This trip had been arranged for months and months. I suppose I’d seen it as a sort of celebration of freedom – charging off to the Dales for a week as soon as I’d finished the school year and taken early retirement. I’d invited James to come along too, and he’d said he’d accompany me on the first couple of days, before heading off home back to work.
The route I’d planned was originally based around the Top Ten Summits in the Yorkshire Dales, but over time I’d gradually changed it, until it bore very little resemblance to the original route. And when I announced I was taking Tilly with me too, James flagged up the issue of dogs not always being allowed on access land in the Dales………. So, for once, I listened to him and looked it all up on the internet. It rapidly became apparent that several of the spots where I was planning on wild camping, would in fact be a no-no with Tilly along, so alternative arrangements had to be found.
And then, as the day of departure rapidly approached, I became more and more uneasy about the hot weather. I was struggling in the heat, the dogs were melting somewhat, and the moors around us were particularly devoid of any water. I was going to have a heavy pack with 6 days worth of food in (20kg) and extra water, as was Tilly, with her panniers full of dog food.
I studied the weather forecast and made a difficult last-minute decision. Saturday – the planned day of departure – was still set to be very hot, whereas the Sunday was supposed to be a good deal cooler. I decided to postpone the trip by 24 hours. Unfortunately, this was no use to James – and I did really feel a bit guilty – but I am quite content that Tilly appreciated the cooler start. Still, I have got James a peace-offering. I know he likes fig rolls, so a packet of these should suffice, I think.
So this was the Saturday. We’d still gone up to Hawes in the van on the Friday afternoon anyway, but as the weather was still around 25C, we spent the morning chilling by the river with the doggies.
Dixie doesn’t actually do swimming, but she still enjoys dipping her toes in the water and cooling her tummy. Tilly, on the other hand, is a total Water Baby.
Some shade was also found for a bit more laid back chilling,
before finally retreating back to the van for an easy afternoon and last minute preparations.
Today’s planned route was about 8 miles. Geoff dropped us off near Aisgill Moor Cottages, and we set off over the moors towards Garsdale.
Still sunny and dry, but only about 19C, it was fairly pleasant going.
We initially followed a bridle path – marked on the map but not clear on the ground. Tilly had to be kept firmly on the lead as she was in bunny-hunting mode and, apart from anything else, you have to be careful that she doesn’t totally wear herself out by running around so much, that she covers four times the mileage that you do.
Dropping further down towards Garsdale we picked up a quiet track, on each side of which were plenty of signs saying that under no circumstances should any dogs be allowed to set paw onto said moorland. We took great delight then, in sitting on the said moorland at the side of the track, in order to have lunch number one.
Tilly can be very awkward when she sets her mind to it.
We then had another few miles to go before setting up camp for the night, as we had a low ridge to cross before finding our spot for the night in Dentdale.
Once again, we followed one of those bridle paths that are clearly marked on maps, but in fact don’t actually exist on the ground at all.
Since I’d realised that wild-camping with Tilly in this area was not going to be totally straightforward, I’d googled various farms that allowed tents. To be fair, I don’t actually mind putting a little bit of money into the local economy for a peaceful spot in a pleasant field. Tonight’s pitch was at a farm in Cowgill, and for a mere £5, we got a lovely spot next to the River Dee, in Dentdale. Not that there was much water in the river, mind.
In fact, Tilly was a bit miffed that there wasn’t enough water for a cooling afternoon swim.
Tilly hasn’t got anywhere near as many tent-nights under her collar as Dixie has, but I have to say that she was an absolute star in the tent. And she spent the first night of the trip practising various positions of repose.
The one down side to the day, was that my previously comfortable walking boots seemed to be giving me a bit of gip – I had some very sore toes on my left foot by the end of the walk. Maybe a good night’s sleep would sort them out.
Today’s route was to take us over to Ribblehead. I’d discovered that the Station Inn on the Hawes-Ingleton road, allows wild camping, free of charge, on the moors behind the pub. Sounded reasonable enough!
There had been a bit of rain overnight, but by the time we were packing up, the heat had been firmly switched back on. We were taking the Dales Way down towards Dent village, before turning left and picking up the Craven Way, over the eastern sort of shoulder of Whernside.
And although I’ve no idea what the temperature did actually get to that day, it did just seem to get hotter and hotter.
Whilst toiling uphill, shortly before lunchtime, we happened upon some more people wilting in the heat.
They were a group of girls from Nottingham, on the final day of their Gold DofE Expedition, and I have to say they were delightful. I stopped and had a break and a chat with them, and we then proceeded to keep passing and bumping into each other for the rest of the afternoon.
As the day wore on, Tilly did start to give the appearance of a dog beginning to melt in the heat.
There was no cooling water to be found on the ground, so it’s a good job I was carrying extra for her. Several restful breaks were definitely called for.
Someone, however, did find a mud bath to wallow in.
And admit it, how many of you are now thinking that there’s no way that dog would be sharing a tent with you?
Thankfully, as we joined the main path off Whernside and started to drop down towards Ribblehead, we came across a river; not quite deep enough for a proper Labrador swim, but still deep enough to remove the bulk of the Labrador mud.
Not long after, Ribblehead Viaduct came into view,
and after calling in at the Station Inn for a half of Coke and a Kit Kat, we set up camp on the ground behind the pub.
Not only is it free to pitch up here for the night, they’ll also let you fill up with water from the tap in the Beer Garden. Very reasonable, I thought.
I quite like arriving at the night’s destination mid-afternoon, setting up, having a brew and something cakey to eat before lounging around until dinner time. I’m certainly not ashamed to admit I’m a bit of a slackpacker. It rather looks like Tilly will fit into this regime quite happily, too.
‘Twas all very civilised and pleasant, until the plague of flying ants arrived!
There were far more than the photo shows as well, but thankfully they all seemed to clear after 30 minutes or so. Never seen anything like that before, but it did mean that once we finally retired for the night, I passed a happy 30 minutes or so killing the ones that had made it into the tent inner….
And what about my feet today, I hear you ask? Well, they were very sore. Worse than the day before. Don’t know what had happened to the boots that I had previously found reasonably comfortable, but I was beginning to hate them.
Another excellent sleep last night and we awoke to a grey, somewhat cooler morning. Today’s route was about 9 miles, to a farm on the far side of Horton-in-Ribblesdale. We had to walk along the road a touch first, before picking up the Ribble Way over the moors towards Pen-y-Ghent.
My feet were hurting right from the word go, this morning. I am pretty stoic about things like this and obviously could keep going for days if necessary, but I was starting to wonder if the fun aspect was disappearing a touch, when every single step hurt.
As the morning progressed, I suddenly walked into the first mobile signal I’d had in three days and took the opportunity to text Geoff. He and Dixie were busy gadding about somewhere in the motorhome, but I’d no idea where, other than it was likely to be in Yorkshire. I told him that I was contemplating stopping the walk the next day due to my boots driving me mad, but I hadn’t made any definite decision as yet. He replied that he’d keep an ear out for more texts coming through, in case I wanted them to pick us up.
In the end, though, the decision was taken out of my hands. Whilst still about four miles out from our destination, Tilly did one of her bunny chasing routines and unfortunately hurt herself. She came back to me on three legs, waving her hurty, front, left paw at me. Drastic measures were obviously needed. We had a bit of a rest, I rubbed it and kissed it, and the pain obviously subsided a little. She was still limping though, so we slowly continued on our way.
As we got closer to Horton and the signal got stronger, I gave Geoff a ring. Two more days of longish walks were not going to be the best thing for a hurty paw – especially with Tilly’s history of joint and skeletal problems – so Geoff and Dixie (who were currently over in Barnard Castle) said they’d come over and meet us the next day.
We continued on our way, having plenty of rests. After each time we stopped, the hurty paw seemed to stiffen up again, before loosening up a touch as she got back into a rhythm.
Eventually, we reached our camp.
This time we had a whole field to ourselves, totally peaceful, and for only £3 for the night.
The weather got a bit wild and windy overnight, but a good sleep was still had by all.
So, all we had to do today, was wander a couple of miles into the centre of Horton, where Geoff and Dixie would pick us up.
After some drugs the previous night and a good rest, the hurty paw was a little better, but she still had a bit of a limp.
She did have a mega treat on the way to the village though – she found a ball. A wonderful, bouncy, orange ball. And that made her do a big skip.
And as for me – I’m off to buy some new boots.