A quiet walk in the Lake District in summer? Absolutely.

There is nothing better than a few nights in a tent to improve inner calm. So I was grateful to be able to escape to the Lake District for a couple of days this week, and made sure it was in a quiet valley so I could properly relax. I love the Lakes at any time of year, but summer fills the hills and makes it difficult to spend the day alone. So when I turned up at the Three Shires Stones on the Wrynose Pass at lunch time and had to abandon my car not quite off the road, I did think I’d struggle to find peace and quiet whilst out walking.

I headed up to Red Tarn but away from the crowds on the main track and headed for a circuit of Little Stand and Cold Pike. Being just away from the main path up towards the Crinkle Crags and away from the main circuit of the Langdale Valley (the popular route for walkers on these fells) Little Stand and Cold Pike have the joy of being both quiet and also being pathless fells, which allow you to fell like your truly away from it all.

5 Red Tarn

 

From Red Tarn the fell of Cold Pike rises up, but is dwarfed by the adjacent Langdale Valley fells and so is often quiet.

19 Little Stand

By continuing up the track towards the Crinkle Crags but then heading south you reach Little Stand, from where you can see back down into the Wrynose and Hardknott valleys and out towards the Irish Sea.  And best of all you get to enjoy it in peace and quiet. Little Stand may only be 740m high, but it is worth it for the view. From here I then doubled back and dropped down to Gaitscale Gill to ascent Cold Pike. For the peak bagger in me this is a great walk for little effort as Cold Pike has 3 tops to bag. Frankly, it feels like cheating as they are only rocky outcrops from the main fell.

24 Cold Pike main top
Cold Pike’s main top

The circuit back to Red Tarn only took me 2 hours in total, including a lunch stop. Since Wrynose Pass starts you at 393m this certainly felt like cheating as I hadn’t broke a sweat, so I headed up Pike of Blisco too since it was right there (that’s whey we climb mountains right? Because they are there.) Last time I was up Blisco there was thick fog and it felt much more like a slog from the Langdale Valley, but in good visibility this time it was much more enjoyable.

29 Langdale
View of the Langdale Fells from Blisco summit

I could see rain approaching once I got to the summit so I headed promptly off the top, heading south via long scar crag directly back to the car on the Wrynose Pass. An easy dash down across grass and rock, and definitely shorter than the path back. And I just made it before the rain.

If you don’t fancy the walk the Wrynose Pass is a great area of the Lakes to visit as its an amazing drive (though extremely narrow and steep!) and the views down the valley are breathtaking. At the head of the pass is the Three Shire Stones, the old boundary marker of the three former counties of Cumbria – Westmoreland, Cumberland and Lancashire. If you do just drive through keep your eye out for the marker.

The interesting route up the Howgill Fells

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It might be the quieter side of Cumbria but the Howgill Fells get just as many people walking them so its always good to find a path that is a bit quieter.

Despite Cautley Spout being a great waterfall and worth the short walk in, the path at the side looks steeper than it is to the inexperienced walker, or in this case scienceboy who was dragged with me for the days walk. “Are we nearly there yet?” was the constant chatter to the top, I forgive him – its been a while since he’s joined me and I’ve certainly been on some long walks recently.

Cautley Spout

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Its a shame that the path across the summit is a metre wide stone one, looking like a road from a distance.

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We descended directly back to the car at Cross Keys from the final top of Calders, following the fence line and the continuing on to pick up Pickering Gill and following it down to the footbridge and back to the road.

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20 miles, 3 waterfalls and one epic river walk – Pennine Way day 9

“A wonderful place to be a walker”

I was grateful for cloud when I rose this morning, although its still quite warm and humid. I trudge on, nursing two huge blisters from racing yesterday section in the blazing hot sunshine in inadequately thin socks, I’m indifferent to the prospect of walking over the moors in the mist. Anything is better than the baking sunshine of yesterday. However, it would be nice to have a view of High Cup Nick when I get there.

Day 9 – Middleton in Teesdale to Dufton – 20.6 miles/ 32.8km

The walk along the River Tees is beautiful, through fields of wildflower meadows and through Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, the largest in England.

The walk today is long and most people break this leg in two, but its worth doing as one to see the changes in the landscape from the wildflower meadows, to well managed farmland in the National Nature Reserve, to a river walk up the valley which reminds me of the long walk ins to munros in Scotland, to finally reach an 8 mile walk over the moors to reach the geological feature of High Cup Nick. I don’t recall any leg so far on the Pennine Way having such changes in the landscape type.

Its worth a walk to Low and High Force waterfalls in their own right and I’d certainly explore this valley again.

low force

As you approach Holwick Head Farm the valley opens up to reveal the walk ahead, heading up the valley and around Cronkley Scar. In the humidity this felt like a long trek to reach Cauldron’s Snout waterfall, lots of midges and horseflies. And I was desperate to reach the waterfall as a spot for lunch.

41 river tees

more river

There is a steep scramble up Cauldrons Snout which I can’t imagine doing with a trekking pack but then maybe I’m just knackered after being loaded with sugary sweets and walking 11 miles. I’m grateful of the weir at the top to sit and have lunch.

57 Cauldrons Snout

From Cow Green Reservoir dam the route heads West passing Birkdale Farm and a sign letting you know that Dufton is 8 miles away. Walking across the moorland  the route reaches Maize Beck, which you then follow, crossing a large bridge built by the Pennine Way Association as a memorial to their former chair.

68 bridge over river

Finally, after more moorland in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) you reach High Cup Nick, a great climax to the day’s walk. The Pennine Way heads around the northern rim of the steep valley side and provides a great way to view the amazing geology of this area.

75 high cup nick

77 high cup nick

Dufton lies around the bottom of the valley to the right of the valley. After 20 miles in just short of 9 hours, I’m dying for a cold bucket for my feet and a cold beer!

Pennine Way day 8 – Tan Hill to Middleton in Teesdale

I read somewhere once that in the UK you are never more than 7 miles from a road. Walking across Bowes Moor from the Tan Hill Inn it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere.

6 bowes moor

Day 8 – Tan Hill to Middleton in Teesdale – 16.1 miles/ 25.8 km

After leaving what must be the most deluxe wild camp I’ve ever had (I must save up for a motorhome!) and heading out across the moorland there is not a soul in sight after only 40 minutes of walking. It doesn’t take long before you feel like you’ve left civilisation completely. Its 9am, as I reach the middle of the moor, already over 20 degrees C and I’m starting to feel like I’m walking in the desert.

Walking across the bogs, even in the dry conditions, reminds me of the Bog of Eternal stench from Labyrinth as it squelches underfoot. I can only imagine how mucky and tiresome this would be in wet conditions. The path would also be much more difficult to navigate as there is only wooden stakes to mark the way.

The route is downhill, technically according to the map. But instead it is about 4 miles of desolately flat moorland. I reach a boardwalk and a sign saying the path has been diverted to the other side of the river. Sorry Durham Council, the path is clearer on the left so I’m sticking with that. The trudge in the heat is enough, I don’t need to be wading through heather too. Today is about putting one foot in front of the other and avoiding sunburn and looking forward to a cold shower at the end. So I take the well worn footpath to the left of the river.

Somewhere in the middle there is a large cairn. 

11 cairn

13 bridge over river

Its a relief to see Sleightholme Farm if only for the promise of shade.

17 sleightholme farm

As I cross Sleightholme moor I eventually reach the point where the Pennine Way splits in two and heads straight across the moor, or on the Bowes Loop.

24 path junction

When walking this route its clear that the Pennine Way wasn’t really designed as a simple south to north route, as it winds east and west for most of its way. I am more of a straight line/ quickest way possible type of person, so the thought of adding to the day just to visit Bowes seemed unnecessary. I can see the benefit had i been walking from Keld instead of the Tan Hill as Bowes would provide a useful stop over that a direct walk to the A66 just won’t provide.

As I trudge over yet more moorland, I reach the conclusion that Bowes would have been nice to visit just to have something to look at. Trudging over the moors for the best part of 4 hours without a view of anything is a bit soul destroying, especially in the heat (did I say I was melting in the sun yet?).

28 A66 path

Cross the A66 under the subway. I like this addition to the sign as you pass under the road:

29 sign

“Congratulations on completing half of the Pennine way, good luck with the rest. Suckers”. I’m not sure if the A66 is the half way point as the Tan Hill also claims to hold this honour, but it make me laugh nonetheless.

33 moorland

More moorland as you walk away from the A66 to Balderhead reservoir, it certainly makes the sight of a water feature a joyous one. So much so I had to dip my toes in!

46 bridge

Once refuelled with lunch and cool feet I could finally appreciate the wildflower meadows that follow as I headed on to Grassholme.

40 down to Blackton Res

53 bridge over grassholme res

And then I reached Middleton in Teesdale after 7 hours and 10 minutes, where there is Conduit cafe, a lovely spot for a cold drink!

69 middleton in Teesdale

Picking up where i left off on the Pennine Way- Day 7

Its been 7 years since I started walking the Pennine Way. I always intended to walk it in sections but long distance walking has taken a side step for climbing ever upwards to reach summits and the sky and so for a few years I haven’t walked any of the route.  But I decided it was about time I got around to finishing it, and so dedicated a few days to making a dent in the remaining miles.

26 sign

I’d so far managed to walk to Hawes in 6 days (not 1 day per year though as I had a 3 year break somewhere in the middle). My first problem is getting to Hawes from where I live on public transport and having made the same mistake twice in not looking at bus timetables before heading out, and then finding myself stranded at the end of the walk (once being able to hitch a lift to Skipton and once having to walk on to the Ribblehead viaduct for a train) I wasn’t going to make that mistake a third time.

Never one to turn an offer down, I made the most of the offer of a lift and so found myself with a sherpa service on the three days of walking from Hawes to Dufton, no carrying a tent for me! Which was just as well as it turned out to be the hottest days of the year so far, not ideal!

Day 7 – Hawes to Tan Hill Inn – 15.6 miles/ 25.3km

On paper this sounded like a good idea; just over 15 miles is not really that far. And in fact the route was not only easy navigationally but also good walking on tracks and paths and with a pit stop en route.

If not for the relentless heat and burning sun I might have been able to really enjoy this.

Start of the walk at Hawes
Path across Great Shunner Fell

The path up Great Shunner Fell is a good start to the day, not steep and a nice ascent to a really good cairn which is a great place for a break. Its a popular summit which if I’m honest I couldn’t understand as it is a long moorland hill to ascend and from the summit cairn the view isn’t of the surrounding villages and valleys, but the expanse of the hill itself.

Despite the dry weather I did find myself hopping stones to avoid disappearing in the peat up to my knees, so watch your footing in wetter weather.

Thwaite a good pitstop
Thwaite a good pitstop

After burning in the sun heading over Great Shunner Fell it was great to be able to pop in the pub and get a cold drink in Thwaite, a pretty village. I’d already managed to drink my water supply so was also grateful to be able to refill, and with COLD water as I’d been drinking luke warm water for a few hours!

From Thwaite it did seem punishing to be heading uphill to walk around to Keld. The route is however is fantastic and has some great views down the valley to Muker and beyond. As the path circles the hill looking down on the river below, it reminded me of walking in the Alps. It would make a great circular walk from Thwaite to Keld in its own right.

Its also worth it for the waterfall at Keld; if I was stopping here I would have dipped my toes in the river to cool, but I had to head onwards and upwards.

Catrake Force

I wasn’t looking forward to an uphill slog at the end of the day in the scorching heat, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the walk wasn’t that bad after all and gives the first taste of the isolating moorland to come.

The steady climb to the Tan Hill, a couple of miles to go.
the first glimpse of the Tan Hill

So in the end I reached the Tan Hill pub, the highest pub in England, after 7 hours and 10 minutes. Phew! Time for a pint I think!

A quick route up Seat Sandal

Mist and drizzle was the order of the day, but at least on Sunday it didn’t sap the desire to head for a proper walk. Seat Sandal is quite close to the road, making it easy to do in a few hours as a quick walk before heading home.

5 seat sandal

The route up the Little Tongue Gill path and as you can see the mist was circling.

7 seat sandal

Further up you can just about see that the path runs up and over the top of the crag to the right. The mist had settled and the wind had picked up.

9 col

Once at the col at Grisdale Hause you cross the wall and head up to the left up a scree bank. This photo is looking back to the wall and the small shelter. From here on a clear day there would be a good view of Grisedale Tarn (to the left of this shot).

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There is a cairn around here somewhere!

12 grasmere

I continued straight over the top to descend the southwest ridge of the mountain, to head straight back to the path near the farm. Half way down I finally got a good view of Grasmere.

A good walk even if, as usual, there was no view from the top. The walk took two hours as a round.

Pennine Way Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes 2011 Day 6

I’m not much of a cyclist but if someone put a gun to my head and made me walk this section of the Pennine Way again, I would attempt it on my bike. Its simply just not a very interesting walk I’m afraid to say, and I’m not usually that disparaging of an opportunity to get out. It was a hot day as I recall but the route undulates, has no significant peaks and is therefore a long dull slog. Only the promise of cheese in Hawes at the Creamery was a motivation!

Day 6 Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes – 13.5 miles/ 21.6km

Setting off from Horton in Ribblesdale the route heads along a track circling a large woodland. These pictures are looking back along the route to Pen-y Ghent, Horton and nearby Ingleborough.

1Penyghent 2looking back to Horton 5 ingleborough 7 cave

From here the route climbs up to the single track road and Dodd Fell Hill. Having felt a bit like I was just trudging, I took a detour at this point to bag the trig point, since it is technically a mountain top by its height, and thus on the Nuttall list of hill tops. Frankly it was a bit of a non event but a highlight in a day lacking in one.

15Dodd Fell Hill 14 snaizholme

From here the route starts to drop, still on a track down to Hawes village, which represents the centre of the Yorkshire Dales for public transport links, pubs, shops and of course the Creamery, the home of Wensleydale cheese.

17 View to hawes 20 sheep 22 hawes 26 lichen

Of course no day on the Pennine Way would be complete for me without a lack of consideration of how to get back. Having left my car in Horton in Ribblesdale I made a wild assumption I could get a bus or at the very least an overpriced taxi back from Hawes. But this was before Easter weekend and so out of season, and not even an overpriced taxi was to answer my call.

So I was grateful to find my parents were having a day out in nearby Skipton and so could ferry me back to Horton to get my car. It took me until 2013 before I got around to doing any more of the Pennine Way, partly due to life getting in the way but also due to a need to properly consider how I was going to get from the finish back to the start as the route now enters more remote areas.

Pennine Way Hebden Bridge to Horton in Ribblesdale Days 3-5

Ok, this should be three posts as these were not only done on different days but in different years! But something has gone awry with my photos and I can’t find those of Hebden Bridge to Ponden Reservoir completed in 2006 and Ponden Reservoir to Gargrave completed in 2009 a bit annoying since the late great Dougal, my best friend, joined me on the first of these legs.

Day 3 Hebden Bridge to Ponden 11 miles/ 17.7km

Good job I’m a bit lame and make notes of routes so there’s a description at least. I started the route from the A646 as Dougal and I had managed to get a lift, saving us the walk from Hebden Bridge train station. Which is good, as the route rises quickly out the valley through farm fields and then drops down and back up into Colden, above Hebden Bridge centre. As you cross the moorland and head towards Gorple Reservoir its worth considering having lunch a bit early as if its the right time of year and the Pack Horse pub is open you will fill your boots for a reasonable price. I admit its quite early into the walk for such large portions though! Nevertheless Mum, Dougal and I did manage it.

The walk on to Withins Heights is more grass and less heathery making the walk seem less bleak. Top Withins is a popular walk from Haworth’s Bronte museum, due to its link to the Bronte sisters, so whatever the weather you will not be alone up here.

From here you walk down to Ponden Reservoir.

Day 4 – Ponden Reservoir to Gargrave 14.4 miles/ 23 km

This section of the route I completed without Dougal in 2010 and despite the route being without much hardship, the day was certainly eventful.

I start out leaving my car at Keighley train station and getting a taxi up to Ponden, knowing full well I could get a train from Gargrave back to Keighley. Best laid plans and all that!

So being dropped at Ponden by the taxi I set off on my march over to Gargrave for the train. To be honest I’m mostly gutted I’m missing photos of this section as it wasn’t a particularly interesting bit,covering the space between the South Pennines and the start of the Yorkshire Dales. I’m not doing the area down, its certainly nice, but from the wildness of the moorland and before the prettiness of the Dales it feels like your just covering ground. To be honest its not the last time I felt like this on the Way.

So I set off on the Sunday with the intention of getting to Gargrave for the 3.45pm train, and frustratingly it wasn’t speed or determination that let me down that day but unclear footpaths between East Marton and Gargrave. I’m sure this has been improved by now, but I’m not in a rush to go and check! The villages the route passes through are very pretty but much of the walking is across farm fields.

As I crossed through the last of these looking down on Gargrave I could see my train leaving the station. I’ve never felt so disappointed! Especially when I got there and realised the next one wasn’t until 6pm! So I’m forever grateful to the couple who dropped me in Skipton that day, so I could get the train home.

Day 5 – Gargrave to Malham 18.6 miles / 29.8km

It was 2010 before I made it back to do another leg of the Pennine Way and after the escapade of transport back I managed to do this section with a lift at either end. Starting at Gargrave the route heads towards the pretty village of Airton through farm fields and by the river.

3Sheep 4Airton

The route continues to follow the river in to Malham village centre. 7Malham 6Malham

Malham Cove is a very popular spot in the spring and summer months and so the car park and campsite can often be very busy. I did this leg in March and despite it being cold with snow still on high ground it was hardly a quiet day.

9Malhamcove 11Limestone pavement 14 Limestone Pavement

Malham Cove is an impressive wall of limestone. Formerly a waterfall which flowed as the glacier above melted during the last ice age, the glacial lake of Malham tarn still exists but now the river flows underground towards Malham. The Cove is now a popular spot for climbers, but if you like to keep your feet on the ground the Pennine way follows the 400 or so steps on the left of the cove onto the limestone pavement top.

From here the Way heads on towards Malham Tarn and circles behind it.

18 Malham Tarn

From there the route continues northwards over the moorland to ascend Fountains Fell. Whilst you definitely gain height it is a bit of a nondescript hill top so it is great to descend, through snow in my case, towards Horton in Ribblesdale and Pen-y-Ghent.

21 towards Fountains Fell 24 Fountains Fell 27 Fountains Fell 28 Fountains Fell 31 Fountains Fell 33 Pen-y-ghent 35 Horton in Ribblesdale

Horton in Ribblesdale marks the last place where the Pennine way is accessible easily by public transport as this is the last time you will be close enough to a train line until you get to Dufton, near Cumbria.

Pennine Way – Standedge to Hebden Bridge Day 2

I might have done this whole route nearly 7 years ago, but living in Marsden I regularly walk along bits of this route near my home. Something in the landscape never change! Looking back through these pictures has a tinge of sadness though, as my companion Dougal is no longer with me and he loved to roam the moors of the South Pennines.

Day 2 -Standedge to Hebden Bridge – 15.25 miles / 24.4km

We set off from Standedge in typical West Yorkshire mist and low cloud. This section of the Pennine Way is a nice one in good weather as you walk along the watershed of the South Pennines, first looking out over Delph and then crossing Buckstones Road you eventually reach Windy Hill radio mast and the bridge over the M62. Ok, not exactly the most picturesque bit of the route, but walking over what is the highest motorway in England its certainly interesting. (As a regular commuter on the M62 I can say it is never normally this quiet!)

1 across delph 4 mast5 path over M62

From here there is yet more moorland to get to Blackstone Edge. On this day you couldn’t see down into Littleborough and Hollingworth Lake; Dougal could barely keep his ears on his head!

As you cross Blackstone Edge you also cross the old Roman Road and pass the Higgin Stone before you reach the A58 at the White House pub.

7 blackstone edge  11 roman road

9 higgin stone

I’ve recently walked this next section a couple of times to see the new Simon Armitage poem ‘Rain’ which has been carved into the rock. Back when I walked this route though, the poem hadn’t even been thought of as a concept. Eventually you come to Warland Reservoir after which the route heads Easterly towards Stoodley Pike and views over Todmorden.

15 path to  road 17 reservoir 19reservoir23 todmorden 25 stoodley pike

From Stoodley Pike the route drops down to the Rochdale Canal leaving you half way between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. Dougal and I then walked into Hebden Bridge for a well earned drink and the train home.

Pennine Way starting out Day 1

Having embarked on the mission to finish the Pennine Way soon, I thought I’d share some old photos of the route from when I first started, back in 2006.

Day 1- Edale to Standedge – 29 miles/46.7km

Edale is a fantastic place to start a long distance trail, easy access on the train from Manchester and Sheffield and a really easy to follow route to start you off.

2dad from edale 3packhorse bridge

From following the track along the valley you eventually head up Jacobs Ladder a steep brutal ascent to get onto the Kinder Plateau. I’ve been up Kinder many times since and still haven’t seen a view from the top! In mist this isn’t the easiest area to navigate.

6 kinder 9 path down from kinder

The route along this section has some great metal signposts by the Peak and Northern Footpath Society. This one is looking back to Kinder and the route back to Edale.

The path continues to wind across the moorland to cross the A57 Snake’s Pass and on to more relentless moorland up Devil’s Dyke – a large deep cutting in moorland top which feels like it is winding a lot before you finally reach Bleaklow Head and the descent down to Crowdon.

12path across bleaklow 15crowdon

Living in Marsden it was too tempting to walk on and make it home so from Crowden I motivated my dad with ice-cream from the visitors centre before dragging him onwards.

The path becomes less barren as it rises up and crosses Laddows Rocks. From here much of the path is now paved to prevent erosion to the peat. Black Hill summit is a bit less barren than this now!

20 laddows rocks 23 black hill

The paving continues down the other side from Black Hill trig point and down to meet the  A635 at the top of the Wessenden Valley.

25 view into holmfirth

From here it was getting dark as we crossed to descend the Wessenden Valley and follow the route between Black Moss and Swellands Reservoirs to meet the A62 at Standedge.