Thursday, 30 June 2011

Ales from the Dales

After a recent walk to the Aysgarth Falls, Claire and I decided to stop in the village of Leyburn to get some local supplies. As soon as you enter the shop Campbells of Leyburn your sense of smell gets hit by the olive bar ahead of you. About 15 different types of olive await and you could spend an eternity not to mention a fair bit of cash here! We then moved onto the cheese counter and this was just as spectacular. There was a huge array of local produce, all looking really tempting. In the end we settled for this selection of Wensleydale cheeses.

Looking forward to having this with some of the chutneys and chili sauces we got from the Mainsgill Farm Shop on the A66.

We then moved onto the "crown jewels" - the massive real ale selection. Don't get me wrong I am quite happy to sup Bombardier or Greene King IPA, but I love it when given a choice of local brews. There were tons of local beers available including the very drinkable Richmond Station Ales. This time I went for a selection of beers brewed by the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co., this was a bit of a no brainer really, as the beers names are all based around some classic Dales countryside, how could I resist?!  A lot of love has gone into the production of these beers and it is worth having a sample. I particularly enjoyed the pale refreshing Muker Silver - reminded me that it's time to revisit the meadows and paths that take you along Swaledale from Muker to Keld.

Anyway the shop is a real treasure trove and and after a long walk in the Dales, I think a treat or two are well deserved...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Aysgarth Falls walk

Our recent trip to Malham Cove and Gordale Scar took us right through the heart of Wensleydale. Along the way we passed some spectactular locations and made notes to come back and visit. This last weekend we made good on that promise and headed out to visit the Aysgarth Falls. I was particularly keen to get a closer look at Penhill. This hill is under 600m in height but it stands in isolation giving it the prominence sufficient for me to see it every morning just before getting to work from the hills above Richmond.

looking across Wensleydale with Penhill in the distance

Our walk started at the village of West Burton. The weather was holding out and as we set off the sun came out and set off the colours of Wensleydale very well. West Burton is a beautiful little village and home to the "cat pottery" which Claire was keen on visiting - closed on Saturdays unfortunately for us.

walking through West Burton
We headed out across the meadows in the direction of Aysgarth. Looking back gave us a great view of Penhill and in the distance we could make out the hills along Wensleydale.

across the meadows of Wensleydale

We crossed several fields and a lot of stiles, over a narrow bridge at Eshington. A steep climb ensued which led us over the meadows and after a mile or so the village of Aysgarth came into view. We were keen to see the falls, so headed through the village, through the churchyard and along the meadows towards the river Ure.

St. Andrew's Church Aysgarth

The path was very well maintained and gave beautiful views of the surrounding countryside - but unfortunately not the falls! It seems the woodland along the south bank of the river is being regenerated and as a result the footpath is out of bounds. We eventually joined the banks of the river and I headed back towards the lower falls for a couple of pictures.

the spectacular river Ure
A few metres later we were headed back across the pastures. The path took us beside the spectacular Sorrelsykes follies. These three follies were built some time between 1860 and 1921 and give an extra curiosity to this walk.

Sorrelsykes Follies
The path took us through another three meadows passing a barn with this piece of vintage farming material - if you know what this is please let me know!

We were soon back in West Burton and walked back to the car at the village green. We stopped for our picnic at the magnificent village cross beside the stocks. Having come here to see the falls, we drove back to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitors Centre. At this point it was raining heavily, so we took shelter and had a look around the excellent centre.

Aysgarth Upper Falls
The Falls were well signposted and so we headed first to look at the Upper Falls before returning to the visitors centre and walking through the woods to visit the Middle and Lower Falls.

Aysgarth Lower Falls
 This made for a great day out with some easy walking and lots to look at.

Aysgarth Middle Falls

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Teesdale Way - Cotherstone to Romaldskirk

I haven't had time to make any Lakeland excursions recently, but that gives me the chance explore some of the great places on my doorstep. I recently returned to Cotherstone, where I had previously been on the way to visit the Teesdale Reservoirs of Hury and Blackton. Using my trusty Cicerone guide to walks in County Durham I headed off on this circular walk taking in a section of the Teesdale Way.

Starting off at Cotherstone it was dry but clouds were looking ominous overhead. The walk started off in fine fashion, where the River Balder spills out into the River Tees


The Tees at that point is wide and serene as it winds its was eastwards, flanked by wooded banks. The walk follows the riverbank through the trees for a short while  then climbs up a bank away from the river to cross some meadows before returning to the river. I passed the buildings of Woden Croft, which was originally one of the infamous Yorkshire Schools condemned by Charles Dickens. Along the river it was absolutely quiet and I had the place to myself. After a short while the path once again veered away from the river cutting though fields and a past old farm buildings heading up the hill towards Romaldskirk

Having gained a little height the views spread out with Teesdale resplendent even under grey weather. An alley of trees takes you into the village lined with colourful plants and the scent of wild garlic.

The path then enters Romaldskirk which is a picture postcard village complete with church, village green, pubs and a stream bearing the intriguing name of Beer Beck.

Definitely looks like a place to go for a pub lunch and quiet look about, or a stay in a holiday cottage. As usual I was on a tight schedule and so I didn't get much of a chance to look around the village and soon i was back on the trial, moving out of the village along a narrow footpath that ended with this arch of trees giving way to open fields.

After crossing a few more fields the path drops back down to meet the Tees, crossing this on the 17th century Eggleston Bridge.The weather took a turn for the worse here, with the light drizzle turning into a steady downpour and so I upped the pace a little and didn't have the opportunity to have a closer look at the bridge or the nearby Eggleston Hall and its gardens. Following the opposite river bank, the walk heads back towards Cotherstone before moving away from the river and up onto the fields and moors. There were some great views high over the Tees with the tops of Goldsborough and Shacklesborough visible through the drizzle.

With the weather not the best I unfortunately missed stopping to take in the recommended viewpoint at Percy Mere Rock. The path then dropped back down to the river crossing a footbridge and once again offering a lovely view of the river Tees.

At this point the walk completes the circle bringing you back to the bridge over the river Balder, a couple of hundred yards from the village of Cotherstone and the start of the walk. A lovely quiet part of Teesdale that is well worth exploring.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Great Gable, Green Gable, Base Brown

Great Gable through the cloud from Green Gable
"Great Gable casts a spell. It starts as an honourable adversary and becomes a friend." - A.Wainwright

On the 14th May Claire and I participated in the Wainwright 1931 Tour Challenge, whereby Society Members retraced the footsteps as taken by Wainwright on his Whitsuntide walk in 1931. My section meant tackling Great Gable and my research had shown I had taken on quite a daunting task. Great Gable is the highest of the Western Fells, with a comandeering view in all directions. To get there we walked from Honister pass up via Green Gable.

looking down to Styhead Tarn from Green Gable

From the top of Green Gable we had to descend and cross Windy Gap and before climbing and scrambling our way back up the other side. Windy Gap lived up to its name but it was well worth pausing at the bottom to look down along Aaron Slack to Styhead tarn, and on the other side over the Black Sail Pass.

looking down Black Sail Pass from Windy Gap

The trek up the scree slopes of Great Gable wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, although the scree made it hard underfoot and there was a short scramble. We mad it to the summit of Great Gable, and stopped to view the Fell Rock & Climbing Club memorial tablet, before sitting down for a short while to enjoy a sandwich.

We had an incredible panorama ahead of us, looking down past Sprinkling Tarn and over to Harrison Pike and Pike O' Stickle with Lake Windermere in the distance. We must have been sitting in the exact spot where Wainwright sketched the view from East to South. Somewhere to the South was Scafell Pike, which remained shrouded in cloud the whole day.

from the summit of Great Gable with Langdale Pikes and Windermere in the distance

It would have been great to explore the famous rocks of Great Gable but we were on a fairly tight time schedule, so before long we headed back down and across Windy Gap. We reclimbed Green Gable before  following the ridge to Base Brown.

looking back to the path up Green Gable

Approaching Base Brown from this direction gave a similar impression to a walk we did descending from St. Sunday Crag to Birks in the Eastern Fells - it gave no appearance of being a fell having come off the higher ground. Looking back up from Seathwaite later on it looked very impressive!

Base Brown summit looking to Green Gable

The walk back down would have been easy but the constant rain meant that the rocks became very slippery underfoot, in particular the scrambles down alongside Sour Milk Gill were treacherous and we slid down the rough rocks on several occasions.

Base Brown from Seathwaite

This was such a picturesque spot but the weather and time meant we had to push on. We followed the road from Seathwaite back through to Seatoller before climbing back up the Honister Pass and the car. By this time we were soaked through and very tired, but warriors that we are we declined the offer of a ride in a mountain rescue car.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Green Gable from Honister through the clouds

This is the first section of a walk to Great Gable that Claire and I did as part of the Wainwright 1931 Charity Walk. Part Two coming in a few days. It was only my second visit to the Western Fells so I was really looking forward to this one.

looking back eastwards along the Honister Pass

We parked up at Honister Pass at a parking space just before Honister Slate Mine. Parking here meant that we started with a couple of hundred metres height already reached. This would have been a great energy saver, but our return route via Seathwaite meant we had to walk this anyway.

looking back down onto Honister Slate Mine

We climbed the steep path up the slopes of Grey Knotts and immediately got a taste of the weather to come - a cloud cover meant a sudden but short downpour which cleared in minutes, the sun almost but not quite getting though. It would change like this all day.

looking across Honister Pass to Dale Head

We quickly reached the summit of the Grey Knotts and as Wainwright writes it is a great summit, with distinct outcrops of rock and tarns sprinkled over the summit.

"five grey tors, all looking much alike, and four small sheets or water make the top of the fell very attractive"  - A.Wainwright

Grey Knotts summit

We didn't pause for long as it was getting windy and we had a lot of walking ahead of us. Our route to the summit of Brandreth was easy - as described in the Guidebook we simply had to follow the fence. As we were making the climb up to Brandreth the cloud decided to engulf us.

distant fells framed by cloud

It descended very quickly and within seconds we could barely see further than a few steps ahead of us! It got very cold and extremely disorientating and for the time being we were more than happy to have the fence as a guide.

great view from Brandreth to Buttermere and Crummock Water

After a while we had been descending rather than ascending for too long for my liking, the cloud briefly lifted and revealed us to have gone well past the summit of Brandreth and on our way back down towards Haystacks. A glance back in a break of cloud showed us where we should have been headed - Great Gable revealed its massive presence to us.

Great Gable hiding in cloud
We retraced our steps to a stile and crossed over the summit of Brandreth back on track headed for Green Gable.


The cloud and fog lifted only to be replaced by a howling wind and rain, but at least we could see where we were going! The views we had were amazing and the clouds made for spectacular views as they shifted and swirled around the fells - the top of Pillar over to our right was to remain in cloud throughout the day.

view of Green and Great Gable

The walk by now was easy going, having done the work getting up onto the ridge at Grey Knotts. A cloud swirled around us we soon made it to the summit of Green Gable, and the giant dome of Great Gable was directly ahead of us. To be continued....

path along the summit of Green Gable