park.

You can read Chrissie’s version of the weekend here.

October 8, 2012

Escarpments, moors and mines – backpacking the northern Yorkshire Dales

by backpackingbongos

Day 1 – 11.1 miles with 710 metres ascent

Reeth is a thoroughly charming dales village, a huddle of cottages spread around a large green.  Although the village has a homely feel to it the surrounding moors still dominate.  It was a bright but cool early autumn morning when I parked outside the village post office.  I had my usual post drive faff before setting off across the green, Reuben in tow wearing his Ruffwear panniers.

We soon escaped the village, heading through fields next to Arkle Beck.  When we entered one field a horse that was grazing with some cows decided to come over and say hello.  Reuben although leashed decided that he would also say hello by jumping up.  The reaction by the horse was not a positive one and it reared up on its back legs.  With several cows in the middle of the field that would also need to be navigated I decided to backtrack and detour through a field with a stern, ‘private’ sign.  Rather the wrath of the landowner than being trampled to death.

Fremington Edge rose steeply above the Dale and a grassy path took us towards the isolated cottage called White house.  The views were soon opening up, the moorland lump of Calver hill catching my eye as we would be passing it later the following day.

I managed to get navigationally challenged just before the cottage and had to resort to a bit of fence climbing to get back on track.  Stopping for a rest near the cottage the owner came past in his 4WD.  I expected a telling off for my trespass but instead his attention was on Reuben who he thought looked magnificent in his panniers.

We continued steeply upwards above the cottage, this time on a well-worn track.  A narrow grassy trod then left it to follow the edge of the escarpment.  For the next couple of miles the walking was simply glorious, soft springy turf providing a luxurious carpet for the feet.  Steep limestone slopes fell away to the left, plunging towards Arkengarthdale far below.  I took my time on this section, sitting down on a couple of occasions on perfectly situated natural rocky seats.  The early autumn light was crystal clear, high fluffy clouds throwing shadows on the surrounding hills.

The path that I was following is unmarked on the map and it soon intersected the bridleway that links Arkengarthdale with the hamlet of Hurst.  My route north was then blocked by a sturdy drystone wall with no gate visible nearby.  It was easy to cross without causing any damage, Reuben proving the most tricky to get over.  There was an abrupt change in terrain on the other side, green limestone vegetation being replaced by deep heather.

The plan was to follow the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales north across pathless ground until we reached a track near St Andrew’s cross.  I noticed that about a kilometer away a shooting hut had a line of 4WD vehicles glinting in the sun next to it, voices drifting across to me.  Although I had seen no signs indicating that dogs were banned from this access land I was aware that this is sometimes the case.  I was glad to reach the track just as the vehicles began a long convoy in a different direction.  The deep trackless heather had been hard going and I enjoyed sitting at the edge of the track in the warm sun.  Soon the peace was shattered by a flurry of gunshots, the convoy of vehicles obviously finding some grouse to blast from the sky.

The walk towards the hut was a little confusing as the tracks on the ground did not relate exactly to those on the map.  We passed a couple who were confused to their exact whereabouts, I left them trying to work out a route to Hurst.

A climb through old mine workings and we were once again on the edge of limestone country, short-cropped grass above another rocky escarpment.  Being at the edge of high ground the views were once again outstanding.

A steep descent brought us below the scree covered slopes, perhaps part natural part due to the old lead workings.

I was aware that the day was progressing faster than I wanted it to and that it would be getting dark in a couple of hours.  I began to doubt that we would get to where I had planned to pitch for the night.  Although short on time the dry short grass was too inviting to pass by without a quick sit down and snack.

My revery was soon disturbed by a convoy of 4WD vehicles, probably the ones that I had seen earlier.  I received a friendly nod from each of them but what struck me was the how most of the occupants resembled George Osborne.  George Osborne in tweeds and with a very red face.  After they left me choking in a plume of dust I sat and thought for a while.  There is clearly a parallel universe that exists in our country that most of us will never visit, I’m fairly sure that even if we wanted to visit we would not be welcome.

We dropped down and crossed the Stang road below Shaw farm.  On the map the short walk down and across the valley of Shaw beck to reach a bridleway looked easy enough.  In reality I lurched down through boulders and waist high vegetation to the stream at the bottom.  It was actually a gloriously wild spot, the golden moor grass catching the low sun.  Climbing up the other side was even harder work, steep slopes being covered in man eating bracken.  The map mentioned a lead level and I suddenly had visions of falling down a hidden mine shaft never to be seen again.

Finally locating the bridleway it was clear that it is hardly ever used and it was with relief that I reached the road.  There was a brief moment of excitement passing the farm at High Eskleth when a small three legged dog took a dislike to Reuben.  His face simply said, “Get me out of here”.

A network of paths took us down to the valley bottom and along to Whaw bridge before a steep lane brought us to the main Arkengarthdale road.  I had planned to camp at the head of Gunnerside Gill, but it was evident that would be impossible unless I fancied walking across trackless moorland in the dark.  I did not.  Therefore as we started the walk towards Danby lead level I started to keep my eyes peeled for a suitable pitch.

I noticed that the hill above and on the other side of Great Punchard Gill was an oasis of green amongst the surrounding rough moorland.  I decided that it would be worth the climb to get a comfy pitch for the night and the views should be good.  We continued along the track and descended into the Gill, stopping at an old mine building.  I filled up a couple of water bags from the stream, the contents of which was the colour of tea.  It was a long slog up the hill, finally settling on a spot that was reasonable flat and out of sight of the surrounding farms.

It was dull, grey and windy as I started to pitch the Trailstar.  Reuben had taken himself off to build a nest to keep himself warm as he waited for his bed for the night.  Suddenly there was a shift in the clouds and the light transformed my surroundings, the hills being bathed in a warm glow.  The views to the north were absolutely stunning, with gently rolling moorland finally giving way to the North Pennines on the horizon.  There was no man made intrusion to break the horizon.

With the temperature quickly dropping I was glad to get out of the wind.  Wrapped in down I got dinner on whilst trying to keep Reuben off my sleeping bag.  Dressed in his fleecy romper suit he happily wolfed down his dinner and curled contentedly on the foam mat I had brought for him.

Before turning in for the night I took Reuben out to the toilet.  I stood outside for a while, a freezing wind biting straight through me, a bright moon lighting up the moor.  In the distance I could make out the A66 and it looked like vehicles were floating in the air.  The blue flashing light of an emergency vehicle looked totally surreal as it slowly drifted from right to left until it finally vanished.  Soon the cold was unbearable and I sought shelter once again.

Day 2 – 11.4 miles with 400 metres ascent

During the night the breeze dropped completely and the temperature plummeted.  The inside of my shelter and the outside of my sleeping bag was covered in condensation.  In some conditions it does not matter how much ventilation you have, you are still going to get damp.  You can’t get much more ventilation than inside a Trailstar!

I made a cup of coffee and stood outside for a while with Reuben, taking in my surroundings in the crystal clear air.  The corners of the Trailstar were coated in frost, the first of the season.  I was aware though of my proximity to several farms so I decided to pack up and head off early.  A landrover driving across the moor less than a kilometer away spurred me on.

To the north were gin clear skies and almost unlimited views.  However to the south the sky was hazy and milky and it looked like the promised weather front was arriving.  Right in front on me mist started to form on the higher slopes and soon we were walking through thick hill fog across trackless slopes.  The boggy moor reminded me that the season for unlined fell shoes is coming to an end, the freezing water filling them not being particularly pleasant.  We hit the track just before the Punchard coal level as the clouds shifted below us, a sandwich of clear air between clouds above and below.

The security of the track was soon left behind at the old workings and we continued along a narrow trod along the stream until even that fizzled out.  We climbed up and away from the stream through deep heather, the ground full of booby trapped holes.  The going was tough and the landscape exceptionally bleak, mist drifting past only adding to the foreboding.  Even Reuben was not his usual bouncy self as we lurched across the moor.

I spotted a line of grouse butts a few hundred metres away and decided to head towards them.  I reasoned that the George Osborne lookalikes the previous day would not walk too far from their vehicles to shoot a few grouse from the sky.  I was right and was soon walking along a firm track that was cunningly concealed amongst the peat hags.

This led to the head of Gunnerside Gill and a fantastically situated shooting hut which was unfortunately locked.  It looked like it would be a splendid place to spend the night.  The track contoured high above the Gill, giving splendid views despite the gloom.

A long line of walkers approached and they were all rather taken by Reuben in his panniers.  They crowded around him to take photos and he relished all the attention heaped upon him.  His owner found it all rather embarrassing!

A short climb and we passed the devastation at the inappropriately named Merry field, the ground scarred by lead mining leaving a desert of gravel and a few rusting pieces of machinery.  I like bleak but this is a rather charmless place, like a gravel pit stuck on the top of the moors.  a descent into Flincher Gill and another climb through Forefield rake brought us to another scene of bleak devastation.  Reuben was not impressed.

Great Pinseat needed to be bagged, but it was on the other side of a huge drystone wall which I did not want to risk climbing.  I did however manage to touch the trig by extending my pacerpole to its fullest extent and then leaning over the wall.  I think I can still add Great Pinseat to the list.

A track led easily across the moor, giving a quick and easy descent.  We passed a vehicle in a bog which had clearly seen better days.

Calver hill soon came into view with Fremington edge our outward route visible on the horizon.

We dropped down to the narrow moorland road, passing surrender bridge which was in the opening shot of All Creatures great and small.  It’s a lovely spot and would make an ideal place to spend the night in the Bongo.  A series of paths and tracks then led us easily back to the car at Reeth.

Reuben continued to gather many comments as we passed through the village, what had started off as a novelty soon became rather trying as every single person said, “I see you have got him carrying your stuff”.  Reuben however relished all the attention and greeted each and every person as if they were long lost friends.

September 24, 2012

An early blast of winter on a moorland camp

by backpackingbongos

I woke up confused in the dark, a panicked moment when I could not find my headtorch.  I must have dozed off shortly after eating dinner, meaning to rest for a minute before taking Reuben out to do what dogs have to do.  That minute somehow morphed into an hour.  Wet trail shoes were pulled back on, sucking the warmth out of my feet.  Outside the oversized half moon had risen above the horizon, giving the moor an eerie orange glow.  Reuben sniffed around for a few seconds before heading straight back into the Trailstar, business not attended to.  I stood for a while, the only sign of civilisation being the distant A66, beams of light floating silently across the moor.  As with Reuben the cold soon got to me and I dashed back into my sleeping bag, down jacket kept on in an effort to fight off the first frost I have experienced for a few months.

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