I have been fortunate to have walked all of England and Scotland’s National Trails, bar one, and thus I’m always keen on a fresh idea for a long distance walk. Pouring over a new OS map last year something caught my eye, a LDP called ‘A Pennine Journey’. This was new to me, but I tend to view most ‘new’ LDP’s with some scepticism. Most, it appears to me, have been devised to pull in grant funding to a local authority or to appear in a tourist brochure. Few if any seem to have been designed as great ways to explore great geography without compromise. It was this lack of exciting new route opportunities that led me to devise my 8-in-5 walk around the Lake District that Mrs W and I enjoyed in 2012 and led to walking a section of the GR10 in 2016.
The Pennine Journey was different though, as a little web research revealed to me. It is a walk based on a route devised and walked by Wainwright in 1938. In his case he wanted to escape the pervasive negativity all of Britain was feeling, with a looming expectation of war with Germany. His goal was to walk across the Central/Eastern Yorkshire Dales up to Hadrian’s Wall (something he longed to see) and then come back by a more Westerly route. The more I looked into this, the more the route appealed to me. We were not seeking escape from anything as significant as WW2, just the chance to leave the hassles of work behind for a week in the fells. Wainwright seemed to have picked a route with just the right pleasure : challenge ratio that appeals to me. The Pennine Way tips this ratio to far to the former in my opinion (unless you really enjoy bog-snorkeling!) and the Dales Way is something too tame to attempt before I’m 70. A rough outline of the route is shown below, we had only a week so walked the first half, from Settle to Hexham.
Wainwright would have wrung his hands that we walked without reaching his primary objective, Hadrian’s Wall. However for me the logistic simplicity of getting a train back from Hexham defined our end point (and the start of Part 2 when opportunity allows in 2018 / 19)
For us, it is unusual to holiday so close to home, but being blessed to live within a 30 min drive of The Dales is no hardship. So even though we only woke at 0730, we were starting our walking holiday by 0930 – a pleasant change from a pre-walk plane ride. There is a really good guide to the walk edited by David Pitt but I’d had decided to try and split the initially daily distances more evenly that is suggested in the guide.
Day 1 – Settle to Halton Gill. (14 miles)
A dry start, and only one day forecast to yield rain in the next eight gave us a spring in our step as we left Settle. By late morning one great bonus of AW’s route became clear. It gave you routes to Dales Honeypots than were virtually unwalked. This not only means more wilderness and less people (always good in my book) it also means new vista’s on familiar hills.
The real route goes around Penyghent and takes you past Hull Pot. This giant sink hole is very impressive, but having seen it before we decided to take a detour over the summit. It was windy on top but worth it.
As soon as we started on the path to Plover Hill it was amazing to note that every other walker that day was taking the ‘standard route’ up and down to Horton, not one person was to be seen on Plover Hill. We thus soon left the madding crowd far behind. The view down to Litton Dale, Foxup and Halton Gill soon opened up before us. Our accommodation that night was to be one night in a self catering cottage. We were fortunate to be able to book it for just the one night and carried with us a homemade curry which just needed reheating.
Day 2 – Halton Gill to Stalling Busk (13 miles)
Day two was rather overcast and hazy. Our route started in earnest, steeply out of Littondale up to the Horsehead Pass. From there we dropped down to Hubberholme in Wharfedale only to find someone had stolen all the water in the Wharfe!
I jest of course, it is a unusual feature of several Dales rivers that when the water table is low they run underground for some strengths only to reemerge further downstream. Arriving in Buckden I was disappointed to see that The Buck (PH) was closed seeking a new landlord. Beer was substituted for tea and cake at the excellent Westwinds café. Mrs W was delighted. We then headed via Cray to a Green Road that crosses over the attractively bleak Stake Moss and down to the Hamlet of Stalling Busk. Our host was both quirky and really welcoming. When I said I was going out for a stroll to see the architecturally unusual local church I was volunteered to take her dogs for a walk with me. Ahh, the benefit of being married to a vet, making me [perceived to be] naturally good with all animals. Roast beef, with meat from the family herd ended the day very nicely indeed.
…to be continued in A Penning Journey Part 2