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.

Aireville Park, Skipton

The Keelham Farm Shop, Gargrave Road.

Stirton Hamlet.

Flasby Fell, above Tarn Moor.

Crookrise Crag and Wood, Barden Moor.

We pass under the Grassington (or Swinden quarry) branch line, and pace the perimeter edge of the golf course, which does not look very Sunday morning busy today, and we need to dodge cyclists and aid lost motorists on this ridiculously narrow lane as we start our passage between the Skipton Moor and Barden Moor uplands, getting a lot of rural flavour as the mile or so towards Embsay is paced, with the faces of the Haw Park quarries soon adding themselves to the landscape. The suburban end of the village looks a bit too grey and stuccoed for my tastes under these skies, with the only suggestions of vintage coming from the Brackenley Farm and House, hiding among the semis and bungalows, passing over both paths seen before in this quarter once we've met Skipton Road and the cluster of terraces around the mills, the railway station and the Cavendish Arms. East Lane starts us on another rise and you could be forgiven for thinking that Embsay doesn't seem to have an ancient village centre as we pace past closes of council houses, but it seems that this is one village where its centre of gravity shifted in the 19th century with the arrival of industry and the railways, and the older terraces and cottages are to be found around the Elm Tree inn and its little square, with the village stretching on to the east, below the looming Embsay Crag. Kirk Lane shifts us northwards, towards the fringe of Barden Moor, past the Parish church of St Mary's, shared with the coming village of Eastby, and past the Embsay Kirk house, situated on an old monastic site and barely visible from the road as we cross the green space to meet the aforementioned ribbon of Eastby, scattered along this road, suburban looking at the west end and gradually getting older as we progress to Barden Lane. Sight lines are provided for a good view up to Eastby Crag, which sits on the moorland edge above, and illustrations for the Tour de Yorkshire still remain, painted on the tarmac as the road rolls on, the long ribbon of the village continuing up to the former chapel at the east end, another place full of bucolic charm that would be good to contemplate for future countryside living, if it wasn't for the fact that it only sees buses on a Sunday. That marks the end of the road for a while as we need to hit the cross country path to get to Halton East, setting off down the rolling track of Bark Lane to get fresh views to the south, with Pendle Hill making a late reappearance on the horizon, and also back to the crags on the moorland edge, and it all seems like the sort of track where you are unlikely to encounter anyone, so it's a surprise to meet a tractor pounding its way up the lane, and that's easily avoided but the quad bike following in its wake is sufficiently well concealed to almost smear me flat, which amuses its rider no end.

Haw Park, and Skipton Moor, from Brackenley Lane.

Brackenley Farm, Embsay.

The Elm Tree square, 'Old' Embsay.

Eastby, hamlet?.

Embsay and Eastby Crags, Barden Moor.

Past the barn at Angrymire Laithe, we pass into open fields, rising to a vantage point that allows me to get a look down the the Embsay & Bolton steam railway, which has been providing sounds of activity for a while, but again gives me a view of its Sunday service, a crimson Austerity tank at the head of a trio of coaches heading eastwards, a bit of fresh colour to add to this rather grey day as we pace on to where the the track peters out, below the arrangement of features on Halton Heights. The field walk is much easier to locate on the ground than on the map, though the many stone styles are a frustration, and a bit of sunshine would really have enhanced the meadow views as we pass below Cragg House farm, with the High and Low crags beyond it, and then its on to a long field crossing through a sea of buttercups to get to Calm Slate farm, while many Lapwings dart around in the sky and demonstrate themselves as unphotographable whilst in motion. I'd had a hope that we might sneak in a lunchtime visit to Billy Bob's Ice Cream Parlour as we went past, but it seems that the owners of the Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream farm would rather have the right of way redirected well away from their property, so if they don't want the trade from passing walker, I'll happily pass beyond their establishment and make my way on to Halton East instead, with my money unspent. Meet the familiar path at Moor Lane and descend past the Mission chapel and the Hall to enter the village via Chapel Lane, and here's a place that's a whole lot more compact, with cottages clustered around the substantial White House farm, sat on its hillside with a fine view to the east, definitely far enough away from other towns to feel remote, whilst actually only stone's throw away from the A59. Move back to meet Green Lane, the noted gated road to Bolton Abbey, and after the early solitude, it seems like I'm going to have company for the next couple of miles as we re-encounter Le Petit Depart, with many cyclists making the return leg back to Skipton on the rise that I descend down past Crakelands House towards Gill Head Bridge, with the mounds of the Hare Heads hills rising to the north at the very southeastern corner of Barden Moor. It seems this cycle race is open to rides of all ages and abilities as they continue to come along in force as we rise again to the sheep fields above Hesketh House farm, from where first sight of Rombalds Moor rises to tempt a very distant finish line, and the narrow road is busier than it needs to be, though temptations for tourists are thick on the ground around here, and the farm park down the lane gives the feeling of being closer to Bolton Abbey than we are, and the whole lane turns out to be longer than you'd think, discovered while I wait and hold a gate open for cyclists on the ascending track.

Cragg House farm, and Halton Height.

Walkers are discouraged from visiting Calm Slate farm for Ice Cream!

Halton East, hamlet?

Green Lane and Gill Head Bridge.

Cyclists and Gates on the lane, Hesketh House farm.

Get a Peacock sighting at the farm park, which cheers me more than it ought, and then once past the Catgill farm campsite, we finally meet the twisting and descending lane that will take us on to Bolton Abbey, returning us to the lower levels as we drop into Wharfedale, and get Beamsley Beacon rising ahead of us to be our companion hill for the remainder of the day, before we run down into the Bolton Abbey estate, which still looks as well-manicured as ever. Meet the crowds of day trippers as we come down to the corner by the tea shops and the book store, clearly undeterred even when the gloom pervades, and there are useful facilities to use too before we take our break by the tree in the centre of the green, watching the cyclists come down from Upper Wharfedale, along with the service bus that makes this quarter accessible, not that I'll be heading in the direction of the Proiry church today, as that has been seen on literally every other trip out this end. Instead move on south, away from the still-gathering throng in the car parks, and past the Tithe Barn that is having an extensive refit to make it into a wedding and conference venue, as the Devonshires must have noticed that they had another unused asset on their estate to make use of, and thence its onwards down the tree-lined B6160, along the riverside pastures enjoyed by many sheep, with view up to the looming beacon hill as our main feature. Soon run into Bolton Bridge, home to the Devonshire Arms, Hotel and Brasserie, one of the properly old pubs of the county which just keeps on getting extensions added to it, which fills the air with the aroma of Sunday dinner as we pass, moving on to meet the Abbey Tearooms, and the must bucolic motor garage to be found anywhere. Switch onto the old Skipton and Harrogate turnpike to make our crossing of the Wharfe by the old Bolton Bridge, which still looks substantial enough to maintain a busy road, and the toll houses which flank it could be among the most desirable in the district, tucked away down their own dead end lane with Red Lion farm, and the Good Idea farm shop. Meet, pace along and cross over the A59, illustrating why it's unlikely to ever become a future route as it's 22 miles between the major towns upon it, and skirt around Beamsley Hall to meet the lane that will cut us a new route on the north bank of the Wharfe, a track that hasn't been taken before and which actually marks a outer perimeter to my walking lands, really rather close to home. It's not far along to meet Beamsley hamlet itself, with Hardy Grange farm and the former Saw Mill on the north side of its beck, and more rural scenes prominent on the southern side as we rise to a higher vantage point above the river, along with many well-placed cottages.

Arrival in Wharfedale, with Beamsley Beacon.

Bolton Abbey, with tearoom, book store and the way to the Priory church.

Beamsley Beacon recede as we approach.

Bolton Bridge.

Beamsley, hamlet?

The feeling of being on the home stretch means that the brain is already in the pub with 5+ miles still to go, as Lowfield Lane chooses its contour above the Wharfe, and views open out to place us above Low Park and the riverside path of the Dales Way, our only previous trek along this portion of the river, and a field of cattle by the lane illustrates well why I have a problem with cows as despite having a substantial wall between me and them, they seem insistent on getting up close as I make way for passing traffic, and the longer I'm around the more berserk they become. So it's good to move onto a shady stretch above the high bank of the river, noticing the many stretches of woodland up the hillside but getting so signs at all of a view up to Beamsley Beacon, which is now completely obscured from view as we descend past Lowfield farm, and finally put the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park behind us, which we have been skirting along or just inside since we met Stirton hamlet many miles ago. This is a quiet sort of lane thankfully, but the many tight corners and shady stretches means it's still pretty fraught to walk, and when traffic does pile up it can be alarming in the extreme, which is one reason that cycling doesn't appeal to me at all, not that it seems to deter the many people who do ride, as even when discounting the racers out today, I think I've seen more bike riders out than when I saw the Grand Depart in 2014. The feeling of being almost done as we catch sight of the rooftops of Addingham, across the Wharfe to the south, which means we must almost be back in West Yorkshire by now, as we can look down to the suspension bridge over the river and to West Hall farm, with Rombalds Moor providing the dramatic backdrop, and that provides us with a meeting with our only other path made on this stretch of the Wharfe, from the High Moor trails of 2013. The rising lane carries us uphill, giving us some opportunities to examine the southern side of the valley and the tracks walked over there before we run into the only other hamlet on this side of the river, namely Nesfield, which seems half-perched, or half-dropped, on its high promontory over the valley, nice if you like that sort of thing, but with far too many narrow and steep lanes to have it as straight forwardly accessible. The declining lane away from the farmsteads and cottages is largely enclosed, so views downstream vanish as we are returned towards riverside elevations, getting views up to the Austby Farms and their many herding sheep when the sight lines open out again, before dropping down again to meet the edges of Ilkley Golf course, which stretches over much of the north bank of the Wharfe and has been here for more than a century if the old OS maps are to be believed.

The Wharfe, at Low Park.

Rombalds Moor awaits as we feel like the trail is ending.

Westfield Hall farm.

Nesfield, hamlet?

Ilkley Golf Course.

This course looks a little under-populated too, as if this glum yet warm day is not good for golfing, though my good walk has certainly not been spoiled, and it spreads to both sides of the lane, and even onto its own little island in the Wharfe, which gets its own bridges to access it, when one across the main channel between Addingham and Ilkley would be handy for the casual tripper, and the day's excursion through remoter quarters ends as we pass the club house at the end of Nesfield Lane and finally enter greater Ilkley. The suburbia in these parts is super-expensive, as I may have noted before, and that at the bottom of Langbar Road is pretty old too, and we return to a human populated landscape as we meet the way to Old Bridge, as many folks are out to enjoy the parks and paths around here, and as I've been making decent time on today, I'll choose my own route to the finish line in the town to the south, eschewing the most direct routes and instead improvise a fresh route that leads away from the riverside and through the suburban semis on Denton Road, and past the parkland that advertises ILKLEY with a sign that would suit Hollywood. Cross Middleton Avenue and pass between the Cricket field and the Rugby Union club, to pass the Ilkley Lido, a rare survivor of a bygone age that might be the second most enduring outdoor swimming pool in the land, not that it provides much of a landscape feature aside from the noises of good cheer from within, and then we pass the Olicanians Cricket field, which is surely only so close to the other as flat land is at such a premium in this town. With the road returning to the riverside, we cross the Wharfe via the Denton suspension bridge, and note the vast quantity of people using both sides of the river as an impromptu beach, before we are compelled to seek the back entrance into Ilkley Cemetery that I'm absolutely certain exists. Find it and follow the avenues among the graves to pass the Mortuary chapels and then emerge onto Ashlands Road, which turns out to be the home of the Ilkley Brewery co. which is immediately of much more interest to me and then we hit the wandering path to the station down fresh lanes, from Leeds Road down the access lane behind the Dean Street terrace and up the passageway that leads into the Wheatlands cul-de-sac of suburbian semis. Thence over Little Lane and onto Mayfield Road, where an extensive development of apartments is replacing the formerly industrial site, before we meet the old mills and terraces at the end of Railway Road, where we can cross over the footbidge at the throat of Ilkey station to meet the station entrance at 3.25am, just in time to miss the Leeds service, but that's no matter as the connection at the other end is useless, and there's an edition of the X84 waiting at the bus-stand regardless.

Ilkley Golf Course Club House.

Suburbian Ilkley, Denton Road.

Denton Suspension Bridge, with beaches.

The Ilkley Brewery Co. producers of fine brews.

Ilkley Station, with current and former platforms.

5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3309.5 miles
2018 Total: 210.1 miles
Up Country Total: 2988.4 miles
Solo Total: ????.? miles

Next Up: 2018's High Season Part One will take us back into Upper Wharfedale.

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