After a brief tour of the building works, pausing momentarily to gaze at the new (reconditioned) Aga, I left the B&B and headed out on a beautiful spring morning on the second half of the Pennine Way.
The sun was out and the blue sky was studded with rows of fluffy white clouds. To my right was the enormous dam of the Baldersdale Reservoir which looms over the bridge and Hannah Hauxwell’s old farm, Low Birk Hat Farm (which now looks very smart and tidy). Durham Wildlife Trust now tends to some of her meadows, though it was too early in the year to see it in all its glory in flower.
It was a late start at Tan Hill, 10am when I was dropped off. No sign of any Pennine Way walkers but the first of a few (of the 700) cyclists were already enjoying the sandwiches that were being prepared the afternoon before.
It was great to be walking over springy peat turf, though it was a bit boggy in places. This stretch had no flagstones and only a couple of very short stretches of duckboards – there was a bit of guidance with a smattering of white posts at various intervals, which gave reassurance that the right route was being followed.
The evening before the cloud had been down and covered the fell tops to the north, drawing back the curtains it was a relief to see the cloud had lifted slightly overnight. The weather forecast was not good though and I headed out prepared in the full wet weather gear (the first time they had seen the outside of the rucksack on this walk).
The path passes the Green Dragon Inn, which within its grounds contains Hardraw Force – though it was still early and the weather was worsening so I continued through the village without deviating.
The long steady walk uphill to the top of Great Shunner Fell starts at Hardraw, and the higher I walked the lower the cloud got – and we met about halfway up at Black Hill Moss.
It was overcast but the air was clear. If it was not for the chill northerly wind it would be almost perfect walking weather. Despite the lack of sun I still wore my sunhat to help keep my head warm.
I started the long gradual ascent out of Horton in Ribblesdale, and once I was up on the moorland the path forked to the left – it could have been an interesting excursion as I could see the viaduct away in the distance.
Having walked up and over the Cove, and made it to the base of the cliffs, yesterday I decided to ignore the Pennine Way sign and headed up the road to get a different view. I then cut across to the limestone pavement and picked up the proper route again to head up the dry valley to the tarn.
Walking around the tarn to the east the walking becomes almost joyous on the velvety and springy turf, though it did not last long and the path soon rejoins a track and heads up towards Fountains Fell.
It was not going to be a very long walk to Malham – just under 10 miles so it should be easy to polish off by lunchtime, which was good news as there was lots of walking and sightseeing to be done around Malham for the rest of the day.
I thought about continuing into Gargrave on the canal towpath, but there was a shortcut across the fields to the Pennine Way so I took that option. The going was pretty easy and I was in and out of Gargrave in no time, pausing only to look at the Gargrave locks – which brought back happy memories of holidays years ago.
After a bit of road walking it was back into the fields, this time with a good crop of grass for silage or hay – all traces of the path vanished and I ended up slightly off track on the wrong slide of a small plantation of trees. Thankfully though it was not long until I was back on the right route walking along the River Aire.
It was going to be quite a short days walk to Newton Grange (near Gargrave) today, and so that I didn’t arrive too early I had a late breakfast. There was less incentive to get going as the sun was hidden behind clouds and there was a chill in the easterly wind.
I was soon walking briskly out of Cowling, trying to keep warm, and out onto higher ground – which gave good views back to the monuments on the hill to the south, which are perhaps worthy of a visit another time.
As I continued further north into the village of Lothersdale it was becoming apparent that I had left the high peat moorland behind for a while and was starting to walk further into the Yorkshire Dales limestone landscape.
Having received instructions on how to get back to the Pennine Way I dared not take another route for fear of the potential consequences! (the regime at B&B I stayed at on the outskirts of Hebden Bridge was quite authoritarian, if not outright dictatorial).
Anyway it would have been a long walk back along the road, and the suggested route took me through a cool wooded valley – taking in carpets of bluebells and wild garlic and a stretch of beech woodland (my favourite) before rejoining the trail.
The views from Blackstone Edge should have been superb, but with the haze they were rather subdued.
It was half a mile or so back to the Pennine Way, so I took up the offer of a lift – I needn’t have bothered as much of the day was very easy walking on the flat.
It was again very hazy (if it were autumn it would probably be described as misty) spoiling what hinted as great views.
The moorland was gently rolling and there was a good sense of progression with road crossings at regular intervals, and not before too long the path was crossing over the M62 high up on a bridge.