Sunday, 11 November 2018

Kirkstall Forge to Morley 10/11/18

9.4 miles, via Newlay Locks, Bramley Fall Park, Bramley Moorside, Upper Armley, 
 Armley, Lower Wortley, Far Royds, Farnley Junction, Cottingley Station, Churwell, 
  and the Urban Woods.

The 2018 season finale weekend is here, and my Eighth year of walking is going to have a concluding trip, one that I was pretty sure wouldn't happen when I was looking forward back in the difficult days of September, and after all this exercise, which has taken us past the 500 mile mark by quite a stretch, it makes sense to have a trip to the Chip Shop for my celebratory lunch of F'n'C. This route won't be from my front door as a trip longer than a quarter hour is in order, and I set course for another look at the oddly neglected quarter of West Leeds before I go for my food, but when Northern Trains have been marking their cards badly with weekend strikes that have lasted since August Bank Holiday, I don't need Trans Pennine Express cancelling their stopping services through Morley as that puts me an hour back before I can get to Kirkstall Forge for a start just short of 9.50am, with only a three hour window of decent weather ahead of us. Thus we go from where the 2018 season started, where the developemnts alongside the Aire don't seem to have grown at all since February, as we head south this time, along the hard path into the woods that surely leads on towards Newlay and the site of the WW1-era munitions works that used to sit upstream from the Forge, not that we will see much of what endures there as we'll seek the stepped route up to the side of the Leeds & Liverpool canal, where exercisers and a trio of flying swans are already out and about along the towpath. We'll follow the path west to Newlay Locks, not the shortest route but the only way to go to see the side of Bramley Fall park that hasn't been visited so far, and we cross over the double lock to meet the signage that indicates us into Bramley Fall woods, which immediately form a dense Autumnal canopy above us, and despite the paths being relatively clear and open, route-finding still feels challenging as we rise away from the river and canal among the terracing and quarry remnants. Instinct and elevation eventually brings us out at whereabouts I expected we should, about halfway through the park, above the open stretch that bisects the woods and just below the lodge house, where we depart onto Leeds & Bradford Road, to process east in front of the Bramley Moorside estates, with the Fall Park providing a wooded flank for a stretch until we get to the opening out view down the Aire Valley, with Headingley stadium rising on the horizon, and Kirkstall Abbey hiding among the late season colours of the valleys woods below.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Cottingley to Garforth 03/11/18

13.7 miles, via Millshaw, White Rose, Middleton, Thorpe on the Hill, Robin Hood, Rothwell, 
 Oulton, Swillington, West Garforth, and East Garforth.

November and Greenwich Mean Time arrive, and I'm still ready to walk, even with my five must-do trips for late 2018 completed, which shows that my wavering resolve can still stiffen when this close to the year's finish line, and thus we have two weekends to fill, so a route plot needs to be pulled up from a trip that got misplaced back in March with the long tail of the early season's Winter weather twitching hard. It makes little sense to bring this excursion across the Leeds south and eastern fringe up now, but I don't have any other routes that are closer to home planned, and I'm going to approach it in the reverse direction to that which I'd originally intended as the train strikes are still going to make choosing my finishing points that bit more complicated and the weather isn't showing much chance of being decent past Midday so it makes most sense to not waste a clear hour travelling out to Garforth, with the sole train that stops at Cottingley dropping me off at a shade after 8.20am. So away from the station in the slightly dim light of morning, passing the plant that has been brought in the extend the platforms, joining the footpath that meanders along the side of Cottingley Drive, past the raked terraces of brown houses and down the hillside that largely obscures the Cottingley Towers as we make the-longer-than-you'd-anticipate walk down to the A643 Elland Road, which we cross by that stray terrace of Victorian Houses. Join Millshaw and pace on through the industrial park, still wondering if its sole old building, now the city council's environmental services offices, used to be a school or not before we join the side of the A6110 Ring Road Beeston, where we trace the dual carriageway around to the White Rose Office Park, that presents a rather space-age frontage to the main road and then advance on below the entrance to the similarly named Shopping Centre, crossing the road to meet the path before the very outer edge of Beeston's council estates. Follow the path up to the A653 Dewsbury Road, crossing over to meet the path up to Stanks Hall farm and barn, still not home to the urban farm that they deserve to be, but still hanging on in their space between the main road and the railway line to Wakefield, which we cross over for the third time via the footbridge to meet the rough path-cum-cycleway that skirts around the south-western perimeter of the Middleton estate, which is well hidden away up the hillside above. So too is the notional right of way that I once failed to find that crosses the golf course, which we leave in our wake as we press south on an undulating route that sits mostly concealed by over and undergrowth on the sloping hillside by the railway, which occasionally opens up more views over towards Morley, which are nice new perspectives to gain, before we rise to meet the open pasture below Bodmin Road where a number of Traveller's shire horses seem to be making best use of the common land for their grazing and recumbence.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Saltaire to Leeds 27/10/18

13.8 miles, via Shipley, Windhill, Idle Moor, Thackley, Greengates, Calverley, Farsley, 
 Bagley, Coal Hill, Bradley Hill, Swinnow, Hough End, Farnley Reservoir, Silver Royd Hill, 
  Blue Hill, Green Side, New Wortley, and Holbeck.

After last weekend's deeply unseasonal warmth, normal service is resumed as we land on the last weekend of British Summer Time, as things look a whole lot gloomier and greyer as our walk down the Aire Valley gets set to resume, and despite the need to make the most of the daylight hours and to not have to end the day chasing the fading sunlight, we set out an hour later than initially planned to that the morning's rains might have had a chance to pass. Fortunately for us, the last of the early drizzle is just departing the air as we land at Saltaire station, ready to strike on to the south-east at 10.10am, feeling saddened that we aren't going to see this proudest of Victorian townlets in the best of lights again, but countering that thought with the knowledge that if you really want to see Saltaire at its brightest and best-est, you should be here in summertime, along with every other urban day-tripper in these parts. So we start, away from Victoria Road and down the steps to the level of the yard of Salt's Mill, which looms large and only slightly Italianate above us to our left as we press to the east, pondering that's it's still odd that I've never been inside it to see the Hockneys and whatever else is contained within, passing the towering chimney and moving on past the low range of buildings that house the Early Music store and the large bicycle emporium. This leads us to Salt's Mill Road and the main car park for Saltaire, in the post industrial space around the Leeds & Liverpool canal, which is also home to the offices of HMRC, strangely, though hints of the late 19th century industry endure at the waterside, and beyond we meet the Victoria Mills, Shipley's sizable companion to the more famous one upstream, now in residential use, and then we meet the views up to Shipley town centre as we cross the A6038 Otley Road between Airedale Mills and the Noble Comb. Up the side street of View Croft Road we head, around the Boatmans Wharf flat block, where I first looked at a property to buy back in 2006, and up the steps to the towpath of the canal, crossing it via Gallows Bridge and emerging through the stone shops and houses beyond to land on the side of the A657 Leeds Road, which will be our companion for a chunk of the day as it takes us away from the long curve of the valley of the Aire. We start off by passing under the contemporary railway bridges and over Bradford Beck to pass the enduring site of Shipley Windhill station, still intact despite the demolition threats, and rise up through the Windhill end of Shipley, passing the branch library, the board school and the Traveller's Rest inn before the road starts to elevate us significantly, as we pass the basilica of Christ Church before we pass the older limits of the town and slip firmly into 20th century suburbia with flat blocks and semis clinging to the fringes of Idle Hill.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Skipton to Saltaire 20/10/18

16.6 miles, via Snaygill, Bradley, Farnhill, Kildwick, Cross Hills, Eastburn, Steeton, 
 Utley, Keighley (Beechliffe & Aireworth), Riddlesden, East Riddlesden Hall, Sandbeds, 
  Crossflatts, Bingley (Five Rise, Priestthorpe, Ferncliffe, & Gilstead), Higher Coach Road, 
   Glenwood Estate, and Hirst Wood. 

Back on the trail after a usefully scheduled weekend off, used by travelling to see my good friends in Calderdale, and for having an outing to Vocation & Co in Hebden Bridge for a sociable sharing of beer and tacos, feeling somewhat fortunate that we dropped this past weekend as neither day brought weather that would be considered usefully walkable, but entirely seasonably predictable as the cloud and rain descended. So back we go to Airedale, determined to put an end on my long distance travels away from home, still finding myself challenged by the train strikes that are still afflicting us thanks to the ongoing Northern Trains - RMT beef, not giving us trouble as we ride out to Skipton, but giving us a pretty fixed deadline for the other end of the day as we head out at 9.40am, feeling that we might be about to experience one of those days where all the day's best weather was misplaced in the early hours of the day, in the miles distant from where we are actually walking. So get going at a relative clip as we've a lot of miles to put down in 6 hours, setting off down Black Walk, behind Morrisons on the old Cattle Market site, over Eller Beck and getting our panoramic view over the town before meeting Craven Street and passing around Tesco on the site of the former railway goods yard as this leads us past the proudly terraced edge of the town and onto Keighley Road, passing Skipton's cottage hospital as we go. It'll be road walking for the bulk of the day, following main Airedale road for a fair chunk of it, passing out of the town under the bridge of the Grassington branch line and on into that odd little cluster of terraces around a former mill site, squeezed into the space between the Leeds & Liverpool canal and the railway line, before the way forward opens out somewhat and we run on past the Snaygill industrial estate, which extends all the way down to the A6131 - A629 junction, and the Rendezvous hotel, which fits its considerable bulk into a really rather small plot. We depart the main road by the Bay Horse Inn, joining the minor Skipton Road as it ascends over the canal by the Snaygill boatyard and on into the fields, which gives us view to the rising hills on the far side of Airedale, with Ramshaw, Fiddlers Hill and Gib Side rising most prominently as we pass the cottages clustered here to absorb the grand view. It looks like the day is taking a turn for the better as we rise over the lane's crest, which gets a confirmation as we meet the sunshine raining down from the south, an unseasonal wall of heat that makes for a feeling of being over-dressed for Autumn, and that gives the spirits a lift as Low Bradley reveals itself in the declivity between Skipton Moor and Farnhill Moor, passed by the major roads but not without its own suburban growth around a stone built and pretty ancient feeling heart.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Bolton Abbey to Burnsall via Troller's Gill & Grimwith Reservoir 07/10/18

15 miles, via Riddings Hill, Barden (Beck, Scale, Tower & Bridge), How Gill, Skyreholme, 
 Troller's Gill, Appletreewick Pasture, Grimwith Fell, Grimwith Reservoir, Gate Up, 
  Hartlington Moor, Hartlington Raikes, and Hartlington.

The last viably warm weekend of the year comes around, and it's not feeling as good as some that we've had in previous seasons, as if Autumn in 2018 feels determined to disappoint us, and we're going again on Sunday as the Saturday weather doesn't look so clever and the appeal of a lie in after an extremely testing week as work is strong, and we can be quietly overjoyed that the road up Wharfedale is open again, which allows us to take the bus ride up to Bolton Abbey without having to take any stressful diversions. The additional bonus is that travelling on the Sunday gives us an extra half hour on the schedule, which is most welcome as a 15 mile tilt over some rough and remote paths in only six hours would certainly be a bit of a test as the cooling days of October start to take their grip, and despite the waning season, the #874 seems to be busier that ever as it's not even standing room only all the way to our start line, somewhat delayed as we disembark at 10.40am, but still with plenty of time available to complete our trip. Our first hour will follow the B6160 as we head north to Barden, setting off behind the Priory Gatehouse that has been gradually redeveloped into Bolton Hall, passing the tope edge of Priory church's grounds before rising with the path above the dramatic loop of the Wharfe and meeting the Cavendish Memorail Fountain, where we split away from the Bolton Abbey estate to continue against the oncoming traffic past the farmstead at the roadside and above the riverside car parking fields. Thankfully the Sunday traffic is light and the sightlines keep progress un-fraught as we elevate further to see the company of hills on the fringes of Hazlewood Moor and Barden Fell rising above the river valley, with North and South Nab, with Carncliff Top beyond, presenting a drama filled view that had been seen many times when riding the bus down Wharfedale, and one that need to be added to my walked experience list. This keeps us company as we progress past Cowpert Gill and Riddings farm, as we skirt Riddings Hill on the green south-eastern edge of Barden Moor, getting a truly fresh perspective on this quarter before the road descends markedly and views diminish as the road grazes the top edge of Strid Wood, where we pass more car parking and tourist facilities to keep the day trippers happy, sneaking a view west to the heart of the moorlands as the depression filled by Barden Beck approaches. The thing to see here is beyond the plantation as the road bottoms out, and that's the Nidd Aqueduct, making another of its appearances above ground, just south of where its castellated companion passes over the Wharfe, making a multi-arched passage over the beck before disappearing underground again on its long journey to Chelker reservoir and on towards Bradford, which I take many pics of, not really satisfied that they're better than the ones I once took from a moving bus.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

The Washburn Valley (top half) 30/09/18

15 miles, from Swinsty Moor car park, via Fewston Reservoir, Blubberhouses, 
 Redshaw Gill, Thruscross Reservoir, West End, Capelshaw Beck, Holme Field, 
  Roundell's Allotment, Thruscross Dam, Limekiln Plantation, Blubberhouses, 
   Fewston Reservoir, Swinsty Reservoir, Spinksburn Lagoon, Swinsty Dam, 
    Swinsty Hall, and Swinsty Moor Plantation.

It's rather unfortunate that last Saturday, probably the best day of the declining Autumn, doesn't get walked as I've scheduled things around it that make it unusable, as I've got My Mum visiting for the first time in over a year due to My Dad having a week of experimental residential care, and her having a week of much needed respite, and while she does bring the Parental Taxi with herself, trying to put an extra 60 miles onto her Up Country journey to drop me off in the Washburn Valley is probably beyond my natural charm. So we have to go on Sunday, bussing it out on the very last day that #821 Nidderdale Rambler runs this year, and it would have been useful to know two months ago that the three scheduled Dalesbuses all deliberately pile up in Otley so that travellers from all over West Yorkshire might transfer between them, as that's knowledge that has no use at all beyond the end of September (remembering that the #874 goes through Otley would also have helped too, of course). So we finally get to our ride to the Washburn, as I get squeezed into the small single-decker that seems to be crammed full of people who've been travelling this route regularly, bouncing our way o'er hill and dale via Farnley, Norwood and Bland Hill to get to our start line at Swinsty Moor car park, between the pair of reservoirs in this quarter, and below Fewston's dam, where there are crowds out in force for an organised run around the Swinsty perimeter, and I need to take a facilities break before we set off at 10.30am, with a seven hour window of success ahead of us. Our circuit that's been 3+ years in the planning finally gets underway as we head north, down through the woods steeply on the path that soon arrives on the perimeter of Fewston Reservoir, and immediately we note that this will be a day with more company than many of its predecessors as the healthy exercisers, family strollers and dog walkers will be out in force in the lower portion of the dammed Washburn, which is quite a contrast to the quiet paths we found when first coming out here, back in 2004(?). Stroll around the first main inlet feeding the reservoir, which is still ridiculously low more than two months after this year's drought conditions ended, and take looks back towards the embankment dam, where the valve tower sits markedly above the waterline, before we press on, with views to the north/east bank being frequently shrouded by waterside foliage and overhanging trees as we move on to the second major inlet into the reservoir. this is where the various streams running off Blubberhouses Moor feed the reservoir, and the path rises sharply as we take a marked westwards turn, rising into the neighbouring plantation where that path appears to have been redirected away from below some crumbly cliffs, staying up high below the tree cover before meeting an unfriendly sharp descent to cross Thackray Beck as it runs in from the west, back on the original path route once again.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Addingham to Harrogate 22/09/18

17.5 miles, via West Hall, Low Moor, Langbar Moor, Middleton Moor Enclosure, 
 Gawk Hall Gate, Blubberhouses Moor, Gill Becks plantation, Beecroft Moor plantation, 
  Fewston Dam, Wydra, Penny Pot Lane, Knabs Ridge, Uniacke & Hildebrand Barracks, 
   Oakdale, and Low Harrogate. 

Now that Summer 2018 is consigned to history, and Autumn is underway, it's time to get back on the trail as I've got five walks that I definitely want to get done before this year's walking season runs out, and getting them fitted into eight weekends could be a challenge if the weather persists with its run of mediocrity and my wavering will to walk continues. I'd brought two walks to this weekend's plan, either traversing or transiting the Washburn Valley, and I'm going with the latter of those as the traverse requires a Sunday trip and the meteorological projection gave us a severe weather warning for it (which definitively hasn't come to pass, I might add), and thus we set course for the transit, as I'd noted a blank spot that ought to have been covered in my Wharfe to Nidd trips, and needs to be done this year as I'm not planning to walk again in this Lower Wharfedale company again for a while. So the X84 bus is ridden out to the top left corner of West Yorkshire for a not too early start from Addingham, disembarking at the Memorial Hall at 10.15am, hopeful that a later jump off might give the clouds a chance to dispiate to give us the sunny spells sort of day that we'd been promised, but all looks grey as we trace steps among the suburbia that has grown and blended in one of the county's most desireable dormitories, soon passing off Main Street and away from the shadow of Rombald's Moor, and joining Church Street and Bark Lane to pass through the oldest and prettiest corner of the village. Soon find the steep and angled path that leads down the wooded riverbank to pass over the suspension bridge over the Wharfe, and then head northwards across the riverside meadow under the shade of trees and beside the channel of the descending beck as we roll up on the complex of farm buildings and cottages at West Hall, finally breaking off from the path we've previously walked up to Beamsley Beacon when we meet the road, hitting an angled rise across the fields at the start of a 150m ascent up to the moorlands. The cows in the lower fields keep their distance but the sheep in the plots beyond get overly startled as I seek the path through the wooded cleft that contains the suggestion of another descending beck, and then it's on, uphill though the tree cover and into the rough pasture beyond, aiming uphill to a field corner to meet the enclosed green track that rises up from Nesfield, a path that's harder to find than you'd expect, despite its prominence on the map. We can look back to see Addingham spread out below at Wharfedale's angle, and up to the Beacon as it looms over the valley as we rise on, but the route to the moor is well concealed as we go, only becoming apparent as we enter the open fields of livestock below Moorcroft Farm, home to a lot more sheep that we will have to shoo away as we join the track and driveway around it to meet the lowest portion of the Low Moor.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Rumination: The End of Summer

Again, the Following is For Reference Only.

Remember Summer? and that hot blast of weather that lasted all the way from the top of the year to the end of July? when it felt like we might have lasting high temperatures and drought conditions previously unseen in our lifetimes? which made our working environments hellish but still provided days inspiring enough to head out to walk distant trails despite the risks of moorland fire and induced dehydration? Those days seem hopelessly far away now as we roll on to The End of Summer, which I had once considered my second favourite time of the year after the glorious days of May, which has lately come to be regarded as the time of the year when my inspiration levels fall off and I have to start revising my plans for the late season as I begin to run out of available weekends to use as the legs and brain feel the appeal of walking waning badly. My na├»ve and much younger walking self of six years ago was ready to use this weekend to start on five legs of the Calderdale Way, which seems a bizarre choice when regarded at this remove, while my contemporary, and supposedly more organised, self is looking at how to fill the remaining weeks of the year before my will to walk falls away or the weather gets too poor for me to want to be outside at all. It's all been a bit of a rough turn since August rolled around, as it feel like I've had a whole bunch of rum walking days as the weather turned to a more familiar atmosphere of constant inconsistency, though the continually unacknowledged truth of the matter is that across the period  I've had four good days out against three mediocre-to-poor ones. I guess that the inconsistent weather has left me with the feeling of it being cold and dull over the last seven weeks, when the reality has been that it has been wholly average, and my mood has been hampered more by my failures to get organised, by changing my walking plans for August which caused the delay and then cancellation of plans for six trips of traipsing around in Malhamdale. Still, you find me in particularly glum mood as the last weekend of Summer comes around, feeling ground down by the external pressures that have descnded during the last season, and not finding much in my personal, family or working lives that have brought me much joy, or will do in the immediate futrure, and when wedded to the aspects of the wider world, it gets me feeling anxious, that if I feel this bad now, how on Earth am I going to feel when I've got to face a three month traverse through The Dark Season?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Leicestershire Round #7 - Sutton Cheney to Newtown Linford 05/09/18

17.1 miles, via Bosworth Park, Market Bosworth, Carlton, Shackerstone (station),  Odstone, 
 Nailstone, Bagworth, Thornton (Mill & Reservoir), Markfield, and John's Lee Wood.

Long Distance Trail means 
Selfies! #7 at the Hercules 
Revived, Sutton Cheney.
A relatively chilled couple of days drop in between my trekking days, with nothing more active than having My Sister and her family drop by for lunch while passing through on a cross country jaunt, and getting My Parents over to the church dinner club the following day, knowing that the gardening exploits are due once my walking days are finished, so I feel decently recharged once my second 17 mile jaunt of my Down Country break comes around. Unfortunately, after six clear runs to my start points on the Round, the seventh and final one is the longest trip of all, which forces us through Leicester's morning rush hour traffic, preventing a very early start and meaning that we don't get our jump off in Sutton Cheney until 9.05am, with the skies suggesting coming blueness in the west, but general grey pudding hanging over the rest of the county. Depart from the Hercules Revived public house (a name I really can't get enough of), and roll up Main Street, through a village that would surely glow red on a sunnier day thanks to all it construction in brick, passing the Old Hall that is plainly the most impressive structure in the village, running up as far as the Royal Arms Hotel, the other village pub that has a sideline as an actual hotel complex, and our route passes through its car park and into the fields beyond. Trace a bunch of boundaries as we tack to the northwest, which will be our trajectory for the next 5 miles, noting that we are passing though enclosures that were growing beans, judging by the quantity still on the ground post-harvest, rising towards Spring Wood and Woodhouse farm whilst feeling a light regret that the Round doesn't pass through Cadeby, a mile or so inside its path, where the Reverend Teddy Boston used to famously operate a narrow gauge railway in the Rectory Garden. The path leads us into Bosworth Park, once the extensive parklands of Bosworth Hall, seat of local benefactors, and general oddballs, the Dixie family, where we follow a tree lined avenue that leads among the open meadows and small spinneys, still looking the same as the would've a century ago,  for a solid half mile before we arrive in the public park at the top end. Meet the local exercisers and strollers here as our route tracks around the shaded memorial garden and the Bow Pool before meeting the open parklands as we run in towards Rectory Lane, with both Bosworth Hall and St Peter's church just beyond the passage of the Round path as we enter Market Bosworth.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Leicestershire Round #6 - Frolesworth to Sutton Cheney 02/09/18

17.2 miles, via Claybrooke Magna, Claybrooke Parva, High Cross, Fosse Way, 
 Fosse Meadows, Sharnford, Aston Flamville, Burbage (Wood & Common), Barwell, 
  Odd House, Ashby Canal, Sutton Wharf, Ambion Wood, and Bosworth Battlefield.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#6 at St Nicholas's, Frolesworth.
After my long weekend away in Wharfedale and a gratifyingly short week back in work, we can set our sights on the last holiday of the Summer, heading Down Country once more with August already receding into memory and all intentions set on getting the Leicestershire Round completed, with the two longest and most distant days still to go, trips that I had worried might prove to be logistically unfeasible due to the travel durations necessary to get to my start lines. We need not have worried though, as My Dad can be left to nap of a morning without great risk, and maximum flexibility can be gained from starting out as early as possible, not that I'm entirely sure that My Mum is entirely enamoured with having to get the Parental Taxi fired up for a departure from home at 7.15am, so that the trail might be joined again at St Nicholas's church in Frolesworth at 7.55am, which is easily the earliest I've started out, and the day's sunshine has already come on, for which I'm immensely grateful after last Sunday's damp debacle. Away on Main Street we go, past the gates of the Rectory to the corned by the now absent Royal Oak inn, taking a southerly track as we set course for the Heart of Roman England, down a grassy track that leads onto a field walk, seeing the village recede rapidly, but making sure to note the Dutch Barn at Manor Farm, a modern office building that looks exactly like an open barn stacked with straw bales, the sort of modern design that should be replicated in every rural redevelopment. Our path rises, gently, up towards Hill Farm, aside plots of corn and across the recently harvested wheat fields, before cresting by the equestrian grounds and then declining through open plots before shifting into rougher fields, where I'm greeted along the way by a farm worker and her enthusiastically yappy dogs, and I continue to enjoy the warm morning sun as we field walk to Frolesworth Lane and then hot foot it over to Claybrooke Mill, secluded away in its own little spinney. Trailing around the West Riding moorlands can make you unprepared for regularly rural Midlands landscapes, with its many stiles, ditches and plank bridges, and they will become the testing features of the day as we progress, across recently ploughed fields and enclosures full of docile cows, as we lead over to Claybrooke Magna, one of a Leicestershire pair which seems to have the majority of the modern suburban houses in it, apt to it's 'large' name, which our track only sees a corner of, on Bell Street.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Buckden Pike (aborted) 27/08/18

6.3 miles, from Kettlewell, via Top Mere Road, Cam Pasture, Starbotton Cam Road,
 Tor Dike, Hunters Sleets, Top Mere Top, Buckden Pike, Buckden Rake, Buckden, and 
  Starbotton. Park Rash, and Cam Gill Road.

The weather projections for Bank Holiday Monday morning look a whole lot more favourable than those we had for Sunday, suggesting that the worst of the lingering rain should be done before 9am, and as I've got my camera working again and all my clothes dried, with a potential six and half hour window to use before the last #874 bus runs back to Leeds, it makes total sense to tilt again at Buckden Pike and hang the consequences of a dozen extra miles walked when I still need to return to work on Tuesday. So rise for breakfast at 8.45am, again eating as much food as Zarina will put in front of me to sustain another trip out, feeling teased by the suggestions of blue skies and sunshine breaking through the light clouds as I watch an early starter walk up the ascent up to Gate Cote Scar across the valley, but as I make plans to leave an hour later, the weather looks a whole lot less favourable, and I'm already mentally revising my plans as my hosts agree to allow me to leave my bag containing my clothes and ancient laptop at the tearoom to collect on the way back. Step out at 10am, cursing the fact that Upper Wharfedale never seems to bring the weather that you'd like to have, striking back along Middle Lane again as I choose to get the long ascent up to 500m altitude done early, rather than retracing steps up the main road back to Starbotton, stepping past the Village store again and walking up the north side of Kettlewell Beck, past the various cottages and farmsteads to the former village school at the bottom of Cam Gill Road. The ascent here starts in earnest, and even before we've risen above the tree cover, the drizzle has shifted to a steady rain, and I'll pause overlooking the village to look to the north west to see if the weather shows any sign of relenting, which it doesn't and so we get fully waterproofed up again as we hit the slippery limestone-clad track of Top Mere Road, wondering aloud if we're getting yesterday's weather back, returning for a bonus downpour or two over Wharfedale again. The steepest stretch of the days' ascending is the rise to 350m, the regular 150m ascent from the river valley being something of a West Riding tradition, and looking back down the valley as we go gives a distinctly shifting view of the weather as the cloud level changes with nearly every look, sometimes revealing Barden Moor all the way down the valley, and at other times offering nothing further away than all the marquees around Kilnsey, and hopes for high land progress feel stymied once I get sight over to Great Whernside, with cloud shrouding it above the 600m contour.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Great Whernside 26/08/18

10.1 miles, from Kettlewell, via Hag Dike, Great Whernside, Stone Top Head, Blackfell Top, 
 Black Dike, Hunters Sleets, Top Mere Top, Buckden Pike, Buckden Rake, Buckden, 
  Tor Dike, Starbotton Cam Road, and Starbotton.

As it's August Bank Holiday at the end of one of the hottest summers in the last few decades, it's entirely natural that the weather projection isn't looking good, and it looks like a complete circuit of the two 700+m fells around Kettlewell is unlikely to be completed before foul weather takes the day over, so after a decent night's kip I rise at 8am, the only early starter in the B'n'B so Zarina can host me with a three and a half course breakfast, which will hopefully be enough to fortify me for the whole day, and against whatever it might throw at me. I'm not quite prepared for winter weather but waterproof and gloves ought to protect me against the coming rain and wind, which are already underway when I depart at 9.10am, hopeful that I might get well on over the high grounds before the weather worsens around midday, wandering off up Middle Lane to the corner by the Village Store and crossing over Kettlewell Beck by the King's Head Inn and pressing east up Scabbate Gate, among the many cottages that grew up here thanks to the boom in the Lead mining industry in the 19th century, surpassing the textiles and farming industries that preceded it, and it's the sort of Yorkshire village that I love most, until you realise just how far from the wider world you really are up here. Which makes it ideal for the adventurous type, which we are being this weekend, following the road as it turns to a rough track leading up to the campsite at the bottom of Dowber Gill, where we pick the bridleway as our ascent route up to Great Whernside, which still sits away hidden from view above the village, and as we rise aside the neighbouring valley of Cam Gill Beck, we gain a fresh perspective over the side valleys that cannot be seen from the main body of Wharfedale. The road up to Coverdale can be traced as we rise above the tree cover and press on up well built track until we hit the 350m contour and split from our north-western trajectory to hairpin back and trace a broadly twisting path across the high pasture that leads back towards Dawber Gill, giving us evolving views back down Wharfedale and across to Firth Fell, to Buskden Pike and its companion Top Mere Top to the north, and finally up to the top 200m of Great Whernside, a summit strip that is over a mile long, and thus I'm not entirely certain that we can see the actual summit cairn from here.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Skipton to Kettlewell 25/08/18

14.8 miles, via Tarn Moor, Scale House, Rylstone, Cracoe, Swinden Quarry, Threshfield, 
 Kirk Bank, Kilnsey, and Skirfare Bridge.

August Bank Holiday weekend arrives, at long last, or rather suddenly as the month already hits its last week, and even if the weather projection for much of it is not looking too great, I'm still going to take my long weekend away in Kettlewell to face down its pair of 700+m neighbours as I've had this trip planned since May and have already paid half of the costs of my room and board, and most probably won't be seeing that money again if I chose to stay home and rest up instead of walking. So stuff my life into two bags, rather than the largest single one, as wearing them slung fore and aft offers more comfortable weight distribution, despite me looking like I'm primed to attend Leeds Fest instead, and set out late-ish as Northern Trains and the RMT are still at loggerheads, meaning that I don't get to my jump off point in Skipton until 10.40am, with my sights set on Upper Wharfedale, which immediately feels like a long way away as the extra weight of my holiday bag is soon felt. Skipton station being offset to the town's south-west means that finding routes north will always follow familiar pavements, and that's the case today as we hammer out along Broughton Road past the mill conversions as far as the canal bridge before turning up Coach Street to pass among the old wharf-side building before crossing the Springs Branch and heading uphill among the town's car parks to meet Gargrave Road, and the route up the sealed off rat run of St Stephen's Close. Suburbia butts up against hidden terraces along here, where the RC church also hides concealed, where a last look over the town is gained before we slip downhill to the leafy passage of the B6265 Grassington Road, which will be our companion as we press away from Airedale, rising out of the walled in section below the trees and on past the smart range of suburbia that has never quite grown to fill all the fields above the town, where we gain sight of the Barden Moor fringe before we lose our footway and have to make a passage over the A59 Skipton Bypass. It's going to be road walking for such a large chunk of today, so it's nice to briefly get a detour onto an off-road trek over Tarn Moor up as far as the Craven Heifer Inn, a path seen before as long ago as 2012, meeting the pub and having the three high crags on the southern edge of the moor announce themselves as we press on, along with Sharp Haw and Rough Haw arriving on our horizon to the west. The road walk thus starts in earnest as we rise and fall with the lane as Eller Beck flows south towards the town beyond the adjacent fields, as we enter the Yorkshire Dales National Park with the traffic level looking like it might prove more challenging than on my escapade along the A65 in April, pressing on in the shadow of Crookrise Crag as we pass Bog Wood and None Go Bye farm, and the West Riding roadsign indicating that we are only two miles out on the Skipton & Cracoe turnpike.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Rumination: Pause and Take a Deep Breath

The Following is for Reference Only.

Every walking season so far has had its disappointing months, like September 2017 or June 2015, when plans don't seem to come together and it all ends up feeling rather disjointed, or the stamina drops and illness knock the stuffing out of you to leave all you best intentions scattered like so many Autumnal leaves, and I'd thought that after the delays brought on by weather and general unwellness back in March and April, this year might look to much plainer sailing through the Spring and Summer. That has been largely the case, as the plans have gone on without interruption since Spring sprung in April, doing the usual trick of filling every available day with activity and not taking time out despite promising myself that I will take time out to rest and be sociable, like I do every year, but as August came around we hit the point in the year where the wheels start to spin and impetus feels like its lost. After three successful months of treks around Wharfedale and Nidderdale, my plan to take a detour into the Upper Washburn has become something of a millstone as after missing out on the planned trip two weeks ago, and failing to get it done this weekend, means that I won't get it walked until I've had both my breaks away, meaning that all my scheming for phase three of the High Season won't get started until the middle of September at the earliest. Having plotted out six trips in and around the vicinity of Malhamdale leaves me with the frustration that despite being in only Mid August and still having three months of walking season left, I'm left with a rapidly diminishing number of weekends to use before I run out of viable days, and I learned in both 2012 and 2014 that having multi-week plans still loitering on the schedule in September and October forces you into activity when you might be starting to lose the motivation with the cooling and shortening days. Having taken last weekend out for a trip over to visit My Sister also leaves me feeling rather frustrated, as has again taken so long for us to get together when I'm always promising that we will be more sociable and put together some proper walking schemes for each season, as I'd forgotten how much I enjoy her company, and that of her family, as it's nice to be able to hit some paths that I wouldn't see in ordinary circumstances and shoot the breeze with someone who can fire a conversation for hours regardless of the topic.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Bollington to Lyme Park 11/08/18

7.5 miles, via Kerridge, White Nancy, Oakenbank, Hedge Row, Gausie Brow, Brink Brow, 
 Sponds Hill, Park Moor, and Knightslow Wood. 

As it's taken me until August to get myself over to Lancashire, allowing My Sister to complete her year's course of teacher training without interruption, it looks like the plans that I'd conceived for this season for walking with her are probably going to come to nought, like finally tackling the Witton Weavers Way, the green route into Manchester, or decamping her whole family for a day in the Wirral Country Park. Especially as I'm travelling without a plan and after a Friday evening of getting food at Grub in Manchester (a deeply hipster-ish establishment in the shadow of the former Mayfield station) and hitting the local brews once back in Egerton, getting an early start onto any path seems unlikely, but My Sister has a plan to let Dr G and the girls have an outing to Lyme Park, while we hit the edge of the Cheshire hills, not the part of the county that I had planned for my first visit to it, but a very satisfactory substitute nonetheless. So for the first time in a while we set out for a trek into the deeply unknown, as all I know is that we will be somewhere to the south of Stockport down the A6 and that we'll be in the rough and wrinkled part of the county that you always forget to acknowledge when tripping across the Cheshire Plain, and just to add to the mystery we'll be going without a map, as My Sis trusts the OS app on her phone to get us to our destination through terrain that is mostly alien to her too. Thus we start from Bollington, one of those Cheshire town that's much smarter than you might expect, the last bastion of Northern expensiveness before the hills take over on the eastern edge of the county, and we are dropped off at the top of the terrace on Princess Street as we get a bit lost trying to find the carpark on the site of the former goods yard by the side of the Middlewood Way the former MS&LR-NSR joint railway between Marple and Macclesfield. We get going at 11.05am, hopeful at getting this trip down in three hours so the rest of the family doesn't get bored in our absence, getting underway properly once we've hit Grimshaw Lane in the shadow of Adelphi Mill and risen to pass under the Macclesfield canal as it takes the Cheshire Canal Ring off to the south of the county, soon landing ourselves in the suburban quarter of the town as the day looks to bring more warmth that wasn't wholly expected. Letting My Sister and the OS app navigate us, we take a turn among the terraces that must have once lived for the silk and quarrying industries, and are now surely beyond the price range of anyone desiring such a cottage, following Jackson Lane past the Hollin Hall hotel complex and into the village-let of Kerridge, all looking pleasantly Sandstone-y clustered around the Bulls Head inn, with the turn onto Redway Lane revealing the wooded and sharply rising north end of Kerridge Hill, our first target for the day, looming ahead of us.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Otley to Burley via Swinsty Dam 05/08/18

16.5 miles, via Wharfemeadows Park, Farnley Park, Leathley, Stainburn Bank, 
 Napes Hill, Lindley Moor, Stainburn Forest, Little Alms Cliff, Sandwith Moor, Bland Hill, 
  Swinsty Dam, Timble, Low Hall, Askwith Moor, Askwith, and Burley stones.

There's no bonus round of walking for the last Sunday of my first Summer break because it's actually raining, putting a temporary brake on the 2018 heatwave for a short while at least, but the plan I'd hatched for it is carried forward to the next weekend, as after finally getting a copy of this year's Dalesbus timetable I'd discovered that the #821 Nidderdale Rambler could take me to Fewston or Blubberhouses and give me a window large enough to walk the circuit of the top half of the Washburn valley, a plan I've had on the slate for over two years now. So we aim for that as August comes around, setting out on the bus from Morley in what feels like good time, but it transpires that the journey plans that the WYMetro site gave me were damn lies as the necessary X84 isn't running and the scheme to ride the #821 dies before I can even board my second bus, and even though I could make the #874 to Upper Wharfedale, I only have the E297 map with me and thus am compelled to make a trek from Otley. Thus it's fortunate that I have the bones of a trail that I'd considered last year in my mind, travelling among the paths that were left unseen on my many treks across the Washburn area as I aimed to Harrogate and Nidderdale, and so when we arrive at Otley's bus stand at 10.10am, I set out with some idea of where I'm going to go, but with no idea at all of how far it might be or how long it might take, so for once we go onwards as close to trekking without a plan as we've ever really done. So northwards, after a fashion, via Crossgate and Boroughgate, past the empty market place and on to Clapgate, passing the Black Horse, the Stew and Oyster in the old Grammar School, and the solicitors office called Savage Crangel, then on between the spired pair of RC and URC establishments before making our crossing of the Wharfe via Otley Bridge. Tacking eastwards from here takes us into Wharfemeadows Park, and trying to trace paths not walked last year, which takes us along in front of the picturesque riverside terrace, around the back of the bowls club and former lido and then from Farnley Road side down to the riverbank to spot the redeveloped mill site and the fish elevating mechanism by the weir. The we can meet the dog and child exercisers who are using the riverside path that leads below the playing fields and out into the vast and recently harvested fields of Farnley Park, where the house hides well up the hillside, obscured by the rolls of the landscape and the fact that it's further away than you think, seeing the crowd thin down as we press east and downstream, watching the lump of Rombalds Moor recede and smelling air thick with the scent of Balsam as the vanishing clouds suggest we are in for another very warm day indeed.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Leicestershire Round #5 - Saddington to Frolesworth 26/07/18

14.7 miles, via Fleckney (sorta), Shearsby, Bruntingthorpe, Peatling Magna, 
 Willoughby Waterleys, Dunton Bassett, and Leire. 

Long Distance Trail means
Selfies! #5 at The Queen's
Head, Saddington.
The off days between treks get filled with useful activities, like trimming My Parents' hedge (again), belatedly celebrating My Dad's 77th birthday, and mug washing (don't ask, long story), when we are not trying to avoid the heat, and after getting a Hottest Day of the Year peak on Monday, we get the promise of another on Thursday, so we need to plan creatively for a day that promises to get thirsty fast, and so I scheme the idea of chilling two litre bottles in the fridge, while freezing a third to ensure I have sufficient cool liquid in my bag for a six hour trek. Starting early is the other trick to beat the heat, as the Parental Taxi can get out to Saddington for an 8.20am start as we have probably the shortest drive out of the entire Round today, which is mildly ironic as the entire path for today will be through a part of the county of my birth that have barely seen in all my years, and so onwards, away from the Queen's Head (which I have manged to colour coordinate with) and St Helen's church, possibly the only one on the trail that I won't deliberately detour to see up close. Onto the Round Path once more by The Limes, a house with an impressively large mud wall at its boundary, and we depart the village by the path that leads from Bakehouse Lane between the back yards of virous houses and out onto Kibworth Road, where we are immediately presented with a cow problem as this Longhorn breed is not apt to move away from the gate that I need to access. Fortunately a second gate up the lane allow easy access, and I sneak past them to find the next gate in the hedge which leads us over towards Fleckney, a village that has seen some exponential suburban growth, even though it's quite a distance from Leicester and between two A-roads, and we'll draw right up to the edge of it, meting dog walkers and fence builders before we turn west, the fields looking like they are being plotted out for some future building work as the village continues to bafflingly expand. It's a field boundary walk for quite a distance to come now, and in the early going we at least have Fleckney lodge to keep us company but soon we slip into a landscape of hedges and bare fields that would challenge anyone's powers of description, lacking an obvious horizon and looking the same from plot to plot, and so we have to content ourselves with the fact that the early morning sun isn't coming on hard and that the local cattle around Glebe Farm are feeling docile before we get a location of sorts to see, as we drop out onto Arnesby Road.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Leicestershire Round #4 - Hallaton to Saddington 23/07/18

13.9 miles, via Othorpe, Cranoe, Glooston, Stonton Wyville, Langton Caudle, 
 Thorpe Langton, East Langton, Foxton, Gumley, and Smeeton Hill. 

Long Distance Trail 
Means Selfies! #4 at the 
Bewicke Arms, Hallaton.
Summer Jollies coming around has me hurrying Down Country with almost indecent haste, so that I can get onto the Leicestershire Round again on the days available to fit in around My Parents' plans and needs, happy to lend a hand when needed and aiming to scratch off another three legs from the guide book in two trips, and that cold day on Saturday is already seeming like a distant and aberrant memory, as we are already back in the grip of hot, hot days where the heat tells even when leaving the house in the early morning. So Leicestershire in July looks much riper than it did last year as the Parental Taxi rolls me out to Hallaton so that we might get a jump off at the Bewicke Arms at 8.35am, still rating the village as one of the prettiest in the county in the Rutland Ironstone fashion and we start our track into the southeast corner of the county by walking along Churchgate, past the church of St Michael & All Angels and the CofE primary school to find the path that leads us out into the countryside for the start of the field walking down to cross the stream that flows on down towards the River Welland, reminding us that we are in the corner of the county that doesn't sit within the vast Trent-Humber watershed. A fun thing to note in the adjacent field is Hallaton Castle, a motte and bailey construction that is dated to the Iron Age and the protection of the ancient metalworking industries in this quarter, and looks particularly well preserved and is something to regard as our field walk raises on a southwestern track to eventually present views over the wrinkles around the Welland valley, where Slawston village sits in the shadow if its own hill and an almost new farm is located at the hills crest. Drop sharply down through the pasture to cross the stream at Horseclose Spinney, and then rise again to meet Othorpe House Farm, which mostly hides behind its woods, and standing as all that remains of the lost village of Othorpe, a theme that just keeps on coming around in this county, soon left behind as we pass the barns and machinery store to hit the fields once again. Onwards through wheat fields and more sheep pasture to approach Cranoe village, which also hides, below the slope of the hillside that we are traversing, and just off the alignment of the Round path, but a short detour has to be made so we can get an up close look at the church of St Michaels's, as taking many pictures of the village churches in the county will probably always be a hobby of mine.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Grassington to Pateley Bridge 21/07/18

11.6 miles, via Hebden, Dibble's Bridge, Fancarl Top, Dry Gill, Stump Cross cavern, 
 Craven Moor, Keld Houses, Greenhow Hill, Cold Stones (the Quarry & The Cut), 
  Toft Gate (& the Lime Kiln), Red Brae Bank, and Bridgehouse Gate. 

That preceding week felt like it went on for two days longer than it should have, with me feeling so tired and deflated at its end that I got anxious that I might not have anything in reserve for walking when my first Summer break came along, which itself feels like its taken an age to arrive, which it has as it's a week later than I'd usually break up in July, and the fight we've had with the heatwave conditions and broken AC at work coupled to me being unusually active through the High Season transition has left me feeling levels of exhaustion not felt in along while. So as the day takes a turn for the overcast and cool, it's not a massive disappointment as I really need a break from the relentless heat and sunshine after four solid weeks of it, and while some bright illumination would have been appreciated for our last trip of this season from Wharfe to Nidd, it will instead allow us to see the high roads and their environs when they display a completely different visual character. Thus we ride out to Grassington on the #874 bus, knowing that the day will feature more travelling time than actual walking time, but safe in the knowledge that we are testing the very limits of trekking by public transport in this quarter, departing the National Park Centre bus stand at 11.25am and immediately turning our back on the town as we join Hebden Road, pacing along in front of the grey stuccoed council houses soon departed past Barden Fell View. The road rises and twists as it passes Mil Gate Lathe farm, and we are going to have to get used to the behaviour of the B6265 as we go today as it will be our constant companion as we make our way across this finger of Limestone country, and I realise that I haven't much talked about geology on our travels this year, but this is a fine spot to see how the Craven faults elevated the older Carboniferous Limestone to the levels of the younger Millstone Grit over 50 million years back. The rising bulk of Barden Moor contrasts markedly with the grassy valley below, the result of much weathering over the ensuing millennia, as we pace on east past the plots of Garnshaw House and its flower meadows, and meeting a very large party of Asian students out on a country ramble (not the first party seen today, so that seems to be A Thing), and as the road rises some more we can look north to see the exposed and broken crags that rise above the cleft of Hebden Gill. Also get sight of the chimney on Grassington Moor before we drop down to meet the top end of Hebden village again, on familiar territory before we strike off onto the moors to the east, passing the coach depot and the Clarendon Hotel with the village to the south before crossing the 1827 Hebden Bridge over the beck and then starting the first serious rise of the day a climb of 60+m out of the dene up towards Bank Top farm.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Burnsall to Darley 14/07/18

14.1 miles, via Hartlington, Appletreewick, Skyreholme, Forest Road, Pock Stones Moor, 
 Hoodstorth Lane, Stone House Crossroads, Thornthwaite, Carr Lodge, and Darley Beck. 

The Summer weather may have wavered a bit in the last week, but the temperature still managed to peak at 30C at work, and I feel heartened that the heat hasn't beaten me down and I still want to walk as another bright Saturday comes around, getting in another late start, which surely helps matters, as the Dalesbus penetrates even further into Wharfedale for our third trip over the moors to Nidderdale, arriving at Burnsall at 11..15am, which gives us a pretty clear window of 5 and a half hours to complete today's trip. So we need to start off quickly, away from the many people using this corner as their focus point for a day's tripping, setting off across the Wharfe over the justifiably famous Burnsall bridge and setting off up the lane above the riverside pasture that the Dales Way crosses, immediately getting us into virgin territory as we establish a new perimeter to my walking field, looking back to admire the rising flank of Burnsall Fell as it looms over the village and river, creating a unique sort of setting for the village that retreats behind us. There's ancient field terraces and boundaries to admire in the limestone fields by this road, all looking distinctly parched as our heatwave continues, so all the shade we get is welcome as we approach the hamlet of Hartlington as our first port of call, not that it amounts to more than a loose collection of cottages and farms at an elevated remove from the river, soon in our wake as we pass on over Hartlington Bridge on Barben Beck, which forms a large and well hidden valley coming down from Grimwith reservoir to the north. Past the Woodhouse farm, we move below the steeply looming Kail Hill and move up closer to the river, and on above the vast plots of Masons Campsite, which seems to be full to bursting even though the summer holidays have still not started, and I regard the folks in their tents in much the same way as they would me as I press on past Low Hall and the Craven Arms pub to get our first good view of the looming masses of Barden Fell, with the crags of Simon's Seat prominent on the northern face. Soon enough, we run into Appletreewick, which is as quaint and lovely as it's name suggest it ought to be, rising up among the many cottages from the New Inn and Mock Beggar hall at the bottom to St John the Baptist's church and High Hall at the top, and a real place to aspire to dwell if it wasn't for the fact that it only gets three days of bus services each week, and then on past the isolated village hall and back into the countryside, looking up to Barden Fell again, and spotting the Nidd Aqueduct hiding in the trees as it skirts its way around the flank of Carncliff Top.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Bolton Abbey to Birstwith 07/07/18

14.3 miles, via Cavendish Pavilion, Bolton Park, Hammerthorn Gate, Hazlewood Moor, 
 Rocking Hall, Rocking Moor, Thrusscross Reservoir, Hanging Moor, RAF Menwith Hill, 
  High Birstwith, and Swarcliffe Top.

It's a bit early in the Summer to start complaining about the heat, but two weeks into a national heatwave, and after two months of having barely functional AC at work, it's all starting to get a bit much for me, but I'm determined to keep my focus on, as getting out and about on the moors will involve less exposure to high temperatures than going through my regular daily routine, and anyway, I have far more interest in doing my own thing than much of the rest of the nation, who are getting themselves all excited by England being in the last eight of the World Cup. So we ride to Wharfedale again, on a Dalesbus that is much less busy than last week's, happy to see some cloud in the sky as we go, alighting at Bolton Abbey at a shade before 11am, only a mile north of where we last travelled from to Nidderdale, but with a complete fresh perspective to take on as we plot another route over the moors, starting out up the driveway to the Bolton Priory ruin and the extent church of St Mary & St Cuthbert. Head on above the dramatic scene of the bowing Wharfe and past the Cavendish memorial fountain to walk down the long driveway to the Riverside car parks, getting a good view up to the way to come on the hillsides beyond the river, and finding that the Bolton Abbey estate is already pretty busy with people as elevenses time lands on the day, though I'll not be visiting the Cavendish pavilion on this occasion either, instead we cross the Wooden bridge among the trippers and cyclists to start our trail to the east. Meet the path up the wooded glade of Stead Dike to reach Bolton Park farm, in the shadow of the looming mass of the South Nab hill, and then hit the rising farm track beyond which will elevate us some 150m up to the moorland edge as the sun beats down, testing my resolve on the early going as the local sheep look on at me as I struggle, but the views that emerge are worth it, over Skipton Moor and Barden Moor, and back to the Priory ruins, and forward to the mass of Hazlewood Moor that is so far unseen. Meet the passage onto the moor at Hammerthorn Gate, above the Nab Hill at 300m up, where we can look back to Addingham High moor and Beamsley Beacon before a gravelled track leads us on into the sea of heather, on a gentle rise before forking left sharply to land us above the moorland valley of Hudson Gill, flowing down to the forests around the Valley of Desolation. Our track evens off a bit at 350m elevation, and we can look north to the company of Barden Fell, with Carncliffe Top, Simon's Seat and Lord's Seat forming the high and rocky features on the horizon, and that's where we were headed this weekend, five years back, on a day equally hot, though we do have sufficient liquid for the journey this time around, as well as enough cloud cover to keep much of the Sun's radiant heat off as we carry on along this shadeless track with the majestic view to its north.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Bolton Bridge to Hampsthwaite 30/06/18

14.2 miles, via Beamsley Hospital, Hazelwood, Kex Gill, Kex Gill Moor, Hall Moor, 
 Blubberhouses, Dangerous Corner, Kettlesing (Head & Bottom), Tang, and Swincliffe.

The weather on walking days in June has certainly been inconsistent, rarely being better than average in terms of heat and temperature, but as the month ends, it seems to have settled into a long sequence of being consistently hot, and so it continues as we reach Phase Two of this High Season's walking plans, having blazed a few fresh trails into the top half of Wharfedale in Phase One, it's now time to start stitching this valley to distant Nidderdale along one of the few local axes so far unexplored in the West Riding. The long days of Summer also allow for late starts and finishes, and we'll being having both of those after riding the crowded Dalesbus all the way from Leeds, and being the only person wanting to alight at the Devonshire Arms at 11.10am, a mere 20 minutes behind schedule, at this most familiar corner of Bolton Bridge, that looks a whole lot brighter than on any of my preceding visits, and steps will be rapidly made away from the pub and teashops on the Bolton Abbey estate with the feeling that I'll pretty much have this walking day to myself. We pass again over the Wharfe via the old Bolton Bridge, noting just how firmly the look of summer has gripped the fields around Red Lion farm and meet the side of the A59 in short order, still mostly closed to traffic after a month, and the red route we will be taking up the passage of Kex Gill, not that its unusual quietness counts for much in the initial climb has a footway for us to pace, in place so local children might be able to walk to the Boyle & Petyt primary school safely. We are soon away from the Wharfe and into the shadow of Beamsley Beacon, rising to our south, following the pavement and bypassed old lane up past Lane Houses farm, Beamsley Hospital again (in much better conditions for photography) and the former Methodist Chapel that is now the Beamsley Project, an accessible holiday property that caters for the disabled, a deeply admirable business that has a grand old setting, among the green fields below the moors. We run past the road to Storiths and lose the footway after a mile to join the lane that runs into Hazlewood, undulating away from the direct course of the A59 and getting some good looks down into the descending Kex Gill as we rise past Laneside Farm, and then drop again at Hill End farm to get back on the main road, which I really could walk in any way I fancied as there is so little traffic that you could choose to pace any part of it. I'll stick with facing the theoretical oncoming traffic as we pass the layby and the clearly twisting path of the old turnpike alignment that has been straightened out by the modern A59, the course we continue along as we rise on the bypass past Summerscales farm, not quite in the crawler lane, but with enough space to avoid the odd boy-racer using the empty road, and the odd police van looking for those stray vehicles that really shouldn't be out here.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Ben Rhydding to Hebden & Burnsall 23/06/18

21 miles, via Denton stones, Middleton, Ling Park, Langbar, Beamsley Hospital, Storiths, 
 Postforth Bridge, Park Plantation, Barden, Barden Moor (Broad Park, Lower Barden 
  Reservoir, Pitshaw, Upper Barden Reservoir, Standard Hill, Burnsall & Thorpe Fell, 
   Hesker Gill), Thorpe, and Hedben bridge & stones.

With an 18+ mile day plotted over much variated terrain in distant Wharfedale, and only one potential bus available to get me home again, it makes good sense to start out as early as possible on the longest available walking day at the top of the year, feeling like we've managed to arrive ahead of this Summer's weather as we disembark the train at Ben Rhydding and make for this station's hidden other exit to start our long day's journey at 8.25am. Our initial steps are down through the suburbia around Valley Road, down Strathmore Road and Wyvil Crescent to get to the passageway to Leeds Road, which is crossed so we can descend to the riverbank and cross the Wharfe via the Denton Stepping stones, a fine idea in theory and they might be slightly less friendly than those at Burley but they present a crossing without terrors until more than halfway across where a gap presents itself, far too wide to stride over and it's far to early to get to paddling and so we have to retreat. Back to Leeds Road to pace the A65 eastwards to pass out of greater Ilkley, as far as Denton Bridge to make our crossing of the Wharfe there, and that's why I'd felt the need to factor in as large a walking window as possible as this feels like its going to add an extra mile on my day as we make our way along Denton Road to the other end of the stone and walk out midstream once again so that I might have touched all of them, without having made a successful transit. So onwards, after that faff around, and hit the rising Carter's Lane to haul us uphill past Beckfoot farm and on to some fine emerging views to the southwest as we run on steeply to meet Westville House school, which must have a particular reason for it's odd location and large size, at the corner where the road levels out to pass through Middleton, where suburban houses with fine views have settled by the roadside in a distinctly rural landscape. Pass among the local farms, both active and holiday residential, to meet the corner with Hunger Hill and the very top of expensive suburban Ilkley where pricey bungalows face the rising fields below the high moors, and views down to the town and the panorama presented by Rombalds Moor and the rising high southern side of Wharfedale will keep us company as we progress onwards, the straight line of Slates Lane only being interrupted by the wooded cleft of a descending beck that has created someone a particularly good garden feature. The mind starts to feel a bit lost as to our location as we move on along Hardings Lane, but soon get a fix as we spot ourselves behind Myddelton Lodge, and the farm buildings associated to it, last seen 5 years ago after my trip up Beamsley Beacon, which gives me my orientation back as we start to ascend again, rising to meet 200m elevation and spotting an oft heard but rarely seen Wren in a hedge, and noting the most enormous Hare grazing away in a neighbouring field.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Bolton Abbey to Embsay & Skipton 17/06/18

A ride on the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, 
 plus 3.1 miles, via Haw Park and Skipton Woods.

It's been a while since I did a walk ending on a preserved railway, not since visiting the K&WVR in October 2013, and as I've done more than my fair share of lamenting the passing of the former Midland Railway line of 1888 from Ilkley to Skipton, it makes sense that I should make use of what remains of it while I'm in the vicinity, and it's a good treat for me for Father's Day, if you ignore the lack of children but to factor in the advance of middle age. So to the trains at the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, and I'm lucky that it's a two train day as the 3pm departure from Bolton Abbey station is due to leave and I board with barely enough time to see what is hauling it, though I do know it's a diesel in BR blue, departing the modest distance to the west through a landscape of quarries to the south and views to the flank of Barden Moor to the north, taking this ride in British Railways Mk 1 corridor stock, which I'm old enough to remember still being in use on BR back in the day. Features along the way are the Stoneacre Loop, established in 1991, where we pass the signal box and the steam service heading in the opposite direction, and also Holywell Halt, the line's terminus from 1987, where the Craven Fault can be viewed, as well as the Holy Well, I'd assume, taken in on the 20 minute ride to Embsay which has been the base of the railway's operations since 1979 and publicly operational since 1981, home to its sheds and workshops, and very nicely preserved with many of its original MR features enduring. Disembark to see what's hauling us, a BR English Electric Type 3, 37294, which soon runs around and then takes us back from whence we came, passing the steam service again and thinking it looks like a Caley Tank, before we roll into Bolton Abbey again, where we can have a poke around the site that has been open since 1998 and is now in the midst of having its island platform rebuilt, letting the diesel service depart before we examine the stock parked up here. The line almost has an unparalleled collection of Hunslet and Hudswell Clarke Industrial locomotives, all Leeds built and in various states of viability, including line stalwart Wheldale, parked up and awaiting funding for its revival, and then the steam train arrives, hauled by Taff Vale Railway O2 class 85, actually a Welsh locomotive but Scottish built in 1899 and a real survivor having been in colliery use for over 40 years after withdrawal by the GWR in the 1920s. This visitor from the K&WVR can haul us back on the last train of the day, as I had promised myself a steam train ride, even if we get double headed by the Class 37 for the very last leg as we run into Embsay at 5.40pm feeling like I got my money's worth on my £11 ticket, having fitted in a there and back, and there again into my two and a half hours on the E&BASR.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Burley in Wharfedale to Bolton Abbey station 17/06/18

13.4 miles, via Greenholme Mill, Askwith, Hundwith Beck, Denton Moor, Lippersley Ridge,
 Stainforth Gill Head, Gawk Hall Ridge, Middleton Moor Enclosure, Round Hill, Fell Side,
  Kex Beck, Hazlewood, Storiths, Bolton Abbey, and Bolton Bridge.

Six years ago, on 16th June 2012, and after taking a frightening soaking on the trail between Horton and Kettlewell, I learned what might have been my important walking lesson, namely 'If you're planning to walk a long and remote trail on a day that promises lots of inclement weather, Don't.', and that came lesson cam around again this year as the height of June once again failed to bring the weather that you'd hope it should, and I took the choice to hibernate whilst rain fell over the distant hills of Wharfedale. Not that a weekend will be lost to such things, and a reshuffling of the schedule brings up the other trip for the top of the year, over a slightly more modest distance and not quite so far away, which makes it ideal for a Sunday, even if the rail services don't allow me to make the super early start I might have wanted as the earliest I can get to my jumping off point at Burley in Wharfedale is 9.35am, which has the clock ticking for us even before any steps have been made. As the only way north to the moors is via the stepping stones, our route choice has to be creative to see a different face of Burley, which means starting off down Prospect Road, Hasley Road and St Philip's Way to get my fill of the local suburbia of council houses and many bungalows before we meet the more engaging landscape of terraces down Lawn Avenue on our way to meet Main Street, which is located from down the narrow land behind the Lawn House residential home. Cross to meet Iron Row, a very nicely presented terrace that sits on the former driveway to Greenholme Mill, which now provide access beyond the mill gates to the local playing fields and the passageway bathed in orange light below the A65 bypass road, from which we meet the lodge house and the way to the former Worsted mills, which isn't the way we need to go as our route leads us down Great Pasture Lane to the very oddly located cluster of semis and the way into the woods at the mill's perimeter. This popular track for local joggers and dog walkers leads us to the track alongside the mill's long goit channel, and the way to the Burley steeping stones, our passage point over the Wharfe which is looking pretty busy after yesterday's rains, even though these are not stones to intimidate anyone when crossing as they sit at a nice stride length across, even for a short-arse like myself. The way then leads to Askwith, but by the bridleway this time around, elevating us away from the noise of the river, and the A65 eventually, as we trace a path away from the local cattle and among the sheep as the moorland rises boldly on the southern horizon, while offering no distant elevation at all to the north, hitting the village by the Manor House farm, and showing up the Askwith Arm as currently up for sale and offering a unique business opportunity for anyone who'd want to run a country pub and restaurant in a not too distant corner of North Yorkshire.

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.
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.