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Next week I’ll be driving to Aysgarth to begin 5 days walking around some of my favourite northern Yorkshire Dales. The primary motivation for this is to do a complete re-walk of the Herriot Way route in preparation for the latest update of the guide book.

For those unfamiliar with the walk, it runs from Aysgarth, along Wensleydale, through Askrigg and Hardraw to Hawes. It then heads north over the massive bulk of Great Shunner Fell to Thwaite and onward to the wonderful little settlement of Keld, nestled deep in the folds of Swaledale. The traditional route leaves Keld and climbs to the lead mining remains above Gunnerside and drops down via Surrender Bridge to Reeth. From there it climbs around Greets Hill, down Apedale to the castle at Bolton Castle and back to Aysgarth.

The Herriot Way route, with new low level option for Day Three

“But that’s only four days walking” I hear you cry! Indeed it is, but the traditional route for day three, over the lead mines, is (to say the least) unforgiving in bad weather and I’ve been meaning to add a low level alternative for a while now. This 4th edition update of the guide book allows me to include one, so I’ll be doing a fifth day, through Swaledale, following the river wherever possible. I’ll be using the Swale Way route through the valley.

The high route between Keld and Reeth can be “unwelcoming” in poor weather
Path beside the River Swale, on the new low level alternative

I’m using B&Bs all the way, but I’ll be carrying slightly more than my usual B&B kit load, in order to add some training weight for my upcoming Cape Wrath Trail walk. The added weight will be some home comforts that I normally don’t bother with, like a spare pair of shoes for the evening, but I’ll add some disposable weight as well, in the form of a couple of 2 litre water bottles. I can fill these in the morning, thereby closely simulating the weight of my CWT pack and if the weight becomes unbearable I can ditch some, or all of it and ease back a bit.

My training for the CWT has so far been rather sporadic and has mostly involved cycle training rather than ‘walking with weight’ training, so I’m expecting this to be quite hard. However, I don’t want to completely ruin the experience by straining under a massively heavy pack all week and I need to be able to ‘work’ at the same time, so I’ll try and strike a balance between training and enjoyment.

Surrender Smelt Mill, passed as we descend toward Reeth

I’m really looking forward to getting out on the trail again. Although this isn’t new ground for me, the first walk of the year is always eagerly anticipated. Recently it has felt like each new year has been on hold, like I’ve just been treading water, until I set out on my first multi-day walk. Last year Easter was much earlier, so this year the feeling has been extended and I’m absolutely raring to get on with it. My calendar is pretty full this year and the Herriot Way is just the appetiser!

You should be able to follow along with me – all being well I’ll be live blogging as I go. If you’re in and around Swaledale or Wensleydale over the Easter weekend, and you see a fat bloke being crushed by his massive pack, that’ll probably be me! Be sure to wave, if I have the strength I may even wave back!

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