Having done the Dales Way many moons ago, I have been vaguely intrigued by the Dales High Way now for quite a while. This long distance route runs from Saltaire, near Shipley, to Appleby-In-Westmorland – a total of 90 miles. With the normal constraints of work etc, I started thinking about completing it over several (although not consecutive), weekends.
When I really started looking closely at it though, I wasn’t that keen on walking the very first section, from Saltaire to Skipton. This bit goes over Ilkley Moor – which I’ve never really had a fondness for – and is also relatively suburban in nature. And although I like long distance walks, I’m not a fanatical purist about covering every single inch of them, so I decided I’d start from Skipton instead.
We drove up on the Friday evening and wild camped with the van just north of Skipton, and then Geoff dropped Tilly and me off on the Grassington road on the Saturday morning. Our plan was to walk to Settle over the next two days.
The weather had conveniently worsened for the weekend and was considerably cooler and damper than of late, which meant setting off in waterproofs.
Tilly didn’t care though.
She was carrying 3kg in her panniers. Two lunches, dinner, a Jumbone, breakfast, two microfibre towels (she gets very mucky and wet on a wander) and her coat (pyjamas).
Today’s route initially went past Sharp Haw and Rough Haw,
and then dropped down to the village of Flasby.
The next couple of miles went through some pretty fields and meadows alongside Flasby Beck, before bringing us out in the village of Hetton. I have to say, though, that this part of the route did try my patience! Most of the field boundaries were crossed by stiles which were too narrow for Tilly to go through with her panniers on! Poor dog; she was exceedingly good at standing still while her mum repeatedly took panniers off, put panniers back on, and all the while muttering obscenities about ‘non-dog-friendly’ stiles. There were also several ladder stiles which were too steep and high for her to get up without help, and likewise then too high for her to even want to try and jump down from on the other side. And I can tell you, that standing on the top of a high ladder stile whilst carrying a heavy pack, next to a shaking Labrador who’s practically hanging on to you, is not the nicest place to be!
Anyway, we finally made it to Hetton, where we turned left up Moor Lane.
The lane is arrow straight and finally brings you out on to Hetton Common.
These four miles are a gradual ascent from Hetton to Weets Top (414m).
Tilly loves plastic bottles and it’s a sad reflection of our world that no matter where we walk, she always finds some.
As we got progressively higher, Tilly started to slow down a little.
And at one point she looked positively weary.
She got a bit of a second wind though, when she found a good stick.
The Dales High Way is not particularly well way-marked. It doesn’t make any difference to me personally, but I’ve always thought that if you are going to way-mark something, you may as well do it properly and not half-heartedly.
Weets Top was finally reached,
and from here it was just five minutes down the road to Goredale Scar campsite.
I’d booked us in here for the night, as the route didn’t particularly lend itself to wild camping. Anyway, Tilly learnt lots of new skills camping on a site. Like sitting quietly while being tied to a tree,
and sitting still in the porch while sheep wandered around outside. She also learnt how to behave nicely in the toilet block while mum went to the loo. After all, when it was raining I couldn’t leave her tied to a tree then, could I?
After her afternoon Jumbone she needed a bit of a snooze.
In the end, the weather hadn’t been too wet on the Saturday, but the wind had got stronger and stronger. And overnight, the wind and the rain got together to make for quite a wild time. I slept surprisingly well though, with just a brief disturbance in the early hours. I was in the middle of a dream about being caught in a hurricane in Florida, when I was suddenly woken at 1:15am, by someone appearing to shout for help. With the weather being as it was, I was ready to get up and see what had happened – maybe someone’s tent had blown down or something – but then I gradually realised that it was just the people in a nearby tent amusing themselves by screaming and howling like werewolves. I left it for a few minutes, hoping they’d shut up, but by 1:30 I’d had enough. I unzipped the door, got my torch, and flashed it right into their tent for half a minute. Then, I shouted at the top of my voice, ‘Excuse me! Some people are trying to sleep here!’ Believe it or not, everything went suddenly quiet, and Tilly and I were able to go back to the land of nod……..
By the morning, the stormy weather was well and truly set in. There was no hurry for us to set off early so we waited to see if things would calm down, but they didn’t, so we adjusted our plans for a Foul Weather Alternative (mainly roads), across to Settle and set off around 10:00am.
Shortly after setting off, Tilly found herself another plastic bottle to carry, and I was rather mystified by the fact that carrying a Lucozade Sport bottle – rather than any other random bottle – definitely seemed to make her go faster.
Well, photos were few and far between on our wet and windy route over to Settle. And as I crested the route and finally got a mobile signal for the first time over the weekend, I picked up a text from Geoff saying he was already waiting for me in Settle and suggesting I give him a call. I did. He was curious to know that if he happened to drive past us in the next few minutes, would we be interested in getting in the van???
And so, three miles short of Settle, Geoff’s tea van (once described by James as ‘possibly the best tea van in Yorkshire’), stopped alongside us and we climbed aboard. Well, it would have been rude not to.