Wharfedale, North Yorkshire – Friday 5th-Monday 8th January

Thanks to various contributors for pics and words: Sarah, Rachael, Torbin, Karen, M-L.

On Friday, 8th January, twenty-two IOGers gathered in North Yorkshire, most of us at Wharfedale Lodge, http://www.wharfedalelodge.co.uk/  – a comfortable rabbit warren of twin-bedded rooms with a big kitchen and plenty of space – the remaining five in the nearby village of Grassington. This was the perfect way to embark on the new year and huge thanks are due to Angela for organising the location, the accommodation and, of course, the weather, which was all as good as it gets.

Friday night everyone gathered at the Tennant’s Arms, http://thetennantsarms.co.uk/, a short but fumblingly dark walk down the road from the Lodge – most to eat and drink, the Grassington contingent joining us for a pint or two as the evening progressed. This was hard work!

On Saturday three walks were planned, Bob and Rachael’s following much the same route but with extensions at either end for Rachael’s team. The third was organised by Ian to Malham Cove. We start with this one.

Ian’s Malham Cove Walk

Words by Sarah; pics Karen.

On a bright but cold and breezy day, our walk started at the Water Sinks Car Park, where 6 of us set off with Ian as our leader. Ian had walked the route previously on another trip to this lovely part of the country. We set off toward the Limestone Pavement at the top of Malham Cove, a rock formation created by glacier activity and melt water at the end of the last Ice Age.

After navigating this, we descended around 400 steps in order to come to Malham Cove and its waterfall. After a brief snack stop, we continued through the village of Malham and onto Janet’s Foss for our lunch stop. This waterfall got its name from Janet (sometimes Jennet), who was believed to be a Fairy Queen and Foss is a Nordic word for waterfall.

After lunch, we set off towards Gordale Scar, which was a slight detour off the main route, but a highlight we didn’t want to miss. There is a route up and over Gordale Scar which is very challenging at the best of times, let alone in the middle of winter when there is a lot of (very cold) water coming over the waterfalls. Therefore, once we had taken some photos, we retraced our steps back towards the road. Here we picked up the footpath that would return us to our start point. During this part of the walk, we experienced a short snow storm, which just added to the highlights of the day. It was lovely walk around some great highlights of this part of the Yorkshire Dales. Thanks to Ian for his guidance.

Next is the longer version of a walk the rest of us did the same day – some of us drove to Grassington and back; others did the extra mile (considerably more than that, actually) and walked all the way from Wharfedale Lodge.

Kilnsey – Grassington – Burnsall – Thorpe – Linton – Kilnsey

Text contributed by Rachael; pictures by Torbin & M-L

It was a little damp and drizzly as we set out from our lodge at Kilnsey. The route took us out along the road past Kilnsey Crag and then across the meadows to the pretty little village of Conistone. From here we headed upwards to the limestone cove at the top of Dib Beck, a mini version of Malham Cove.

We contoured around the edge and onto the plateau beyond where we joined the Dales Way path and followed this down into Grassington.

After a short break for refreshment in Grassington market square we continued our walk along the Dales Way following the River Wharfe to Hebden suspension bridge. This middle section of our walk now took the same route as the walk led by Bob. As the day progressed the clouds disappeared and the sun brightened up the views.

We finally caught up with the other group just as they were leaving Burnsall.  The seats on the green provided an ideal stopping point for our lunch.

The route from here took us over farm fields with numerous stone stiles to the villages of Thorpe and Linton (and our first sight of primroses and narcissus of the year – ed.)

We rejoined the riverside path at Grassington and followed it north through meadows and woodland back to Conistone. There was just a final short section where we retraced our steps back to the house in Kilnsey (while the less energetic picked up the cars at Grassington and drove home – ed.).

Dinner, courtesy of Anna, Graham, Angela, and Rachael was devoured!

Sunday – Sarah’s Bolton Abbey Walk

Map contributed by Sarah; pics and words M-L

A truly lovely walk in a truly lovely part of the country; I think everyone who did it really enjoyed this one, despite a short boggy spell in the middle; personally I thought that (escaping from the icy sludge relatively unscathed) was part of the walk’s charm.

We began by cheekily parking our 3 carloads of walkers in the grounds of a kindergarten near Barden Bridge (the planned car park was full – and who attends kindergarten on a Sunday? Right?). The route – part of the Dales Way – followed a well-made path along the Wharfe River, affording spectacular views of the gorge below – the infamous Strid:


Round a bend and Bolton Priory (on the Bolton Abbey estate) came into view – an impressive ruin of a 12th-century Augustinian monastery that still houses a light and spacious church in one wing. A palpably tranquil suntrap, we stopped there for lunch and left feeling calm and refreshed.

Which was a good thing, because we needed reserves for negotiating the uphill marshland that followed. But hey! We all had appropriate footwear and emerged from the adventure with only 1 leg out of about 22 having been immersed above boot level.

This was followed by a large expanse of beautifully springy turf swooping up to a rocky outcrop with a 360 degree view across the Dales. In the distance was our next destination: a reservoir which the path circumnavigated before dropping back through heath heaving with grouse to where our cars were parked.

Faces fell a little as the cars came into view: a large people-carrier with the kindergarten’s logo on the side blocked our exit, and an irate gentleman greeted the drivers (those not directly involved hung back in cowardly fashion). Still, he had not reckoned on our charming walk leader – Sarah had him laughing (wrapped around her little finger, more like) within minutes, and he moved his vehicle to let us go, somewhat chastened, on our way.

Meanwhile, another, hardier group, had gone up above the snow line, in a much more ambitious endeavour.

Rachael’s Walk – Kettlewell – Great Whernside – Buckden Pike – Buckden – Kettlewell

Text and map contributed by Rachael, pics by Torben.

The forecast was for sunshine all day and the views of snowy summits were very tempting from the previous day, so that is where we decided to head.

We started the route from Kettlewell, the next village upstream from our lodge in Kilnsey. There was a gradual climb up along the icy roads through the village and onto the hills beyond.

As we progressed upwards past the remote hostel at Hag Dike, the snow got thicker and we started heading into the cloud. The snow however was very crumbly and not ideal for making snowmen.

The summit of Great Whernside was cold and windy. We didn’t linger here too long.

There was just enough time for a group photo.

We headed in a northerly direction along the ridge. The ice patterns on the rocks were amazing.

The route took a gradual descent down the side of Great Whernside and as we followed it the views became clearer and the sun began to shine.

When we reached Tor Dike, an earthwork ditch, we paused for refreshments in the sunshine. The route then crossed the road and began the climb up to Buckden Pike. The grasses were frozen solid and there were great views back towards Great Whernside with the cloud still lingering on the summit.

Almost at the top is a memorial to six people who lost their lives in a plane crash on Buckden Pike, and it, and the summit, were in clear sunshine. There were great views across to the three peaks, Ingleborough, Whernside and Penyghent.

The route back down was very icy and slippery and, as it gradually turned westward, we were blinded by the blazing sun on the snowy ground.  We gradually descended into the village of Buckden. Here we joined the Dales Way path and followed  the River Wharfe through the valley back to Kettlewell.

There was just one more brief pause under this chestnut tree on the way for a drink and snack.   It was getting dark by the the time we arrived back in Kettlewell, although not quite dark enough for us to have got our head torches out. We finished the walk with a visit to the Bluebell for a well-earned pint of Mud!

The weekend ended for most of us with a feast of lasagne, salad, pavlova and flambeed bananas, provided by Glenys, Angela and Miriam, then stand-up comedy from Glen and parlour games. Most people headed back towards Suffolk after breakfast the next morning.

Though not all. There was one last walk led by the indefatigable Rachael on Monday: covering part of the same route as the Bolton Abbey walks the day before, but in rather different weather conditions.

Monday 8th January – Barden Bridge – Simons Seat – Valley of desolation – Bolton Abbey – The Strid

Words and map contributed by Rachael, pics by Torben

11.5 miles – 5.5hrs​

It was another cold but lovely sunny day so three of us – me, Torben and David – decided to make the most of it and have another day walking. We parked up just above the Strid [see above, ed.] on the River Wharfe and joined the Dales Way path to head northwards to Barden Bridge. It was so cold that even the mud on the valley paths was solidly frozen.

We followed the River Wharfe for a couple of miles before heading upwards to Simon’s Seat. The route up was very, very icy.

Thanks to Angela for organising a great weekend trip.