To the stars and back

Today the sun is shining despite assurances from the MET office that I should be under a roof or in a boat. There is pretty good visibility so I head off to Kettlewell a short drive from Grassington up Wharfedale for a walk that ought to involve some good views.

Kettlewell itself is a pretty village with an old stone bridge sitting alongside a ford, should you choose to get your feet wet. The walk I have chosen is dead simple involving hillside traversal of the eastern side of the valley to Starbotton and returning along the other western hillside. The climb north out of Kettlewell along a track provides good views back over the village and the valley to the south.

View back to Kettlewell
View back to Kettlewell

This is sheep country and a farmhand drives by on a Quad bike with a collie stood eagerly on the rear. You will have to imagine the amusing image as I didn’t fire off a photo in time (story of my life). Perhaps the heavy utilisation of this track explains the good shape it is kept in.

Stairway to Starbotton
Stairway to Starbotton

Many birds can be heard but for the most part they remain elusive to the eye, with a few notable exceptions.

Where eagles dare
Where eagles dare

As I descend into the even smaller village of Starbotton I’m already looking forward to lunch & a pint at the pub – but disaster – it is closed! In fact there is no sign of life here except the clack of croquet balls from an impressively flat cottage garden across the road. My bag contains a banana, two biscuits and a bottle of water – all liberated from my B&B. It’s a lunch of sorts. Back up the other side of the valley then without much delay.

This walk is no picnic
This walk is no picnic

A picturesque bridge over the river is popular with walkers and their smug looking packed lunches but I ignore them and march upwards along a pretty walled path.

More moss than stone
More moss than stone

It’s a slippery ascent on shiny damp rocks but the views at the top are well worth it.

One day all this will be mine, HA HA HA!!!
One day all this will be mine, HA HA HA!!!

I come across an old barn that looks disused.

Who lives here?
Who lives here?

In fact it’s not, despite the lack of tennants at this time. Livestock is kept in barns like this at certain times of year. The derelict barns tend to be a lot more run down.

Beastly lodgings
Beastly lodgings

The weather continues to be kind and there are some commanding views down the valley back to Kettlewell.

Kettlewell, or is it Kabul?
Kettlewell, or is it Kabul?

Sound carries well here and I can hear farm machinery on the other side of the valley. At one point a Hawk trainer jet screams down the valley slightly beneath my elevation. There’s a lot of that sort of thing going on in this area. Presumably Afghanistan and the Yorkshire Dales will be twinned within my lifetime. Apparently Wallace And Gromit are already household names there.

Worth the wait
Worth the wait

And before long I’m back. It has been an easy and pleasant walk. There’s only one way to reflect upon it – a sublime pint of Copper Dragon Black Gold at the Lister Arms. All’s well that ends well.

From Malham to … Malham

With all the events at this years Grassington Festival – some that I have even been attending – it would be easy to forget the other reason I’m here in the Yorkshire Dales. It just happens to boast some of the finest walking country you will find. Anywhere.For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and today I have to balance out an unfeasibly gratuitous full English breakfast with a walk of calorifically appropriate burden. Any experienced walker worth their salt does their research and plans out a route in advance, with map and instructions ready for action. My mother is such a walker and so I’m confident that by popping around to pilfer her old walks (and some lovely tea & cake – thanks!) I have prepared to the highest standard.

Today’s recycled walk is a circular affair from Malham…

I’m a big fan of circular walks. You don’t have to abandon your car each time and go and buy a new one. Here are some snapshots from the walk…

Leaving Malham to the south the terrain is typical of the dales at their most pastoral. There are fields of wild flowers, dry stone walls and interesting birds perching atop abandoned old barns.

Watering hole
Watering hole

The path briefly crosses a road and I grab a cup of tea from a roadside trailer café. It was truly vile. Things get interesting on the other side of the road. A campsite is dwarfed beneath a limestone chasm that tells of more dramatic times in this neighbourhood.

Roughing it middle class style
Roughing it middle class style

And as I turn the corner I am awestruck by the scale and immediacy of what lies in wait.

Gorge-ous
Gorge-ous

Gorsdale Scar: This is a level of drama I had not expected. There are perhaps 50 people in this chasm all looking upwards. The climbers are clearly mad as the rock face rises outwards. Most of the other people have just parked up nearby and come to gawp.

What goes up must come down
What goes up must come down

But as you know I am a man of action. I cross the waterfall with eyes on the skies, the thunderous roar of the raging torrent drowning out the cries of those below …. “ don’t do it – this is madness, you’ll be killed!” is what they are probably shouting at me.

Even the sherpas ran away screaming
Even the sherpas ran away screaming

I laugh in the face of danger and wait my turn as younger fitter walkers – people who have almost certainly consumed less beer and cake in their lives – struggle to ascend the legendary northish face of the falls.

I’m doing this for old blighty
I’m doing this for old blighty

When does a walk become a climb? I’ve never been sure but this is certainly a climb. If the water flow was much heavier or in the aftermath of a mere partial English breakfast (or dare I say it – a continental breakfast) the only course of action at this point would be to turn back.

This is no time to lose your nerve Whitemore
This is no time to lose your nerve Whitemore

But the conditions today – both environmental and nutritional – are in my favour and up I go.

Base camp, but no rest until nightfall
Base camp, but no rest until nightfall

It would all be rather impressive were it not for the fact that my retired mother did this walk/climb only a few years ago. Perhaps there is a stair-lift somewhere. Yes, that must be it. Anyway, this isn’t the first time she has stitched me up with one of her “ladies walks”. The climb becomes a flat stroll and a carpet of limestone breaks through the sheep mown grass.

Like a limestone carpet
Like a limestone carpet

I forgot to bring a flag with me for the summit but here’s a picture for National Geographic when they inevitably come knocking on my door for an account of the climb.

My knighthood awaits
My knighthood awaits

It really is very easy walking now. The lush green turf has a supporting spring to it reminiscent of a proper running track. A couple of stiles lead me onto an ancient path. Seasoned hikers learn to read the landscape. There’s much history around you even in the most innocuous locations. My interpretation is that this must have been a very busy and important thoroughfare at one time. The adjacent field shows all the hallmarks of an old Roman Marching camp, I would estimate between 100 and 200 AD. That date would put this outpost at the command of Petillius Cerialis if I’m not mistaken and the obvious conclusion is that the soldiers were under orders to put down some kind of rebellion amongst the local Brigantes tribe.

Reading the landscape
Reading the landscape

The walk isn’t purely an exercise in historical detective work. Some light-hearted moment always pops up when you are least expecting it.

Smearbottoms – hahaha!
Smearbottoms – hahaha!

You really wouldn’t want to go down Hawthorns lane immediately after Smearbottoms Lane. Ouch!

Hawthorns. Not very funny really.
Hawthorns. Not very funny really.

There follows a soggy yomp across what the map calls Hanlith Moor but should in fact be called Hanlith bog. It’s not beautiful or a whole lot of fun. For one thing you are looking down all the time trying to find somewhere dry to put your feet so the views are hypothetical. When you do finally emerge onto a mercifully robust farm track there is a gentle walk downhill to rejoin the Pennine Way.

The only way is Pennine
The only way is Pennine

I spied a very exciting looking bird on this return stretch but it skulked amidst the long grass so you will have to take my word for it. Obviously on my triumphal return to Malham I paid a visit to the Lister Arms for a congratulatory pint of Thwaites Original and quiet reflection on the day’s events. Modesty in achievement…