I was really struggling towards the end of this week on a destination for today’s walk. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anywhere to go, but the difficulty was down to an excess of choice. Living in northern England gives a wide variety of options for walking as there are four National Parks within an easy 1 hours drive, not that you need to go to a National Park, as there are areas of north Lancashire, and over in the Pennine on the Lanc’s / York’s border that offer superb walking too. It very nearly came down to placing a pin on a map whilst being blindfolded.
I eventually settled on Askrigg, in Upper Wensleydale. An absolutely charming village in North Yorkshire and situated in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I will admit that I am no stranger to Askrigg having visited several times previously, although really just passing through, and once having stayed in a small cottage for Xmas and New Year around twenty years ago. Askrigg is renown for being a prominent film location in the BBC television adaptation of James Herriots’ books about veterinary practice in pre war Yorkshire Dales. The books had various titles, although the TV series found international acclaim as “All Creatures Great and Small”. I have read all the books and I do prefer them to the TV adaptation, as the TV version skims over much of the back story that is found in the books, and the TV series doesn’t present the humour and wit of Jim Wight as much as the books do.
We parked up in the small public car park to the north eastern end of the village on the Leyburn Road. The car park is a public car park, unusually, it is not a pay and display. We did make a voluntary contribution for our stay in the steel box provided for that purpose.
Total Distance – 5.97 mi
Total Ascent – 914ft
We started from the car park and headed west along to the Crown Inn at the top of Main Street. I really dislike walking past pubs, but we felt that entering this pub only 3 minutes into the walk would be a cop out, and so we reluctantly decided to give it a miss. The footpath went up the hill to the rear of the pub, although we struggled to find it from the main road and so went through the 5-bar gate accessed at the right hand side of the Crown Inn, and through the pubs’ beer garden and subsequently onto the path we needed. The climb up this hill was quite steep, although the ground underfoot was very soft. The views to our left opened up as we climbed and gradually we were over looking the roof tops of the houses on the main street and in the distance seeing the outline of Addlebrough which was prominently silhouetted on the horizon.
|Overlooking Askrigg to Addlebrough|
We continued on the footpath until we arrived at a fantastic ruined barn in a field. We walked along the path to the right hand side of the barn until we then dropped downhill to Askrigg Beck, and thus unfortunately losing all the height we had so far gained.
|Ruined field barn, West End, Askrigg|
We gingerly crossed over Askrigg Beck, taking care not to fall in, and then started to gain height again as we approached Low Straights Lane. I anticipated better going on Low Straights Lane, miserably this was not to be.
|Looking North East to Ellerkin Scar from above West End, Askrigg|
There was much mud, puddles and boggy ruts to be navigated on the track and as a result I got my clean, new boots very dirty. The climb up this track was steady and consistent, with the height gained providing some wonderful views along Wensleydale. The track proved to be hard going. it would be a delight in a dry summer, but after the rain we had experienced it was bloody awful.
|The view down Wensleydale|
As we approached the top of Low Straights Lane, we took the opportunity of having a sandwich and some home-made Stilton & Broccoli soup whilst sitting on a thoughtfully provided wooden bench over looking Whitfield Gill. This was a wonderful vantage point and gave some incredible vistas over the surrounding countryside. Brownie points go to the people who thought of placing the seating there. We finished our sandwiches and shook out the last drops of soup from the flask cup, packed everything away and made our way down into Whitfield Gill Plantation. This is a very steep sided, wooded ravine, and the path leading down to the valley floor was treacherous. In fact, the path was just a quagmire and careful footing was required to avoid your feet from slipping from under you. The exposed tree roots added to the difficulty. The balancing act I provided all the way down this footpath would have put a circus tightrope artiste to shame. If you did lose your footing, over the ravine you went! In situations like this a walking pole is a useful addition, and I am still wondering why I left mine in the car.
When we got to the bottom of the path and crossed the bridge spanning Whitfield Beck, we passed a waterfall that could have been man made from the appearance of the stone blocks it tumbled over. It may have been natural, but to my untutored geological eye it didn’t look so. We continued up the opposite side of the ravine and stumbled across a timber signpost indicating a high level path to Whitfield Gill Force. It was 400 yds further back up the beck so I decided to go and have a look whilst I was here – a sucker for a waterfall. The path to the waterfall was just as bad as the route to the valley bottom and made for heavy going. I got to the end of the muddy path and it stopped abruptly at a sheer drop. Unfortunately for me, Whitfield Gill Force was obscured by trees and my effort was wasted. I could the waterfall see it through the barren trees, and I must admit that it sounded very impressive, but the view from my vantage point was extremely disappointing and I made a mental note Google it when I got back home. Here is a picture I found of it on Google – I could not do justice to it by a photograph from where I was standing.
We departed Whitfield Beck and crossed a lush looking field to a derelict farmhouse above Spen Rigg. We walked along the old farm access track and on towards the macadam surfaced road that leads from Helm. It was quite a relief to get onto the road where the going underfoot was good and we could increase the pace of the walk. The road descended very steeply to Gill Gate and ran parallel to Grange Beck. There was a superb waterfall at Gill Gate and it took us by surprise although the volume of water thundering down made it sound more impressive than it looked
|Waterfall on Grange Beck|
We continued to descend down to the road junction, and proceeded to take the road into Bainbridge, passing under the now derelict Wensleydale Railway, ( which could soon be running again in the near future) over the stone bridge crossing the River Ure, past Yorebridge House and into Bainbridge village centre.
|Dusk from the River Ure, Bainbridge|
As we walked into Bainbridge we came across the Rose and Crown Hotel on our right hand side and in a commanding position overlooking the village centre. The sun had now slipped behind the horizon and the light was fading rapidly; we were only two thirds of the way round and it became clear that we would be finishing the walk in the dark. It didn’t really matter if we stopped off for a pint or two as we wouldn’t be missing anything in the inky blackness, so into the pub we went!
|The fireplace in the lounge of the Rose & Crown|
I had a bit of a dichotomy in the pub, there was Black Sheep on handpump and Theakston’s Best also on hand pump. Hmmmmm, what do I do? I decided on Black Sheep. The beer was well kept and it was a decent pint, I was tempted to follow this with a pint of Theakston’s Best in order to linger in front of the log fire a bit longer, but decided we had to make progress. You know the situation where one pint leads to two, and then three, and before you know it you are staggering around trying to get back to where you started from and trying in vain to get a taxi. The pub seemed untouched by any hint of modern décor, and could have come straight from the early 1960’s judging by the fixtures and fittings which adorned it. Two locals sat at the bar discussing the national football results and they both said a cheery ‘goodbye’ as we placed our empty glasses on the bar and departed out of the front door.
|The Rose & Crown Hotel in Bainbridge|
It was almost dark as we left the warmth of the pub. We walked along the road passing through the centre of the village and we turned left to cross the road bridge over the River Bain. The bridge spanned over a series of noisy small waterfalls that ran next to an old water mill. We continued on the main road passing Brough Hill on our left, with its ruined Roman fort on its summit, and climbed the hill to a minor road junction.
|A warning to moles!|
At this point we left the road, climbed over a stile in a drystone wall and continued climbing through the fields in the dark up to the rugged escarpment of Brough Scar. It was a relief to get to the top of the Scar where it was as flat as a billiard table and the walking was easy. The fields here were full of sheep – lambing time was on its way and these fields in two months time would be a cacophony of wailing, bleating lambs.
|Dusk from Brough Scar|
We continued along past Scar Top farm until we arrived at Worton Scar. At this point we descend from the scar and down the footpath to the hamlet of Worton. As it had gone dark there wasn’t a lot to see, however the moon was out and was shining brightly. It was not a full moon but was bright enough to cast a shadow and provide sufficient illumination for us to find our way easily. We left the main road through Worton, the A684, and headed down a very steep road to Worton Bridge. We crossed this single track steel bridge and left the tarmac road to head across the fields, this was Askrigg Bottoms. We were surprised to find that the path here leading into Askrigg had been laid with stone paving slabs, which along with the moons’ brilliance made for a memorable journey back into Askrigg itself. We gradually ascended over the disused railway and continued the gradual climb onto Cringley Lane on the outskirts of the village. We walked along this lane towards the village centre and this lead on to Silver Street. We walked along Silver Street and arrived at the Market Place opposite St Oswald’s church and next door to Skeldale House. We turned right at Skeldale House and walked uphill along Main Street and back to the car on the Leyburn Road.
|St Oswalds, Askrigg|
We got to the car, and decided to go back down the hill to The Kings Arms to rebalance our fluids. We changed our footwear, and made an attempt to look a bit more presentable. The car started and I slowly drove down to the Market Place and parked outside Skeldale House.
|Skeldale House in the moonlight|
We entered the Kings Arms ( or Drovers Arms if you want ) and perused the handpumps; I decided on a pint of Theakston’s Best. To be honest I was a little disappointed by it when compared to the pint of Black Sheep I had sampled earlier. It certainly didn’t have the depth of flavour, nor the strength of flavour either. We were served our drinks at the main bar, however decided to sit in a quiet, empty little back room, as a large group of ‘blokes’ had taken up residence in front of the fire, and along the whole bar counter top, and they were becoming gradually louder and louder.
We discussed eating here, but my better half had the great idea of calling in at Hawes chippy for a traditional tea of fish and chips straight from the paper. We discussed the highlights of the day and slowly drained our glasses, put our coats on, left our empty glasses on the bar and went out to the car. We had to pass through Hawes to get back home so the chippy was conveniently en-route. When we got there we couldn’t believe how busy the little chip shop was; but I suspect chip shops are few and far between here in the Dales. The fish and chips were excellent and made a great finish to what had been a relaxing and enjoyable day. All that remained was to meander back the way we came and go home to a hot bath and a large whisky and discuss where to go on the next outing.
Well, what can I say? Until next time… au revoir!