Friday, 5 April 2013

Elslack, near Skipton to Malham

Rosemary and Alan at the Double Arch bridge over
the Leeds to Liverpool Canal
Making our way past The Tempest again, we once more found our planned route blocked with snow. At least there was a ready alternative in the form of a footpath that ran along a stream to the Northwest. It was a better alternative, actually, as we had less road walking along the busy A59 before reaching the Leeds and Liverpool Canal – and rejoining the Pennine Way proper – just before East Marton. There we found the strangely – but aptly – named Double Arch bridge, which is actually two arches on top of one another rather than side by side. It was then just a quarter of a mile along the canal before striking out across country.

This was all sheep country: no other stock, and little arable farming. There were lambs everywhere, mostly still just days old. And it was still very cold, so it was not entirely surprising that Rosemary found a couple of dead lambs when she investigated some of those lying at alone at the edge of fields.

Me in Gargrave. What's done, and what's still to do (Pennine Way)
At Gargrave we stopped for a coffee at the Dalesman restaurant on the main road. This was a  welcome change from previous days, when there had been no opportunity for refreshments en route.

After Gargrave it was more cross-country farmland walking, and more sheep. This time we actually encountered a group of four walkers coming the other way – the first time we had encountered anyone on the Pennine Way apart from local dog-walkers. The route cut across country direct to the upper part of the River Aire, which we rejoined some three miles out of Gargrave.

Not quite ready for mint sauce
There it was time for a pleasant streamside lunch, observed by curious lambs from both sides of the river.

The remainder of the walk was along the banks of the Aire – here a beautiful, clear, upland stream. There were nervous Mallard, and some that were obviously well-used to people, a pair of Goosander, both Grey and Pied Wagtails, and several Dippers. There were also a couple of recently fallen dead oak trees. They had shattered where they fell, presumably loosened by the wet conditions earlier in the year and then been toppled by recent winds. No-one had yet gone out to gather what looked like excellent quality firewood.

At Hanlith we were offered the option of continuing to Malham by the Pennine Way, but rather perversely it’s routed up over a stretch called Windy Pike, which didn’t appeal, so we took the easy waterside option on the West side of the river all the way into Malham itself. This passes an isolated old mill house (where someone was practising on drums!) and the long millstream above it before crossing open ground into the village itself.

The headwaters of the River Aire below Malham

There we finished what had been a relatively easy day – particularly in comparison with the previous two days. It was through much more domestic country, with high ground only in the distance, and much of it very attractive by the River Aire. The ingredient that would have made it so much better – sunshine – was, however, in very short supply.

Susan arrived soon after us, and we had a very pleasant weekend exploring Malham, Hebden Bridge (after retrieving Alan and Rosemary’s car), and Hawes, where I left my car at the far end of my planned walk for the following Monday and Tuesday.

But this was not to be. I had been keeping a cold (just) at bay for most of the week, but on Sunday it really broke out in spades, so I was forced to abandon any hope of continuing the walk after the weekend. Even if the weather had been better than the forecast continued cold spell it would not have been sensible to continue then.

So on Monday Alan and Rosemary took us back to Hawes, where I recovered our car, and drove back down to London having accomplished only half of what I had hoped to achieve.

Particular conclusions?
  • Early April is really too early to be doing this high stuff, especially in a year like 2013 with a really cold March and snow only days earlier. We got away with it, but it was pretty marginal.
  • I need better boots, particularly for wintry conditions and moorland. Lightweight boots don’t cut the mustard.
  • Try to build a little more flexibility into the programme to cater for bad weather or over-taxing days (though this is difficult on the Pennine Way where the stages are pretty well defined and options are limited.)

I will now be revising the rest of the programme to get back on track – though it’s inevitable now that I won’t finish the whole thing until 2014.

Cloudy, with occasional sunny spells. A cold Northerly wind in exposed areas. 2 to 8C.  20.42km; 237m ascent, 210m descents. Mostly farmland.

1 comment:

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