Post 66: 6 April 1993: Day 8 – Hawes Youth Hostel to Aysgarth Falls Youth Hostel- 13 miles
With a relatively short easy days walking ahead, we had a late start at 10.00am, then went into Hawes to purchase some blister kits for Dan. However, when in the chemist, he decided that the money would be better spent on a custard tart! I realised that without a blister kit he would not finish walk and brought some extra ones, just in case.
As we climbed from Hawes towards Cam High Road, we came across a newly born lamb that was clearly suffering from effects of previous nights appalling weather. We didn’t know what to do with distressed creature, but just as we were about to leave a farmer arrived and took it into a barn. The incident reminded us that the Yorkshire Dales can be a very harsh environment.
The climb between the fells of Drumaldace at 2015 feet and Yorburgh at 1700 feet was tougher than anticipated, then, much to my surprise, Dan burst into a big grin as he decided to tuck into the custard tart he had carried for some 2 miles.
A little further on we were able to admire Semer Water in the valley below. This glacial lake, surrounded by natural unimproved grassland, is one of the largest expanses of natural water in the Yorkshire Dales. The surrounding nature reserve supports a wide range of flora and fauna and is important for its breeding and migratory populations of wild fowl. It is thought that Iron Age lake-dwellings once existed at Semer Water. The valley containing Semer Water has no satisfactory name, although Semerdale is sometimes used. Above the lake the valley is referred to as Raydale. This is real Dales country.
As we descended towards Bainbridge a brightly coloured rainbow shone before us, with the outline of Addleborough providing the backdrop. Dan was beginning to suffer with his feet, was forced to stop, change his socks, then put the blister pads on which I had purchased. It is not only the stomach that should be looked after on a long-distance walk, but also the feet.
Arriving at Bainbridge a few cottages were passed, one of which on the right had the following sign:
The Old Dame School
Mrs Eliza Blades
186? To 1875
2d per pupil per week
This seems a bit cheaper than private education in the 20th century, where fees can be up to £10,000 per annum.
The Romans came to Bainbridge in about AD80 and established a succession of forts on Brough Hill, a grassy hillock to the east of the village, occupying the site almost continuously for over 300 years. At the centre of the village green, medieval stocks are a reminder of past punishment and were still in use in Queen Elizabeth I’s time.
Although the Rose and Crown overlooking the green is dated 1445 (above the front door), its present appearance suggests an early 19th-century building. Low Mill on the east side of the green has been restored, together with its fine waterwheels; it exhibits dolls’ houses, which can also be made to order. The River Bain, on which the mill is sited, drains from Semer Water into a steep two-mile course, entering Bainbridge over a fine cascade of waterfalls above the main road. It then flows down the eastern edge of the village into the River Ure, being regarded as England’s shortest named river.
The next village on our route was Askrigg. Most houses in Askrigg date from the 18th and 19th centuries, the period of the village’s increasing prosperity through its clock-making, lead mining and textile industries. The Richmond – Lancaster Turnpike, which came through the village in 1751, was also a major influence.
The main street widens near the 15th-century parish church and has as a focal-point an iron bullring in the cobbles. The church is the largest and the most imposing in Wensleydale and the nave roof is one of the finest, if not the finest in North Yorkshire. Opposite is Cringley House, the ‘Skeldale House’ of the BBC television series ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’ This was the surgery-home of Siegfried Farnon, his brother Tristan, and James and Helen Herriot. Through his books and later the films and television series, James Herriot became the world’s most famous vet; he died in 1995 leaving an estate of five million pounds, a staggering sum for any author.
We finally arrived at Aysgarth Falls Youth Hostel in pleasant sunshine, which we took advantage of to view the spectacular Aysgarth Falls, best seen towards the end of the day when all the tourists have gone, or during the long summer evenings. The River Ure, confined between wooded banks, falls over a series of broad, shallow terraces extending over a mile. The falls were at their most impressive, bursting with energy and vitality after the exceptionally heavy overnight rain.
Returning over Aysgarth Bridge to the south bank we passed Yore Mill on the left. The mill was built in 1784-85 as a corn mill but has a chequered history including being burned down in 1853. Rebuilt to twice the original size it subsequently had a variety of uses; between 1912 and 1959 it was a flour mill. Since 1967 its roomy interior has housed the Yorkshire Carriage Museum, which has a fascinating variety of old coaches and carriages, as well as an unequalled view of High Force.
Further up the hill, again on the left, is St Andrew’s Church. Although it was largely rebuilt in 1866, its 4½-acre churchyard indicates its earlier importance as the mother-church for the whole of Upper Wensleydale. Inside the church the exquisite wooden screen filling the south side of the chancel was brought to Aysgarth from Jervaulx Abbey at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was carved in about 1506, by members of the famous Ripon School of Carvers. At its western end is the delicately carved Vicar’s Stall made from two bench-ends from Jervaulx.
Alf took his leave as he had to return to work. Dan and myself were looking forward to a quiet evening in the inn across the road, but were surprised to find it packed with players competing in a big darts competition. We eventually managed to get a seat to rest our weary legs and a drink to quench our thirst.