Expeditions, Navigation, Guided Walks and Trekking
A settled day was promised, so we set out to explore more of the Dales. Up the narrow steep lane out of Askrigg, we drove over the Common to Muker. High up on the open road the moorland is busy with features. Wainwrights Pennine Journey crosses this with grouse butts; swallow and shake holes; old quarries; deserted lead mines and limestone outcrops giving lots of interest to a seemingly desolate moor. His walk drops down into Gunnerside, we made for Swaledale branching left to Muker. It feels remote here at the end of a narrow valley, just visitors and tractors along the road, unlike Wensleydale busy with holidaymakers, massive harvesters, farmers giant tractors and lorries. Swaledale is for walkers that like more gnarl to their hillsides; where you can get places to park and enjoy the uncrowded tea rooms with space at lunchtimes.
Starting from the small riverside carpark, the “Occupation Road” gently works its way up the hillside between the walled fields, all of which have their own barns. This track is apparently named after the building of the road through the recently enclosed, or occupied, Commons, perhaps a work creation project similar to those in the South Pennines in Lancashire.
It ends at a blank wall, so careful navigation is needed to find the turn down the hillside. Across a field took us to a remote farm at Appletreethwaite, now being refurbished. The farm road headed down to Thwaite, crossing a ford, but the footpath cut across a field and through a small gate to an ancient stone bridge across the river. Beneath the footbridge, a waterfall pleasantly splashed its way down the short drop.
Down the hill into Thwaite, where the charming tea room waited, with freshly prepared sandwiches and a bacon butty for lunch. I recommend this spot, catering for Pennine Way walkers and cyclists following the Tour De France route through Yorkshire. Another thing about the dales, I have seen more Sparrows here than in many a year back home. They have gone from my garden, but here the Sparrow Family hopped around on cafe wall waiting for the odd crumb.
From Thwaite, we took the Pennine Way out of the village up the northern side of the valley. A moderate slope headed up the side of Kidson Hill, passing through the upper fields with lovely open views along Swaledale and the 2 villages. Many of the fields were peppered with rabbit burrows. Our dog Luna found it almost impossible to pass these by and she spent happy time with her nose and face buried in the holes. We had to resort to the old method of tugging past that exciting area, I do suppose it’s in her breeding, hunting before obedience.
Perched on this hillside and clearly seen from the mornings walk, is one of the highest farms in the dales. Kidson farm is high up on the side of its own hill, in the midst of enclosed fields rising almost to the summit behind. Here the Pennine Way heads north to Keld, we dropped down the tarmac farm road to Muker. This is a popular start for walks up the valley and along the rivers here. Unspoilt by any recent development, it still has a pub, cafe and village shop. Of course, there is a wool shop. Also, the Literary Institute was open to visit with a display of old and new photos of the area as well as information boards explaining the field and barn system.
Back to Wensleydale, we headed to Hawes over Buttertubs Pass. This high road was just as bleak and desolate as the Askrigg track, but worth the trip for the wide-ranging views and the Wensleydale Cheese shop.