Post 244: 29th March 2018, The Inn Way – Yorkshire Dales, Arncliffe to Buckden.
The alarm clock went off at 3.45am! My gear was already packed in the boot of the car, apart from my rucksack with food and flasks still to be done. The forecast was for good weather and I planned to resume The Inn Way again for the second time without Sid the Yorkshireman, Carol and Alf, all of whom were still unavailable.
But first my wife Celia was off on an adventure, going on a Mystery Cruise, and so I was dropping her off at Leeds Coach Station for a 6.30am depart to Dover. I would be ‘Home Alone’ over Easter.
Celia had been invited to join me on a walking holiday in the Bavarian Alps later in the year with a German walking friend but, not being a walker, preferred to cruise. I have been surprised by how many people when told she is going on a Mystery Cruise have asked me where is she sailing to?! That’s the point you don’t know. Today I have heard that she docked in Ghent but, because you don’t know which port until you dock, she lost an hours sleep as the time zone is different! We are cruising together to Greenland and Russia (Baltic) later in the year!
The ‘drop off’ in Leeds went well but I had a bit of trouble getting out of Leeds, despite the sat nav. Give me driving in the countryside every time over cities.
As I got towards Grassington the fog came down for the second time this week, but I still prefer that to driving in cities. It cleared and I parked in Arncliffe near the Falcon Inn.
At about 9.00am I left the village along a road that was closed – at least it said it was until a landrover came hurtling along and I briskly stepped out of the way. It screetched to a halt and this bubbly, cheerful, young lady jumped out and headed for the lambs and starting feeding them. She then asked me if I wanted to hold them. Having never held a lamb in my life, how could I say no? They are surprisingly light, not surprisingly – very warm and certainly not nearly as cuddly as I am! However, they are a lot cuter than me.
I explained to the lady, who was a keen walker and local to the area, I was walking The Inn Way and ‘going over the top’ twice! She said I ‘should’ be alright. Now the ‘should’, should have been a would to increase my confidence so I asked her to guess my age. She said 55. Now this is over a 16% discount on my real age and as a bus pass holder I was delighted.
I said goodbye to the welcoming lady (my friends later said asked whether she had been to Specsavers recently as they were worried about her eyesight) and headed off the road to the not too promising path. There had been heavy overnight rain and I hoped the paths weren’t flooded like this all the way.
My fears were soon allayed as the final mist lifted and wonderful green velvety grass paths welcomed me. I had entered ‘Arcadia’ (as opposed to arcades in Leeds) with wonderful soft paths, stone barns and the ancient Skoska Wood, which is the largest ash and rowan wood left in the Yorkshire Dales, now protected as a nature reserve. The valley of Littondale was carved by glaciers and the meltwater thousands of years ago with its Yoredale rocks lining both sides of the flat valley floor. It has changed little since then and it felt like I stepping back in time to a less hurried world where nature predominated. The water in the River Skirfare was crystal clear and the low sun was casting ethereal reflections of the trees onto the river.The sudden contrast from Leeds or for that matter any city was stark.
Despite the rain overnight, the river had largely dried up in parts through the permeable limestone, only to emerge further downstream where there were less permeable rocks. A very strange phenomena.
Certainly the sheep and lambs were enjoying the warming sun, peace and tranquility of the day as they sunbathed. No other walkers were about. Many birds were singing their hearts out.
Litton soon came into view and The Queens Arms. It was time for a coffee and banana break on a small bench in the sun, just beyond the pub (Arncliffe please note and get the Parish Council to cough up for one. Even 55 year olds would appreciate it, not to mention those like me with a bus pass.). Rumour has it that Arncliffe won’t provide a bench as people might sit on it! I would be happy to come to the ‘opening ceremony’ and try it out when built.
It is believed that the inn probably provided refreshments as far back as the 17th Century. It is a classic example of an old drover’s inn with flagstone floors, low beams open fires and wood burners, and is the home of Litton Ale Brewery. The inn uses local ingredients and provides homemade food and great ale. I was surprised to see penguins in the area and that was without a drink!I then began the ascent of Birks Fell to Buckden in Wharfedale. This is now a designated mountain (a hill above two thousand feet at 610 metres or 2,001 feet). On old imperial maps the highest point was shown as 2001-feet, but this was revised to 608 metres (the trig pillar is currently shown at 607 metres on maps) upon metric conversion. In 2006 the Ordnance Survey agreed with walkers that it was indeed over 2,000 feet just north-west of Birks Tarn.
In Alfred’s Wainwright’s book ‘A Pennine Journey – The Story of a Long Walk in 1938’ he says:
“There is only one way to know a hill, and that is to put your feet on it and walk. Wander about leisurely if you wish, but better still, make the summit your objective and struggle up it. Plunge into the bracken and heather, and wrestle with the thousands of tentacles that would hold you back; splash through the streams that silver the hillside; scramble up the rocks and know the thrill that enslaves the mountaineer; sweat and pant, slip and tumble, and curse if you are so minded, and rest often. But get to the top………..
Either you will never want to see a hill again, in which case you may safely assume that the rot has settled in your soul so deeply that nothing will remove it; or you will hunger for the next opportunity, do it again and again and keep young forever.”
He also mentions about running down on the descent, but this is unwise for a so called 55 year old + 16% like myself as I am likely to trip up and be stuck on the fell. Given my wife was away I could be there for a while until someone found me ‘dead or alive’. I only met one other person on the climb I was about to start.
I soon passed an unnamed farm (on the map) and clearly the sheep were desperate to join me on the mountain.
As I ascended I kept looking back to the stupendous views. Who decided the shape of each field with its drystone walls and what was the rationale behind the shapes and sizes of the fields? The ascent looked long! And looking back was long. Nearing the top a little snow was clinging on. After the gate the trig pillar came into view and the descent, sometimes slippy and boggy, began. I was surprised to see frog spawn on the path. I passed a young man who was walking the route from Starbottom in reverse to me.
After a long tiring descent I reached Bucken to find both the Buck Inn and cafe closed. I had hoped to get a Dales ice-cream having missed out on one on my previous walk. This contrasted with when I did the Dales Way in 1990 and On Foot from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall in 1997 (see earlier blogs) when the cafe and pub were thriving. However, the cafe is for sale and it is planned that the inn will re-open.
Fortunately, I was carrying my own provisions and was able to have lunch on a huge bench (Arncliffe please note).
There was a bed and breakfast for ‘Mad Hatters’.
It was time to leave The Inn Way and find a route back to the car at Arncliffe.
I then joined The Dales Way towards Starbottom and it’s velvety level grass paths were a delight to the feet and the mind, as the sun came out again in the sheltered valley.
I would strongly recommend The Dales Way for anyone wishing to walk their first long-distance walk. But do it in 6-7 days in order to savour it (see 1990 blog), not in 4 as I had been encouraged to do by my walking companion at the time.
I was somewhat surprised to see a propeller aeroplane come hurtling low down the valley. There are some delightful colourful enclosed ways on The Dales Way, which offer shelter from any breeze. Opposite the bridleway to Starbottom I took the ascending bridleway in the opposite direction, leading towards Old Cote Moor. This climb was particularly noticeable coming at the end of the day’s walk and there seemed to be many false summits where I got to what I thought was the top, only to find there was another one ahead. However, the views below of the meandering River Skirfare, slowly finding it’s route like a large snake, made the effort well worthwhile. Also, given my car was over the hill, there was no choice – I had to keep going. My bus pass was no use. Before the top and the heather line, I passed the young lad again. It was about 2pm and he said the Falcon Inn was due to close at 3pm. I hoped to make it for a cup of tea and icecream or cake as all my provisions had now gone. The descent followed with some relief. This is when most accidents happen and so it was important to keep concentrating on where I was putting my feet. It was clouding over, getting cooler and felt as though rain would arrive soon. Just before the village it was only appropriate the walk would end with lambs just as it had started. I arrived at the Falcon Inn at 2.40pm and fortunately the landlord was welcoming and provided a pot of tea and a warm delicious scone by a warming fire. A proper Dales Inn. A great end to a great and challenging walk
Miles Walked 13.2
Calories Burnt 3,200
PS: When I came out of the Inn it was raining!
On the way home I found a delightful cafe at the bottom of the main street of Pateley Bridge, which had loads of varieties of Dales home-made ice-creams, pancakes and cakes, all reasonably priced. A well earned reward.
It could become a regular stopping point. There is 50p parking for an hour just off the road a little further up on the right. I hit bad holiday and works traffic just after Knaresborough and so had a 30 minutes sleep in the car until it died down.
It had been a long day for a 55 year old!