Apr 18 2014

Walk 80 – Up Hill, Down Dale

Up Hill Down Dale

route: penhill from west witton
Date: 18th april 2014
distance: 5.3 miles
ascent: 1177 feet
time: 3 hrs 40 mins
walkers: abigail, darren, dave, helen, karen, leanne, sandra & simon

Our annual Easter walking weekend had crept up on me to the point I found myself needing to do some last minute preparation in order to be ready in time. In reality this just meant digging out my boots, buying enough lager to last me the weekend and making sure I had the ingredients for Sunday nights tea. With those all ticked off we jumped in the car for a leisurely drive through the Dales to our start point at West Witton. We arrived to find Beaky and Sandra were already parked up waiting. We exchanged pleasantries and began to slowly get ready before being joined by Karen shortly afterwards and finally Darren and Helen.80th Walk 1With the team shot captured, the first of our Easter trilogy began with a gentle stroll through the village. We soon followed a lane off to our left and found a little walked footpath that was overgrown with some plants that gave off an onion aroma. This path was short and brought us out into a caravan park which I didn’t expect at all, all the while Penhill sat in the distance looking daunting. I certainly can’t recall walking through a holiday park on any of our previous walks and whilst not looking at the names of all the caravans we spotted one with both mine and Abigail’s name on it. Cue the staged photo…80th Walk 280th Walk 3We left the caravan park and made our way across a nice lush green grassy field which are heaven to walk on. A little map check before we set off ensured we were on the correct route and I explained to Daz how we navigate using both Beaky’s maps and my GPS. I am not one for over confidence but as yet we haven’t gone majorly wrong, so hopefully we have a good system in place. This conversation continued long enough for us to walk around some farm building and then begin the climb up to High Lane where L’Atobus were in action. In fairness one of them had stopped for a quick pit stop prior to the climb starting.80th Walk 480th Walk 5The section along High Lane was both enjoyable and easy, and the latter is probably the reason it was the former. The day was a glorious one and I already knew I had made a monumental mistake leaving my hat in the car, and failing to bring any sun cream. There were numerous little conversations going on with L’Autobus being joined by Karen at the rear of proceedings. I was talking to Beaky, Darren and Helen and a couple of inches behind me Abigail was shouting “baa” at every sheep she saw 🙂80th Walk 680th Walk 7As another lane joined from our right we took a path off left and began the climb in earnest. Whilst it wasn’t too difficult to start with the temperature did make things harder, as did having a 16 month old child on my back. Still, I would much rather be in this situation than have Leanne and Abigail at home so I don’t grumble, no matter how tough things get. Just ahead the path crested a little ridge and gave us our first view of the top ridge where the trig stands. My initial thought was it looked a long way, but in most cases the soon get closer with a little effort.80th Walk 880th Walk 9By this stage Abigail had already polished of a banana and kept saying “more” even though we had told her “all gone”. Leanne gave her a couple of grapes and ended up holding the Tupperware tub and passing them over one by one until they had gone too. Then followed a mini tantrum and an episode of hat throwing in protest. We have been lucky so far in that Abigail is really mild mannered so occasion such as this are pretty rare and we have only ever had one previous episode of tears when out walking, which turned out to be tiredness. Leanne and Sandra followed me in case the hat was discarded without me realising and after one such incident Sandra decided to try it on which Abigail found funny, and normal service was thankfully resumed.80th Walk 1080th Walk 11Onwards we went getting closer and closer to decision time and at that point the map came out and anybody interested huddle round. I tend to find that should anybody be interested in the route we take, they will be part of that group so they can have an input on the decision that is made. Sure enough both Leanne and Sandra joined Beaky in looking at the map and planning our next step.80th Walk 1280th Walk 13It basically came down to two very different options. The first was a long detour off to our right to try and take the sting out of the hill and gradually angle up until we reached the plateau above us. Nobody who has ever walked with us can ever imagine that option being chosen by L’Autobus, so the second option it was…80th Walk 1480th Walk 1580th Walk 16There was no doubt about it, this wasn’t the easiest route especially when you are carry a child. That applied to both myself and Leanne who is five months pregnant and probably shouldn’t have been scrambling up on her hands and knees. After numerous rests and reassurance that we were fine we made it up safely to the others above. All that is apart from Darren who was behind both myself and Leanne all the way up and even pushed me the last few dozen yards which helped enormously. Once on the plateau we had a little rest and took Abigail out of the carrier to give her chance to stretch her legs. She wasn’t interested and I ended up carrying her to the trig, which was soon in sight as we crossed a wall running the length of the ridge.80th Walk 1780th Walk 18We reached the trig and spent a good 20 minutes sat relaxing in the sunshine. Some people had a sandwich or a snack, I simply laid back, shut my eyes and listen to the others chatting as the sun warmed my face.80th Walk 19I opened my eyes to find Abigail enjoying a bite to eat interrupted every now and again with a drink from Leanne’s water bottle. I commented to Ramblo that this would have to go alongside Yockenthwaite Moor as a glorious still day at a trig. Lots of days have been nice but there have only been two or three where there has been no wind when up this high. With her snack polished off little Snail enjoyed a walk around before we decided to make a move and begin the homeward journey.80th Walk 2080th Walk 2180th Walk 22As we were in no rush we decided to hold Abigail’s hand and let her walk for a short while. She has been walking for six months but the uneven terrain would have resulted in constant falls which we wanted to avoid. After a few yards I checked with Leanne she had a decent grip and we counted “one, two, three, weeeeeeeee” swinging our little lady high into the air which was hilarious if the level of laughter is to be used as a gauge.80th Walk 2380th Walk 2480th Walk 25We repeated the human swing a few times before I grabbed her and placed her on my shoulders so we didn’t get too far behind the others. It wasn’t as if anybody was in any rush so we didn’t really worry as the path curved to reach a large manmade stone block, before the path headed down.80th Walk 2680th Walk 2780th Walk 28The short descent led us to a gate where we had a little map check before carrying on as before. It was fair to say that everybody was enjoying the walk and with the announcement that there was no more ascent, Leanne and Sandra had an extra spring in their steps.80th Walk 2980th Walk 30Abigail was now fast asleep although that was briefly threatened by a tractor that was spreading some sort of liquid not too far away from us. As noisy as I thought it was, it didn’t trouble my little passenger, not that we stayed around long. As the tractor noise faded with each passing stride we reached a little road and followed it for a while back towards the pub.80th Walk 3180th Walk 32I knew Middleham was in this vicinity and it turns out from a road sign we would encounter not much further on that it is 5 miles away, but I was surprised to find the gallops right up here. Today was the annual open day with over 4000 people in attendance, but the only thing we saw using the gallops was a lone grouse that obviously wants to be in shape for the grouse season!80th Walk 3380th Walk 3480th Walk 35By now our thoughts were firmly fixed on a drink in the pub, then checking in at the lodge which would be our base camp for the weekend. As the road reached a junction we went through a little gate and joined a footpath that followed a wall as it headed downhill. I kept getting a sharp pain in my ankle from something stabbing me, I paused, removed a sharp bit of twig from the top of my boot and carried on to catch the others. From here we had a great view of West Witton and Wensleydale beyond. On the hill side in the distance we could make out Bolton Castle which walked past on our Easter trip back in 2011 as we did the Herriot Way. Conversation turned to that lovely four day walk and how nice it would be to do something similar again at some point in the future. That might have to wait until Abigail was big enough to walk with us though… 80th Walk 3680th Walk 3780th Walk 38The path re-joined the road and we followed it back to West Witton and the conclusion of our walk. It was safe to say this hadn’t been the most taxing of walks apart from the final climb to the trig point but that was fine with me. The old saying size doesn’t matter certainly applies for me when we are out walking. Today had been 5.3 miles and had been the perfect start to what I hoped would be a fantastic weekend away. Tomorrow would see us visit the North Yorkshire Moors for the first time and no doubt that would provide us with a different type of beauty. One thing was clear in my mind though, other National Parks are beautiful there is no doubt of that, but nowhere in the world matches the Yorkshire Dales in my humble opinion.

Sir Edmund


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