Apr 22 2011

Walk 28: The Herriot Way – Day One

River Ure near Worton

route: Hawes to Aysgarth
Date: 22nd April 2011
distance: 12 miles
ascent: 796 feet
time: 6 hrs 10 mins
walkers: Dave, Graham, Leanne, Roger, Sandra & Simon

The day I had been waiting for had arrived. Today was the day we would begin our first long distance path. Granted it wasn’t the world’s longest walk but it was a new experience to us, and one that would hopefully teach us a lot about ourselves. My main reason for planning this walk was to see how I coped with the daily routine of walking, B&B, walking, B&B and so on with a view to tackling the coast to coast at some point. Since we formed the Rambling Badgers in February 2010 I have read a lot about it and I want to try it one day, or so I thought. The next four days would hopefully go a long way towards convincing me it is what I wanted to do or totally put me off forever. As we arrived in Hawes and dropped our overnight bags off at the Youth Hostel I realised I hadn’t brought the correct boots with me. I had an old pair, which in truth were knackered and should have gone in the bin, but I had kept them in case of emergencies should I ever need to do a quick 6 or 7 mile walk and my good boots were unavailable. The problem was as I opened the bag to take the boots out, the wrong ones came into view. My new boots I had bought specifically for this walk and had spent the last 6 weeks breaking in, were sat in the porch at home while the old ones with insoles that were coming through would have to carry me for the next four days. It wasn’t the best start but these things happen and I had two ways of reacting, get angry or get walking! The later was the choice although we didn’t walk more than 100 yards as G wanted a bacon sarnie so we went into the first cafe we spotted and ordered breakfast. As we sat there munching away I mentioned to the team about the blog I hoped they would all take part in (see the blog page for content). Basically I was after a record of everyone’s journey. The up’s and down’s the high’s and low’s so I could read it myself and also so it could go on this site. I asked that rather than wait until the end of the day and try and recount feelings, emotions and the like, they would send a text message of whatever they were thinking at any given time. This could be as often as they liked and about anything from the scenery, their physical state or any random thing that came to mind. With the troops ready to blog and breakfast consumed we headed out onto Hawes main street and began our journey.

As we left Hawes the bunting was everywhere and while I would like to think they were celebrating the Rambling Badgers I am sure it will more likely have been in preparation of the Royal wedding, or possibly another reason. No more than five minutes into our walk we saw the Herriot’s guest house which was quite apt before we dropped slightly downhill to the roundabout where there is a shepherd watching over a flock of sheep. We weren’t sure if they were carved from wood or stone as we didn’t get close enough to find out, instead we crossed the road before going through a little gate and over the nice lush green fields. Wu Tang was first on the directions as we covered the first mile or so towards Hardraw. Along the route we encountered numerous sheep who were still in sleep mode or maybe they just felt the day was starting to heat up so they would save their energy.

We soon arrived in Hardraw and came out opposite the Green Dragon where we enjoyed a drink or two after tackling Lovely Seat and Great Shunner Fell almost a year ago.

We then went down the side of the pub using the route we used on that previous walk through someone’s garden (weird but true) before climbing slowly up towards Simonstone Hall as Hardraw slowly became more distant.

For the next three quarters of a mile or so we followed the nice green fields through numerous narrow gates, narrow stile, gated stile and other ridiculously small gaps in walls before we approached Sedbusk.

We soon came across a little farm building and in the garden we could see a young lad holding his dog on a lead but as the dog saw us he started barking and charged towards us. Fortunately the lead came out of the young boys hands or else he was about to be dragged across the grass towards the small wall we were sure would protect us……..wrong! The dog jumped the wall and came hurtling over to us causing most of us to freeze with fear. As is usually the case though they are just saying hello (in a scary fashion) and the woman came running out apologising as I told her not to worry. We carried on chuckling to ourselves but I know for sure two of our group were genuinely scared. A little while later we came to the penultimate gate before Sedbusk, and we noticed from a distance that there was a lamb that looked like it was trying to get through. The closer we got the more it seemed to be flustered and was soon joined by its brother/sister/friend in the narrow gap facing the gate. We all moved to one side of the gate at a distance so they felt they had room to escape and after a bit of a struggle they both managed to run off and join mummy. The one thing we commented on was the fact that it didn’t want to reverse out, instead trying to bend itself round in order to walk out. I don’t know if reversing is something sheep can’t do?

The lovely little hamlet of Sedbusk complete with small village green and an honesty box book shop was a delight to walk through but no sooner had we entered than we were out the other side and on our way across the fields once again.

We continued through the small gates / narrow stiles and the like for a while until the directions G was now in charge of instructed us to leave the wall and climb slightly before heading down hill to a T-junction of two lanes. To the left we would find a nice little ford at Skellgill Beck or so our guidebook said. Indeed the book was right and we spent ten minutes having a drink and taking in the scenery before we retraced our steps for a short while and then moved off in the opposite direction. The ford was pleasant but with April having been so dry there wasn’t much water around and that was to be a common theme whenever we encountered waterfalls over the next few days. The guidebook soon informed us that we should take a detour to see Helm Green Lime Kiln which we did. There were many other kilns we spotted over the coming days but most of them were from a distance so it was nice to get a close look at this one that also had an information board next to it explaining how the whole thing used to work and what it produced. All very interesting stuff, but then the more time I spend in the Dales the more I realise that there are so many things of interest and so much history to be seen.

We sat down for ten minutes and opened up the map to try and work out what the peak to the south of us was. It looked rather large and therefore we must have climbed it last year but after using a combination of map, compass and GPS it turned out to be lower than 2000ft so we hastily packed up and moved on. It wasn’t long before we reached a wooded area and the we took another one of the suggested detours and dropped down a short path to Mill Gill Force. Roger went down for a closer look as I took time to look up and around at the trees that lined the edge of the hillside. I have seen pictures of this waterfall when the river is high and it looks pretty awesome, today however it was almost a trickle that came over, but impressive despite the lack of water.

After leaving Mill Gill Force we walked through the wooded area for a short while until once again we came out into the sunlight. We crossed a small field and then went over a little bridge where we came across loads of chickens relaxing under cover of some bushes. We had already seen quite a few roaming earlier in the day and it would a familiar sight by the time we were done.

Askrigg was soon upon us and after passing the church and mentioning it was on this weeks episodes of The Dales we continued up the street to the Kings Arms where we checked the menu and more importantly that it had a beer garden due to the temperature which was increasing all the time. Alas it didn’t but over the road was the White Rose and as a Yorkshireman it seemed like it was just meant to be. We sat outside and had a drink whilst we waited for our food. The surroundings were nice enough but the service from what I assume is the landlady was a little abrupt to say the least. Something may have been lost in translation but she didn’t seem overly impressed to see us which is weird when you are customers and she is in the service industry. The rest of the staff were polite though and my Mozzarella, tomato and pesto Panini was delightful as was my diet coke to wash it down. No beer for me just yet!

The girls checked the profiles of the following three days and were a little worried of what was to come but they were soon reassured and as nice as it would have been to stay in the beer garden for the next few hours we still have about six miles to cover. We left Askrigg behind and walked towards the River Ure where again there was a short detour to some stepping stones which we crossed and the returned back to the same bank before we carried on following the flow of the river towards Aysgarth.

For the next mile or so we hugged the river bank as we crossed field after field of lovely grass that was just perfect for walking. The sun was out and shining brightly and things were going really well. I had noticed that the phones were coming out from time to time but I had no idea of knowing what people were blogging or if indeed they were blogging at all. I asked the troops to guess what cakes we would receive when we arrived at our B&B (tea and homemade cakes on arrival) and everyone keyed their answers into their phones as we continued to stroll along.

We reached Nappa Mill and left the river bank as we cut through a couple of farm buildings before picking up the old railway line that we would stay on for half a mile before we would join a path back to the river. It was clearly an old railway track and it didn’t take much to imagine some old steam engines travelling along the raised bed we were walking on.

Beaky was in charge of the directions from Askrigg to Aysgarth and he instructed us that we were to leave the old railway line through an old iron gate and join a footpath that would once again follow the river. The bank was severely eroded in places and it made for a slow stretch as we worked our way through upturned tree roots and round the various objects blocking the path. At one point we climbed down to the side of the river and I doubt that route would have been possible when the river was in spate. We were now about a mile and half from Aysgarth and we left behind the collapsed river bank and returned to the nice green carpet we had experienced earlier. A large herd of cows stood grazing ahead of us and as we neared we spotted six calves to our left and the rest of the herd away to our right. We were careful not to make them feel threatened and separated as we didn’t want any trouble but to be honest they just weren’t bothered by us at all. Some sat and some stood as they watched us walk by as we crossed another little beck and neared the completion of our first day.

Within minutes of crossing the beck we reached a footbridge that took us across the River Ure and onto the road leading into Aysgarth. We followed this for a short distance before we left it and picked up a footpath that climbed through some trees before we dropped back down and followed the river.

After fifteen minutes or so we reach a house and the instructions told us to take the gate to our right which we did before climbing up the hillside through a couple more gates. We could now see Aysgarth almost within touching distance ahead of us. We took a right turn through a field that had a JCB and some other bulldozer type thing parked in the middle of it, but we followed the wall through a gate and up a narrow track climbing slightly all the time. At the top of the rack was one final squeeze and we walked out into Aysgarth.

The first building we saw was the Cornlee and that was our B&B. It couldn’t have worked out any better at all as we checked in and agree to shower and change before meeting downstairs for the tea and homemade cakes. The room was lovely (see the B&B section for full reviews from Ramblo) and it was nice to take the boots off. As far as things go my feet were sore but ok. They had another three days and that worried me slightly but for now all I had on my mind was freshening up then party time. Well, party time may not be the best way of putting it as we were all well behaved with one eye on making sure we would be fresh the next morning. I had really enjoyed the first day and was optimistic about how the next three would go. If this was what long distance paths were all about then sign me up for the coast to coast right now, although I had no doubt things would get tougher as today was the flat day. A couple of beers and a game of cards followed before we had some food and were in bed by 9.30pm. I laid in bed thinking that I would highly recommend the Herriot Way to anyone, but how would the legs be in the morning? There was only one way to find out what tomorrow would bring and that was to go to sleep, and that’s just what I did.

Sir Edmund


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