Sunday, 10 June 2018

Addingham to Grassington 09/06/18

17 miles, via Farfield Hall, Lob Wood, Bolton Bridge, Bolton Abbey, Westy Bank Wood, 
 Hare Head Side, Barden Moor (Halton Moor, Brayshaw, & Embsay Moor), Sun Moor Hill, 
  Rylstone, Cracoe, Swinden Quarry, & Linton.

It's been a long time coming, having had two excursions that could have been considered preamble, but the High Season is finally here, which means its time of to start pushing the mileage and to make the most of the long days that the middle of the year brings, so naturally the hot and bright days of Maytime have passed, to be replaced with conditions that are somewhat gloomier, which shouldn't come as a surprise after six years of walking. Also I'm not in the best of nick after walking last Sunday, as a haul of 16 miles followed by five days of solid work and then another long trail is never the best way to organise yourself, without factoring in necessary rest, so as the High Season comes around, my body is ready to rest, but after taxing days at work, by brain needs to exercise and so that desire wins out and I board early buses to ride out to Addingham, not the swiftest way to travel, but easily the cheapest as Metrocarding the #51 and X84 costs me literally nothing. The day starts by the Memorial Hall at 9.20am, and I've done my share of lamenting the loss of the railway between Ilkley and Skipton, so for starters today, we shall set out from where the railway station used to stand, easily located by heading south up Stockinger Lane and then switching back onto the old formation where Mount Pleasant and the old folks flats now reside on the site of the goods shed, to meet Old Station Way where literally nothing but a green space occupies the site with nothing but a name to advertise its presence. Then it's down to see where the bridge once crossed Main Street, and to find the remnant of its abutment by the gardens on Sugar Hill, a lane that can lead us out into the local greenery and on to Back Beck Lane where a substantial feature endures, Bridge 55, preserved and still looking as fresh as it did when built by the Midland Railway in 1888, and one that may one day see trains return to it if the Embsay & Bolton Abbey railway ever extend their line back to Addingham. Trot down past the Primary school and get on track as we join Bolton Road and head northwards into our tour of Upper Wharfedale, rising through the suburban edge of the village and beyond as we make our way past the High Mill caravan park and stay alert to the behaviour of the oncoming traffic on the B6160 as we pace the tree lined lane and look up to Beamsley Beacon, back in the landscape from this side of the river. Farfield Hall is the first main feature of the day, well hidden by the trees along the road and flanked by its parklands of High and Low Park (names which now make more sense in context), the house only briefly glimpsed from the road before it slips into an stone lined cutting, emerging by the Farfield Quaker chapel, incidentally providing a fine illustration of why the Dales Way preferred to come this way via the riverbank.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Skipton to Ilkley 03/06/18

15.9 miles, via Aireville Park, Stirton, Tarn Moor, Embsay, Eastby, Halton East, 
 Bolton Abbey, Bolton Bridge, Beamsley, Nesfield, and Ilkley Golf Course.

Before the High Season gets underway, I should probably provide a foot health update, after my unprecedented problems with blistering, and the good news is that the calf strain went away without much difficulty or too many painkillers, allowing me to shed the support bandage on the Wednesday, but the blister itself gave me grief right through to Friday, requiring application of multiple pads and plasters before finally rupturing and leaving me with a flap of dead skin to walk on over the coming weeks. Nonetheless, I feel a little physically tender and emotionally under-inspired as Saturday dawns, so I choose to suspend the first trip of the High Season until Sunday, which allows some grotty and damp weather to pass before the second day of the weekend promises something better as we start to make our fresh tracks into Upper Wharfedale for the first time in 5 years.
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Sadly the promise of morning sunshine doesn't last and general gloom coupled to greenhouse-like temperatures will prove to be the feature for most of the day as we ride the early trains out to a start from Skipton station, not getting onto the path until almost 9.20am as pictures need to be taken of the MR vintage architecture and of the view to the path travelled on Bank Holiday Monday, heading out to Broughton Road and immediately getting a delay before I can cross the Leeds & Liverpool Canal as a boat has to make its passage before I can use the swing-bridge. Out of the town very quickly we go as we immediately enter Aireville Park, which occupies a large portion of the west of the town, where the trees are bold and the locals already out to play, and utilise its many facilities around the Craven Leisure centre before we head out to meet Gargrave Road, once we've negotiated the confusing paths leading up to and down from the Craven College. We have good reason to be heading north-west, past the Keelham Farm Store and what looks like the start of a cycle race called Le Petit Depart as it exits the cattle market, meeting the island on the A59, and starting off on the A65 towards Settle before switching onto Stirton Lane to pass into the desirable hamlet-let that shares its name. This is probably the best sort of place to do countryside living, just a stone's throw from the neighbouring town and the supermarket, but with surroundings that suggest remoteness on the fringe of the Yorkshire Dales, all of it looking very pleasing as Stirton stretches to meet the rising Bog Lane, where you can look up towards Flasby Fell and back to the distant Pendle Hill, as it also brings the leafiness as we rise up the ascent past Thorlby House and on to Tarn House farm and caravan park. This brings us to about 200m up and on a path previously seen in 2012 but appreciated a lot more this time around, below the route down from Sharp Haw and Rough Haw, where we can look up towards Upper Wharfedale with the passage of Grassington Road, and across to the bulk of Barden Moor, with the Crookrise and Embsay Crags prominent, pacing the field walk to get us on our easterly tack above Skipton, looking forwards to Skipton Moor and meeting the road by the Craven Heifer Inn. Altogether it's a pretty fine natural amphitheatre to take in among the rising 300+m hills as we join Brackenley Lane to pass among the fields of Tarn Moor, noting the Memorial Woodlands and burial ground, whilst taking in the rural flavour and spotting the railway heading to the north before the road declines to pass above Skipton Golf course, and over Eller Beck.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Keighley to Skipton 28/05/18

11.5 miles, via High Utley, Low Utley, Holden Park, Silsden, Bracken Hill, Skipton Moor 
 (Millstone Hill, Standard Crag, Vicar's Allotments & Cawder), Horse Close, and New Town.

Return Up Country with 40% of the Leicestershire Round off the slate already, and a slightly less downbeat assessment about the progression of the onset of Parkinson's disease on My Dad, but also bring back a right foot that has suffered unprecedented blistering, and a calf muscle that suffered quite a strain in my attempts to not put pressure on the foot below it, but after three days of relative rest away from the trail, I'm ready to go again once Bank Holiday Monday morning rolls around. So slap on the plasters and the support bandage and get used to the new railway timetable as I start out late-ish for the latter stages of my Spring trails over the hills between the Aire and Wharfe, as this last week has had too many hours walked in the cool and overcast mornings before the day takes a turn for the warmer, so we depart from Keighley station at just before 10.35am, with most of the day's gloomy opening having already passed as we depart for the day on a north-westward track. Pause to admire the MR vintage tilework at the station before heading out and down Bradford Road to cross to Cavendish Street, home to the long shopping parade with the glass canopy down its full length, home to stores that don't quite deserve their setting and altogether a frontage that wouldn't look out of place in Harrogate, and also wonder if the styling of the car park of the Airedale centre is a cheap version of that at the Victoria Gate centre in Leeds, or if it might be the other way around? Meet the Cenotaph gardens and the town's municipal buildings, where a false owl lives in the cupola above the public library, before turning onto Skipton Road and passing the pair of cinemas, the contemporary Picture house and the former Odeon, home to Gala Bingo, before heading out into Keighley's Victorian villa and terrace district, opposite the castellated entrance to Cliffe Castle park and on to the B6265. Instead of following Skipton Road exactly, we'll wander a little to get a bit more landscape interest along the way, dropping down to get some improved views up to the looming Rivock Edge across the valley from the terraces along Arctic Street, and by heading up Green Head Road to pass Keighley University Academy and to get some contextual views up the Aire from the village suburb of High Utley, where St Mark's church is its best feature. Off the main roads we descend to meet Low Utley, with an ancient farm and cottage cluster at its heart, with suburban growth all around, with the cobbled Keelham Lane leading on over the railway, the A629 and behind the town cemetery, and on down to the bottom of the river valley as the road leads us over the Aire via the most obscure of bridges and on into Holden Park, nowadays home to Keighley golf club, where the golfers teeing off pose the most immediate risk to the walker.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Leicestershire Round #3 - Somerby to Hallaton 24/05/18

12.7 miles, via Owston (& the Woods), Withcote Hall, Launde Abbey, Ridlington Ridge, 
 Belton in Rutland, and Allexton.

Long Distance Trail means selfies!
#3 at the Stilton Cheese inn, Somerby.
You will know that it's not my nature to walk on consecutive days, but my rescheduling of my walking days has given me opportunity to get in a third day when I'd only intended to walk two, though the Friday weather looking like hot garbage means that I have to get out on Thursday morning, not quite with the lark like the preceding trips, but early enough to tend to the pressure blister that I've developed on my right sole, so padding is applied and we return to High Leicestershire with the feeling that could get painful. So on the my third leg of the Round and the guide's fourth as the parental Taxi drops me off at the Stilton Cheese inn in Somerby at 9.05am with village looking a lot less bright beneath overcast skies and it's off down Manor Lane on a southwards track, with foot injury in tow as we pass the Manor Farm and note the new build houses that perfectly complement their surroundings before we push out into the countryside, fully intent on passing this way again. There's a pretty heavy mist hanging over the eastern county, and once we hit the edge of the high plateau that's home to both Somerby and Burrough, there's not much of a view to see, so the path descends one of the many stream grooves down the hillside, away from another large dairy herd, and on up another landscape rise where there's a staring bench on the field boundary, from where there isn't much of a view in the direction of Tilton on the Hill. Then on, down past plantation that isn't on the map or in the guide book, to meet the stream crossing by a very old sign pointing to the "Leic's Round", and join Newbold Road, which is rising hard surface that takes us uphill towards Owston, which was once home to a monastic foundation, since vanished but living on in the name of The Priory house, next to St Andrews church, with the rest of the small village strung out along the Main Street. Pass the village pump, nicely preserved and on to the cluster of very rustic farmsteads at the bottom, and then on to the farm track that leads on towards Owston Woods, concluding by a large open field with many cows in it, and with the way out not visible, so that doesn't make for the easiest going as I start to feel like I'm going on one leg. I pass through untroubledthough, and the ancient woods spread out ahead, a couple of fields distant, but there's a lot of grass to cover to get there, downhill and uphill with little other landscape context to see aside from Owston Wood Road as we approach.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Leicestershire Round #2 - Rearsby to Somerby 23/05/18

15 miles, via Thrussington Mill, Hoby, Rotherby (sorta), Frisby on the Wreake, Gaddesby   (sorta), Ashby Folville (sorta), Thorpe Satchville, Burrough Hill, and Dalby Hills.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#2 at Rearsby Packhorse Bridge.
No walking opportunities for Monday or Tuesday, as I'm more useful to aid My Parents on a trip to the hearing aid clinic on one day, and to accompany them to the church lunch club on the other, though the heat and sunshine seem to have retreated once Wednesday comes around, but  the cue to get back onto the trail comes once time is freed up again, through the part of the Leicestershire countryside that feels most familiar to me. So my leg #2 starts, aiming at taking in the remainder of the guide's second and all of the third as I strike into the East of the county from Rearsby village, starting out from by the Packhorse bridge of 1711 as the Parental Taxi drops me off at 8.15am, under glum skies with a sharp wind blowing from the northeast, and the path leads us over the bridge, past Manor farm and up to the Church of St Michael & All Angels, and deciding that I'm feeling under-dressed as I sneak the paths from the suburban enclave of Church Leys and down past the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace convent. The waterproof is donned as a windcheater as we meet Station Road, and I'll wander slightly from the Round path to see the still-considerable remains of Rearsby Station, where the Cross-Country services now run over the level crossing without stopping, and only the mildest of trespasses is needed to get back on the right track, meeting the Round path by the foot-crossing for a field walk in the direction of the River Wreake, well away from the large dairy herd in the fields below Thrussington. Hit the riverbank after passing over three plots, finding the channel can look more like a stagnant ditch in places, but find it looking more active as we approach Thrussington Mill, where a canal-style bridge takes us over the channel of the river and the remains of a lock chamber, evidence of the Melton Mowbray Navigation, which canalised the Wreake from 1797 to 1877, noted before we pass the mill itself, firmly in the grip of a makeover to make it more like its neighbour downstream. From the driveway, it's back to field walking, through bouth cultivated fields and rough pasture, heading upstream and not really getting any aspect that would suggest we are at the bottom of a river valley, and also feeling no joy towards the wind as it keeps the early going cool, as we come up to Lodge Farm, and its enclosure of Christmas trees, which I always seem to forget have to be grown anew every year.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Leicestershire Round #1 - Newtown Linford to Rearsby 20/05/18

14.7 miles, via Bradgate Park, Woodhouse Eaves, Swithland Reservoir, Mountsorrel, 
 Cossington, and Ratcliffe College.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#1 at Bradgate Park, Newtown Linford
Spring Jollies time, and the days of getting away to a fresh trail in the countryside are sadly done, as My Dad is no longer able to travel as he continues to struggle with the onset of Parkinsons Disease, and thus my holiday breaks this year will be spent in The Old Country to lend him some extra company and to be an extra pair of hands and ears around the house for My Mum, a sequence that will finally give me an opportunity to tilt at the Leicestershire Round. Devised by the county's Footpath Association in 1987 and standing at 100 miles long, it will be the longest trail that I have attempted so far, and its circuit is relatively accessible from our base in Humberstone, though the guide's division of the route into ten legs seems a bit modest, so I boldly figure that it can be easily done in seven, and that's the plan that I have in mind as the Parental Taxi drives me out to Newtown Linford for a very early start on Sunday morning, planned as such so that I might be of maximum use to My Parents on my non walking days. Pass through Newton Linford village to get dropped off at just after 8.15am in the Bradgate Park car park, and we are certainly not the earliest starters out here as joggers and folks gathering for the Emergency Services day already crowd the tarmac, and as we have no distinctive route marker to indicate the Round's start line, I'll set out from the main gate to head on into the park itself, along the side of the stream that flow eastwards, in the shadow of tall trees and outcrops of granite. Immediately get entertainment from the herd of juvenile Red Deer, retreating across the track and stream from the main park into the deer enclosure as we march on towards Bradgate house, the home of Lady Jane Grey, and the Earls of Stamford, and notable as one of the oldest all-brick stately homes in the country, now ruined but preserved along with the rest of the park for the people of Leicestershire in 1928, thanks to the generosity of Charles Bennion of British Shoe co. Naturally the route takes us uphill immediately from here, up past Bowling Green Spinney and through the recumbent herds of Fallow Deer to rise to Charnwood Forest's most notable hill, where the Old John Tower sits atop it, not the sort of climb the body wants as the heat of the day comes on already, but it's alway good to be up on this granite top to take in the view around the county from 212m up, even if there's way too much morning haze to see much all that clearly in these conditions.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Steeton to Skipton 12/05/18

14.2 miles, via Silsden, Cringles, Woofa Bank, Draughton Height, Draughton, Lumb Gill, 
 Halton East, Halton Height, Heugh Gill, Embsay Crag, Embsay Reservoir, and Embsay.

The Exciting Plan A trailed for this weekend goes onto the reserve list for later in the season, as a Big Day Out in Lancashire with My Sister will have to wait until her attempt at a career change leaves her with a bit more free time, like the Summer, so we instead to resort to Emergency Plan B, and pull out another walk that putters around the edges of the hills around the Aire and the Wharfe, to fit in with the early Spring theme. I'm still not all that inspired to early starts, not getting to Steeton & Silsden station until nearly 10.10am, and have a poke around at the old station's goods yard before we set course to the north, and as the last route from here to Skipton went the long way round, it makes sense to do the same this time, only in the opposite direction, though a track to the north means retracing a lot of steps as the way by the A6034 Keighley Road. So all's familiar as we push over the Aire via Silsden Bridge and past the sports fields in the company of the high points of Airedale, whilst finding new things to ponder, like the identity of Cobbydale, or wondering where Cocking Hill might be, as advertised by the signs on the Blackburn & Addingham turnpike, and noting the Tour de France themed bollards are still in situ 4 years down the line before entering Silsden by the branch of Aldi. Still on familiar pavements as we pace up past the small factories and mixing of old and new houses on the south side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, before finally starting to make a fresh path past Clog Bridge as we head up the main street through the town, with the parish church of St James looming over the many pubs, and where the village beck forms a rather dramatic waterside garden, complete with weir. Follow Bolton Road as it angles uphill, on a 7% ascent, complete with [!] signage to alert the unwary motorist, rising with the long terraces to think this might be one of the steeper A-roads in these parts, one that certainly offers some fine views as you look back, with Earl Crag seeming to rise over the town from quite a considerable remove. Hitting the Town Head, the road continues to rise at a steady pitch, just enough to get you panting, for a pretty solid mile in the shadow of Nab End, and above Silsden Reservoir before meeting the farm and house cluster at Fishbeck, before continuing the rise to present the company of Airedale's hills and the looming Skipton Moor rather grandly before we shift into the shadow of Cringles Plantation, where a caravan park hides behind it, before meeting the summit at the farm cluster of Cringles where the the road crests over into Wharfedale and an old tower and air shaft are prominent, both apparently inexplicable according to my maps, as we finally leave the A6034's side.