#16 – “….I don’t know much about art….”

Nantlle Ridge - early morning mist

I’m sure many of you have had this dilemma – you fancy doing something but your partner wants something different.  On one occasion with Chris in North Wales, I wanted to do the Nantlle Ridge but she fancied an exhibition at the Tate Modern Gallery in Liverpool.  The compromise was fairly simple.  We parked the camper near the start of the ridge, and I set my alarm for 0530.  By 0600 I was out on the hill having a great time, and four hours after that was back at the van to be welcomed with coffee and a hot bacon ‘sarnie’ – wearing a highly visible red top has its advantages!  Four hours later we were at the gallery.

The Nantlle Ridge

I’m in the “Don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” school.  One artist I do admire, though, is the internationally acclaimed Andy Goldsworthy, mainly for the way he works with nature and natural objects. Between 1996 and 2003, Goldsworthy completed a major art project in Cumbria consisting of 46 sheepfolds.   I knew the location of one of these folds, tucked away in a lonely valley in the Howgill Fells, and it seemed a good ‘hook’ to hang a walk on.

Andy Goldsworthy's Washfold at Red Gill Beck (JB)

Mind you, it might not have happened.  The forecast for the previous three days had said that Wednesday was going to be fine and even sunny.  In West Yorkshire, though, we woke up to low cloud and leaden skies.  If we hadn’t arranged to meet up with my mate John Bamber, the project might well have been put on hold, but ‘travelling hopefully’ did the trick.  By Skipton the clouds were higher, and by Kirkby Lonsdale we had clear skies – to think that we could so easily have bailed out.

The Howgills from the southwest (JB)

The Howgills are one of the most viewed groups of hills in the UK – every day literally thousands of people drive by them, between junctions 37 and 38 on the M6 Motorway.   Many would regard this as the most scenic stretch of Motorway in the country, yet the hills are quiet and hardly visited.  Mind you, these hills have a serious identity crisis – although included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park they are actually in the county of Cumbria.

Approaching Cautley Spout

We started out from the Cross Keys, between Sedburgh and Kirkby Stephen.  If you are seeking solace in strong drink, the Cross Keys isn’t for you – it’s a temperance pub!  Where you will find solace, though, is in the scenery.  The Howgills are mostly rolling, grassy hills without drama, but there are one or two surprises.  One of these is the magnificent Cautley Spout, which never fails to impress.

Upper section of Cautley Spout (JB)

The highest waterfall in England is underground in Gaping Gill, but Cautley Spout is the highest above ground, falling for almost 200 metres down a series of rock steps.   The sheepfold we were heading for is next to Red Gill Beck, which is one of the streams feeding the cascades, and the first part of the route picked a way up a steep path on the right of the falls.  Steep is the word – in about 600 metres linear distance the path gains about 200 metres of height, which is an average gradient of 1 in 3.  Some individual sections are steeper.

Approaching the sheepfold

From the top of the falls, an easy meander of 600 metres up the beck brought us to the fold.  It’s a washfold restored by Goldsworthy, with the addition of a pyramid shaped cairn at one corner to commemorate the foot-and-mouth disaster of 2001, and to mark a renewal in sheep farming.  The isolated nature of the fold makes it a quiet, unspoiled spot.  Impressive as Goldsworthy’s work is, it’s also worth remembering the farmers who built the original fold.

Above Cautley Crags - '...not a place to stumble!' (JB)

This was more than just a trip to a gallery, though, and more grandeur was to come.  We retraced our steps to the top of the falls, then followed the narrow path (not shown on the map) that skirts the top of Cautley Crags.  The views were impressive, as was the drop to our left – not a place to stumble!  When the crags faded out we struck off over the flat untracked ridge of Great Dummacks to Calders.

Between Calders and The Calf (JB)

From Calders an easy rolling path took us to The Calf, at 676 metres the highest top in the Howgills.  The panorama here is stunning, though today we found the views obscured somewhat by what appeared to be a temperature inversion.  John and I enjoyed the game of “Spot the mountain”, made more entertaining when you can only see the topmost section of the mountain in question – we both picked out the Scafells fairly quickly, but Helvellyn had us scratching our heads for a minute or so.

The Calf - John, Chris and 'Mist'

An easy walk along good paths took us to another steep and untracked section leading down to Bowderdale Head, where we joined another good path back down to the valley and “the pub with no beer”.  Well you can’t have everything, and the warmest hill-day so far this year, together with great views, made this particular compromise acceptable.

End of the day (JB)

Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber

Posted in 4. Northern England, General Interest | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

#15 – “…feeling a bit peaky..”

The peaks in this case being three in number.  Last weeks post on Pen y Ghent brought back memories of the previous year, when I spent four months researching for a guidebook on the Three Peaks Challenge – That’s the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge (Y3P) in this case, not the ‘Johnny-come-lately’ National Three Peaks Challenge, of which more later.

Pen y Ghent - Early morning

The Y3P is about 22 miles in length, with a total height gain of about 1570 metres, starting at Horton in Ribblesdale and going anti-clockwise, taking in Pen y Ghent followed by Whernside then Ingleborough before returning to Horton.  The Challenge is to complete the walk in under 12 hours, and may have its origins in 1887, when two teachers from Giggleswick School went for a walk over Ingleborough.  They had such a good time that they carried on over Whernside and Pen y Ghent.  Ten years later, four members of the Yorkshire Ramblers set a record of 10 ½ hours.  The present record for fell-runners is an incredible 2 ¾ hours!

Whernside from Ribblehead (JB)

I first completed the circuit when I was nineteen with some mates doing their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition.  We took three days, and rucksacks weighing about 15 kgs (over 30 lbs) but tents were heavier then!  Then, in my mid-thirties, I ran the route with my dog, taking under six hours, never thinking I would be back to repeat it twenty five years later.

Ingleborough (JB)

It was Kim’s idea.  We had been in the Royal Marines together, me leaving after seven years as a lowly Lieutenant, and Kim eventually retiring as a major.  He thought that a short (20+ mile) stroll in Yorkshire could be fun; despite a combined age of 112 we did it in less than nine hours, and without any training.  Shortly afterwards Discovery Walking Guides suggested Y3P as a guidebook project.

Approaching Pen y Ghent

Most of the research was without incident, apart from the occasional soaking, but we had some laughs along the way, usually involving mate and photographer, John Bamber.  Oh, how we laughed the day we walked a linear route to John’s car, to discover halfway through that his car keys were in my car back at the start point!  And how we laughed (well, I did) when John struggled for over an hour in blizzard conditions to get a photo of a steam train on the Settle-Carlisle line, only for the train to zoom past as he was getting his camera ready!

Whernside in typically cloudy conditions

So, is the Y3P worth doing?  For regular walkers it’s a chance to measure fitness and stamina.  For many, however, it is the first (and last) walking challenge that they will ever undertake, and the route is very busy in the summer months when hundreds walk the route for charity.  The use of the hills for charity events is somewhat contentious, but the Y3P stacks up well when compared with its now better-known rival, the National Three Peaks Challenge.

Ingleborough from Whernside (LS)

The National Challenge is about reaching the summits of the three highest national peaks (Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis) in 24 hours.  I’m not a fan for several reasons.  The participants spend more time in a vehicle than on a mountain, and the Challenge is as much about driving as hill-walking (Don’t even consider doing the peaks and driving as well – it needs nominated drivers who don’t walk).

Snowdon (left) and Crib Goch from the Miners Track

Erosion is a problem on both challenges, but on the Y3P one organisation (The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority) is involved in restoration and conservation, making it easier for charities to make a block donation to offset the damage caused by their events.  On the National Challenge, two National Parks and one independent charity fulfil the same role, making co-ordination almost impossible.

Scafell Pike from Wasdale (AS)

The National also causes a huge amount of disruption, especially in the Lake District. Traffic chaos on single track lanes, inconsiderate parking, fields used as toilets, noise, disruption and extra mountain rescue callouts have become a regular feature of life at Wasdale Head.  What’s more, participants spend their money at the start or finish, leaving no financial benefit for the Lakes.

Ben Nevis from Corpach (JD)

Finally, the carbon footprint of the Y3P is much smaller – once the team has arrived at Yorkshire there is no need for extra driving.  On the National it’s a drive of over 450 miles  from start to finish, before adding on travel to and from the Challenge.  I can see that the challenge of walking the highest national peaks of Britain in one go is appealing, but for me the Y3P is a preferable option – Use the local pubs, cafes and campsites, and pay for the car park and you will reduce your impact on the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

* * *

For those who want a longer read, Click here to buy the guide for the Y3P Challenge direct from me.  As well as including the route for the Challenge, there are also useful hints to get you round in under 12 hours.

* * *

£8.00 for a signed copy and post free in the UK. (While stocks last)  If ordering outside of the UK contact me using the email link on the guidebook page, and I will let you know the cost of posting.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber – image tagged (LS) © Les Staves.

Photos of Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis copied from the Geograph website under a Creative Commons Licence. Images tagged (AS) © Andrew Smith and (JD) © Johnny Durnan.

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

#14 – Another hard day at the office? – Pen y Ghent

Pen y Ghent - Hill of the Winds (JB)

“A bad day on the hills is better than a good day in the office”.  Fortunately I don’t have to make the choice, the hills being the office nowadays.  Today’s choice was Pen y Ghent, my favourite peak in the Yorkshire Dales.  Why my favourite?  All sorts of reasons, I suppose – It’s a short day if time is limited, but it feels like a longer day, and although it’s a straightforward enough walk there is extra interest in the band of crags on the southern approach.  In fact it’s one of those hills where I’ve never had a bad day, whether walking, running or even skiing.

The author skiing below Pen y Ghent - Winter 2010

Pen y Ghent – even the name promises great things.  It’s a strange, ‘other-world’ sort of name, that sounds as if it should be in Wales.  No surprise about that, though.  This area was once inhabited by British tribes whose language was a form of old Welsh.  They were certainly here when the Romans arrived and were still here when the Romans left.  Unfortunately they didn’t hang on in this area when the next wave of invaders arrived – the British tribes were defeated by the Anglo-Saxons in about 600 AD, changing the local language for ever.  Pen y Ghent translates as “Hill of the winds”.  Those who have walked there would probably agree that it was well named!

Pen y Ghent from Brackenbottom Scar (JB)

The weather forecast mid-week was so promising that I felt I should share the day.  My old mate John Bamber was an ideal candidate, so arrangements were made.  It’s usually me that’s slightly late, but today it was John, delayed on the way by a phone call asking if he was available to travel to the Arctic in a few weeks.  John is officially ‘technical support’ on the annual Polar Challenge race, but he’s also a resourceful “Mr Fixit”.  On top of that he knows how to use a shotgun, a useful skill in an area where 80% of the world’s polar bears live.

Polar bear on sea ice South of Truro Island Canada April 2010 (JB)

These days John is much more likely to shoot a polar bear with his camera, with which he is equally skilled.  This makes him a useful addition to any hill day, as he takes care of the photography.  So, with the addition of Chris (‘me missus’), and “Mist” the Border Collie, we had a team.  I’m a creature of habit, and so I suggested my favourite route – Out by Brackenbottom scar then up the craggy south side of Pen y Ghent.

The lane to Brackenbottom (JB)

The first part of the route is just “steady away” as they say up north, gradually gaining height in a relatively painless way.  When the path joins the Pennine Way things start to get steeper, but a succession of small crags, limestone at first followed by gritstone, make a series of interesting mini-scrambles that provide suitable entertainment.  Even the dog was having a good time, but unfortunately the rock doesn’t last long, and we were soon on the summit.

Approaching the South Crags (JB)

John Bamber with large camera and large beard

Even the dog was having a good time! (JB)

Despite it being in the middle of the week, and the weather being on the cool side, the shelters on both side of the summit wall were occupied, so sandwiches were delayed until we reached Hunt Pot on the way down.  I frequently get confused by the proximity of Hunt Pot and Hull Pot, often getting the names mixed up.  Well, Hull Pot is the huge, spectacular hole that fills up like a bath when it rains hard, and Hunt Pot is the one that thousands of people walk past every year, despite being within 50 metres of one of the busiest paths in the Dales.

Hunt Pot (JB)

Hull Pot (Note figure in orange jacket)

Pen y Ghent (JB)

The day ended with a pleasant stroll down Horton Lane to Horton in Ribblesdale – The end of another hard day at the office.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

#13 – Wandering around Malham

“The Team”

Chris at Nappa Cross

Mist checking food possibilities

The author looking busy

….assembled for “The Walk”

The Yorkshire Dales is rightly popular as a hill-walking destination.  The area does not have the picturesque views of Lakeland, the stark drama of Snowdonia or the wildness of the Scottish Highlands, but it does have good, honest, down-to-earth walking.  It is also within convenient range for walkers living in the heavily populated areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire.  More to the point it’s handy from where I live.

Medieval field systems above Malham

I know the Lake District fairly well, having lived there for 25 years, but I only really began to get to know the Yorkshire Dales about ten years ago.  Of course I knew routes like the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and as a caver I knew the locations of, and routes to, loads of caves and potholes, but I didn’t really know the upland areas.  I’ve now reached the stage where I know the Three Peaks, Malham and Wharfedale areas so well that it becomes difficult to come up with ideas for new walking routes.  Sometimes it needs a little nudge .

Looking down towards Malham

The nudge in this case was the weather, which had been up to its usual tricks for a week – the Atlantic Jetstream was wreaking havoc, driving a succession of low pressure areas past the north of the UK.  Then, out of nowhere, a ridge of high pressure turned up, pushing one set of storms east, and holding back another set to the west.  A fine day was promised, so a quick decision had to be made.  What to do?

The lane to Pikedaw HIll

Malham is the nearest part of the Dales to where we live, and so is often chosen by default.  The trouble is we have exhausted the more obvious routes, so the challenge was to come up with something less obvious but worth doing.  Then I saw it on the map; a path heading out of Malham village towards Pikedaw Hill and Nappa Cross.  Probably not the most exciting route in the world, but new ground.  Then I had the idea of not planning anything beyond there – we would head out and just follow our noses.

Gaining altitude towards Hoober Edge

Which is exactly what we did.  The path, heading northwest by Hoober Edge, gained height in good style, and gave us unexpected views of familiar sights such as Malham Cove, and new sights like the small waterfall above Butterlands Barn.  Old mine workings just below Kirkby Fell added extra interest before we reached the Bridleway heading towards Settle.

Malham Tarn in the distance

Here we changed direction to the northeast, passing Nappa Cross before heading towards Langscar Gate.  The sight of Malham Tarn in the distance suggested the next part of our route, so we headed to the Pennine Way, following that north towards the tarn.  This route follows a dry valley that once carried the stream over the nearby magnificent Malham Cove.

"Water Sinks" in its new (temporary) location

Just beyond the dry valley is “Water Sinks”, where the stream from Malham Tarn disappears underground, to reappear not at the foot of the Cove, as you might expect, but at Aire Head springs just south of Malham village.  Today, though, someone had moved Water Sinks!  There was so much water from the previous storms that the stream now extended 400 metres beyond Water Sinks before disappearing down another hole.

Malham Tarn

From Malham Tarn there were several familiar routes heading back towards Malham, but we had been making good time and it was not long past our lunch stop.  I was tempted by a detour passing through the site of the Roman Camp on Mastiles Lane.  We could then link up to Smearbottoms Lane (great name!) to return by Goredale Scar.

Site of the Roman marching camp at Mastiles Lane

We had a great day out, covering just over 16 kms (10 miles) and with great weather – the sun actually felt warm for the first time in ages, and the good light and low sun did a good job of picking out the remains of medieval field systems.  And the best part of it all was that I hadn’t spent ages poring over a map trying to find the perfect walk – instead we just set off, and the perfect walk found us.

Medieval field systems above Gordale

p.s. For those who don’t know this beautiful bit of England, and especially for readers outside the UK, click here for more about the countryside around Malham.  You can also follow these links to see more of Nappa Cross and the Roman Camp.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 3. Yorkshire Dales | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

#12 – “Walking (safely) in a Winter Wonderland….”

1. Helvellyn with Striding Edge, Red Tarn and Swirral Edge

My scariest mountain moment this week was in the comfort of my own back garden.  My window cleaner was telling me about his walk up Helvellyn a couple of weeks ago.  They had gone the long way round (Grisedale Tarn probably, but he didn’t know the route) and found the top pretty well covered in snow.  Not wanting to risk a descent of Striding Edge, they had opted to go down Swirral Edge instead.

2. Well equipped party heading towards Swirral Edge

At that point I must have been visibly cringing, because he said, “Do you know it”?  I know it, all right!  In the 1980’s I was the police officer for the Patterdale area, as well as a member of one of the local mountain rescue teams.  In my three years working at Patterdale I attended several inquests for people who had been killed after falling from Swirral Edge in winter conditions.

3. Swirral Edge and Helvellyn from Catstye Cam

“We should have had crampons and an ice-axe, I suppose”, he said.  “It was really desperate – I was driving my hands into the snow to get a grip, but it was like glass”.  I know just what he meant.  With axe and crampons the ridge is an easy Grade I route, if that, but without gear it can be lethal.  I’ll explain why.

4. Swirral Edge (centre) with the "Fall Line" into Brown Cove

Swirral Edge is on the east side of the summit plateau.  The prevailing winds are from the west, so the snow is mainly deposited on the lee (sheltered) side of the mountain, particularly at the head of Swirral where a steep snow arête about 5 metres or so soon forms.  Extended periods of freezing and thawing changes the snow structure, until it becomes so hard that boot soles barely mark it.  A slip here becomes an uncontrolled slide then a fall of 100-150 metres, either towards Red Tarn or into Brown Cove.

5. Looking down Swirral Edge

The problem is that this 5 metres of steep, hard snow comes at the end of an ascent up an easy ridge, with the summit tantalisingly near.  Conversely it comes as a descent route at the end of a long day, where easy ground is so very near that a longer way round becomes unappealing.  With crampons and axe there really isn’t any drama – without, it’s an accident waiting to happen.  There are fatal accidents around here most winters.

Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) from the top of the PYG Track

Regular winter hill-walkers and mountaineers will probably have their own stories of accident black-spots.  Last winter I was both amazed and horrified by the number of ill-equipped walkers going precariously up the snow-covered PYG track to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), though I shouldn’t have been because I’ve seen it all before.  And how many of them realise that the easy summer ascent of the Llanberis path lies on a convex slope that leads to crags waiting below.  It’s yet another place where unprepared walkers frequently die.

Walkers at the top of the PYG Track, most without ice axes or crampons

Descent path from Yr Wyddfa, with dangerous ground below on the left

Unbelievable, but it happens every year.  So, do yourselves and the rescue teams a favour this winter and stay safe.  We all have our own ideas about the best way to do things, but here are my favourite tips to keep out of trouble –

1. It goes without saying, but I will say it – take ice-axe and crampons, and practice using them beforehand.  Don’t waste too much time practicing self-arrest with your axe – learn instead how to stay secure on your crampons so you don’t fall in the first place.

2. Carry extra gear – in winter as well as axe and crampons my sack will always have a “bothy shelter”, a Blizzard survival bag, a Paramo Torres smock, headtorch and spare batteries, two spare pairs of gloves (I get cold hands!) and a spare hat, first aid kit, and spare glucose as well as flask of coffee and food.  I’ll also have map, compass and GPS.

3. On the other hand, don’t over-burden yourself.  Too much gear means you move more slowly, and in winter speed is important.

4. Don’t waste time faffing about – be organised, keep your kit in order, start early and be mentally prepared to come down in the dark.

No guarantees, but go prepared and you have a better chance of not going home in one of these -

RAF Rescue 'Sea King'

The numbered photographs above are copied from the Geograph Project website under a Creative Commons Licence.  The images are © and are by –
1. Simon Ledingham   2. John Harvey    3. Matt Eastham    4. Sharon Leedell    5. Michael Graham
You will find more of their superb images on the website.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 2. Lake District, 5. North Wales, Mountain Safety | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

#11 – “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”

And it did.  The hard rain, that is.  I was in Fort William for two 1-day training courses with a winter element.  The Mountain Leaders Training Association (MLTA), of which I am a member, has just introduced a Continuing Personal Development policy in which members maintain, develop and enhance their skills and knowledge in leading people in mountaineering activities.  The two courses were a good chance to brush up on my skills and have a bit of fun.

Course members near Aonach Mor

It had been about fifteen years since I had done any Avalanche Avoidance training, and these are the kind of skills that it’s useful to keep up to date.  Since I was travelling over 300 miles to get to Fort William for the course, I decided to do an extra day on a course entitled Winter Mountaineering – The Grey Area.  An intriguing title, which had me hooked.

"A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall"

The main problem with the Avalanche Avoidance day was the weather.  There had been snow, right enough, but the Sunday of the course brought gale force winds and rain.  The original plan to get to the snow by using the Nevis Range ski lift was abandoned due to the gondola not running in the high winds.  So, it was a case of ‘packs on and leg it’ up the Allt a’ Mhuilinn to the CIC hut below Coire na Ciste

The CIC hut, Ben Nevis

We arrived at the hut after three stream crossings, accompanied by driving rain and wind.  A quick brew and we were ready to head up into the Coire.  Tim Blakemore, the course instructor, had given us a useful theory session in the warm before setting out, and now we had the chance to put things into practice.

Looking up to Coire na Ciste

Ironically, the rain had consolidated any unstable snow lower down, by bonding it all together, but we found the unmistakable signs of an avalanche below No.5 Gully.  Here we amused ourselves for a while digging snow pits to assess the snow-pack.  The other game was hunt the transceiver.  These are radio devices used in avalanche conditions, which transmit a signal that can be traced using a second device.  A couple of transceivers were buried in the avalanche debris, then we all had a go at finding them.  And just as well we did find them at £200 each!

Course members below No.5 gully

The next day dawned finer.  The wind had dropped, and it was colder, so no rain.  Our planned group of six was now down to four, as we set off for the Nevis Range gondola.  At the top station we set off for the east side of Aonach Mor, the aim being to practice safeguarding clients on easier ground, without using ‘full-on’ belaying techniques.

Looking down on the author (right) bringing up a "client"

The main technique used was moving together and ‘short-roping’ over ground that, whilst easy, had the potential to be dangerous in the case of a slip.  We weaved back and forth and up and down on Grade 1+ snow and rock, taking turns to be client and leader.  After a bite to eat we went on to lowering clients from improvised ice-axe belays, before finishing up on the ridge above

The author preparing to lower a "client"

Earlier in the day, Tim had pointed out potential avalanche prone slopes lower down the hill.  When we reached the crest of the broad ridge we found more indicators of  future avalanche danger developing, all of which was a useful revision of the points learned the day before.  At the end of a great hill day, an easy walk off took us to the gondola top station for the ride down to the valley.

Tim Blakemore

Dave McGrath Wilkinson

Thanks are due to Tim Blakemore, mountain guide and instructor, who gave us two great days out, despite the changeable conditions.  Tim spends his summers guiding clients in the alps, but leaves the warmth behind each winter to run winter courses in Scotland.  As well as bringing his expertise he is also a friendly, laid-back guy who will leave you with a big smile on your face.  Contact Tim for further details of his guiding and courses.

Thanks also to Dave McGrath Wilkinson for some of the photographs.  Dave offers a range of courses in the outdoors including climbing, walking, camping, survival skills and scrambling.  Contact Dave for more information.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 1. Scotland, Mountain Safety | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

#10 – “On Ilkley Moor….”

Think of West Yorkshire, and you will probably think of towns and cities, and the remains of long gone industries.  The reason that so many of those lost industries were situated in West Yorkshire in the first place was because of the valleys, where plentiful water supplies drove the mills.  Where you get a valley, you also get uplands, and West Yorkshire has those as well, though not always as obvious or well known.

Striding out over Ilkley Moor

However, one bit of West Yorkshire upland is famous in the song “On Ilkley Moor, baht ‘at”.  Two bits of confusion to clear up here.  The landmass that most people regard as Ilkley Moor is, in fact, Rombalds Moor, and Ilkley Moor is the high ground directly above Ilkley town.  The thing is, no one ever wrote a song called “On Rombalds Moor, baht ‘at”.  And the second confusion to clear up, for those who are not from the North of England, is what does “baht ‘at” mean in the first place?  Quite simple, it means “without a hat”, the consequences being terminal in the song.

From our home (Shipley near Bradford) it’s a simple matter to walk to Ilkley over Rombalds/Ilkley Moor and from Ilkley to return home on the train.   So, that’s what we did.

The Leeds-Liverpool canal at Saltaire

From Shipley the Leeds-Liverpool canal makes a pleasant connection with Saltaire, which is a world heritage site.  Sir Titus Salt built a ‘square mile’ of houses for his employees in the 19th Century, including churches, halls and libraries – the only thing he wouldn’t include was a pub!  From Saltaire we headed up Shipley Glen, a great local playground where you will see horses, mountain bikers, rock climbers bouldering and the ubiquitous dog walkers.

Chris, Barbara and "Mist"

Also on our route was Golcar Farm, home of Mainline Border Collies, and the Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies (FOSTBC – see below).  Our Border Collie, “Mist”, was a farm dog that didn’t make the grade as a working sheepdog, and was re-homed with us by FOSTBC.  After swapping a few tales with Barbara Sykes, who runs the trust, we set off again for the moor.

The Twelve Apostles stone circle, Ilkley Moor

Cloudless blue skies, and hard frozen ground made walking over the moor a pleasure – all too often this route is misty, muddy or both.  We made great progress up to what is literally the high point of the walk, the ‘Twelve Apostles’ stone circle.  The circle is Bronze Age, and has stood on this spot for several millennia.  In the distance we could see a more sinister example of the hand of humankind at work, the electronic monitoring station at RAF Menwith Hill.  Despite its official title, the facility is run by and for the USA.

Menwith Hill in the distance

From the stone circle it was all downhill to Ilkley and the railway station for the return trip.  Ok, so Rombalds/Ilkley Moor isn’t the Cairngorm plateau (though when the north wind blows the snow directly in your face you might find similarities) but on a crisp, winter day it makes a fine excursion.  Just remember to take your hat!

The descent to Ilkley

p.s.  FOSTBC is a charity dedicated to the welfare and future of the Border Collie breed.  Running costs are inevitably high, and any contribution to their finances helps to re-home another unwanted collie.  You can even sponsor one of the ‘sanctuary’ dogs – for more information check out their website – http://www.fostbc.org.uk/index.php

p.p.s.  Not much derring-do this week.  If it’s gale force winds, avalanche conditions and steep snow and rock you want, come back next week for the report of my trip to Fort William last weekend – wrap up warm, though.

Posted in 4. Northern England, Border Collies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment