Three Shires Stone to Pike O’Blisco

The walk noted below was a real nice change for me, as it had been devised by my pal Steve (@LakesRamblings on Twitter)  and for a change I wasn’t poring over maps, trying to find somewhere with a bit of interest which I had never visited before, but I know he has a fair selection of Lake District books and guides in his study, and suspect he consulted a Wainwright or a Poucher before settling on this course. I drove up there, so not too much of a change then.

Steve has a penchant for the Lake District, and a couple of years ago very nearly moved to Borrowdale, which would have been both a great bonus and a minor irritant. He is one of my oldest friends, is very well read; up to date on current world issues and offers the salvation of intelligent and thoughtful conversation so his moving up to Borrowdale would have deprived me of some eloquent discussion, however, if he had moved it would have provided somewhere to stay up in the Lakes. Every silver lining has a cloud.

Distance – 2.7 miles

Ascent – 1,111 ft

Estimated Time – 3hr 15 mins

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OS Route Map
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3D OS Route Map
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Route Elevation Profile

The chosen route was starting at The Three Shires Stone on Wrynose Pass, as this had an 800ft advantage over starting from Oxendale in Great Langdale. As we arrived there was plenty of roadside parking available for us, and I reversed into a nice spot parallel to a Land Rover Freelander. We climbed out of the car and proceeded to change our footwear. We hoisted our rucksacks onto our backs and then set off in a northerly direction.

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The Three Shires Stone on Wrynose Pass

The routes to the summit of Pike of Blisco are limited if you want to stick to the OS public footpath ways, and so we headed ‘off piste’ over Low Teighton How and towards Green Crag and then on toward Black Crag.

The view down to Little Langdale  from Green Crag was wonderful and a dappled sunny day was manifesting itself in the valley below us.

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Looking down to Little Langdale
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A natural infinity pool above Little Langdale

The going was hard as there was no path at all, and we started to follow sheep tracks which headed in the general direction of the summit to make the walking a bit easier. The ground was quite boggy in places so we tried to stay quite close to the various rocky outcrops which littered this high place and there were many tussocks of rough grass. We climbed up and over Green Crag and made a meandering path toward Black Crag whilst taking in the wide and expansive views all around us.

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Curious Sheep

I didn’t know it, but the reason behind Steve heading towards Black Crag was so he could see ‘The Needle’. This is noted in Wainwrights’ fourth Pictorial Guide book about the Southern Fells, and he had obviously researched this prior to choosing this route as it is a bit off the beaten track. It is like a miniature Napes Needle on the flanks of Great Gable.

Wainwright notes that he could find no reference to this being climbed when he wrote the pictorial guide in 1960. How things have moved on! Here is a recent clip of it being conquered.

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The Needle, Black Crag, Wrynose

After spending some time mooching around The Needle, we pressed onward, and upwards. The route was quite steady from here, and there was an obvious path to be taken, well at least more obvious than the sheep tracks which litter the place. As we approached the summit of Pike o’ Blisco, the ground surrounding the top was a maze of rocky outcrops and a circuitous route was taken to actually get to the summit cairn itself.

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Summit cairn of Pike o’ Blisco, looking South East

The summit had a number of grassy areas on which to sit and to take in the view. It wasn’t busy like Scafell, but there were three or four others up there taking in the views and munching on their lunch.

Steve and myself sat on the northern slope overlooking Great Langdale, whilst we consumed the sandwiches he had very kindly provided. The views were very extensive and uninterrupted except for the view up to the North West. This was looking towards Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and beyond to the Scafell range. The clag was down, and it was all shrouded in mist. In fact it looked as through it was a magnet for holding the cloud and mist and thus allowing the rest of the lakes to have clear views. As we sat having our lunch, lone wisps of clouds passed by in front of us which were floating over from Crinkle Crags, and larger amounts of mist tried grasping out towards us, but never enveloping the summit enough to cause concern.

Whilst we were lingering on the summit a rag-tag group of walkers appeared in shorts, trainers and vest type tops and T-shirts. It was a group of young lads, around the very early twenties age group who were over from Newcastle. The Geordie reputation for wearing only a T-shirt in all weathers was ably demonstrated here, as everybody else on the summit had a fleece and shell jacket on – well, I had just just a fleece (..and trousers of course!) but it wasn’t warm enough for just a T-shirt. I got chatting and asked them where they were off, and they pointed over to Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn. They asked how long it would take, and I estimated about 6 hours. They were going to go along Crinkle Crags, along over Bowfell and Rossett Pike to cross over Stake Pass and thus over to Pavey Ark. I asked them where their map was and they confirmed they didn’t have one, nor a compass. They then set off heading for the the thick clouds shrouding Crinkle Crags – Mon Dieu! No wonder we need Mountain Rescue Teams.

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The view down Great Langdale from Pike o’Blisco summit

We finished our sandwiches and made our way down. The route Steve had chosen took the path almost directly down to Red Tarn. The temperature had risen considerably now were were off the tops, and we took the opportunity to remove boots and socks and dangle our feet into the cooling waters of the Tarn. I half expected my feet to hiss as they touched the glittering water. It was wonderful to lie back on the soft grass and have the Tarn soothe and cool me plates of meat, whilst I closed my eyes. I could have stayed there for a couple of hours and dozed in the warm sunshine.

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Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the band from Pike o’ Blisco summit

 

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No Muddy Boots here, but wet feet in Red Tarn

After drying my feet and pulling on my socks and boots, we were off again along a well made path leading below Long Scar and heading the direction of Wrynose Pass. We made rapid progress along here and made a steady descent back down to the Three Shire Stone at Wrynose. We passed it by, and went back to the car where we gratefully took off our rucksacks and boots, put them in the back of the car, changed our footwear and set off to Ambleside in search of that Alfred Wainwright favourite, fish and chips.

Post Script

Whilst sat in a back street fish and chip shop in Ambleside we heard a number of familiar voices. It was the group of Geordie lads I was talking to on the summit of Pike o’ Blisco – the MRT had not been called out for them afterall. They had gone along Crinkle Crags by following somebody else who knew the route, and got to Three Tarns where they threw the towel in. They turned right down The Band and walked back to their cars and then driven to Ambleside for fish and chips like ourselves. I was pleased to see that they had come to no harm.

Burnsall to Thorpe and back

The walk today was a small circular stroll along easy paths, and was undertaken as an appetite sharpener for finishing in The Red Lion Hotel in Burnsall. Burnsall is a very attractive and compact village sitting on a delightful spot on the River wharfe in Yorkshire, with a very attractive Church, a small village school and a great pub.

Distance – 3 miles.

Ascent – 413 ft

Estimated Time – 2hrs

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Map of the Walk
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3D view of the walk

When we arrived in Burnsall it was very busy, (as it usually is) and we had to park up near St Wilfrid’s Church. On the walk today myself and Mrs Muddy Boots were joined by our friends and neighbours Paul and Sue. We have known them since we moved into the village where we live, and they are great company to be with. We started the walk by first going in The Red Lion and topping up our fluids, and we were fortunate enough to get a seat outside at the front of the pub. (There are seats at the back on the garden which was very, very busy). After having just the one pint, purely as a taster, and reserving a table for later in the day, we left our seats and walked down by the side of the magnificent Burnsall Bridge to pick up the Dalesway path which runs alongside the Wharfe.

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Lambs next to the River Wharfe

The path runs alongside the Red Lion rear garden and passes behind the houses which line the main street running through Burnsall. It is a well made and popular route. As we strolled along in the warm May sunshine, the whole world seemed very green and looked idyllic with the sun reflecting off the slow moving river. We made our way behind the old school and Church, whilst seemingly saying a constant ‘hello’ to people coming the opposite way.

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The School and St Wilfrid’s Church
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Riverside houses in Burnsall

We continued along the undulating path, sometimes walking next to the river and other times looking down on it from high above, and all the time being on a well made surface. We passed a family who were out picnicking by the river and were having fun with an inflatable dinghy, although I suspect the water was cold.

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The River Wharfe near to The Stepping Stones

When we got to the Stepping Stones and suspension bridge, the Dalesway continued across the river in a north easterly direction, and we started to climb uphill in a south westerly heading. We were passing through lush, green pastures and climbing steadily up towards the B6160 that forms the main arterial road through the valley.

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Burnsall and Thorpe Fell, with Tennant Lathe to the left (from above the suspension bridge)
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Looking back to Hebden Moor from the Bridlepath towards Thorpe

As we climbed towards the main road, the path became easier and flattened out so as to make the walking easy indeed. We crossed the tarmac road, and started walking up the steep single track named Kail Lane. This walled lane lead to the small hamlet of Thorpe. This was a steep climb and soon had us panting for breath. Gradually the road levelled out and the walking, and talking became easier and we took a left turn down down a farm track. We now started walking back down hill and following the track through the fields until it crossed Badger Lane.

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The farm track off Kail Lane
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The route down to Starton Beck

We continued following the path down to Starton Beck, and crossed this by means of a small planked bridge, and headed uphill through more green pasture, and passing through a number of small Yorkshire squeeze stiles in the drystone walls.

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Typical ‘squeeze’ stile.
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The hill above Badger Lane

We continued walking along the verdant and vibrant grass until we crossed Badger Lane, which is the access road to Tennant Lathe farm. We climbed up again after crossing badger Lane, before walking downhill into the flat farmland surrounding Burnsall. we passed through a caravan park which I didn’t know existed and crossed a small field before entering the main street of Burnsall via a narrow ginnel in the houses lining the main street.

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The path leading to the road through Burnsall

After we had got back into Burnsall we walked back through the village and down to the Red Lion. It was still busy, and a side of Morris Dancers had turned up and were loitering outside the pub. The deadline for our reserved table was approaching so we didn’t hang about to watch, and made a quick drat inside through the low door to bag our table, have a pint and order our tea. The food at The Red Lion is always good, so I was ready to relax after being the days’ tour guide and tuck into some vittles after an enjoyable walk.

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The Red Lion at Burnsall, and a side of Morris men getting ready for action

Garsdale and Grisedale

 

Today’s walk is a bit of something different and I pondered long and hard over the map to try and find somewhere that I was unfamiliar with within the usual areas of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. As usual one of the main governing points relating to walking was the inclusion of a suitable pub, and the pub featuring today is the Moorcock Inn which is just down the road from Garsdale Station. I had been the past the pub numerous times previously whilst driving along the A684 towards Hawes. I did a little bit of research on the Internet prior to setting off on the walk and it transpired that the pub was under new management and have been closed for a brief time for refurbishment so this seemed quite promising, and another appealing point about it was the curiosity I had harboured when I had passed previously.

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The Moorcock Inn at Garsdale Head on the A684

As usual we set off on a Saturday morning and approached via Sedbergh on the A684 Hawes road. We managed to park at the side of the road near the adjacent junction with the B6259.

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OS Route Map
3D Route Map
3D OS Route Map
Route Profile
Route Elevation Profile

We got out of the car, changed our footwear and pulled our rucksacks out of the boot and made a start on the route, however, that start proved to be short-lived because Mrs Muddy Boots needed to use the loo and so a visit into the Moorcock Inn was required so she could use the facilities. We walked around to the front of the pub and entered through the door and were pleasantly surprised by the internal layout, with the large room on the left being a relaxed seating area with a counter at one and providing coffee, teas and cakes, and the area to our right containing the public bar and dining area. The ‘coffee’ area had stone/slate flooring whilst the dining area to our right was carpeted, there was a large sign reminding inconsiderate walkers about their footwear when entering the dining area.

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The discrimination I receive!

Whilst Mrs Muddy Boots availed herself of the facilities I went and purchased two large coffees, a scone with cream and jam, and a substantial piece of chocolate cake and took a seat by the window. I can’t remember the exact cost for this but I did check with the lady behind the counter to see that she added it all up correctly as it seemed a little low, however she confirmed that the price was correct – Yorkshire prices again! You can’t beat’em!

We lingered over our coffee and cakes and then decided we really had to make a move and exited the pub via the front door and turned right onto the main tarmac road. After a short time of walking west along the road we came to a signpost on our left which indicated the Trans-Pennine Bridleway, we took this route and headed towards Dandrymire Viaduct on the Settle and Carlisle line, we passed under the vast structure and then started a gradual ascent of the path leading to Garsdale Station.

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Dandrymire Viaduct

We ventured slightly off the planned route and walked onto the platform of Garsdale Station itself, and came to the conclusion that it was a shame that the majority of railway stations in this country were not of the same high standard of architecture and upkeep.  It had all the appearance of being a heritage line, not an actual station on the national network. The station was built in 1876, as was Garsdale Head itself, which is a collection of railway workers cottages and the station buildings themselves. It was originally called Hawes Junction however this changed when the line to Hawes was lifted (although the Wensleydale Railway is trying to reinstate the tracks back along their original route)

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Well kept station buildings at Garsdale
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Garsdale Station looking south… Next stop St Pancras!
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Garsdale signal box needing a touch of paint

Whilst mooching about on the platform I spotted a little red squirrel which had come from the pine forests situated to the south of the down platform and it skipped, hopped and darted along the platform, then down onto the track, across the track and then scurried up onto the platform I was stood on and subsequently disappeared between some of the nearby houses – I went to try and find it to get a close up shot, but couldn’t see it anywhere. I was really pleased at seeing this as red squirrels are a rare treat and I was fortunate to have my camera to hand and grabbed some shots of it.

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Red Squirrel waiting for the train

We departed the railway station and descended the tarmac access road until we got back onto the main Sedbergh to Hawes Road. We crossed at a farm called East Clough and then headed upwards through a field with Highland cattle and plenty of mud. Mrs Muddy Boots wasn’t happy about the cattle at all, as she convinced herself that they were all bulls and they were going to charge, in my view they look quite friendly and just generally disinterested.

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Image from a shortbread tin

We soon reached a wild, grassy plateau and looked down into the valley to our left in which ran Grisedale Beck, and tried to see what was highlighted on the map as Clough Force, however there was very little to be seen, except an excavator down in the bottom where the beck ran which appeared to be clearing the remnants of the recent flooding; it was possible that Clough Force had been swept away or we were looking in the wrong place. We continued walking along the footpath and came across a recently renovated vernacular Pennine farmhouse which is marked as Blake Mire on the map. It had a new access road created to it and the view from this location was quite extensive and uninterrupted which  gave the appearance of it being quite isolated, which it could be after heavy snow.

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Farmhouse at Blake Mire
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Disused barn with Blake Mire farmhouse to the rear

We passed through the small picket gate in the surrounding drystone wall, past the shippon end of the farmhouse and we picked up the new access road rather than the public footpath and this quickly took us down to Grisedale Road, which is the main public thoroughfare that runs up the valley and forms the main access route for these isolated farmsteads. Grisedale Road is marked as a public road on the OS map but is really single track tarmac strip and has clumps of grass growing through the centre of it due to its lack of regular traffic. We continued walking north on Grisedale Road and gradually ascending the side of the valley. Grisedale itself is now largely unpopulated but was at one time an area of quite extensive farming, and higher up the valley there are a large number of now derelict farm buildings such as West Scale and East Scale farms which have an romantic, secluded isolation to them, although it is a bugger of a trip to nip to the local shops – I presume Tesco would do deliveries here though.

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Looking south down Grisedale from East House farm

We continued walking up the metalled road until we got to East House which is the last farm on this road. The tarmac road continues past East House, going steeply uphill until the tarmac abruptly stops and the route turns into a gravelled bridlepath that runs along the side of the valley at high level. This appeared a little odd at first, as though the tarmac gang decided to knock off on a Friday afternoon and then come back on Monday to continue laying the black stuff and just didn’t turn up again to continue the job. Once we got to the end of the tarmac road the path actually levelled out and we had a choice of turning left, up and over Grisedale Common, or continuing along to South Lunds Pasture. Being the gluttons for punishment that we are, we turned left up the hill and across the tussock strewn moorland grass, and headed along the bridlepath over Turner Hill and then down towards High Shaw Paddock. The steep uphill climb soon had us out of breath and panting, and we had to stop a number of times to get our breath back and to take in the extensive views. As we were ascending Grisedale Common we were being followed by two other people with large rucksacks who gave the impression of backpacking somewhere, although the major long distance routes were not nearby. We continued along the bridlepath, reached the summit of Turner Hill and began the easy descent down to High Shaw Paddock.

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The view east from Turner Hill
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Looking north to Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang from the descent of Turner Hill
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The derelict High Shaw Paddock with Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang Common behind

On the approach to High Shaw Paddock took an offshoot footpath to our right that led to Shotlock Tunnel. The field in which we walked through was a little rough underfoot with very little definition of the path and made for quite hard going, it was obvious that the footpath through it had not been used in years. We quickly descended the hill and arrived at a small metal gate along which which was a gravel track parallel to the railway lines, we passed through this and turned right over Shotlock tunnel and back onto the B6259 road leading up to Mallerstang.

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Looking north from Shotlock Tunnel

After crossing the tunnel we arrived at the road and took a right turn to the south west and after about 100 yards we climbed up a steep road embankment to a public footpath that lead through a wall and down a hillside to an area called Beck Side. As in Grisedale, there were a number of run down and derelict farm buildings here, and it must have supported a much larger population that it does currently.

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The sign to Beck Side
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Remains of an old farm house at Beck Side

We crossed over the infant River Ure and walked alongside it for a short distance, this obvious riverside path removed some of the planned route and we bypassed some recently rebuilt farmhouses in an area called Lunds. The footpath we took actually ran past what appeared to be an old chapel with a number of long neglected grave stones within the consecrated ground surrounding it. We paused here for a short time and actually went into the chapel itself which was a small stone structure the small valve tower at one end and was whitewashed internally with a timber pew against one gable. There was very little information about this building so I made a mental note to look it up when I got back home to find more about it. It was quite sad looking at the structure and the surrounding gravestones as they have long been forgotten by the families that had paid for them to be erected and to act as a memorial to their loved ones. The majority of the headstones were over 200 years old and date from when the population of this area would have been much larger than it is now. The descendants of these people are most likely moved on to other parts of the country or even the world and wouldn’t know they even exist.

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The interior of Lunds Chapel
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Lunds Chapel with decaying gravestones
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Looking north beyond Lunds Chapel

We left the little chapel at Lunds behind and ascended Cowshaw Hill with its lone timber signpost indicating the route of the public footpath we continued making our way along to  Blades Farm. On the way to Blades Farm we happened to cross one of the worst fields in existence.

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Lonely signpost atop Cowshaw Hill

The footpath was marked across the field on the map, however we could see no sign of it when we got there.

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nd had to make out an approximate route from A to B. The ground underfoot, which could not be seen due to the length of the grass, was rutted and uneven and increased the risk of twisting one’s ankle. After struggling across this extremely poor ground for fifteen minutes we arrived at the farm track that led to the Blades habitations, and we both agreed that this was the worst path we had ever crossed in a long long time and just walking steadily on even ground was a blessing. We continued along the farm track that led to Blades and passed left through a small gate, behind the buildings and crossed a small secluded beck, and ended up on a gravelled track that provided access to Blades.

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Secluded Beck behind the Blades farmhouses

Soon this left the Blades access road and turned into a public footpath running alongside the River Ure we stopped at Ure Force where the river tumbled down a number of limestone slabs and created an interesting waterfall and pools.

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Ure Force tumbling over limestone slabs

At this point we walked onto a well made track and a substantial bridge crossing the River Ure which led from Yore House back to the main tarmac road leading up to Mallerstang. We took an obvious shortcut of a footpath along the nice grassy swathe which brought us out directly to the rear of the pub.

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Bridge leading to Yore House

We arrived back at the car and changed our footwear (again!) and decided to go back into the Moorcock to rebalance our fluids and also to peruse the menu. We entered the pub and as I approached the bar and ordered a couple of drinks, Mrs Muddy Boots found a table and read through the menu. The menu wasn’t huge, but appeared to be good home cooked food; nothing fancy, nothing drizzled, just good cooking which one would expect in a pub like this. It turned out on reading the menu that this was a “temporary menu” and was only in place until the new owners had managed to find their feet and produce something better – I really hope they stick to well produced ‘pub food’ and not gastropub stuff with jus’, drizzled this and that and pan-seared stuff. The pub was busy but we found a table, sat down and sipped our drinks and studied the menu. A large number of people in the pub were eating too, so we could see what was on offer as various plates of food were brought out, and it looked good too, so we proceeded to go back to the bar and order our evening. We both went for steak pie and chips; the pie was home-made and the proportions provided were more than ample for two hungry walkers. We got stuck into the food when it arrived and really made short work of it, and due to the proportions we had to decline the pudding. After finishing our evening meal and ordering some more drinks the time to leave arrived and we had to reluctantly face the long drive back home.

As we made our way along the A683 towards Sedbergh, and the M6, and drove west into the setting sun,  we were treated to a superb sunset with the sun dipping behind the Howgills which was a fitting end to a great day’s walking.

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Sunset behind the Howgills

 

 

Sunday 11th October – Bolton Abbey and Strid Wood

As autumn had truly arrived, Mrs Boots and myself decided to have a short stroll around Bolton Abbey, the ruins of a 12th Century Augustinian monastery on the banks of the River Wharfe, in Yorkshire. Previous experience here, and from when we did the Dalesway, showed it could be quite glorious and a riot of colour when the trees were in peak form.

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Autumn Leaves near Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire

As the walk was along very well made paths through woodland, the usual outfit of ‘walking gear’ was discarded and the Country Gent look of a window pane check Harris Tweed jacket and jeans came into play although I did stick to a pair of leather walking boots as a nod towards practicality. It was like I was walking straight from the page of a Barbour catalogue, and all that was missing was the chocolate Labrador dog and flat cap. In all fairness, it made a nice change from a pair of walking shorts and my well travelled, (and well worn) Berghaus ‘Windstopper’ fleece that is usually covering me in the cooler months.

Total Distance – 5 miles
Total Ascent – 690 ft

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OS Map of the Route

3D Route

3D View of the Walk

Route Profile
The Elevation Profile of the Walk

It had been a few years since we last came here, and the places for car parking are quite abundant due to there being several car parks available, so we decided to stop at the Bolton Abbey village car park and walk down to the ruins of the priory. We drove past the Devonshire Arms coming from the A59 and turned left into the village car park. I did remember to bring some change along with me as I thought it was a ‘pay & display’ type of arrangement, however I was wrong and we had to pay on entry, or to be more accurate we were robbed on entry by a kind faced, pleasant elderly chap in a wooden hut who was masquerading as Dick Turpin without the garb of a Regency fop. The chap didn’t even wield a pair of flintlocks and demand that I ‘stand and deliver‘ either, but one thing is certain is that it was Highway Robbery. This car park attendant relieved me of eight quid whilst keeping a gentle smile on his face…yes, that is no typo, EIGHT ‘EFFIN QUID! – Having no choice to park elsewhere as we were hemmed in to the rear by other vehicles, we entered the car park, found a space and stopped the motor. We thought it prudent to avail ourselves of the facilities provided in order to maximise our value for money, although I didn’t really need to go. For some mistaken reason I had thought the car park was a National Trust one, and had the anticipation of smugly using our membership to avoid laying out the cash. It transpired that the car park actually belongs to the Bolton Abbey Estate, part of the Duke of Devonshire’s back garden, and we know that Chatsworth House, in Derbyshire, does cost a few bob to maintain so who can blame them for getting as much as they can – supply and demand and all that malarkey.

We left the car park and its facilities and strolled through the ‘village’ of Bolton Abbey towards the ruins of the Priory. Calling it a village is a tad ambitious really, as it seems to be no more than a collection of about twelve houses. I’m not an expert on the collective nouns of dwellings and the numerical thresholds, or other criteria that dictate what they are called, but it is definitely not a village in my book. In the same way that people who live in the suburbs of big cities call their own areas villages, such as “Didsbury Village” in the endless, sprawling, monotonous suburbia to the south of Manchester. The last time this area could have been close to a village would have been at the start of the industrial revolution; how can it be a village when it is completely surrounded by masses of housing and urban sprawl and there is no demarcation of a Green Belt?… Pfff! I rest my case m’lud.

We continued to head towards the Priory ruins, and passed through a very rough looking opening in the old, but nevertheless impressive Priory boundary wall which appeared to have been made by some builders I’m sure I have mistakenly tendered work to in the past. We followed the well made gravel path downhill towards the river Wharfe and the Priory ruins.

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Ruins of the Augustinian Priory adjacent the village of Bolton Abbey

As we got closer to the ruins we could see the masses of people gathering down by the river and stepping stones. I had forgotten how busy this place gets at weekends and we should have known what it would be like from our second experience visiting here  which was more than twenty years ago, and an episode in our life that we still talk and laugh about to this day. We first came here late one evening in summer in the early 1990’s and not long after Mrs MB and myself had met. The area was deserted and had an air of romantic dereliction about it, so we decided that we would come back during the summer with a picnic hamper and blanket and sit by the river relaxing in the sunshine and admiring the ‘picturesque’ in the manner of late eighteenth century aesthetes such as Wordsworth at Tintern Abbey. Later that year we proceeded to do exactly this. We made a good range of picnic type comestibles, packed into a wicker picnic hamper, complete with leather straps, fine porcelain crockery and silver cutlery and set off to Bolton Abbey. We arrived there mid morning, and found a decent spot close to the river. There was just us and a couple of others walking dogs. We laid out our blanket and settled down on it under the growing heat of the morning sun in anticipation of relaxing solitude whilst languidly nibbling on the treats we had made. Visions played through my mind of a scene from a Merchant Ivory film production, all dappled sunlight and soft focus cameras. During the next two hours the whole of Bolton Abbey transformed from an oasis of beautiful and quixotic solitude to a Yorkshire Dales equivalent of Blackpool beach in the 1930’s, and then to further ruin our day, we had placed the wicker basket on an unseen ant-hill and they were now happily crawling all over its contents. We quickly packed up and despondently trudged back to the car in dismay, vowing never to go back to Bolton Abbey, or more veraciously, never to go back on an August Bank Holiday weekend.

We had a wander around the Priory ruins and studied them in greater detail than I have ever done before. As I work in construction I always look at these ruined buildings with the thought of the physical labour and cost that went into putting them together, and how much the outlay would be today to build such a monument, if it could get built at all with the restrictive planning laws we now have in force. After a lengthy mooch we left the Priory behind and crossed the river Wharfe by the footbridge (we avoided the famous stepping stones on which there was a large queue forming due to a woman in a burka who had got two thirds of the way across and then panicked and had frozen) and followed the Dalesway footpath along through the woods which run beneath Cat Crags. Whilst there were a number of people around, it was certainly less crowded than the Priory ruins. We ambled along the well made path which snakes its way roller coaster-like through the mature deciduous woodland until we started to drop downhill to a ford in the road and crossed Pickles Beck by the adjacent footbridge and picked up the Dalesway to continue walking along the riverbank again.

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Bolton Priory from Cat Crags above the River Wharfe
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Remains of stone tracery in the North Transcept
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The Roofless Chancel at Bolton Priory

We soon crossed the wooden bridge over the Wharfe and approached the Cavendish Pavilion where we decided to stop for tea and scones. The Pavilion has undergone a large transformation in the twenty-odd years since we first came across it. It is also a wedding venue now and scrubs up well for an old girl (the Pavilion was originally built in 1890). Now, I don’t want to be a whinger, but the price for two teas and two scones with cream and jam seemed to have come from the same “How to Fleece Your Customers with a Smile” book as the car parking charges. It was about sixteen quid for two. One of the reasons we go to Yorkshire is for Yorkshire prices, and these were not Yorkshire prices.

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Wooden Bridge over the Wharfe at Cavendish Pavilion

We decided to sit outside to eat and drink and to watch the world go by as the weather was quite pleasant. It was interesting to note that about 85% of the people walking past were young families who appeared to have come from the same mould as each other. The Dad was late thirties dressed in a nylon down jacket, jeans and Hunter wellies. The ‘missus’ was also dressed similarly but with blonde hair in a pony tail, and it felt like I was sat watching an Ark building convention due to the large number of “Noah’s”  running around. A name that seems to be the male equivalent of Chelsey, fashionable now, but a hinderance to its owner in future when it comes to getting your CV on the ‘must interview’ pile when applying for jobs. The Cavendish Pavilion car park was visible from where we were, and they we all getting into and out of the same type of Audi / BMW. What came to mind was that they were all trying to be so different from their contemporaries, but have ended up being the same, even down to their choice of children’s names. Identikit Families – maybe there is a section in Ikea where you can get one?

We finished our tea and continued on our way along the Dalesway footpath and continued up through Strid Wood. The ultimate objective of the stroll was to get to the Strid. This is a narrowing in the bedrock of the river and the whole of the river Wharfe tries to pass through this narrow cleft in the rock. Imagine the river being twisted through ninety degrees for a short distance and then back again and this will give a reasonable representation of the Strid. The Strid is only about two metres wide, and foolhardy visitors have in the past tried to jump across this roaring chasm. Failure is invariably fatal, however, as there is no recorded incidence of anyone having survived a fall into the swirling dark waters of the Strid which mercilessly sucks its victims into the underwater caves and eroded tunnels which lie hidden underneath each side of the rocky channel. It has even been immortalized by William Wordsworth in his poem, “The Force of Prayer

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“The Strid” on the River Wharfe

We had a lengthy pause at the Strid before turning around and walking back the way we had come. The path was much quieter now with the majority of the families having headed home, no doubt to get their evening meals and get little Noah ready for school. This is one of the reasons we always set off later than most on our walks because the crowds tend to have a herd instinct and will all vanish around the same time of day. The sun had started to lower in the sky and the light was fading as we approached the Priory, and we continued past back through the gate in the old priory walls and across the road to the car park. Again, we maximised our value by taking advantage of the facilities on the car park again and eventually got back to the car.

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The River Wharfe at Strid Wood
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The Bodgers Camp near to Cavendish Pavilion
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Bolton Priory and The Stepping Stones

All in all it was a pleasant stroll and the autumn trees were truly magnificent in their varied hues. The walk is very accessible and could partially be done by those with limited mobility, however they may struggle on the steep sections through the woods nearest the Priory. Give it a go, but try to get there on a quiet sunny day in mid Autumn.