Aug 20 2011

Walk 35: Scarred for Life

Pen y ghent behind the River Ribble

route: Sulber, Moughton & Smearsett Scar from Horton in Ribblesdale
20th August 2011
distance: 10.8 miles
ascent: 1,646 feet
time: 5 hrs 40 mins
walkers: Dave, David, Graham, Janet, Leanne, Sandra & Simon

We returned to Horton only two weeks after our sponsored three peaks walk to tackle three trig points once again. This time they would be much lower level and not as demanding as Pen y ghent, Whenside and Ingleborough and because of this we had a reasonable turn out especially as the weather forecast was mixed. To a true “Badger” the weather makes no difference, the walks are planned a month or so in advance and we go no matter what, but some of the “affiliates” have been known to leave it until late on Friday night to confirm attendance, after they are satisfied the sun will be out! The sun was beginning to poke through as we took our team shot and readied ourselves for the off.

After taking the usual team shots we soon discovered that Ramblo had forgotten the memory card for her camera which would be a running joke throughout our walk. Fortunately all members of our little group have thick skins and any leg pulling is taken in the right spirit which is just as well as it did get mentioned a few times on the way round. We made our way through Horton the “wrong” way towards the station, or at least it felt the wrong as we are so used to doing it the other way. We crossed the railway tracks and climbed the green fields that are usually the last few strides for anyone completing the 3 peaks challenge before we continued towards Ingleborough.

As we reached the gate that would lead us to Sulber Nick we turned right to follow the wall, as we did so we had a vote on who thought we were the right side and who thought we were on the wrong side of the wall. My guess was the far side as it is usually the case that when presented with 50 – 50 decisions we usually pick the wrong ones. It turned out that Beaky and Vidal (David) were right to guess that we were on the correct side as the trig was soon visible in front of us.

It was only early but as seems to be tradition, reaching a trig means time for a sandwich so we all had a bite to eat and we chatted and laughed at some of the answers Janet had submitted for her “meet the badger” Q&A. Some of her initial answers were a little too crude to be included on a family website such as this but certainly made for interesting listening at Sulber trig. To the east the sun was trying to come out above Pen y ghent and the day was looking like it could be a belter!

With our pictures at the trig taken (but none on Ramblo’s camera due to having no memory card) we left Sulber trig behind and made our way back towards the gate leading to Sulber Nick. Upon arriving at this gate Beaky and I checked the map to see which side of the wall we needed to be now. To find our next trig point, Moughton, it was more or less a case of following the wall in the opposite direction to earlier. We decided not to go through the gate and to follow a clear path that looped around a little before rejoining the wall. We dropped down a little scar and in front of us we could see green fields on one side of the wall and purple heather on the other and somewhere up on the ridge in front of us was our second trig of the day.

We continued up the wall until we reached a ladder stile. After crossing we took out the map to check the best route to our goal. The girls however decided they would follow the clear path and set off walking. After consulting the map the boys decided that it would be best to continue up the wall then cut across, we shouted, but our suggestion was rejected by L’Autobus as they decided to continue on their own route as Janet thought better of it and came to join us.

From time to time we caught glimpses of Wu Tang and Ramblo as they took matters into their own hands. Then they would disappear behind a ridge or a dip in the terrain. Our route was fairly simple as we hugged the wall until we were almost level in height with the trig then we turned at right angles and made our way towards it. As we did there was still no sight of L’Autobus so we were confident we could win and prove our route to be the best!

We reached Moughton and waited for the other two, and to be fair to them they were only a matter of minutes behind us. It seemed the route they had chosen hadn’t been quite as long as we thought but they did admit to not stopping where as we took a couple of mini breaks to soak up the surrounding sights. Another trig reached meant more sandwiches and we sat for nearly half an hour chatting and relaxing in the sunshine. Once we had eaten enough we decided it would be good to get moving again as even at this relatively low altitude your body temperature can drop once you stop walking. We had a look at the map to choose the best route for us and set off through the heather in a south westerly direction.

After a short while we reached a ladder stile and I noticed the group had paused ahead. When I got there Ramblo mentioned something about what was on the other side and I climbed the ladder to find a rather steep looking drop. We concluded that why would anyone put a ladder there if there was no route down, so over we went and began to plot our way down Studrigg Scar.

After taking care to make sure our footsteps were deliberate and sound we slowly made our way down the scar and towards more level ground below. Away to our right we could see some farmers sending their dogs after rabbits which whilst I don’t like I can’t do anything about so I chose not to look. As we got to the lower slopes we got to see something that we hadn’t seen in over a year. The Wu Tang descending strategy is always something that brings a smile to my face. That is usually because at some point she goes over a small rock or a thistle but even if she manages to escape without interference it is still a sight that makes me smile.

We eventually made the level ground below us and after regrouping due to us all being more or less confident on the descent we joined the track/bridleway and headed towards the tiny hamlet of Wharfe.

We spotted a dog sat with his face under the gate trying to catch a little of the sun that was not quite hot as we made our way through a tiny cluster of houses and after a brief pause to check the map we left them behind and walked towards the road. To our right was an electric fence and on previous walks we have discussed who used to touch these when they were kids. Personally we had a field behind us that had one and from time to time I would touch it but that was then and this is now. Maybe I am more aware of pain now or is it that finally I am a sensible adult? Either way I wasn’t going to touch it, but I hoped someone else would as it seemed a good idea as long as it wasn’t me. Step forward Beaky, someone who had never touched an electric fence and therefore still had the desire to find out what it was like. After a small period to psyche himself up he was ready and finally grabbed the fence to a loud shriek (more shock than pain) and lots of group laughter as we continued on our way.

*The Rambling Badgers do not suggest anyone touches an electric fence, unless it is Beaky as that is funny. In all seriousness I did think twice about uploading this as it isn’t a great example to be setting but then I came to the conclusion that there is a whole lot worse that children can see on the internet and the chances are that anyone who is that way inclined won’t be reading my write up about a bunch of ramblers.

We left the road and skirted round Wharfe Wood following a footpath and began the last climb of the day up to Smearsett Scar. We now had a clear view of Ingleborough which for once wasn’t covered in cloud as it seems on most occasions.

The final mile was fairly easy apart from a little kick at the end. Even this wasn’t really tough it just seemed harder because of the previous distance covered and the heat, which seemed to still be increasing. We reached our third trig of the day and once again set up camp for 20 minutes. By now I had run out of sandwiches so I was left to snack on an energy bar and a couple of chunks of chocolate kindly provided by Janet. The views from here were quite stunning to say we weren’t at any great height. The vie of Pen y ghent was one I had never seen before. From this angle I would have struggled to recognise it, if I didn’t know that it was in fact my favourite peak. The usual routine is we sit at a trig until someone suggests we move on whatever the reason, and this was no different. Once the call has been made everyone sorts out their gear and we are away! Just before we packed up Wu Tang was telling me about her new photography technique which she named “point and shoot”. This involves aiming the camera over your shoulder to take whatever is behind you without checking to see I you have a good shot or not. I thought I would try it as we left the trig and came up with this, so the technique may be a good one, although the rest of the shots I took were pretty pants.

We dropped down away from the trig and headed for a little road that we would follow for a short while until we picked up the Ribble Way, which is a footpath I don’t know too much about. From here on it was all downhill or at worst level so everyone seemed happy as began our journey back to Horton.

Sections like this are often very enjoyable as it gives everyone a chance to get chatting and to mingle, flitting from conversation to conversation without any trouble at all. On the higher climbs or tougher sections everyone splits up and continues at their own pace, but on sections like this we cover distance as a group and that is nice. We also cover ground pretty quickly when there are no inclines so it wasn’t long before we reached Helwith Bridge and the ingeniously named pub Helwith Bridge. A tentative suggestion of calling in was thrown to the group but I was in the opposite camp. I do enjoy a drink but after we have finished. If I get settled I would never come out, so the closet we got was passing through the car park as we continued on our way.

We soon came across a sign directing us off the road and to a specially created section of footpath to avoid the heavy vehicles coming from one of the three nearby quarries. We followed this for a short while until it ended and we crossed the road and went under the railway line to continue along the Ribble Way.

I had in my mind that this path would be well trodden and decent under foot as it followed the river for a few miles until we reached Horton. I couldn’t have been more wrong as we kept our course as the river snaked away from us. With each step the ground under our feet got softer and softer until we were squelching through horrible bog that stank more than any other I can ever remember. Maybe the enclosed nature of the path meant the ground got no air but it was pretty bad and thankfully only lasted 100 yards or so before the ground dried up. Then we ventured into the overgrown section and thankfully once again it didn’t last too long before we reached a little open ground to see the river had rejoined us and the path I had imagined was finally here.

The rest of the walk was very pleasant as we strolled along without a care in the world. The faint sound of the slow moving water could occasionally be heard in between our conversation as we completed yet another fabulous walk. As we entered Horton we saw a group of sheep taking shelter from the sun under a tree on the river bank and I felt like joining them. By the time we finished only a few minutes later I was overheating and ready for a beverage.

We got changed in the car park and decided that instead of visiting the Crown as we had done on numerous occasion previously, we would drive back and sample the Helwith Bridge as L’Autobus suggested we go there. I was certainly a bit more at ease with a lager in my hand than I had been over the final mile of the walk. I don’t know if I don’t take on enough water or simply that I am not built for hot temperatures, either way it was nice to sit down and discuss another great day in the Dales. There is certainly so much more to see than the high peaks and often the lower routes are more scenic than the open expanses of some of the big boys. If anyone (assuming anyone actually reads this) should ever want for somewhere slightly different to walk and is stuck for ideas, then try visiting this part of the Dales. It amazed me how you can be in the middle of three peaks country but not feel the hurly burly that comes with those three big peaks. Smearsett Scar was a great vantage point on a clear day and the only thing missing was an ice cream van, but then that may attract the crowds…

Sir Edmund

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