27th August 2022: Burnsall Bridge to Kettlewell – 9.8m
I’m beginning to think this walk may be cursed! It was supposed to be an 8-day walk carried out over 3x three-day weekends, with a day to spare for doing one of the shorter Dales 30 walks we have planned. You may recall from the first episode of this tragic comedy, that it ended with me coming down with Covid and having to abandon the walk at the end of the first day. That put me on my back for a whole day, although I was infectious for another week after that. We both then had other commitments to see to, so several weeks passed before we could reconvene for the Dales Tip-to-Tip walk this past weekend. I won’t spoil the ending, but this weekend’s walk also finished unexpectedly!
Day 1 had been mostly low level, through pasture land, woodland and a tiny section of moorland as we headed towards the heart of the Dales. Day 2 was mostly the same for the first 7 or 8 miles, at which point we reached the first proper section of Open Access land – the shading of which on the map always signifies good walking areas to me.
However, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. We met up on Friday afternoon at the Falcon in Arncliffe, and then drove up to one of the most impressive car camp spots we’ve ever had, on the moorland road, high above Cowside Beck, above Arncliffe with impressive views across Yew Cogar Scar to the Monk’s Road footpath on the other side. I cooked and we had tea at my place, during which we decided that a late start in the morning would be fine, based on the mileage we had to do and I’m perfectly happy for an easy, lazy morning in the van.
In the morning we dropped my van off in Kettlewell, in a car park full of off-road motor bikers preparing to disturb the peace and quiet of all the other National Park users for the rest of the day. We then headed for Burnsall in Chris’s car and we were still early enough to secure a free road-side parking spot before we headed out along the path. The first mile or so was across a series of step stiles, ladder stiles and those iconic spring-loaded narrow-gated pinch stiles that invariably manage to slam shut on your heels as you try to squeeze through. I dubbed it the Burnsall Steeplechase – 8 furlongs of tendon snapping, knee destroying annoyance that I actually quite enjoyed. We then dropped down a long, winding flight of steps to join the Dales Way as that walked snaked its way into our permitted corridor and we quickly arrived at the Stepping Stones / Suspension Bridge just outside Hebden.
Chris and I have an on-going battle to film each other falling into a river – I’ve been the closest to winning so far – but each new set of stepping stones or ford or river-paddle is another opportunity to secure the much desired plunge on digital video. The stones today were well below the water line, thanks to the recent dry-spell and they weren’t even slippery, so this was never going to be a disaster, but Chris managed to awkwardly waddle across them, keeping me hopeful all the way to the other bank. I meanwhile, decided to take the very bouncy and wobbly bridge and arrived on the other side feeling quite seasick!
The next mile or so along the Dales Way was easy going, dodging loads of people, their barking dogs and screaming kids who were all enjoying the warm sunshine and cool river. I love the Dales Way along this section of the Wharfe, but we were forced to leave it before reaching Linton Falls (which I’d seen in spate last year and are an impressive sight). The Dales Way swung out of our corridor and we headed north, carrying out an easy trespass at Halfway House Farm to join the tarmac of the B6265 towards Grassington. I’m glad we only had to follow this for a couple of hundred yards as it’s a narrow and busy road, but we were able to leave it and join a thin walled track, ominously called Nettle Lane! Fortunately some kind soul had been down it with a strimmer, and de-nettled Nettle Lane – the thin gap between dry stone walls, which would have been clogged with the stinging weeds was completely clear!
We emerged into the picturesque streets of Grassington and took our first break of the day, on a long row of benches and watched the tourists flock by. It was very warm now and the rest was welcome. We took our time and eventually, by silent mutual consent stood up, hefted packs onto shoulders and carried on, back on the Dales Way now, through the outskirts of the village. I think the area between Grassington and Kettlewell is one of the most beautiful places in the Dales. Whether you’re walking through it, or looking at it from a distance, it’s just remarkably pretty. The grey of the limestone, against the green of the fields and the pencil-line detail of the walls is just wonderful. The terrain is also quite diverse and I’d had the ability to select a lovely path which I’d used last year, initially across the wide pastures of Lea Green, dotted with small outcrops of limestone pavement, then skirting Bastow Wood, crossing Dib Beck on a rocky wooded path and then down a green lane into Conistone.
Here we took another break, on the bench in the little enclosure in the middle of the village, which appeared to be a virtual checkpoint for some sort of bike race. At least 20 cyclists cruised by while we sat there, and more than one circled the enclosure. When we gave one of them a particularly bemused stare, he explained he needed to ensure his phone registered the waypoint before he could continue. We were soon off again, heading down to the first river crossing of the walk. Annoyingly, the bridge at Conistone was about 20 yards outside our permitted corridor, so we either had to cheat, or wade across the river. We were quite lucky in that the water level was really low and we also found an accessible part of the bank (on both sides) to allow us to cross. We even had gates in the barbed wire fences that kept the livestock from accidentally drowning themselves. The river was so low and so narrow here that Chris just waded across, the water only just reaching his knees – I filmed him of course, but no disaster occurred. I didn’t want to have wet feet for the rest of the day though, so I deployed my Charity Bag Waders™ – which were only 50% effective – and joined him on the other bank. I only had a wet left foot for the rest of the day!
The next challenge was the temporary buildings, fences and pens of the Kilnsey Show – erected across both the right of way that I planned to use, and the minor trespass route I’d been forced to use to reach the road. We were in luck again though, for although all the infrastructure had been put in place, the show wasn’t until next week and there was barely anyone around. I was also very lucky that one of the fences we were forced to follow, ran right along the boundary of the corridor and my ‘all of the ball, all of the line’ rule saved me from failure! We waltzed along the little bit of trespass, past some guy mowing the lawn outside the livestock pens, waving casually as if we were supposed to be there. And with that we were out onto the road and heading for the next challenge of the day.
I’d looked at the best way to get about 10 miles walking in today, and the only way I could do it was to finish in Kettlewell. Unfortunately, the permitted corridor did not allow me to use the nice easy Dales Way, instead I’d had to take the route up High Wind Bank and then up the nose of Middlesmoor Pasture. It looked steep on the map, but I’d been feeling quite confident (and much fitter) when I drew the route up. When we got to the bottom it looked like a whole different challenge and it was now getting very warm indeed. We stopped for cold drinks at a little ice cream van parked on the tarmac lane that leads to Hazel Head Farm and took another break. Then it was head down and up the hill. We both selected slightly different routes, Chris going for short and direct and me going for a longer but less steep zig-zag.
It was a combination of the heat, the steepness of the slope and the fact that I’ve lost a bit of fitness recently, but towards the top of the steep bit I felt absolutely dead on my feet, I was lightheaded and dizzy for a moment and I had to stop and rest on a boulder, with Chris rapidly disappearing from view, over the ridge ahead of me. As soon as I felt a bit better I continued and soon met Chris, waiting patiently for me on a ladder stile. There was still about 350 feet of ascent over the next 1.5 miles if we followed the plotted route for today, but I took an executive decision and decided to cut down to Kettlewell on the permissive path through Knipe Wood – removing any further height gain for the day, but adding it to tomorrow. Sometimes a bird in the bush is exactly where you want it!
Chris agreed and we relaxed into the descent, initially across open grassland dotted with limestone pavement, then more steeply across a limestone scar and then down through the stunted, twisted trees of Knipe Wood. Much to my delight there’s another permissive path now that runs parallel to the road into Kettlewell, avoiding the busy narrow road! We arrived safe and sweating into the village and collapsed into my van. Cold drinks from my fridge were consumed before we headed back to Burnsall to find Chris’s car.
We found a lovely camp spot beside the road through Upper Wharfedale, just across from the river and although it rained for a few minutes I had a very pleasant evening with the van doors open. We agreed on another late start tomorrow. Even though we’d just moved a mile or so of today’s walk into tomorrow it would still be a short day. The terrain was going to be much rougher though, so I reckoned it would even itself out.
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.