2nd July 2022: Ellishaw Hill to Burnsall Bridge – 10.1m
Regular readers may remember a post from the back end of last year where I planned a ‘Dales Adventure‘ – today was the start of that adventure. An attempt to walk from one corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park to the other, along a corridor no more than 1km wide, outside of which we are not allowed to step. I’m walking it with my very good friend Chris Pilgrim and we decided to wait for the ‘good weather’ in the summer to begin the walk. We’ve got some sections of pretty tough and remote terrain (as rough as the Dales gets) to cover and this is best done when the bogs are not likely to swallow you whole!
Chris met me at Bardon Bridge about 6pm last night and we spent some time sitting in my van catching up. About 8pm it began to rain and Chris retreated to his car for food and films and I turned the van into sleeping mode and watched a couple of films myself. Over the course of the night the rain came and went in different level of ferocity and I tossed and turned, feeling a little off. Today was Friday night, on Wednesday we’d had our granddaughter over for a play during the evening. We’d not seen her for a couple of weeks due to a Covid outbreak at her house, our daughter, her partner and our grandson had all tested positive at some point. Wednesday was the first day they all showed negative tests so we were pleased to see our little angel. On Thursday morning she fell poorly herself and scored a positive on a test! It was likely therefore that we would end up falling foul ourselves over the next few days. Maybe I’m being psychosomatic, or maybe I’m seeing the first symptoms. Time will tell I guess. Fortunately (although I’m sure he does see it that way), Chris had Covid a couple of weeks ago, so I’m unlikely to infect him over the course of the next couple of days.
We were off early in the morning, hoping to secure a roadside parking place in Burnsall Bridge (our end point for today’s walk) and avoid paying the ridiculous parking fees. Then it was off to the start point and the easiest trig point I will ever bag. The morning was cold, cloudy and the forecast was for rain on, rain off all dasy. As such I decided to go for the Paramo and pack a thin softshell in the event things cheered up in the afternoon. I also chose my much more waterproof Salomon boots over the Inov-8 sieves!
The first couple of miles were about getting to the start point proper and we waded through deep wet grass, bracken and undergrowth along some paths that probably don’t see more than a dozen people per month. My feet were soaked within the first hour. At least I’d also gone with the waterproof overtrousers, over no trousers, so I wasn’t soaked from the crotch down at least.
The overwhelming memory of those first couple of miles, as we headed towards the park boundary was the piss poor stiles and the number of ‘Private, No Entry’ signs on gates. A couple of weeks ago we were walking in Northumberland and all the stiles, gates and fingerposts were obviously very old and many were covered in lichen and the stiles were precarious at best. It turned out, when we spoke to a local (Peter) later, that Northumberland had a real splurge on right of way infrastructure 25 years ago – they’d spent a shit load of money on updating all the furniture, but then done nothing since. This section of today’s walk felt like the same thing had been done 50 years ago. We negotiated several field boundaries on crumbling and dangerous stiles and hacked our way through undergrowth on paths that just don’t get used enough. It was a pleasure to finally reach the start point proper, across a little gated wall stile and we were into the park. We will not leave it again until Day 7.
We slithered down a precariously steep slope to cross Kex Beck on some quaint stepping stones and then emerged onto the very busy A59. We lost the path here for a moment as it went through someone’s garden but soon picked it back up again, heading for Bolton Priory. Another set of steeping stones were found here, about 30-40 of them crossing the wide River Wharfe, but with about 10 of them missing, and some big gaps, we decided to use the bridge instead. The Abbey is a ruin now, but it’s set in scenic surroundings and as it had just stopped raining, we found a convenient raised grave stone in the church yard and stopped for a break. It was cold in the wind though so we didn’t hang around and pushed on past Bolton Hall and into the unnamed plantation to the north of it. The woods were lovely and the path was surprisingly well maintained, it was a shame to leave it.
Beyond here we left rights of way for the first time and embarked on a little trespass. Rather than continue on along the bridleway beyond the plantation, we cut right along a wall, past Rack Riddings Laithe and down Riddings Hill to meet the tarmac road. All my planning on the trespass sections had focussed on finding gates in walls. I used Google Maps in satellite mode and where I could see an obvious gate I added it to the route. It was better than climbing walls and I hate no knowing. My planning all paid off and we sailed down through the fields, past some frisky cows and sheep and onto the road.
The next stop was the café at the Strid. Chris went in for a coffee and I joined him. I had been going to wait on the tables in the car park, but the wind was biting and I was soon nithering, so we grabbed a table indoors for a while. Just FYI – the car park at the Strid is £15. There is no hourly rate, it’s just a flat £15 fee for cars and motorbikes! I was gobsmacked. Who on earth pays £15 to park their car, outside central London? The car park in Burnsall Bridge had been £8 for 6 hours, which shocked me at the time.
We walked down through the woods at the Strid and were soon beside the rushing River Wharfe. Last night’s rain had increased the flow and there was plenty of white water flowing. There’s a good path (used by the Dales Way) beside the river here and we followed this to Barden Bridge. I lost Chris when he stopped to do his usual thing of asking the name of every dog he meets on a walk. I walked slowly beside the lovely Wharf though and I only had to wait a moment at the bridge and we were back walking together.
After a short road section, north from Barden Bridge we embarked on the biggest trespass of the day. It would have been great to stay on the Dales Way all the way into Burnsall, but the corridor didn’t extend far enough east for that, so trespass it was. At Gill Beck Bridge we left the road and headed into Nelly Park Wood, climbing a locked gate with a clear and obvious ‘No Public Access’ sign on it. I nearly ripped my leg open on a protruding nail on the gate, which would have been ironic, if nothing else.
The path was initially along a good track, as had been obvious on Google Earth and we made good progress. I had one ear open for vehicles on the track and was trying to decide what I’d do if I heard one. Jump into the undergrowth and try and hide from them, or brazen it out? Fortunately we didn’t need to make the decision. The track I’d seen on Google Earth, leaving the four wheel drive track and heading into the woods, towards the Open Access land, turned out to be pretty good, although the gate at the far end was in pieces and wrapped in many strands of barbed wire, so we were forced to climb the wall beside it. Some nicely protruding stones made this easy work, even for a fat lad like me! We followed the edge of the Access land, east of Simm Bottom and used a lovely sheep track beside the wall, my favourite path of the day, cutting through the bracken and long grass with grand views further east of Simon’s Seat.
The wall of the Access land bends north and we followed it, hoping for a gate. I’d not been able to determine if there was one here, but we needed to connect with the vehicle track marked in Intake Plantation. I expected to climb a wall here, but we were in luck and although it was locked, the gate in the wall was sturdy and not wrapped in barbed wire. The track through the plantation was easy and soon brought us out to the road into Burnsall. All of the trespass had been fine today, thanks to some good planning and some luck. We didn’t see anyone else while we were walking these sections, so all good!
The final mile along the road was hard work. I was feeling a bit tired now, my throat was sore and my bones ached. I hope this isn’t the start of what I think it is. Back at Chris’s car and I wolfed down my packed lunch while Chris got into some dry shoes. We’d only had a couple of stops and I was famished. It was only just after 1pm, but I’d decided to keep these days short, to allow for complications, back-tracking and taking it slowly across rough terrain (none of that today though). By 2pm we were back at my van and I got all my wet socks (two layers) into the sunny windscreen to try and dry out for tomorrow. The last hour of the walk had been warm and sunny, albeit very breezy, but I’d kept the Paramo on, vented and sleeves rolled up, rather than a) get the softshell wet and sweaty and b) call another halt to faff about.
All in all I’m quite pleased with today’s walk. We walked paths we wouldn’t normally walk and the little trespasses added a touch of excitement to the day. Chris enjoyed it too, which is always a bonus when I’ve planned a walk primarily for my own purposes.
I felt pretty rough in the night, my sore throat and cough became progressively worse as the night wore on. In the morning I certainly didn’t feel like walking, so I apologised to Chris (again) and set off home. At home I did a Covid test and it came back positive! We’ll return at some point, once I’m back on my feet and feeling up to it.
Those readers that have shown an interest in this adventure have requested maps of the route we’re using. As some of the walk requires us to trespass, we decided early on not to release the route until we’d completed it. You can see today’s walk below.