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.
|Broughton Road, and All passages through Skipton are familiar by now.|
|Leafiness and Suburbia on Grassington Road.|
|The Craven Heifer and the Barden Moor fringe.|
|Grassington Road and None Go Bye farm.|
The day can't seem to decide if it wants to be sunny or not as we press north against the streams of traffic, looking back to watch Skipton Moor receding on the horizon, and noting that any site of Flasby Fell has also receded as we push on between it and Barden Moor as the road draws close to the accompanying beck as we pass Hollin Wood, and also meet the other major landscape feature up here, the former Grassington branch line that really ought to have seen more than just quarry traffic on its rails over the last 50 years. Cross over it as we also gain sight of the western edge of Barden Moor too, with both Rylstone Cross and Norton Tower appearing on the flank to our right, while Rough Haw also reappears to give us a bit of a feature to the west beyond Bents Wood, soon looming as a dominant feature as the road presses us on towards Scale House, the largest house on this stretch of the lane, its towers and Italianate stylings largely concealed by its surrounding woodland. Associated cottages and farmstead makes it something of a settlement in this sparsely populated landscape, which is dynamically revealed as we re-emerge into the open and look over the railway line to see the rises of Malhamdale over to the west as the rolls of Flasby Fell diminish, initially revealing the dark moors around Weets Top, before the Limestone massif of Kirkby Fell and Rye Loaf hill are added to the horizon. It's a view that would look particularly grand if preserved steam trains could run on the railway below the road as it rises to a rather exposed section, with only Turn Croft plantation offering any shelter, and I believe that it was around here that we suffered the infamous encounter with the minibus and the snow drift when I was beating a retreat from the wintery weather-bound Dales Way in 2013. The looming western edge of Barden Moor, and the opening out of the views as far as the Forest of Bowland makes this the most dramatic section of the lane between Airedale and Wharfedale, offering a reveal of Cracoe Obelisk on the horizon among the many other undulations, as we run close to the path that we burned over the moor at the end of Spring, which sits just off to the east as we gain views over towards Hetton village and the road signs announce our arrival in Rylstone. For a village that many know of, it's really very tiny, not even offering a footway or a pub by the main road as we pass the farmsteads that sit around the duckpond, making it feel like a satellite to its neighbour to the west, where the much larger population lives, despite having the parish church up here, and it's time for lunch already as we pass, and we'll have to sit on the grass in the layby as there isn't even a bench to be found here.
|The Swinden Quarry / former MR Grassington Branch.|
|Rough Haw, Flasby Fell.|
|The dramatic view of Malhamdale.|
|The Western edge of Barden Moor.|
Resume and rejoin the lane as it rises up past the Parish church and the vicarage, meeting a parade of kit cars as we go, meeting what feels like the summit of the road, where we can look back over Rylstone and Hetton to get the sole view of Pendle Hill that we will be seeing off to the south, always a grand appearance on the horizon, but attention needs to focus forwards from here as we make our route into Wharfedale, passing the cyclists café in the layby on the way to Cracoe. Away from the now familiar rising moorland edge, we roll down past the former village school to the corner of Hetton Road, by the rather ornate and reflective old road sign, meeting the footway seen in June which leads us up among the farmsteads at the village's south end, and it looks like some harmonious development has been added down here, and the main stretch seems to be ideal for snaring the passing travellers as it offers both Cracoe's café and the Devonshire Arms. A spot to desire a home of a variety of potential vintages, if you are feeling so inclined and happy to only have one potential bus service, and this pleasing little dormitory is left behind as we move into the terrain that hints of a transition into Limestone country, with distinct turf clad wrinkles and bulges spreading away from the moorside edge, and as we turn with the road towards Swinden quarry, we get first sight of our goals in distant Wharfedale as Great Whernside peeks over the hills to the north. The tree lined road leads us down to the quarry's perimeter fence, revealing the view over to Grassington moor as we go, and we meet the railhead yard as the road skirts the site, hiding most of its yard behind a wall of trees, but revealing a loading chute that seems a bit small for the industrial quantities of stone that are shipped out, soon put in the shade once the full scale machinery appears, as high as the elevated rock walls of the site. It's a long walk around, which shouldn't come as a surprise as I've already passed around the other side this year, and at the northern end, we meet the limit of the former railway, with the quarry's shunters stabled by the long rakes of wagons, and the former branch to Grassington clearly continues on over the fields towards the Wharfe and as Tarmac's site passes behind us we espy Catch-all Farm, on the corner of the road down to Linton and looking like another dream fixer-upper for my list that's really getting a bit too long now. It's also here that we get our first good indication of the distance left to travel, as an ancient road marker suggests it's going to be 8 more miles to the finish line in Kettlewell, with the road finally moving away from the vicinity of Barden Moor and into the wrinkles of the moors that fringe Malhamdale, running us on to the passage of the second Eller Beck of the day, flowing north to the Wharfe.
|Pendle Hill from the Aire-Wharfe divide.|
|The Devonshire Arms, and Cracoe's Café, Cracoe.|
|Swinden Quarry, and distant Grassington Moor.|
|The Swinden Quarry railhead.|
|Approaching Eller Beck and Moor Road.|
Crossing Moor Road, our second passage over the first long trip of the High Season presents us with a lot of fresh miles ahead for the remainder of the day, which odd seeing as I feel like I know Upper Wharfedale pretty well from my excursions in 2013, and we'll start with the problem of the traffic levels not diminishing as the Tarns Lane gets narrow and shady, and I'd figured that the main body of the heavy traffic was quarry related but when seen up close it's pretty clear that it's mostly dairy goods on the move. Over another crest and we finally get sight across the valley towards Grassington itself, only a couple of miles distant from our path, though we won't be getting any closer than this as we strike north with the river valley, and we follow the lane as it twists steeply downhill to make a passage over Threshfield Beck and arrive in the village that shares its name, rising among its stone cottages to find a spot for my second lunch break, conveniently located on the village green. This is a very pleasant spot to linger, opposite the Old Hall Inn and looking like a pleasant little idyll despite being located where the two major roads in the district cross, not sure if it's an historical quarrying or lead mining settlement, but it's still significant enough to have gained a close of social housing by the main road junction. Switch roads here, off the B6265 and on to the B6160 for the remainder of the day, passing the petrol station and the suburban houses at the bottom end of Skirethorns, and setting off up the valley between wide fields above the riverside and below the rising edge of the limestone moors, contained by walls that keep the road narrow and the senses alert to traffic risks, it also ensures you can be a target for a couple of young and rather lost motorists who are trying to find the best route back to Harrogate. Grass Wood will be our accompanying feature for the next few miles, looming large and high on the eastern bank of the Wharfe, as our road walk takes us into the trees that surround Netherside Hall school, which seems to be a religious retreat these days (another one!), and the Long Ashes park and leisure centre complex that hides in the woods to the west, which probably counts as one of the major attractions out here, where signs of habitation seem to become suddenly very sparse. First sight of the river is gained here, as the broad channel of the Wharfe runs southwards between the wooded flanks on its elevated sides, and the western bank offers all sorts of high and interesting looking terrain to tempt the mind, but it's all pretty much inaccessible as no paths of note rise into it, though as we reach top of Kirk Bank we can finally get a proper look up the valley to our targets for the weekend, with Buckden Pike and Great Whernside both sitting high above the passage of the river.
|Grassington hiding in the Landscape.|
|Threshfield Village Green.|
|Netherside Hall school (former?).|
|The Upper stretch of Wharfedale, with Buckden Pike and Great Whernside.|
The upland of Buckden Pike describes the better shape, despite being slightly lower than its neighbour, which is long and narrow, and I'm not entirely certain that you can see the summit of Great Whernside from here, but watching them evolve in the landscape will keep us amused for much of the last couple of hours of walking as we descend to the low plain at the sides of the river, the levellest stretch of the day that has mostly undulated between 170 and 200m elevation. Grass Wood retreats behind us and Kilnsey wood looms large on the side of Haw Hill as we press on, taking care with the traffic as we settle into our level passage, moving forwards to Chapel House and its farm, the only building of note in these miles south of Kilnsey village, while the eye is drawn up to the east to the rocky edges of the high bank to the terrain that the Dales Way passed over, meaning the perspective we're getting on this portion of the valley is completely new. The rocky edge of Kilnsey Moor soon arrives on the northern horizon, high and accessible only to those who feel bold enough to walk without paths, while a look eastwards reveals the deep cleft of Conistone Dib coming down through the limestone, and forming one of the most impressive post-glacial channels in these parts (which the district isn't short of if we're being honest), and we also sight Kilnsey Crag ahead, the famous climbing feature that almost hangs above the road to the north. It'll be a stretch before we get there though, as the road rolls around towards the junction over to Conistone Bridge, with the Dib still drawing the attention and the waters of White Beck, running off the limestone moors to the west, looking crystal clear and very drinkable as they flow down into the Wharfe. Meet the bottom of Kilnsey village by the village hall, and pass the fishing lakes of the Kilnsey Park Estate as we note that most of the flat fields at the riverside are being laid out for the village show next week, which seems to be as much of an agricultural spectacle as a social one, and the residential village seems mostly hidden from the roadside, mostly hidden behind the Tennants Arms pub, which is apparently a watering centre for bikers. The crag looms beyond, rising sheer upwards for an impressive height and quite a long face too between Scar Laithe barn and the North Cote farms, obviously popular with climbers, even if it's overhang means that getting to its top must be almost impossible, and it lacks a good viewing point for the passer-by, so loitering by the road here isn't an option, so paces need to be pressed down further as we continue up the valley past the party barns at Wharfedale Lodge and Skirfare Barn, before we meet the terrifying blind corner as the road divides at the junction with the lane coming down from Littondale.
|Chapel House farm.|
|The Kilnesy Show settling in, in Upper Wharfedale.|
|Kilnsey Village, with the Tennants Arms, and Crag.|
|Kilnsey Crag dominating.|
The valley of the Skirfare, coming down from the north-west looks most appealing in the sunshine, but will have to wait for another day as we continue to push up Wharfedale, but we will pause at Skirfare Bridge for our final lunch break, to admire the view of the long 600+m high finger of Firth Fell, north and the rough edges of Hawkswick Clowder to the west, as the clear waters of the river run down through the three-arched bridge, before we more on as the road starts its most undulating passage. We rise from Wind Bank barn in the shadow of impressively high walls to pass around High Wind Bank at the sharp southern end of the valley confluence, where we can look back to the eastern bank to spot the high crag at Conistone Pie, as well as all the way back to Barden Moor, before we pass on into the upper valley that sits between the crags that sit at 350m up, gouged out at the end of the last Ice Age, and fringed with many conifers. The road gets bizarrely wet and testing for the traffic at one point as a blocked up culvert means that water running down from the high hillside empties out onto the Tarmac, meaning cars are at risk of aquaplaning and me taking an impromptu dousing as we push on, as we press on along this residence free stretch of road, as it looks like all the habitation preferred the shallower, sunnier side of the river to the east. Spy Scargill House and its Christain conference centre (of which I've said enough by now) and start feeling like the end of the line must be close as the road runs up to its highest elevation above the river, at over 230m up, as the village appears below and the higher limestone crags at 500m up finally appear above, eventually revealing the 700m summit of Great Whernside before we start to run down towards Kettlewell. The last mile or so feel like it's given me some useful insight into the high lands that will be useful for the coming weekend, but as we descend to New Bridge it looks like Upper Wharfedale suffers from the Calderdale problem of the sun setting in mid afternoon as it drops below the hillsides long before it gets actually dark, so we've really travelled as far as we can as glow coats the village as we pass across the river and into the village beyond. I don't head for the Racehorses Hotel or the Blue Bell Inn, as my booking is at Belk's B'n'B, hidden away up Middle Lane and found across the footbridge over Kettlewell Beck, and I'm not at all encouraged to arrive and find that Zarina's Tearoom, the associated business, looks all shut up, but our host is in to greet me and show me to my inexpensive single room, the journey wrapping at 4.40pm, with me in need of a shower and a brew after lugging two bags for 15 miles, and looking forward to the serious business of big hills as my August Bank holiday break away continues.
|The River Skirfare and Littondale.|
The long stretch towards Kettlewell.
|Looking back towards Conistone Pie.|
|Kettlewell Village, and Great Whenside.|
|Phase One completed! at Zarina's Tearoom & Belk's B'n'B, Kettlewell.|
Up Country Total: 3135.9 miles
Solo Total: ????.? miles
Next Up: A Pair of 700+m Summits await, as does British Summer's Weather.