Apr 23 2011

Walk 28: The Herriot Way – Day Two

Aysgarth Upper Falls

route: Aysgarth to Reeth
Date: 23rd April 2011
distance: 13.8 miles
ascent: 1,935 feet
time: 7 hrs 40 mins
walkers: Dave, Graham, Leanne, Roger, Sandra & Simon

The sun was shining as I woke on day two of our adventure. Day one had been hot enough for me as I aren’t a massive sun lover so I was hoping today wouldn’t be any hotter. After a shower and breakfast we were ready for the off once again as we checked the route to Reeth. My feet were sore due to me wearing the wrong boots and I had to stuff some toilet paper into the bottom of my right boot to try and give the bottom of my foot some padding. Apart from that I felt good as did everyone else, day one hadn’t been too taxing and had been a fantastic start to the walk as we strolled along for mile after mile on lush grass. We checked out, collecting our packed lunches and filling in the guest book. My own impressions of the Cornlee were it was a lovely place to stay and one I would recommend (see Ramblo’s review in the accommodation section for her opinion). After leaving Stuart, Odette and the Cornlee we made our way to the Edwardian Rock Garden that lies a hundred yards or so along the road. At first it seemed rather peculiar but upon further inspection it was a wonderful collection of large limestone rocks around which were loads of beautiful flowers in every colour imaginable.

After fifteen minutes exploring the rock garden and the small maze of routes inside we retraced our earlier steps walking back beyond the small village green and down the side of the Cornlee.

No less than a few minutes after passing our overnight accommodation we were back through the narrow gates and onto the green stuff. As with yesterday the sheep were in no hurry to get up and they never even bothered with us as we made our way through a few more fields and down towards the river.

The penultimate narrow stile had a rock slightly turned in the gap we were meant to go through. As I tried to squeeze through I didn’t pay much attention to another larger stone on the other side and I hit just above my right knee with a big thud. For a split second it felt like it was going to be really painful but as we left the fields behind I checked, and although a few commented that it was going purple already it never bothered me again thankfully.

After descending down a short stretch of road we came to a road bridge over the river. Next to it stood a big old mill which looked impressive but looking upstream was even more impressive. There we could see Aysgarth Upper Falls as they cascaded over the rocks before the river disappeared under the bridge we stood on. Beneath us we observed as two ducks went white water swimming, letting the current carry them through the rocks and out to the still water beyond. I chuckled more than once as they seemed to be having great fun, if indeed ducks know how to have fun. If I was a duck this would certainly be my idea of fun anyway. After crossing the bridge we turned left and through the little gate that led up to the edge of the falls where we spent a good quarter of an hour looking round, whilst discussing the scene in Robin hood Prince Of Thieves where Kevin Costner fights in this very spot. It was such a wonderful start to the day and I could have quite easily stayed there for a few hours with a picnic and relaxed as the water flowed by, but not today.

Back tracking through the little gate we continued beyond the mill building and down the tree lined path until we reached Aysgarth Middle Falls.

There was a convenient viewing platform from which to see the falls and the general consensus was that they were more impressive than the upper falls. I know I certainly thought so but I will have to go back to have a second look as I think I was guilty of not viewing them all equally. There is no doubt as to my favourite however, Aysgarth Lower Falls looked wonderful as they dropped down a staircase of rock before the river continued onwards.

Again there was a viewing platform but next to it there was a gap in the rock and after a very small scramble down we could reach the side of the river. G stayed on the platform as his stomach was playing up a bit but that meant we had a bag attendant and we all scrambled down to explore. There was no way we would have been able to do this if the river was high but with the lack of rain it meant we had no problem getting about and looking at the little rock pools that were left.

We had no problem at all walking right up to the lowest of the falls and inspecting them up closely, which we did until we realised we had only done a mile or so of today’s walk and we had been going over an hour. Experiences like this aren’t meant to be rushed and we would never do a walk as fast as we possibly could because that isn’t what it is all about, but sometimes you have to move on, so we made our way back along the river bed and up the scramble to find G stood there waiting for us.

Roger was our guide for the first part of the day and he instructed us as we continued up through a few farm buildings at Hollins House. We had seen loads of rabbits on this first stretch this morning and as we walked though the yard we noticed a few scurrying off leaving one who just kept on munching away totally unflustered although he did have his feathered friend to protect him if needed.

Once through this little farm we walked over a little crest and in the distance we could see Bolton Castle, which was now familiar to us after we have all been watching The Dales on ITV. It is always nice to feel like you know somewhere so we had an extra spring in our step as we dropped down through a few fields before joining a narrow lane, and following that to another farm at Low Thoresby, where as yesterday we encountered a barking dog. This one was just showing off and gave the impression he was doing it to earn some brownie points from his owner.

A little while longer and we came out onto a road. The guide book said we could go straight on up, or away to our left there was a more scenic bridleway that rejoined higher up. In true Rambling Badgers style we went for the straight forward option and started to climb the road towards the castle that grew larger with each stride. I can’t possibly comment on how nice the bridleway was but it wasn’t more than 200 yards to the left so it wasn’t as if we took a major shortcut or missed out on much. In fact if we had of gone that way we wouldn’t have seen the moles strung up on the fence that ran next to the road leading up to the castle.

Once we reached the castle it was time to sit on the grass in front of the main entrance and have a breather for ten minutes. The climb up to the castle had a it of a sting in it although nothing to serious it was the first ascending we had to day today. We checked over our packed lunch and chose various bits to snack on as we soaked up the sun. The day was hotting up again and already I was overheating like a big old steam engine taking on water wherever possible. We were joined on the grass by a couple of chickens who were obviously very wise to the fact there would be a crumb or two to feast on.

As the girls nipped to the loo myself and Beaky saw the falcons being moved ready for a show and a young couple messing about with the stocks that were nearby. Roger handed the directions on to Ramblo and we were off on the next section of the walk. Ramblo seemed a little nervous but after a brief pause to make sure we took the correct route from Castle Bolton we were on our way once again. We climbed up and out onto the open hillside for the first time on the whole walk. To our left was a plantation and every few seconds we could hear a woodpecker or two pecking away as we stepped to one side to allow a couple of mountain bikers to come past. We would comment later on and wonder if bikers are the scourge of walkers. Do ramblers have arch enemies? If so who are what are they? Answers on a postcard (or the guestbook) please.

As we reached the crest of the hill we found a clear track that dropped down to a couple of buildings. Ramblo informed us that this was Dent’s Houses and were mentioned in our book which we were following without a hitch.

As we reached the buildings we decided it would be a good spot for lunch so we settled down behind one of the buildings, sheltering out of the slight breeze and tucking into our food. A couple of grouse were stood not more than 15 ft away from me and they didn’t seem bothered by the fact we were chatting and laughing away.

The two buildings we were using as shelter are open all year round for walkers to take shelter should the weather turn bad. Inside there was a wood burner, a sofa, a table, a bench and even a flushing toilet. It wasn’t exactly the Ritz but I bet of a freezing cold day it is just as nice. A couple of the team used the toilet facilities as G signed the guest book and then it was time for us to move on.

As we crossed Apedale Beck there was a slight confusion with the directions as two differing interpretations were discussed. In the end it all became apparent and we were on our way. It was at this point the guide book indicated a short cut which would save us about three and a half miles but nobody seemed interested at all. Why sign up to do a walk then lop great chunks out? We turned left through a gate and set off on the long stretch along Apedale Road up to Apedale Head.

For the next hour or so we plodded along the road which climbed gradually through various old spoil heaps that reminded us of the mining that used to take place around here. Wherever possible I would walk just to th side of the track as there is often a nice trip of grass running alongside that is much softer on the feet that the loose stones that cover the road. We re-grouped at Apedale Head and had another breather before we covered the short distance to to Morley’s Folly. By this point we had started to descend once again and as we spotted the row of grouse butt we were looking for it was my turn to become our very own sat nav.

My first task was to follow the row of grouse butts counting them down until we reached number 3. As we went we noticed they were all very varied and some were in better condition than others. My own person favourite was number six but I guess I shouldn’t go into too much detail as who really cares what number my favourite grouse butt was and why did I even have one in the first place?

The path we needed soon became apparent and we made our way between the heather until it dropped down to meet a larger track which we would follow for a few miles. Not being one to miss details I loudly informed everyone that a short distance from the track there was a cairn that offered wonderful views of Swaledale and as we reach it I could see why. I was grateful for the weather we were having even though it made it harder for me as on a miserable day this view wouldn’t be there. We are far from fair weather walkers as we simply pick a date and go no matter what but i have to admit it seems a shame for anyone to do a walk like this and not be able to witness all we saw. A little further along the book pointed out a large lime kiln that we explored for ten minutes before we moved on towards High Harker Hill, passing the shooting hut along the way.

One thing that did make me chuckle out loud was up to our right there was a grouse sat watching us from the top of a grouse butt. I just hoped it wasn’t looking for pay back.

We reached High Harker Hill after a brief but stiff climb and sat at the top near a fingerpost as we waited for L’Autobus who were nattering away a short distance behind. After spending another ten minutes sat snacking, we set off for the final descent into Reeth and that cold drink of choice. I had already decided mine would be diet coke but it would be another one hour and twenty minutes before I would have that pleasure. The going was nice and even and we were making good progress although when Reeth came into view we seemed to be heading away from it and that means I get asked why we are going this way when the target is over there.

My legs were a little tired as we reached Grinton Lodge which can be an overnight stay on this walk but not for us. We had an extra mile or more to do which did make today a little tougher, especially when you are ready for the day to end, but it did mean tomorrow would be that little bit easier.

After we left Grinton Lodge behind we walked through Grinton then over the bridge crossing the River Swale before taking the gate to our left and crossing the fields. We walked along slightly strung out as people made the final push for Reeth, which we soon reached. Wu Tang nipped into the store to get some cash back before we walked the final few yards up the hill to the Black Bull.

It had been a long but extremely enjoyable day and one that had been totally different to the previous one. Yesterday had been flat going over nice green grass whereas today had contained some climbing and more rugged terrain. The legs certainly felt a little more worked than yesterday but that just made the achievement all the greater. We sat outside and I enjoyed that diet coke I promised myself earlier and even managed a second for good measure. Then it was time to bath and change before we came back down for a couple of beers and wandered off to the Buck House for some food. It was at this point when I realised we were doing something different to anything we had done before. We had walked and stayed over before walking again, but never had we stayed over a second night. It was at this point when it sank in that we were actually here and doing the Herriot Way. Until this point I hadn’t really computed what we were doing and from here we were going into unknown territory. Would we all cope? Would I cope? I obviously felt confident enough as after 6 pints and a pizza I was sound asleep in bed by 10pm.

Sir Edmund


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