Report by: Paul & Marian Barrow
Walk Date: June 2010
My husband, Paul, and I set out from Settle Railway Station on Tuesday, 2nd June, 2010 in the rain. Was this, I asked myself, going to be a repeat of the awful wet weather that Wainwright endured when he undertook the original walk from Settle up to Hadrian’s Wall and back in 1938? Fortunately we had mostly glorious, warm and sunny weather apart from one or two wet days. However, our first day found us having a coffee break sat on bales of hay in a barn near Stainforth, which happens to be my birthplace (not in the barn I might add) and lunch in the porch of Horton in Ribblesdale’s mediaeval church with swallows flying backward and forwards feeding their young. We had dried off before arriving in a muddy farmyard at Foxup where the caravan, our home for the duration of the walk, had been parked up for the night.
The following days of bright sunny weather showed off the limestone dales in all their glory as we joyously made our way through Ribblesdale, Wharfedale, Wensleydale and Swaledale – each dale with its individual characteristics of drystone walls and laithes, the local name for out-barns. The hay meadows were rich in every wild flower imaginable with lapwing, curlew, golden plover and oyster catcher crazily wheeling noisily overhead attempting to lure us from their young.
Tramping ever northwards we passed Tan Hill, the highest pub in Great Britain, where we had once observed a pet lamb trot out of the kitchen and jump up onto a chair next the roaring fire where it settled itself down. From here the route over Sleightholme Moor, which is usually very boggy, was as dry as snuff so made for easy going. From Middleton-on-Tees following the Pennine Way alongside the river Tees past Low and High Force is an utter delight. Our route then took us across a pathless moor in mist to Swinhope Head where we were unable to see our target of a line of telegraph posts. We took a bearing and found the ruined hut and sheep fold the guide book told us to look out for and managed to arrive a few hundred metres short of our target of Swinhope Head. Then we herded a sheep with her two lambs for miles down the road towards Westgate before they turned off into a farmyard.
We arrived at Blanchland, which Wainwright greatly enthused about, wet through, found our caravan alone in the mist 1.5 miles further up on the moor and so were unable to see the wonderful views that the guide book stated were all around us. We had a day off in the attractive town of Hexham and on the following day were up and off at 7 a.m. with the prospect of a 20 mile day ahead. We did find time to have a look around the Roman fort of Housesteads only to find, towards the very end of this long day, we had the hard up and down roller-coaster of Whinshield Crags to negotiate before arriving, exhausted, at our campsite. From Greenhead we were then heading back south, initially over moorland, then with an easy stretch along the disused railway line of the South Tyne Trail.
Our next wet day came just when we didn’t want it, on the day we had to negotiate Cross Fell, the highest peak in the Pennine chain. We were wet and cold when we reached the welcome refuge of Greg’s Hut where we were soon joined by another wet and cold walker. He had lost his two companions with the map and was relieved when they eventually turned up. We went on our way to arrive, dry, at our caravan under a dramatic multicoloured sky. In this part of the north we passed through numerous attractive villages where a welcoming seat on a village green often presented itself just in time for lunch.
From Kirkby Stephen the route passes the ruined Pendragon Castle where we had our lunch admiring one of the many castles this redoubtable benefactress restored in the north. It was difficult to imagine, as we walked along this ancient high level route of the High Way, now part of the modern Lady Anne’s Way footpath, how Lady Anne was carried in her horse-litter accompanied by her entourage with carriages conveying items of furniture, bedding, tapestries and even a window, on her way to visit her many castles. Before dropping down to Garsdale Head we passed the ruins of High Dyke which had been an old drover’s inn. We found our caravan alone in an idyllic setting beside a waterfall on the River Ure where I was unable to resist the urge to soak my weary feet.
Then it was over the moors to Sedbergh where we then joined the Dales Way through delightful Dentdale where the river was a river no more with two canoes, complete with paddles, left abandoned on a dry river bed. At the end of this 18 mile day we had the difficult descent of Whernside to tackle – much harder coming down than going up- before the many up and down steps (of which I had forgotten there were so many) through the lovely Ingleton Waterfalls to arrive, exhausted, at Ingleton. We were so weary that my husband was too tired to be bothered to find a pub showing the World Cup!! On the last stretch back to Settle we chickened out of climbing Ingleborough, having already done it umpteen times, but it is a must for those who have not having climbed it before. Instead we took the wet weather route back to Clapham where we joined the original route back to Settle Station. Here the weather was in complete contrast to the day we set out, as we sat awaiting our lift in brilliant sunshine.
This was a trip hugely enjoyable and not to be missed.
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