Until about ten years ago, my knowledge of walking in the Yorkshire Dales was limited to the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Y3P) Challenge route, and the paths to various holes in the ground that my potholing club had visited. However, there is far more to the Yorkshire Dales than just a challenge walk or the fixture list of a caving club, and over the last decade I have got to know the ‘Dales’ much more closely.
It still took me a long time to come across Smearsett, though with a height of a mere 363 metres the hill doesn’t exactly sell itself. There is a surprise view on the Stainforth to Helwith Bridge section of the B6479, though if you are driving it’s probably best to stick to piloting your vehicle. Smearsett is also quite prominent from the bits of the Y3P near to Horton in Ribblesdale – although small, the hill suddenly rears up like a wave breaking on a beach. Thousands must see it every year without having a clue what they are looking at.
My first visit was in 2008, researching a route for Walking World – their database for the Dales is considerable, so finding a gap on the map that indicates a potential walking route is a rarity. Our first outing was just an excuse for a couple of hours walking in the snow – although the hill is small it catches quite a lot of ‘weather’. It looked interesting enough to return to, but the weather on the second trip was almost as wild – these small hills are often full of surprises.
* * *
My photographer mate, John Bamber, has been visiting the Yorkshire Dales as long as I have, so it was good to find that Smearsett was a gap in his forty years experience. As there was little danger of the day becoming a high mountain epic, we were joined by Chris and Miv. Final member of the party was Border Collie ‘Mist’, who appears in this blog so frequently that she is thinking of starting her own. We had barely started out when we came across lurking photographers by the Stainforth railway bridge. Round here that means only one thing – a steam train!
With the ‘steamer’ out of the way we carried on over the bridge across the River Ribble. The river was quietly behaving itself, though when the water level rises, the cascades 100 metres downstream become a raging torrent. After that it wasn’t long before we reached the summit of Smearsett. Fortunately things don’t end there – a long limestone ridge continues over the top of Pot Scar, before doubling back under the climber’s crag then finally heading towards the hamlet of Feizor.
On other visits, Feizor has always been quiet. Today the tea room was well busy, but we didn’t linger long, other than to get the ice creams in. Our return route took us on greenways to Stackhouse, and from there along the river path back to Stainforth.
The day was a great outing with good friends and good weather. In fact, we seem to have been blessed by good weather on most of our trips out this summer. To stop us getting too cocky, Chris, dog and I followed up Smearsett with a trip to Langdale a couple of days later – we have just finished drying the gear!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber