It was Chris who, a few years ago, introduced me to the idea of walking from valley to valley. After almost thirty years of walking, scrambling and climbing up pointy peaks, I had asked the question, “Why”? She could have explained her walking preferences at length, but instead she went straight to the point – “You can visit a pub halfway round”. You can’t really argue with logic like that, which is how I started wandering with a purpose.
One of our ‘wanderings’ is from Kettlewell to Arncliffe and back. As wanderings go it’s a pleasant outing, going from Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale to Arncliffe in Littondale. Adding the pub to the equation is easy, with a choice of the Blue Bell, King’s Head and Racehorses in Kettlewell, but I quite like the quirky Falcon (featured in blog #18) just over the hill at Arncliffe in Littondale.
The first time I did this walk I thought that there might also be a bit of rock scrambling involved – not long after setting out from Kettlewell the path goes up steeply to the limestone crag of Gate Cote Scar, which appears to bar the way, but this is the Yorkshire Dales, not the Dolomites. The path ducks into a narrow cleft in the crag which gives easy access to the top, and from there it’s a steady trek upwards.
Despite the early dabbling with limestone crags, the walking is fairly uneventful – it’s the landscape that provides the main interest, with some great views towards Great Whernside sprawled above Kettlewell (blog #8), and Buckden Pike near the head of Wharfedale. In no time at all, or so it seems, the path crosses the high point at a mere 490 metres, and starts to descend to Littondale.
From the high point it’s more of the same really, but in reverse order – the slope starts downhill very gradually, with a different but similar landscape, this time with views across to Fountains Fell (blog #32) and down to the River Skirfare in Littondale. The reverse order carries on all the way down to Arncliffe, including another small limestone crag that the path negotiates without any problems.
Arncliffe is an attractive small village, full of character, in fact it is so typically ‘Yorkshire Dales’ that it was the original outdoors location for the fictitious Beckindale in ITV’s soap opera, Emmerdale Farm. Village features include a traditional green, old restored stocks, St Oswald’s church and ‘The Falcon’, which is quirky to the edge of being eccentric – the beer is still dispensed from barrel to glass via a jug, whilst the landlord also dispenses his own unique charm!
From Arncliffe our route followed the River Skirfare, which we crossed by the footbridge at Hawkswick before heading back over the ridge. The weather was just on the turn as we left the river, and soon we had the waterproofs out for the first time in a long time. Back at Kettlewell there were still three pubs beckoning, but time didn’t allow. Instead we made use of a useful feature for walkers – an outside tap and scrubbing brush for cleaning boots. It’s just the right size for an adult (muddy) Border collie.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock