Aug 25 2012

Walk 54: At Our Witts End

A misty day on Witton Fell

route: Witton Fell from East Witton
Date: 25th august 2012
distance: 3.4 miles
ascent: 749 feet
time: 2 hrs 25 mins
walkers: Dave, Leanne, Sandra & Simon

Our trip to Witton Fell didn’t start exactly as we wanted as the AA route planner directions failed to instruct us off the A1, (Wu Tang wants me to add that it was her who noticed we had gone wrong) and we had a little detour through Richmond and Middleham amongst others, before we arrived in the sleepy little village that is East Witton. There wasn’t much going on, nothing in fact, but it did have a pub and that would come in handy later. For now, we went into auto pilot and prepared for our third shortest walk ever.

The time was around 9.15am which wasn’t quite as early as we had planned but we still hoped to be done before the expected deluged arrived early in the afternoon. It looked like we would have to be content with grey overcast skies and I think we were all happy with that as long as the rain held off, for a few hours at least. We began today’s walk with a gentle climb towards the top end of the village which we took at a leisurely pace as Wu Tang was already needing a pit stop, which was pretty obvious as she already had her toilet roll in her hand. I reassured her that once we reached the last house, we would soon be out into the country and she could find some privacy, which she was relieved to hear. The sight of Wu walking along with a toilet roll wasn’t the only weird thing we spotted in the village though, up to our left we spotted a window that had been painted in, for some reason…

After reaching the top of the long thin village green we joined the track that skirted Town End Farm and our journey to Witton Fell began. A short distance later we spotted two horses in the field to our left, one white and one brown. The brown one was obviously intrigued by us and he came over to say hello but the white one simply raised its head from the grass, gave us a casual glance then continued eating. Wu Tang had a couple of apples in her bag and I said that I didn’t mind donating mine and offered it to the horse, who thought about it for a second or two, then clamped its teeth around the apple and it was gone. It crunched away, obviously enjoying the change to grass, so, after trying in vain to encourage the white one over, we gave it the other apple too.

With the second apple all but gone we continued on our way and more importantly, to find some privacy. Fortunately that was only a matter of a few dozen yards away and Wu Tang chose her secluded spot as Ramblo stood guard as me and Beaky carried on up to the next gate before waiting. Once regrouped we went through the aforementioned gate and began the climb that would go on for nearly a mile. It wasn’t particularly steep but it did slow us down a bit, not that we were in any rush.

The way up was pretty easy to follow as the initial farm track was then replaced by a path cut into the hillside to no doubt allow farmers to drive quad bikes or tractors through. The gradient never really changed and with underfoot conditions pretty good we made steady progress, pausing from time to time to observe the birds that we kept spotting as they ran around in the longer grass. At first we assumed they were grouse but after a bit of post walk research it may well be that they were in fact young pheasants, but we can’t be sure.

Suddenly the mist rolled in and visibility was greatly reduced but thankfully we still didn’t have any rain. Beaky and Ramblo kept waiting ahead as myself and Wu Tang took things easy and slowly continued up the hillside. As we went I kept telling her that once up (and we were nearly there) that would be all the ascent for the day, but I am not sure she believed me. All too often we reach a summit to find the way home is rolling but today it was all level followed by downhill which was certainly music to the ears of somebody who was 5 months pregnant. We reached the edge of the plantation to find two more of the unknown birds perched on the wall. They looked as big as fully grown grouse but still had a young look about them but it may just be a different type of grouse or for that matter, different species altogether. It didn’t really matter that we didn’t know other than the fact it would further our knowledge and that can never be a bad thing. One thing is for sure, they weren’t scared of us letting us get close to take a picture without even flinching.

From here we gave Wu Tang the choice of a slightly longer, shallower path that looped around to rach the entrance to the woods, or to cut upwards through bracken which whilst shorter was steeper. There was only about 75 yards to go but the choice was up to Wu Tang and to my slight surprise she went for the more direct route and we let her go first to ensure we did it at her pace, so if she needed to stop she could stop and we would all stop behind her

After no time at all we had waded through the long overgrown stuff and found ourselves at the gate that would lead us into the woods. Upon entering it seemed like we had entered a different world, with the low mist hovering just above the trees and the early morning dew making the place glisten. The trees all had droplets of water hanging to the end of every leaf and hundreds of spiders webs could be seen almost reflecting in the light.

Following the path a little further in things looked pretty straight forward and much more civilised than our only other wooded summit of Lees Moor which we reached last time out. We slowly ambled along chatting as we went and Wu Tang seemed a lot more at ease on this level terrain. I have often found with the walks we have done (and probably mentioned before in my post walk write ups) that walking can often be about effort and reward. Sometimes for various reasons it can be hard work reaching a summit or a ridge. On really challenging walks the effort may not always seem possible, but often it is if you keep going at a pace that suits you and then, when you feel like you are coming to the end of your physical limit, you are rewarded with a view, a summit or something that you can’t really imagine unless you have stood there and witnessed it for yourself. At that moment all the effort is worth it and ultimately when you reflect back a day or maybe a week later you don’t even remember how much of a struggle it was to get there, but you do remember what you saw or experienced and that is was makes you do it again. Now I am not saying that this particular walk was difficult because it wasn’t, under normal circumstances as Beaky, Ramblo or I will testify to it was pretty easy, but Wu Tang found things a little more difficult as is to be expected. All along she knew if she took the uphill bit slowly she would be rewarded and now she could enjoy that reward. Her quiet mood was replaced by one of happiness and a willingness to join in our conversations and that was nice for me and I am sure for everyone else too.

As we meandered through the wood I took various pictures of cobwebs, none of which come out anything like we witnessed with the naked eye, but I suppose some of that is down to the fact my camera is far from the best model. Continuing on, Beaky saw what he thought was the trig in the gloom ahead and pointed out he thought we were there, only to find out as we got a little closer it was a feeding butt, and as yet we don’t have any tick lists to reach those!

Shortly afterwards I checked Gordon Peter Smythe (the name given to my GPS) and he told us that following the path had taken us off course and that meant only one thing, more off-roading. We checked the OS map and used the GPS for a more accurate position before picking our direction and off we went, through more bracken until after little more than 10 minutes we reached the trig.

Our stay at the top lasted roughly 20 minutes as we went through the usual routine of taking some pictures for the tick list section of our web site, having a sandwich and taking the surroundings in, although the latter was a little difficult in the conditions. With everything done we checked the map and picked a route back, before heading off once again.

We soon reached a clearing and the girls wanted to powder their noses so they used the tree cover and myself and Beaky began crossing the open space before we reached another group of trees. I suggested to Beaky that we hide in the trees to see how the girls react when they thought we had gone. To be honest it is something you would do when you are 6 or something but we found it funny as we heard them approach before stopping and calling for us. We kept our sniggering down to a level they couldn’t hear but the game was soon up when they phoned me and I couldn’t answer fast enough to avoid it ringing. They called us a few choice names but it was all light hearted and we carried on before we soon reached a nice track which we could follow all the way back.

Spirits were really high at this point and I felt as happy as I had done on any walk at any time. Conversation was flowing and we simply strolled along talking about anything and nothing but all of us had a smile on our faces and laughter could be heard with almost every stride. That laughter continued as we reached a big puddle that covered the whole track and as the others plotted a way around, I decided to wade through it, my feet were quite wet anyway so what did it matter. I soon found out that my feet weren’t as wet as they could be as the water poured over the top of my boots and my socks were suddenly soaked, much to the amusement of the others. I backed out and took my place in line as we went around it. I wouldn’t normally be so stupid but the walk was short and I knew we were a mile or so from being back at the car and as we had been messing about I was just in a silly mood…

The squelch of my wet boots accompanied us as the track joined up with Snowden Beck Road and we turned left and headed downhill back towards East Witton and the pub.

From time to time we stopped to look into the trees on our left as they had an enchanted forest feel about them, but other than the occasional pause we continued slowly onwards and our topic of conversation had now moved on to solar roof panels. There aren’t many things we haven’t discussed over the last few years and I am sure our conversation topics will continue to be varied for a long time to come.

By the time we saw East Witton, Trailtrekker was on the agenda or should I say my write up of the Trailtrekker experience. I won’t go into details here about the actual discussion but let’s just say there was a friendly debate about one small part of that weekend and the write up that followed. Everything was taken in jest and by the time we reach the village we had moved on to something else.

L’Autobus decided to have a picture of themselves with Witton Fell in the background and Beaky obliged, with me taking a picture of the whole thing. From here we had a few hundred yards and we were back at the car and another walk was complete. It had been a nice gentle stroll and certainly better than Lees Moor which was our first experience of a wooded summit. In fact we were back so early the pub in the village wasn’t even open so we drove to Masham instead. With a cold drink in hand we reflected on a great little walk and L’Autobus tried to place it on their league table of most enjoyable walks. For me it was somewhere in the middle, it had no great features and with low mist we had next to no view of the surrounding area. Having said that, we all enjoyed it and it was certainly a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning. I don’t really care where it ranks to be honest, the fact we did it and will continue to go walking is the main thing. Soon this hill walking malarkey will be beyond Wu Tang, and that may mean a slight change of plan, but nothing the Badgers can’t handle…

Sir Edmund


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