23 June 2017

On my doorstep

My idea of a good time is tramping 100 miles across the Yorkshire Dales with a bag on my back and a dog by my side. 
Walking A Dales High Way above Dentdale
It's a great way to spend a week or more but not so good if you're just looking for a leg stretch on a Wednesday afternoon. That's where having a great selection of local walks comes in, easy strolls either from the house or a short drive away. So this week I pulled an old 1991 guidebook from the bookshelf and explored a path I'd first walked over 40 years ago, a quick 3 miles through Goit Stock woods to the waterfalls on Harden Beck above Bingley.
Goit Stock waterfall
And it was so worth it. It was cool and shady and no-one else was about. Wild honeysuckle scented the air and the only sounds were tumbling water and birdsong. Not quite the precious escapism of a multi day trail but not far off.


19 June 2017

Perks of the Job

I'm the secretary of the Dales Way Association and a couple of years ago the committee decided to replace some old, out of date information boards with these smart new signs.
Add caption
But what to do with the old ones? Rather than consign them all to landfill I tucked one under my arm and brought it home, where it lingered out of sight and out of mind behind the shed, until now.
Pride of place on the garden fence
What you might call a perk of the job!

27 March 2017

Mud, mud, not so glorious mud

Nine Standards

When two or more Coast to Coast walkers are gathered together the talk always turns to the notorious quagmire just beyond the huge cairns on Nine Standards Rigg. 
Bad old days

Stories of crossing - or sinking into - the ever widening bog are rife. 
But now almost 400 metres of stone flagging has been laid across the worst sections. On a glorious spring day the path was officially opened this weekend. Around 30 supporters and sponsers (including, we're proud to say, Skyware Press) gathered to toast the occasion and plant sphagnum moss around the stones. 
Testing out the new path
The total cost of over £30,000 was raised through a crowdfunding scheme set up by the North Pennines AONB and supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. There were generous donations from the British Mountaineering Council, HF Holidays, Tesco, the Wainwright Society and many others including local businesses and individual walkers.

So fear no more - the only interuption on the trail from Kirkby Stephen to Keld is a stop at Ravenseat for one of Amanda Own's famous scones.

For information about walking the Coast to Coast see www.coastto.co.uk

27 February 2017

Orchids and Cake

When we devised the long distance walk, A Dales High Way, we wrote two books. One was a Route Guide which is a practical little book of maps to help walkers find their way. The other is A Dales High Way Companion which includes lots of information about things to do and see along the way.

The Route Guide is designed to be kept in a pocket and consulted as you walk but the Companion is the book you read in the pub, containing chapters about the history, geology, archaeology and culture of the Yorkshire Dales. We enjoyed researching stories about the Quakers and Lady Anne Clifford, rock art and fell races. The one area we were weak on though was wild life and we asked Friends of A Dales High Way chairperson Julia Pearson to suggest birds and wildflowers walkers should look out for.

Below is a short guest post from Julia about the wonderful wildflowers shortly to be spotted in Wharfe Woods.

If you are walking Dales High Way in May allow a little extra time to enjoy the specialities of Feizor as you pass through. Of course the cake at Elaine’s Tearoom is available all year round, and comes highly recommended, so once replenished continue up the track towards Wharfe Woods. Passing through the gates on the brow of the hill you will spot some stone steps in the wall on the left, and a small gate on top. For several weeks in May this is the doorway to a botanical spectacle that is well worth a diversion. 

The woodland pasture is grazed by cattle and sheep at certain times of the year which helps maintain a rich diversity of plants adapted to the limestone soils. Swathes of wood anemone, cowslips, early purple orchids and bluebells create a colourful and heat-warming sight.   
Cowslips and Early Purple Orchids
Later in spring you can see the uncommon wild aquilegia and you maybe lucky enough to see a redstart, a bird that arrives here in late April to breed, nesting in holes in trees.

10 February 2017

People in a Landscape

Colin Speakman, the man responsible for creating the Dales Way is well known both at home and abroad as the author of over 50 books about the countryside including the best selling guide to the Dales Way

He is less well known perhaps as a poet but his latest collection demonstrates both his poetic skill and his love of the landscape. 

Of all the 28 poems in “People in a Landscape” one of my favourites is “Wharfedale”. It’s a beautiful, lyrical description of the valley that Dales Way walkers know and love so well.

Starting in the north where cloud and fell merge to mist the poem follows the river through Langstrothdale to the broad green floor of a glacier planed valley and the foam-white power of destruction that is the Strid, to emerge all anger relented  at Bolton Abbley where priors, dukes, came to dream, their ruins an echo, fading, of time.
It’s a depiction that is both recognisable but elevated, taking the reader on a journey not just through Wharefdale but through the passion that Colin has for this deep and secret place, a love that surely motivated him to create the Dales Way nearly 50 years ago.

People in a Landscape is available for £4.50 from Gritstone Publishing

3 September 2016

Use it or Lose it!

I walked around 12 miles a day during the Ride2stride Festival in April, much of it in the snow.

Ride2stride 2016
In May I tackled 90 miles of the Cape Wrath Trail with my worldly goods on my back. 
Cape Wrath Trail
In June I walked from Hebden Bridge to Horton-in-Ribblesdale on the Heart of the Pennine Way

Pen-y-ghent on the Pennine Way
Not bad eh!

But since then I've been under house arrest, tethered to home by a series of domestic responsibilities so when Tony suggested a couple of days away this week I couldn't get my boots on quickly enough. We walked from Macclesfield to Edale following the Cestrian Link path - a route created in 1983 by John N.Davenport to join the northern end of Offa's Dyke to the start of the Pennine Way. Tony has walked his own updated version of it as part of his End to End project and this 25 mile section was the last leg.

We got the train to Macclesfield and set off along the canal towpath then climbed up through the Macclesfield Forest. 
The climb through the forest
By 400 metres I was knackered - done for. Shamefully after 2 months of making tea for builders and sharing their hobnobs I was so out of condition I could barely crawl up a tourist trail. Clearly a daily trot around Robert's Park with my elderly dog wasn't quite the exercise I had kidded myself it was.

Lesson learned! Whatever is going on at home, whatever the weather, I'm going to make sure I get onto those hills this winter. Use it or lose it is an old cliche but so, so true!
Heading into Castleton

PS The trip was fantastic, especially day 2 which ended with a sunny climb from Castleton over to Edale with spectacular views of the Pennine range and the Pennine Way ahead.
Edale and the Pennine Way ahead

26 August 2016

Travellin' Light

Last year I walked from Edinburgh to Glasgow along the towpaths of the Union and Forth and Clyde canals. It was only about 50 miles miles and almost totally flat and it nearly killed me. Well it nearly killed my knees. By the time we reached the end of the walk I was existing on a diet of ibuprofen and whisky and vowed never to do another multi day walk again that wasn't supported by baggage carriers. That was until May this year when we decided to take a shot at the first few days of the Cape Wrath Trail.

Not known as Britain's toughest long distance trail for nothing the CWT is an unofficial, unmarked route from Fort William to Cape Wrath. There are a number of possible ways to go and we chose the Great Glen option, walking along the Great Glen Way to Inverarnan then heading north west to Strathcarron. 

This allowed us to find accommodation each night without carrying a tent but which ever way you walk the Cape Wrath Trail there is no baggage support. Everything we needed had to be  carried. I realised that I'd been lulled by the nature of the towpath walk into thinking it would be easy so I'd rammed everything I thought I might need into my pack and hoped for the best - change of clothes for the evening - check, lipstick - check, address book for postcards home - check. I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. If me and my knees were going to survive we were going to have to travel light. So here it is. My kit list for the Cape Wrath Trail.

2 walking poles
1 rucksack with waterproof cover
1 waterproof jacket
1 hat
1 pair gloves
1 pair waterproof over trousers
2 pairs walking trousers
2 tops
1 fleece
1 sports bra
3 pairs knickers
2 pairs liner socks
2 pairs walking socks
1 pair boots
1 pair crocs
washing flakes
midge repellant
first aid kit
bivvi survival blanket
phone & charger
money, cards& tickets

The whole lot including my rucksack weighed just over 6 kilos and when I added food, water and flask each day I still set off each morning carrying no more than 7.5 kilos. 


I managed fine for the 10 days we were away, washing tops, socks and undies as needed and although I've never been so pleased to see anything more than a bit of lippy when I got home my knees said - thank you and they meant it!