Weds 9th July 2014 – Yellow Sheep & Walk Around Bishopdale

After the last walk in Buckden (see here) and the near death experience I had carrying a large heavy rucksack I made the decision to stay a low level and avoid the sherpa training session this time around. Again, the choice of where to walk was made difficult by there being so much choice available. We certainly enjoyed the scenery on the last walk, and enjoyed the carnival atmosphere surrounding the Tour de France too, so we thought we would pass over the “Cote du Cray” and go into Bishopdale to enjoy its delights. I decided to start from Thoralby as there is easy parking behind the village hall, and there is also a pub in close proximity to enable one to rebalance fluid loss on completion of the walk.

Distance:  7.0 miles
Ascent:  426ft
Sandwiches:  Home smoked ham salad on home made wholemeal bread
Soup:  eh? You kidding!

Elevation Profile
OS Route Map
3D View of Route

As we had both taken some time off work we decided to go to Thoralby mid-week to avoid the weekend rush. As is usual we set off mid-morning to avoid the commuter rush and the drive over was quite easy and steady. We chose to go through Upper Wharfedale to take in the delights of the remnants of the TdF from four days earlier. There was still multi-coloured bunting lining the route, along with signage, advertising and names spray painted onto the road, so the spirit of the day was still there, as was a large number cyclists along the route. As we approached Kettlewell there were a number of people going in the opposite direction who were pulling their cars to the side of the road to take photographs. I thought they were getting a high level photo of Kettlewell, as it does look like a typical Dales village at this point with the fells rising in the background and is photogenic. We passed them by and drove steadily up through the centre of Kettlewell, passed through Buckden, up through Cray, up the “Cote du Cray” or Kidstones Pass as it is alternatively known, and started the descent into Bishopdale.

The descent down into Bishopdale
Bishopdale Farmhouse & Barns

We continued the drive along the road through Bishopdale, turned left off the main road, drove past the old mill and up into Thoralby. We parked at the rear of the village hall and put a donation into the honesty box situated on the wall of the hall. We changed into our boots, I put the map into my shirt pocket and put the rucksack on. Thankfully, this time it was a small daysack and not 70 ltr backpacking one with two folding chairs strapped to it. We made our way across the gravel car park, down the side of the village hall and onto the road.

Original Village Hall doorway in Thoralby

We started along the road to the centre of the village and no sooner had week got into our stride we were passing a pub. It seemed a bit of a cop out to just walk past, particularly as the sun was shining on the bench seating outside. We decided to nip in for a swift one. It was about half past midday, so don’t be thinking it was anything like an “Australian breakfast”.

A quick ‘livener’ prior to the walk

We sat on the timber benches and enjoyed the cold beer, the sunshine and the salty crisps – oh! how the other ‘alf live! We savoured the drinks and sat there contemplating whether to call the walk off and stay all day, or to finish off this first one and then crack on with the walk. Sanity prevailed, we drained our glasses, and I hoisted the rucksack on and we continued along Westfield Lane, the main road that bisects Thoralby

The George Inn at Thoralby

There were some interesting looking buildings along the road, and the village itself had a particular charm about it. We soon left the buildings and main village behind and started gradually climbing up and passing the grand looking Heaning Hall farm. We took a right fork on the macadam road and made our way along Eastfield Lane, which looked as though it was a ‘proper’ road at some time in the past. The walk along this lane was very pleasant indeed, and the views to the surrounding fells were very expansive.

Stone barn off Eastfield Lane
Eastfield Lane, Thoralby

We continued ambling along Eastfield Lane, and heading for Eshington Bridge where the main vehicular road along Bishopdale crossed Bishopdale Beck.

Derelict stone barn off Eastfield Lane.
Curious sheep at Eshington Bridge

We progressed to Eshington Bridge and just after the bridge we turned right through a stone ‘squeeze’ stile and into a lush field. This footpath lead us up to the attractive village of West Burton. Halfway along, we decided to sit on the grass and have our lunch. We consumed the sandwiches whilst lying on our backs and watching the cloud formations pass by overhead. Afer some time, we put half the sandwiches back and then packed our things away into the rucksack, and off we went into West Burton to see what delights it had to offer us.

We approached West Burton by way of a small alleyway which brought us out onto a street called Back Nook, at the lower end of the village. As we got onto Back Nook we turned left away from the road that lead to the village centre. This was so we could go past the Old Mill and look at the waterfalls on Walden Beck. We passed by a well kept and attractive looking stone cottage that was made quite striking by the colourful planters to the front and it stood out on the bare street.

Craggley Cottage on Back Nook, West Burton

We continued along Back Nook until we got to the road of Front Nook (imaginative street names here!) where we turned right and headed towards the old mill at the lower end of the village. We passed through the lane at the side of the old mill and headed towards the wooded glade on Walden Beck where the water passes over a break in the limestone strata. The artist JMW Turner came here in 1816 and did a small sketch of the waterfall, possibly with the idea of turning it into a watercolour at a later date. The waterfall is known locally as Cauldron Falls.

Waterfalls at West Burton

After leaving the waterfalls, we retraced our steps back past the old mill, and headed up along Front Nook towards the village centre. As we walked up to the village green we passed by The Cat Pottery, and as we have three cats of our own Mrs MuddyBoots dragged us in for a mooch around the shop. The statues were very good, very life-like and accurate.

The Cat Pottery, West Burton – Ruby the cat playing with a mouse

We left the Cat Pottery behind and progressed up through the village and across the village green. We headed for the village shop to see if we could get an ice cream, but unfortunately the shop had a half day closing and we had picked that particular day to visit. With the absence of ice cream, we decided to console ourselves with another pint in the village pub.

West Burton

We got to the Fox and Hounds and decided to sit outside on the wooden benches. I went in and got two pints, one of them was a fruit flavoured cider which I had never seen before. I just cannot resist fruity flavoured drinks, the more odd they are, the better in my book – I’m just attracted to them like a moth to a light.

Fruity cider at The Fox & Hounds

We sat in the sun and enjoyed our cold refreshing drinks with the Tour de France yellow bunting fluttering in the air high above us. Slowly we emptied our glasses and decided to move on. We departed the pub walked up through the village to Town Head, a steady climb too as the village is built on a hill. We took the footpath through a farmyard that ran parallel to Little Beck. The path was clearly visible through the drystone walls and as we progressed we gained altitude with every step. It wasn’t quite like the last walk where we were constantly out of breath, but the climb was an obvious pull on the legs. As we climbed up the view to our left down the valley was breathtaking.

The view down to Bolton Castle in Wensleydale

Gradually the ground levelled off and we continued following the path which slowly made its way back down hill to East Farm. We passed through several of those typical narrow Yorkshire Dales stiles where you can only go through one leg at a time and which really become tiresome after a while. After crossing the pastureland, we got to an overgrown lane and made our way down to the ancient looking East Farm. We passed the farm on our right side and were soon on the surfaced road running through the attractive hamlet of Newbiggin.

There were quite a number of interesting vernacular buildings in Newbiggin, and the whole hamlet had the feel of being quite ancient indeed. We slowly ambled along the road as there was no traffic, just stopping to look at the carved stone lintels above the doorways, and to take in the overall feel of the place.

Newbiggin doorway dated 1636
Eastburn Farmhouse, Newbiggin

As we continued along the main street and came across yet another Yorkshire celebration of the Tour de France, which did pass by four days earlier on the main road running parallel to the hamlet. Like many other houses, this one was decorated in the yellow, green and red dots in celebration of the famous jersey colours and the house also sported the ubiquitous yellow bicycle.

A Newbiggin celebration of the Tour de France
Victorian post box

As we arrived at the end of Newbiggin we took the right fork in the road and walked down Turnsyke Lane. It was clear that this had not been used by any farm traffic in a long time and it is difficult walking among 3 feet high nettles whilst wearing shorts, and not to say quite painful too.

A 1948 vintage David Brown tractor in Newbiggin
Browns House, Newbiggin

As we approached the end of the overgrown Turnsyke Lane we came out into open fields. I can’t relate to you how grateful I was for this small blessing and left the nettles behind. As this was summer we were watching a number of farmers haymaking as we passed through the fields, and noted that the size of tractors had increased hugely since the vintage David Brown one that we passed earlier was manufactured. As we dropped down through the fields and approached the main road, we scanned the map to see if there was an alternative route to take from here. Footpaths were limited in his part of Bishopdale, and we had no alternative to but to walk a half mile along the road. Whilst we made good progress, it was a bit of “head down, plod on” type of walk here and fortunately the road was quiet. Before long, we came across a farm turning to our right, which we took and headed along towards Crooksby Barn. There was a recently refurbished field barn which we passed to our right in the field, and further on, a larger collection of farm buildings which we presumed to be Crooksby Barn. We were in the valley floor here and the going was very easy indeed.

As we walked along we picked up a long disused track that eventually turned into Westfield Lane. Along here we decided to stop again and finish our packed lunch. The rucksack came off, and we flopped down onto the grass and relaxed whilst we consumed the remaining comestibles. After thirty minutes or so, we had finished off what was left of the food, packed the containers away, hoisted the rucksack on my back and continued along the lane. We passed over  a small bridge shown as Littleburn Bridge on the map. There was a stone plaque on one side of the parapet wall written in Latin; my Latin is quite poor so I couldn’t make sense of it, but it transpired that Littleburn Bridge is a Grade II listed structure. The lane here became a well maintained macadam road and started to rise gently to bring us back to Thoralby. As we approached the western end of the village we passed by a field with a number of inquisitive horses which came down to the gate to greet us as we passed by. Well, their greeting was more likely to see if we had any carrots, apples or sugarlumps, but they were too late we had just finished the apples about thirty minutes previously.

“You Lookin’ at me?”

We continued along Westfield Lane and dropped down back into Thoralby. Westfield Lane forms the main thoroughfare in the village. As we approached the village hall, we considered nipping back into the George Inn to rebalance our lost fluids, but decided against it as it was now about seven o’clock and we would have to start making our way back.

We got back to the car and changed our footwear, put the rucksack into the back of the car and departed the village hall car park. We went back the same way we came and drove towards the head of Bishopdale. As we drove we passed a huge silage roll on a farm wall – nothing wrong with that you may say, they were haymaking – this one was wrapped in white polythene with a large circular label on it thus making it look like a gigantic cheese round. We saw a number of these strategically placed in fields along the route of the Tour de France, and no doubt the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes had been using their milk suppliers to gain some useful, and well thought  out advertising. 

A giant cheese made from hay

We left Bishopdale behind and dropped down into Upper Wharfedale, and went through Kettlewell. As we drove over the river Wharfe and started to climb up hill towards Kilnsey, we saw, to our left, a field full of yellow sheep! – yellow jumpers of course! I realised why we saw people stopping to take photos here on our way through the valley this morning, nothing to do with Kettlewell at all, they were photographing moutons jaune that we couldn’t see from our side of the road. Naturally, I pulled over and also took some photographs.

Yellow jumpers!
Yellow sheep in Kettlewell

After the yellow ‘Tour de France’ sheep, I got back into the car and continued the drive back home whilst we discussed the highlights of the day and, of course, the yellow sheep!

Sat July 5th – Le Tyke Sportif or Litton to Buckden (and back) for the TdF

The walk today was a bit of a last minute plan. On Wednesday the 2nd, the one just gone and three days before the walk was due, we decided to go and watch the Tour de France through the Dales. Such a simple thought. With hindsight, it was certainly easier to type that than it was to research the route and and work out an itinerary. The initial idea was to watch the hill climb stage, the first of three that day at the “‘Cote de Cray”. We had been around here in January when we did Buckden Pike (see previous blog) and the route was quite accessible. However, the fly in the ointment was that the roads leading to Buckden and beyond were closed to vehicular traffic from 6am on the morning of the Tour de France (TdF) which made access a little difficult unless we were willing to set off before 4am. With that road closure in mind and looking at several other options we found we could quite easily access neighbouring Littondale, the valley running parallel, park there at The Queens Arms and then ‘nip’ over the hill of Ackerley Moor & Firth Fell to drop down the bridlepath into Buckden. Simple, as meerkats seem fond of telling us.

Distance: 7.54 miles
Ascent: 2458 ft
Sandwiches: Ham with Piccalilli, Cheese & Garlic sausage salad, pork pies
Soup: Too warm for soup, so took a bottle of French Red and Rose to see if they went well with pork pie.

Elevation Profile
Route Map

3D View of route

We drove to Settle and then took the B6479 road up to Stainforth. We passed through this little village to pick up the moor road to Halton Gill at the head of Littondale. The drive to Littondale from Settle is absolutely glorious, and must be one of the best driving routes in the country. It is a quiet, but very scenic, back road that runs between Pen Y Ghent and Fountains Fell and offers great panoramas of the surrounding grand landscape.


As we dropped down into Halton Gill we came across many cars parked on the open grass verges adjacent the road. Every car had a bike rack on the roof or the rear tailgate. This was a sign of the things to come. We turned right just after crossing the bridge in Halton Gill and continued along the single track macadam road that runs along the valley bottom until we got to the small hamlet of Litton and the Queen Arms. There was much traffic parked along the road and the pub had anticipated this and was running a car park in the field opposite. They were charging £10 for the day. The price really took me by surprise because when he lady minding the car park announced the cost I came out with that well known Yorkshire phrase ” ‘Ow Much?!?!“. They might not like spending it, but by God, they like charging it.

Anyway I paid Dick Turpin and we parked up, changed our footwear, and I heaved the big rucksack out of the of the car, strapped it to my back and we proceeded to walk to Buckden. We got to the front of the pub and turned right to head along a bridlepath that ran through some stone farm buildings. To my dismay the path immediately started upwards. We continued along the path, which was more of a lane than a track and dropped down to a ford and crossed Crystal  Beck which appeared very dry for this time of year. We were then back to an uphill section, and from here it was uphill all the way! From Crystal Beck to just below Ackersley Moor the path was a steady incline running upwards along the contour lines on the hillside and made for steady going. After crossing through a stone wall, there was an abrupt left turn and the path went straight up the hillside – no gradual incline using the contours here, just straight up. The climb up was incessant and we did have to keep pausing to get our breath, and admire the view which was extensive due to the great weather.

Looking up Littondale

We could clearly see the path stretching out in front of us directly up the hillside. There were some people ahead of us who were making good progress, and one guy and his dog actually ran past us which made us feel very unfit. We continued climbing and the path did get steeper at one point. We passed a middle aged guy wearing a wide brimmed hat who appeared to be having difficulty getting his 8 or 9 year old daughter up this hill. You could see that she just didn’t want to do it and he was having to coax her all the way. I know just how she felt.

Looking down Littondale

After much huffing and puffing, groaning and moaning we found the ground to start levelling out and before we really knew it, we were on a flat summit plateau and making easy progress along a stone flagged path. Oh the joy! A sense of relief came over me at the realisation of not having to climb up any further, and that from here on to Buckden it was all downhill. We passed the summit trig’ point which was some distance away on our right and were soon making a descent down into Buckden itself.

As we started to descend the view beyond Buckden Pike was very extensive, and we could clearly see the B6160, the road that formed the “Cote De Cray”, and even from this distance it was obvious that it was already packed with people. At this point we decided to change our plan and just stay in Buckden and leave the Cote de Cray until another time. Too many people there and the additional distance with this weight on my back would be purgatory. The heavy rucksack was sapping my energy already, so the chance to knock a mile or so off the distance was welcome and seized upon. We made some great progress down the bridle path into Buckden and got a real move on. I had forgotten the estimated times for the peloton to pass through and thought it was about half past midday, so we were eager to find our spot and sit and enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere.

We approached the village green in Buckden and found it to be quite busy. We walked up towards the church and found a spot on the grass verge beside the road. There were a number of people lining the roads, although not as many as on the hill climb stage.

Looking back to Buckden
Leaving Buckden towards Cray

It was a huge relief to take the rucksack off. I felt as  though I was floating for several minutes afterwards. We unfastened our folding chairs from the rucksack, set them out and removed a bottle of wine from the bag and proceeded to have drink and some nibbles, and soak up the carnival atmosphere.

We watched the Gendarmerie come through, our own Bobbies on their motorbikes, various sponsors and team vehicles passed and all of them were waving to the crowds, tooting their horns and enjoying the atmosphere of the TdF.

Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour… ce qui est tout ce alors?
Lead car for the race
The front breakaway group

You could tell the riders were getting close as the sound of the many helicopters in the air was menacing. It brought to mind a scene from Apocalypse Now. The three riders from the breakaway group came through first, and the crowd could be heard cheering as they approached and was like a audible Mexican wave rippling along the crowd keeping pace with the riders.

A team car
Timing officials
Helicopter filming the peloton
The peloton

After a couple of minutes the main peloton flew past, and I do mean flew! There were gone in about 30 seconds and then after the team cars passed by the route was silent. It was a very colourful spectacle, and the chances of seeing it again in Yorkshire are probably very limited too.

Team Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)
Team Tinkoff-Saxo (Russia)
Team Sky (Great Britain)
Team Sky (Great Britain) and Team Movistar (Spain)
Team Movistar (Spain)
Gendarmerie and team cars
Team cars heading up to Cote de Cray

We decided to move from the roadside and walked back down towards the village green in Buckden. We found a suitable spot, unfolded our chairs and continued with our picnic. It was at this point we started to see cyclists coasting back down from the Cote de Cray. Some of them took to stopping on the village green, and others just continued on their way heading down towards Starbotton and Kettlewell. We sat on the green for well over an hour and watched a continuous stream of cyclists flowing along the road whilst eating ice cream. I have never seen so many push bikes! We got talking to a chap who had come up a couple of days before with Gloucester City Cycling Club and was cycling back to Skipton prior to the journey home. We presumed that many others present had also travelled some distance too – there couldn’t be so many cyclists in Yorkshire, although this point seemed to evade the national press who produced a number of belittling articles about the whole thing thinking it was only Yorkshire folk who turned out to watch, and the hidden message of course was who would want to go to Yorkshire to watch a bike race. I expect their reporting would have been different if the Grand Depart had been within the M25, and then if that had been the case we wouldn’t have heard the last of it on the BBC news or national press either.

We finished off our picnic and drained the second of the two bottles of French wine we had carried over and decided to make our way back. We folded the two chairs and strapped them to the rucksack, I heaved it onto my back and we made the return journey. 

The climb started as soon as we got off the macadam road leading to Hubberholme. As I trudged up the winding gravel track a number of people passed us who were not carrying the same weight, or were barely into their teens. We plodded on, steadily climbing upwards until we got to the area of Redmire Pot where the picnic blanket came out, the rucksack came off again and we had a lie down for an hour in the diminishing sunshine. Looking for the picnic blanket gave me a chance to see if Mrs MuddyBoots had secretly stowed some rocks in the rucksack as it seemed the weight hadn’t diminished at all; after a brief search there were none to be seen, but I did come across a bag of chewy Haribo sweets. I lay on the blanket in the sunshine with the breeze blowing over me chomping on the sweets and I very nearly dozed off!

After an hour we packed the blanket up, hoisted the rucksack again and plodded on, ever upwards. The path was never ending, at one point I began doubting if this was the same path we took on the way down as it seemed to take forever to progress along it.

View down to Buckden with Buckden Beck running down from Buckden Pike

There were timber post waymarkers on the path up the hillside and I was using these to keep moving me along – “keep going until the next post.. go on; you can do it” was a phrase repeated continually in my head until I neared the summit. When we reached the stone flags placed by conservation volunteers we knew we were almost at the top. The hill summit plateau was a relief, as by this point my legs were feeling the strain and I suspect the wine consumed during the picnic hadn’t helped much either. I was getting very close to dumping the bag and coming back for it at a later date.

Looking down Littondale with Pen-Y-Ghent on horizon

As we progressed along the summit plateau the view back down Littondale was fabulous, and the distinctive silhouette of Pen-Y-Ghent stood out on the horizon. I took several minutes to just stand there and take in that view. It made the effort to get there worthwhile. The path was now downhill all the way to the car and this became quite difficult. The hillside was quite steep, my legs were tired and I was very conscious of losing my footing and going for a tumble. My walking pole would have come in very handy at this point, and for some unknown reason I had decided to leave it in the boot of the car. Perhaps the additional weight bothered me!

The view away from the head of Littondale, with Pendle Hill visible in the distance

We slowly and carefully descended back down into Littondale, and the views made up for the discomfort. The sun had started to go lower in the sky and the shadows were now getting longer. In time we got back to the car and with a satisfied groan I took the pack off for the last time and dumped it onto the grass behind the car. Mrs Muddyboots tried to pick it up to place it in the boot and couldn’t. She was then quite incredulous that I had carried it that distance and over “that hill”. A quick replacement of footwear made for a refreshing change and we hobbled off to the pub to rebalance our fluids.

We sat outside the Queens Arms and slowly sank a pint of very cold lager. By now the sun had gone behind Plover Hill and it was getting quite cool in the shade. We discussed tea, and then decided against eating here this time. We drained our glasses and went back to the car for the journey back home.

Pen-Y-Ghent from Dale Head farm entrance

The journey home was steady and uneventful, and we were not in any particular rush to get back either. When we got home we watched some of the TdF television footage recorded from earlier in the day and it really was a showcase for the Yorkshire Dales. The live transmission was done by a French TV company and as such many of the place names had been renamed, particularly Skipton Castle, or “Chateau du Skipton” as the French have it. The aerial footage was a Yorkshire Tourist Board PR mans wet dream – scenery and views that you just couldn’t buy. It showed the Dales off in all their glory and they looked superb indeed and made us realise just why we enjoy going over there walking… praise indeed from a staunch Lancastrian.

Vive Le Tyke Sportif!