2nd Feb 2014 – Buckden, Buckden Pike, Cray & Hubberholme

After last weekends disappointing weather and lack of exercise, we decided that we would go out this weekend no matter what. The weather the previous weekend was just continuous s rain and after looking g online at several webcams I came to the conclusion that it was just as easy to stay local and get wet as it was to drive and hour and a quarter and get wet. The end result after studying the weather and webcams was that it was difficult to escape the warmth of the log fire and drag ourselves into the rain and wind. All was not wasted though as I did manage to get the maps out and work out several walks in advance so I would always have a few ‘in hand’, and not have the problem of the previous week of staying local due to not sorting the next walk out during the week.

The walk was going to be in Wharfedale, and to start at Buckden, progress up Buckden Pike and then drop down to Cray. After Cray it was a steady stroll to Hubberholme and then back to the start.

Distance – 8.3 mi
Ascent – 1908 ft
Sandwiches – Roast beef & horseradish on home made wholemeal bread
Soup – Homemade chicken and vegetable

Elevation Profile


Route Map


3D Route Map

We parked at the “Dick Turpin” National Park car park, where we were relieved of £4 for the privilege of parking. As usual, when we got there the car park was very busy. We pulled our boots out of the rear of the car and changed into them. Hats, fleeces and jackets came on too. Finally, the rucksack was hoisted up onto my shoulders and we were away.

We went across the car park heading away from Buckden and after passing through a gate turned right ninety degrees and started going up hill. What did I say about trying to avoid this sort of thing after stepping from the car? The uphill wasn’t any distance really, and it got us to the edge of Buckden Beck to a ford and stepping stones across the Beck. The stepping stones were barely visible under the torrent of white foaming water that was rushing down the beck. It would be a bit foolhardy to try and cross here, the water would easily have gone over the boots and the force of the stream would have swept your feet away. What to do? No more than 500 yds into the walk and we had halted. We decided to walk upstream to see if it was possible to cross further up. After five minutes of walking uphill along the banks, we came across a large rock sticking up, and out of the rushing water. It looked ideal to stand on and launch oneself across the beck. I tossed the rucksack over, so we had no option now but to cross here – the car keys were in the bag! It was quite a leisurely leap across and actually far easier then the stepping stones lower down. We tracked around the base of the hill and got back onto the permissive path that climbed up above Eshber Wood. The path was actually an old cart track and clearly used by agricultural quad vehicles. It was good going at the start of this track although as we gained altitude the track went steeper and our breathing became more laboured.

Looking down to Buckden

We continued upwards braving the hailstorms and with the wind really cutting through you. The views up, down and across Wharfedale were terrific which was some compensation as there seemed to be no respite with this climb; it was just a constant slog upwards. We stopped several times to catch our breath as we pressed on, on and on. We started to see snow on the north facing sides of drystone walls. When the path gradually eased we decided that this would be a suitable time to have bite to eat.

Looking North up Langstrothdale
Lunch spot; a sheepfold above East Side

Feeling fortified by the sandwiches and hot, steaming chicken and vegetable soup we started back on the path. Whilst the gradient had eased and the walk was quite easy, the going underfoot was very muddy and slippery. We did notice that as we had now reached more snow, we were following in the tracks of two people, one with a walking pole and they accompanied by a dog. We had seen nobody so far on this walk. We remained on the muddy, wet track heading for Buckden Lead Mine and it was quite clear that the mine was close as the spoil heaps from the mining activity really stood out on in the landscape.

Spoil heaps from Buckden Lead Mine
Mine entrance and disused buildings
Entrance to Buckden Lead Mine

I didn’t know a mine existed here, although I am aware of lead mining above Swaledale. It must have been a hard existence to come up here in all weathers and start a day of physical toil hacking away at hard rock by the light of a candle. I was intrigued to find out more, and there is quite a lot of information about the mine, it’s history and the body which was found in there in 1964 by some students.

We passed over Buckden Beck (again) which appeared to run from the disused mine entrance and tumble very quickly down the steep ravine that leads to Buckden village. The climb away from the mine was very steep indeed and it felt like a punishment to start off again up such an incline. The climb again was relentless and the amount of snow surrounding us was also increasing with the height we gained. We saw the steep hill stretching out infront of us and it felt a bit dispiriting to look at. We just put our heads down and watched our footing as we slowly made progress up through the snow. After what seemed an age and with heart thumping and legs weary, the ground levelled out and we realised we were now at the summit. We looked to our left and the summit trig point was visible over a stone wall surrounded by ice and snow. Their was a stile to climb over and a small walk remaining to get to the ‘official’ top.

Buckden Pike, summit trig point
Summit cairn viewed from trig point

Their were paths made from old mill floor flagstones across the summit of Buckden Pike and these lead past the trig point and out to the stone cairn also on the summit. We made a point of going to the cairn and placing a small stone on the top of it before taking the path to descend down to Cray. The wind on the summit would be what you could call a ‘thin wind’ – so thin, it seems to go through you.

The path from the summit down towards Cray made for very good progress, it had been remade from gravel and had pitched stone steps. Our rapid progress downwards was occasionally interrupted by knee deep snow. We were now on the lee side of the hill and thus snow had settled into the sheltered parts of the hillside which we seemed to find quite easily on and off the path. Quick progress was made and we soon arrived at Buckden Rake which was a refreshing change in that it was very level and the going underfoot was quite good. Rapid progress was made until we arrived above Cray and then more downhill progress was required. We arrived at the ford over Cray Gill and the stepping stones across the Gill were easily seen. Our very muddy boots were rinsed in the Gill, a deep breath taken and we started gingerly over the stones.

Fellow walkers following us over to Cray


The White Lion Inn at Cray

After safely negotiating the stepping stones over the Gill, we thought it best to nip into the White Lion Inn for something to settle the nerves after the stepping stones. I opted for a pint of Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, a light refreshing blonde ale with a citrus hint. It was excellent. My better half went for a lager, however the cask lager was off. This was due to a coach party who were touring the pubs in the Dales coming in the previous day and emptying a full, new keg – all 88 pints! So bottled it was. We sat by the fire taking in the warmth from the logs and savouring the beer – I really could have sat there all day.

The fire in the White Lion Inn

Before long we had emptied our glasses and we decided to start making a move downhill towards Hubberholme. We dragged ourselves outside and decided to walk along the road to Hubberholme instead of the planned route above Todds Wood. Dusk was approaching and walking in the dark along a muddy path had lost its appeal. We started to walk down the road, after a short while we took a right turn down a narrow, but steep tarmac road. This took us over Stubbing Bridge and into Hubberholme passing via the beautiful 12th Century church of St Michael and All Angels.

St Michael and All Angels Church, Hubberholme
The George Inn viewed across the river Wharfe

As we approached The George Inn we came across a sign that indicated that the pub was open from 12:00 – 3:00 for sandwiches etc and then from 6:00pm – 10:00pm for meals. We actually misunderstood this sign and thought that outside of those times the pub was actually closed.  We felt disappointed, but did try the door and surprisingly it was open. We went in. The landlord, Ed, was sat infront of the fire and we asked of he was open. He replied in the affirmative and our spirits picked up considerably. We didn’t realise it was food serving times only on the board outside – doh! I ordered a pint of Yorkshire Dales “Le Tour de Yorkshire Dales” – a pale, citrus, refreshing bitter. This was followed up with a pint of Black Sheep which is a perennial favourite. My better half had lager – just standard, everyday Carlsberg/Stella/Carling/Fosters or whatever. The name changes but the taste is just the same.

We took a seat opposite the fire and ended up chatting to Ed and he gave us a brief history of the pub and also noted that he and his wife are new to the place and have been running it for about 9 months now. The famous candle was burning on the bar and the fire was well stoked too.

The lit candle on the bar of The George Inn
An inviting coal fire

As we were chatting some locals came in and joined in the conversation, and shortly after this the landlord and landlady of The White Lion in Cray came in too. We stayed and had the pub chilli with chips and rice, and very good it was too. Hot enough to be a ‘real’ chilli, but not ‘blow your socks off’ hot that makes your eyes water. It was great, full of flavour and much needed after a day in the hills. After we had finished eating we were introduced to George, the ‘new’ pub dog. George was an 8 week old Jack Russell who was too cute for his own good!

George, the pub dog, at 8 weeks old
The George Inn as we departed into the darkness

We lost track of time and before we knew it we had been sat in there for 3 hours drinking, talking and eating. We still had a mile to walk back to the car. We settled our bill and then made our goodbyes and went outside, not realising just how dark it was with the complete absence of any street lights. We started to make our way along the road heading back to Buckden and at first this was fine, but as the light from the pubs outdoor illumination faded we were walking in complete darkness. At one point we were feeling our way along the drystone walls in order to keep on the road. After ten minutes our eyes had started to adjust and we could make out larger features of the landscape, and using our peripheral vision, the dark track that was the road could be seen. As we continued along the road we dodged several large puddles where the road had flooded, and we were keeping a keen eye out for any vehicles because, as usual, we had dressed for the event by wearing black and there were no footpaths on this road. After around 20 minutes we had made our way back to the car park in Buckden without any incident.

As we got to the car, we opened it up, started the engine and turned the heater to full whilst we changed our footwear at the rear. It was great to get the rucksack, hat and gloves off and have a change of boots. After packing the gear into the car, and settling into the driving seat, we set off back home mulling over the day and agreeing to visit the George Inn again at some point in the near future.

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