Sunday, 13 May 2018

Steeton to Skipton 12/05/18

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

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

Silsden Bridge, and the view to Hawk Cliff Tower,

Silsden, and the tower of St James church.

The 7%(!) climb of Bolton Road, Silsden.

Silsden Reservoir, with Earl Crag beyond.

The mysterious Tower and Air Shaft, Cringles.

Cringles Lane advances us forward, offering views to Wharfedale that have Beamsley Beacon as upfront and central as it ever is, a direction that the eye easily wanders to as the landscape to the west is rather indistinct, aside from the golden crest of Skipton Moor far off on its northern edge, and this all seems pretty alien to me, despite having passed this way on the Bradford Millennium Way, which is met as we hit the rising Bank Lane and it descends the wide grassy track down to Addingham. Gain altitude as we pass over Woofa Bank, getting to 290m up and gain the reveal of the bulk of Rombalds Moor, seeming to reveal its full length, even though we can only really see the Ilkley and Addingham moors from up here, while the Airedale view simultaneously expands and recedes, attention soon focusing forwards as we drop below Jowett's Crag and Bank End farm. This might not be the most dynamic country landscape, but it certainly appears to be pretty busy agriculturally, with a trip of farms, Middlesbrough House, Haygill and Snow Hill still doing business as Haygill Nook elevates us again up to Heights Lane and the marginal moorlands of Draughton Moor and Draughton Heights, cresting at over 300m, where we meet the old Roman Road and/or turnpike that rises over Skipton Moor. The upper Wharfedale reveal comes on too, with Beamsley Beacon and Barden Fell rising quickly, with Chelker Reservoir down below, and see over the low eastern shoulder of Barden Moor to see Great Whernside, Meugher and Grassington Moor appear on the horizon before the road starts an undulating and snaking path downhill before giving us a view of the long, rough southern edge of Barden Moor and the peaks of Flasby Fell off the the northwest. This is extremely marginal land, below the high crest of the Skipton Moor upland, so it's a bit of a surprise to find a farm by the road at 280+m up, and even more so to find that it's a popular equestrian centre, ideal for those fancying a bit of rough riding I'd guess, beyond which we get views to the route for most of the remainder of the day, descending steeply and mentally rearranging my route to avoid the cows between here and Halton East. We've got the A65 to contend with before that, met near Lane End farm, and we're on familiar ground once we've crossed the main road, descnding to meet Draughton village, and noting that the evil looking sheep is still there and that the Old Post Office is now free of a scaffold cladding, dropping down the green by West View to find a bench for lunch time before passing on down Low Lane, noting another grand mix of old farmsteads and commuter suburbia around the village hall and St Augustine's church, which all feels super secluded.

The way to Woofa Bank.

The Bank Lane descent and Jowett's Crag.

The High Moor road, with Chelker reservoir and Beamsley Beacon.

Barden Moor, from Draughton Height.

The Village Hall, and St Augustine's, Draughton. 

It's an odd village, and quiet because Low Lane seems to be a back road at both ends, which invites very little passing traffic through it, which is just as well as while we descend downhill above Howgill Beck down to the cluster of cottages at Draughton Bottom, there's not much space to negotiate with any passing vehicles, and we might note the riot of Spring flowers down here too, one of the few paths on the day that offers any meaningful shelter. Industrial Archaeological interest follows as we meet the active remains of the MR Ilkley - Skipton line (1888-1965), the Embsay & Bolton Abbey steam railway, which has grown to 4 miles in length since opening in 1981, with Priors Lane bridge passing over its metals, one of only two road passages over the line, where a station to serve Draughton was never built for some unknown reason. We'll return to this railway further in the future, but for now, as we hit the valley bottom between the day's featured moors, it's time make an acquaintance with the A59, and to then avoid walking alongside it, or uphill through fields of cows, by joining the path that leads along the edge of the wooded glade above the deeply cut Lumb Gill, another of the streams in these parts that flows down to the Wharfe. This leads to New Bridge Road, and the shaded path up towards Halton East, getting good moorside views to north and south as we rise to Holme Lane, and climb on though the trees to resist the obvious temptations of the Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream farm and its parlour as we rise to the hamlet beyond, though the day has taken a turn for the gloomier that renders the need for cold snacks less appealing. Halton East is small, mostly clustered around its pair of farms to the eastern end, though we do have the ancient Halton Hall at this end, as well as the Mission Chapel on the corner of Green Lane, and you can be sure all its tourist traffic comes for the ice cream, judging by the number of cars visible at the former Calm Slate farm. From there, the uphill slam starts again, hitting the rough and broad track of Moor Lane in a direct route up the hillside, for about 60m of ascent over half a mile, getting the Barden Moor perspective rolled out from the rolling greenery to the east and around to the high crags in the west, making sure that looks back are taken to watch the evolving view back to Skipton Moor and Rombalds Moor as they reveal themselves. Meet a grassy track at the top, which shifts us on our westwards tack, right at the moorland fringe and below the precipitous looking gritstone boulders on Low Crag, looming above the path as we pass around it, looking southwest for the reveal of Pendle Hill, and its apparent twin, much further south, which I'll take a guess at being Longridge Fell, near Preston.

The Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, from Priors Lane.

Lumb Gill, and avoiding the A59

Halton Hall, Halton East.

The eastern fringe of Barden Moor, from Moor Road.

Low Crag, Barden Moor.

Barden Road has us properly on the moorland edge, crossed by the cattle grid, arriving below the rough edge of High Crag, which doesn't quite dominate the face of Halton Height as it has been extensively quarried out in the past, and a grassy track up is used here to rise us up behind Shelter Cliff plantation, cutting off the views as all the focus has to go onto gaining another 60m of alttude in pretty short order, as the going suddenly shifts to vague and spongy before reaching the high moor top at around 350m. There won't be a detour to see the trig point up here, hiding away to the east, instead focusing the attention to the walk along the wall that contains the moor, and taking in the view of the vast gritstone slab of Barden Moor, sloping down to the east, with the high 500+m summit off to the northwest, and the depression at its centre containing, and largely concealing, the pair of reservoirs within it, while the higher hills to the north and east rise above it. Beyond the tree edge, the moor gently declines, opening out the view to the day's summit at Embsay Crag, and offers a fine view southwest to the high points of Haw Park quarry and Skipton Moor, which will be in our sightlines for much of the next hour, as views across the centre of the moor diminish. Startle some of the moorland sheep who are surprised to find someone on this path, and conclude that not a lot of traffic comes up her, even professionally, as the carcass of a dead sheep by the path seems to have decayed to nothing exactly where it fell, right above the point at Eastby Gate, where views of the crag below cannot be had. A steep descent comes to pass over Heugh Gill, or Rams Gill depending on which map you are reading, finding water management structures at the bottom of the clough and a tough climb out of it before the path clearly resumes at around 320m up on the other side, and despite the clear route, the going feels tough, as I'm clearly out of practice on surfaces like these after having done much road work over the last couple of years. The way forward to Embsay Crag seems obvious, with the rising path to it summit being plainly clear from afar, but getting there is harder than it should be, as the route across Grey Field conceals many deep grooves hidden by the moorland grass, as well as concealed streams and bogginess in places, which induce path detours and one episode of hammering it through stinking mud just before we meet the well cut path up from Embsay Kirk. As we rise, attention wanders to the railway below, getting a sightline down to Hawbank Tunnel and Embsay junction, and having heard the toots of steam whistles as we've gone on these last couple of hours, this is a fine place to finally spot the train itself as it rolls into Embsay, an Austerity tank at the head of a rake of five coaches.

High Crag, from Barden Road.

The Barden Moor southern edge wall,
with Pendle Hill, Longridge Fell, and Embsay Crag.

Heugh Gill, or Rams Gill, the most testing part of the day.

Crossing Grey Fields to Embsay Crag.

Trainspotting on the E&BASR, from on high.

It's a climb of about 60m to attain the top of Embsay Crag, with that kind of rough gritstone and hard sand path that kills the boots to guide you all the way to the top, a surface that I haven't had much interaction with since it destroyed pair of Boots #3 in 2013, but its a climb that's worth it to get to the 371m vantage point at the top because any summit and view is one to be greeted with joy, and it only needs to be shared with one other guy, who appears to have carried his toddler-aged daughter up there with him. I'd hoped for sunshine on the southern panorama, but the day has definitely not turned out as well as it had for most of the last four walking trips, though my new photo-chromatic glasses have a much darker tint than my old ones did, so it's not actually as overcast as my brain tells me it is as I take in the view around from Barden Fell in the east to the fringes of the Forest of Bowland in the west. The moorland views to the north are not so grand, as Embsay Moor rises above 430m to obscure everything beyond, and having spent most of my career walking in the terrain to the southeast, I'll face the southwest and look on into Lancashire, scanning the distant horizon beyond Embsay Reservoir and Skipton to see if any of the most distant hills are Winter Hill, which they aren't. It's kinda amazing that nearly five years have passed since I was last up here, pounding out the route beyond Crookrise Crag with the FoSCL group, and that's a path up that I'll have to retrace after we've headed down from the crag, choosing the longer but somewhat less steep path that leads off to the northwest before coming around again below the crag to cross Witshaw Bank down in the direction of the reservoir, to cross over Crag Gill at the point where Moor Beck pours into the body of water below. It's a descent that sees more other walkers making the ascent than had been seen over the preceding hours, and it seems that the path around the reservoir sees many more, so folks are still apt for a bit of Springtime exercise, even though our burst of early Summer has passed, and we retrace our old path down Pasture Road to pass the Craven Sail Club, which affords me a small chuckle, beofre passing below the dam and noting that Good Intent farm still endures at its foot, surrounded by the buildings of the waterworks. The high vantage points recede as we descend with the lane, passing Crown Cottage farm, and note in passing that Crown Spindle Mill, hidden way in the valley of Embsay Beck is up for sale, and ripe for purchase if I ever wanted to start a rural commune thing, rolling down to Hill Top farm at the top of the village, where a pair of llamas (or alpacas) ruminate serenely among the other sheep in their field.

Embsay Crag looms over Embsay and Skipton.

The path walked on Barden Moor's edge.

Descending Carefully towards Embsay Reservoir.

Looking to the Crag, from the reservoir.

Hill Top Farm, Embsay, with Llama farming!

Enter Embsay as Pasture Road runs on past the Manor house, and the mill ponds created to serve the pair of mills down the side of Embsay Beck, the upper of which, Primrose Mill has gone to be replaced by the residential development of Tannery Lane, with only the mill house and chimney enduring, while Embsay Mill, endures further down West Lane, still in business though mostly concealed away behind banks of trees. It's a more interesting thing to look at than the houses down this road, council built below the old village up the hill, but there's interest at the bottom, as we meet the Midland Railway terraces, built to serve Embsay station, hidden away on the far side of Skipton Road, and to be seen on a future date, left in our wake as we pass the Cavendish Arms and note the quantity of Tour de Yorkshire dressing still adorning the houses along here since it passed through last week. It'll be a road walk all the way to Skipton from here, passing the suburban edge of the Brackenley estate and turning attention to the passage over Haw Beck and the embankment of the preserved railway line as it reaches down to Embsay junction without quite meeting it, before we pass under the former MR Grassington branch, which ought to be ripe for preservation if the Swinden quarry ever closes down. Cross Bank then has to dive to pass under the A59, before rising again to meet the still burgeoning suburban edge of the town beyond, and to approach the former quarry and farmstead at Storems Laithe, which leads us onto the A6131 and the top edge of the Skipton Castle estate, where a remnant of the Haw Park tramway is identified, which once sent stone down to the chutes above the Springs Branch. Around the Bailey wall of the castle we proceed, past the Skipton Building Society HQ before we arrive by the castle gates at the top of the town, and take my shots towards Holy Trinity parish church and the War Memorial at the north end of High Street before looking towards the Town Hall and Public library on the descending road, hopeful that I might one day arrive here when it isn't market day. So down through the empire of vans, and the throng of shoppers, really failing to get the speed up on the last stretch of the day as we pass through Skipton's commercial heart, the route from Swadford Street and over Belmont Bridge to Broughton Road already feeling like the road walked one time too many, as the station dwells at a remove and location that's just that bit too inconvenient. It's pretty startling to conclude the day at 4.25pm, as this is a trip that has surely gone on longer than it ought to have, which has me feeling that I need to get properly back in training before I start aiming at time constrained walks over the distant and elevated Wharfedale moors when the High Season comes along.

The remains of Primrose Mill, Embsay.

The Railway terrace, Skipton Road, Embsay.

The former Grassington Branch, Cross Bank.

The Haw Park tramway, behind Skipton Castle.

Skipton Castle Gatehouse.

The Empire of Vans, Skipton High Street.

5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3239.7 miles
2018 Total: 140.3 miles
Up Country Total: 2961 miles
Solo Total: ????.? miles

Next Up: Spring Jollies in the Old Country, and a tilt at the Leicestershire Round, hopefully.

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