29 January 2012

Slip slidin' along

Bloomin' weather forecast! For days the meteorologists had been predicting that Friday would be the best day of the week so despite low cloud we set off early to check out another of the "ones that got away".

Leaving Settle - a grey day
This 9 mile circular from Settle follows ancient trade routes across the moors above Long Preston. It was never going to make the book as the route runs south of Settle and the parameters of Dales Rail Trails are walks between Settle and Kirkby Stephen. It's also outside of the great limestone walking routes of the south western Dales but it's not without interest, offering long distant views and almost guaranteed peace and quiet. We never saw another soul all day. 

We left Settle up an old moor road called Mitchell Lane, which was the main trade route between Settle and Long Preston until the turnpike road (now the busy A65) opened in 1750. Whilst I love walking in open countryside I do get a buzz from following the thousands of feet and cart wheels that have passed before me over the centuries.

There was snow underfoot as we crossed a couple of fields - but this wasn't the deep and crisp and even sort. The snow was light, the ground was sodden and we made a bambi-ish clamber up the only real ascent of the day.

Disguised mud
Back onto a rough track we headed south with great views over Ribblesdale and the Trough of Bowland.

As we neared Long Preston we had a choice - into the village and the Maypole for a liquid lunch or keep going and look for a sheltered spot to eat the butties. The butties won - the pints could wait for the end - and we headed east to start the circular return. We found a perfect lunch spot by a footbridge that crosses Long Preston Beck - a stream that starts life high on Rye Loaf Hill, runs east as Stockdale Beck then plunges over Scaleber Force before continuing south as Scaleber Beck, then Long Preston Beck before finally joining the river Ribble.
A sheltered spot for lunch

More fields brought us to another beck - Bookil Gill Beck which is usually easily crossed on a couple of large stones. Not today - the melt water from the fells had swollen the beck to a torrent and we were forced upstream to look for a crossing point. A fallen fence post provided a precarious tightrope that wobbled ominously - luckily the dog ran ahead to test its safety!

By now horizontal snow was creeping into every orifice and we trudged, heads down, along Langber Lane, an ancient drove route that in Elizabethan times linked Settle with Otterburn and Skipton. We took a short detour into Scaleber Woods, where the waterfall of Scaleber Force made a fine sight in full spate, before dropping back down into Settle and that waiting pint.

Scaleber Force
Despite the weather it was a grand walk, not very taxing but (until the white out) with rewarding views in both directions.

The following morning we got up to blazing sunshine which just goes to show the only reliable way to forecast the weather is to open the curtains and peer out.

23 January 2012

The ones that got away

The hardest bit about writing a walk book is not what to put in but what to leave out. There are so many ways up the mountain or routes down the valley that sometimes it's hard to know which ones to choose.

Our latest guide book is a collection of walks that can all be done from stations on the Settle-Carlisle line. Walking the fells, selecting the routes and creating the maps took most of last year. Inevitably there were artistic differences - disagreements about what went in and what was left out.

I'm a bit of a fan of a tea shop and any walk that includes the possibilty of a scone gets my vote.

The path to Crummackdale - not far from Elaine's tearoom at Feizor
My co-author likes the open fells, the wilder the better, so long as there's a pint at the finish.

Looking south from Great Knoutberry - only the sheep for company
We got there in the end and Dales Rail Trails is finally ready to face the world - 18 circular, 14 linear walks and one long distance trail through the western Dales. There are easy routes through Ribblesdale and strenuous climbs over Wild Boar Fell, classic ascents of Ingleborough and secluded paths to Crummackdale. Together they give a comprehensive coverage of the area between Settle and Kirkby Stephen. There are loads of routes we left out though so we've decided to put them on the Dales Rail Trails website as Out-takes - the ones that got away!