Alternative Dales Way – Day 2

Another glorious day in God’s Own Country with even the couple of 5 minute showers failing to ruin the walk. The upside of showery weather is that the cloud displays are normally something to behold and today was a prime example. I spent most of the morning looking ahead to the skies above Wharfedale and Littondale, so much so that I fell over twice for not paying close enough attention to my foot placement.

I didn’t eat in the Devonshire last night, for some bizarre reason, they stop serving at 2.30 in the afternoon and there’s no evening food service. Also, they don’t take cards – I’m not sure if this is some sort of short term technical problem, but a well printed sign behind the bar stated “cash only”, so I probably wouldn’t have eaten there anyway. It’s a bit much in this day and age to restrict customers to paying cash! So I left the lovely beer and went back to the first pub I’d used (can’t remember it’s name) and ate a very respectable steak and ale pie, with a dreadful pint of Black Sheep. So if there’s anything to be learned here, it’s drink in the Devonshire and eat in the White Hart (maybe?).

I slept well enough in the Foresters Arms and sloped down to breakfast at 8am. There being no information of any sort in the room, I thought I was playing it safe by arriving at that time. I hung around for 10 mins before someone finally came along and told me breakfast service didn’t start until 8.30! I find that hard to understand, especially in the week, when most people would want to be up and out in reasonable time. So I came back down 20 minutes later and was underwhelmed by the poor service, until the actual breakfast arrived and was immediately completely forgiving. One of the best cooked breakfasts I’ve had in a long time was delivered by the dumb waiter from the kitchen two floors above the dining room. The breakfast meal was the only redeeming factor for the Foresters Arms though. I wouldn’t stay there again.

As it was I had fewer miles to do today than I did yesterday, so I could afford a late start. I was eventually on the path by 9.30 and the sun was shining nicely. It had rained last night, and the morning was chilly enough to show my breath as I walked out of the village on a lovely little path.

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Leaving Grassington by little used paths

Despite my intention to avoid the Dales Way wherever possible, it wasn’t really possible this morning, unless I went seriously off course. So apart from a little diversion to bag a new OS square, I followed the green high way that’s been created by thousands of walkers, walking between Grassington and Kettlewell. It’s not a hardship either, it’s one of the most scenic sections of the Dales Way, beautiful limestone scenery as far as the eye can see, set against the green of the hills. The views too are second to none. Initially it’s just the path ahead and the limestone scree slope to the right, but as you progress the view opens up and you can see down both Wharfedale and Littondale. No better view of this is available than from the top of Conistone Pie, a circular limestone outcrop with a grassy summit.

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Green highway between Grassington and Kettlewell

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Looking down Conistone Dib, Bull Scar on the left

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Glorious limestone scenery on the Dales Way

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Conistone Pie

It wasn’t far from Grassington but the sun was warm, the path was empty and the shadow play from the clouds was impressive, so I walked to the top of the Pie and sat down. As I did yesterday, I unzipped my overtrousers, removed my knee supports and let my legs breathe. I spent a very pleasant 20 minutes or so basking in the sun and enjoying the view.

After a while, I saw a couple of walkers approaching from the direction of Kettlewell and as they got closer I decided to relinquish my seat and let them take it if they wanted. We exchanged pleasantries and I carried on. I’d been expecting to see many more people today compared to yesterday, the path is much more low level and far more accessible, being the Dales Way for the most part.

Even sitting on the Pie, there wasn’t the feeling of peace and tranquillity I’d felt yesterday. The road was only a half mile or so down in the valley bottom and I could hear the cars quite clearly. I heard a couple of planes flying high above too. The encroachment of modern life. It was still good to be out though and the weather was brilliant. The forecast on the news this morning had been for scattered showers all day, so I’d gone for the overtrousers again, but they spent all day vented to the knee and only saw action twice for 5 minutes at a time later in the afternoon.

I timed my arrival into Kettlewell to perfection, the church bells were chiming 12 noon, which meant the pubs would be just opening. I stopped at the Kings Head and had a very enjoyable Diet Coke (at £3 it bloody should be too). Sitting in the blazing sunshine in the beer garden I got chatted up by an extremely drunk local guy who questioned me quite randomly about where I was from and what my intentions were. He eventually got collared by his wife and I was left to myself again, sitting in the sun.

I visited the shop for lunch items for today and tomorrow. Although there’s a shop in Buckden, it’s closed as often as it’s open in my experience so I wasn’t prepared to risk no lunch tomorrow. I picked up some locally made flapjacks and a sausage roll and looked for the path out of the village. I had found an alternative to the Dales Way, using footpaths on the eastern side of the valley. It wasn’t as quiet as I’d expected, and I saw loads of people over the next two or three miles into Starbotton.

My unusual encounters with birds continued today, as I met a man taking his cockatoo for a walk. Yep, that’s a first for me too. I once met a man walking his Lanna Falcon, but never a cockatoo. I heard a strange bird call ahead of me, thinking it was a plover with laryngitis or something and then saw a man with what I thought was a white coat over his arm, but as he got closer the coat became a white bird that screeched loudly at me. I wanted to ask him why, but couldn’t be bothered in the end. I bet he walks the bird just to get people to ask him why he does, so I wasn’t going to give him the pleasure ☺

I found a handy boulder and took a short lunch break. I could see rain falling higher up the valley, ahead of me and it seemed to be coming my way, so I decided not to remove socks and boots this time. Within a couple of minutes the shower washed over me. It lasted maybe 5 minutes and didn’t really deposit much water on me. In itself it certainly wasn’t enough to justify walking in overtrousers all day! It did leave the path slippy though, and I almost immediately fell over as I set off. I’m pleased no one was around to hear the little squeak of surprise as my feet shot out from under me and deposited me hard on my arse.

As I approached Starbotton I began to notice a pain in my left foot. Nothing too severe, but I stopped on a bench in the village and removed my socks and boots and massaged the offending article. I popped some painkillers and sat in the sun. The skies turned grey again and I got dressed again and pushed on.

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Airing my feet in Starbotton

My path between Starbotton and Buckden was much higher than the previous section and it involved a steep climb out of the village, gaining about 700 feet over the next mile or so. It began to rain as I passed a couple of guys hogging the bench about half way up the climb. I grunted a hello as I passed and determined not to stop on the climb while they were in sight. I plodded onwards, I’m too unfit to do anything else on a steep climb, but I kept going until the path turned and they were hidden from view. Score one for the fat git.

My foot felt better for the massage, at least for a while. I passed several more people on the path. This one leads to/from Buckden Lead Mines, depending on your perspective, so it wasn’t surprising to meet so many people. But eventually I had it to myself and I began the descent into Buckden. I was surprised at how scenic this path was. It wasn’t one I’d used before and the views into Wharfedale were spectacular, the valley is green and lush and the clouds were casting a moving shadow show across the trees and building below.

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Wonderful Wharfedale as seen from the descent into Buckden

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Looking down onto Buckden

I saw some stepping stones on the way into Buckden and I diverted down to them. If you can resist the temptation to use stepping stones you know you’re getting too old! They took me into the centre of the village and I hunted down my B&B for the evening. Right behind the Buck Inn. Perfect!

Apparently they’ve been here over 30 years, they have a tea room and three rooms in the B&B above, but I’ve never noticed the place before. I was shown to my room, the shared bathroom only has a tiny bath, which was a bit troublesome; one of the country’s biggest blokes, sitting in one of the country’s smallest baths. I did the best I could and then went downstairs for my promised tea and cake. Wow! If you’re ever in Buckden, find the West Winds Tea Room, being the Buck Inn – they bake the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had!

I’d timed my arrival pretty well, it started raining properly as I walked in the door, and it was still coming down as I scampered across to the Buck Inn. This is another place that’s been closed as often as it’s been open in my previous visits to the village. But what a little gem of a pub. It has one of the best selection of hand pulled ales I’ve seen in a long time. FIVE different Theakston’s ales, including my personal favourite, Old Peculier.

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The King of Ales; Theakston's Old Peculier

I got a half decent WiFi signal and plugged myself into Twitter. I immediately got a recommendation from @searleyandrew to try the Grouse Beater, but I’d just ordered a pint of XB and I had to follow that with a pint of Old Peculier! I don’t drink often enough for this to be a trivial matter, but I had a sample of the Grouse Beater and it was lovely, so I’ll be here for a while and the B&B is only a short stagger from the pub. Just one of those lovely problems when you find a pub with a good selection of ales.

I had a reasonable burger for my tea, in the Buck, but in truth it’s just a stomach liner, to help soak up the beer! I’ll have to leave this now, typing is becoming troublesome and autocorrect is doing most of the work if I’m honest.

Another great day, here’s hoping for more tomorrow ☺

lonewalker

Fell-walker, trig-pointer, peak-bagger, Wainwright-er & Pennine Way author, with a passion for long paths, malt whisky, fast cars & Man City

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