#71 – Buckden Pike (with dry feet!)

On the way up to Buckden Pike, looking back towards Cray

After plundering other great blogs for inspiration for walks, I thought it was time to come up with an original idea – less easy when you only have a short walking day and have walked all the obvious local routes, as we have by now.  If more time had been available we could have been in the Lake District or Peak District, but it would have to be Yorkshire this week – but where?

Limestone country, with dry walking underfoot

The Yorkshire Dales make great walking country.  The limestone scenery has an extra advantage over the other upland areas in the north of England – limestone drains well, so the chances of a dry walk underfoot are much better.  Not always the case in the east of the National Park, where the Yorkshire Dales hills are much more Pennine in character – in other words, expect mud!  For this reason we don’t often go near Buckden Pike.

Looking from Buckden Pike towards the eastern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with Great Whernside in the centre running to the right and Little Whernside in the distance, left of centre

The most unseasonably warm March for some years prompted an idea that the bogs of Buckden Pike might be less threatening than usual, so with extra water carried and a good dollop of ‘Factor 15’ we set out hopefully.    We nearly didn’t get beyond Skipton!  The early mist should have been burned off by the hot sun, so why couldn’t we see the hills?  Howefer, it seems that fortune really does favour the brave, and by the time we reached Grassington we had clear blue skies.

Clear blue skies by the time we started walking

For those who don’t know the area, Wharfedale is one of the classic valleys of the Yorkshire Dales, and it is dominated by two hills – Buckden Pike at 702 metres and Great Whernside at 704 metres.  Neither of these is particularly spectacular from a distance, but close up there is plenty of interest.

The start of the walk – Buckden Rake

Just before ‘make your mind up’ time – Cray down to the left, 'The Pike' up to the right

Being creatures of habit, we set off by Buckden Rake, the route we have followed before – this leads to either the Buckden Pike option or for a shorter day you can drop down to the ‘White Lion’ at Cray followed by a walk along Cray Terrace to Yockenthwaite.   For us, there was no contest – the height gain to ‘The Pike’ is reasonably easy, and for once it was dry.

Start of the uphill section to Buckden Pike

Still gaining height

Approaching the summit

The section of the route leading to the summit usually degenerates into a boggy mire, and on one previous occasion we crossed a section of bog that was moving under the ‘crust’ of vegetation growing over it!  Today everything was baked dry, giving easy progress, in fact the only time we have had it this easy before was one winter when the ground was frozen solid.  In no time at all we were on the summit.

Chris and ‘Mist’ at the summit cairn

Setting off for the South Top

Looking back to the summit cairn and Trig Point

The word ‘summit’ in this case is a bit misleading – although the highest point (702 metres) is marked by a cairn and triangulation column, Buckden Pike is in fact a ridge running north-south for almost 1 kilometre, at just below 700 metres altitude.  The southern high point is marked by a poignant memorial to the crew of a Wellington bomber that crashed there on 30th January 1942.

The author and ‘Mist’ at the memorial on Buckden Pike

Close up showing the bronze Fox’s head, with fragments of the aircraft in the concrete base

The aircraft with six Polish crew members was on a training exercise when they ran into a blizzard.  Lost and off route, the aircraft clipped the stone wall on the summit ridge, and crashed – a couple of metres higher and it would have passed by safely, with no more higher ground ahead.  Five of the crew died, but Josef Fusniak, the survivor, found his way to safety at Cray by following the tracks of a fox.  In 1973 a memorial to the dead aircrew was erected near to the impact point – at the base is a bronze fox’s head together with debris from the crash.

Wide and eroded path on the way to Tor Mere Top

Starbotton Cam Road leading down to the valley

We didn’t have much time to linger – although we had traversed the summit ridge, we were heading on to the outlying top of Tor Mere, before dropping down to the ancient track of Starbotton Cam Road at 520 metres.  A steady descent then took us down to Starbotton village; on the way we could see the south top of Buckden Pike, where the aircraft had crashed in 1942.

Looking back to the southern top of Buckden Pike (the high point just to the right of centre)

Starbotton Cam Road – an ancient hill track

The bridge over the River Wharfe near Starbotton

The Fox and Hounds pub was shut, so with nothing else to delay us we returned to Buckden by The Dales Way – the height of the bridge over the nearby River Wharfe is an indicator of how much water the river carries in bad weather, but for us the day stayed dry.   A steady hour’s walk near to the river brought us back to our start point at Buckden – for once I didn’t need to use the boot cleaning brush thoughtfully provided at the car park.

Journey’s end – Buckden village from The Dales Way

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s.  you can read more about the remarkable story of Josef Fusniak by following this link – http://www.buckdenpike.co.uk/

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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19 Responses to #71 – Buckden Pike (with dry feet!)

  1. smackedpentax says:

    Excellent dialog and superb photos – I really enjoyed reading this blog and I know Buckden Pike well – having done almost the same route as yours recently.


  2. antiquityandadventures says:

    great write up again,it looks a lot drier than usual ;-)…


    • Cheers, thanks for the comment.

      Yes, we picked the day well! I would only go on Buckden Pike in drought or freeze 🙂


      • antiquityandadventures says:

        we went in a wet spell…remember standing on a bit of peat and floating away 🙂 well a couple of inches anyway


  3. Hahaha – I once started bouncing about on a bit of bog that was moving like a water bed – ‘me missus’ suggested it wasn’t a good idea, and I’ve since spoken to a mate who once ended up waist deep in a similar bog 😀


  4. Superb photos of a lovely looking day. Interestingly, we did exactly the same route years ago (could be nearly 30 years ago in fact!) and I was surprised to see in your pictures the graded path and the flagstones on the approach to the summit. Don’t remember those at all!


    • It’s certainly the logical route to follow, and I guess most walkers do it that way.

      Our last time there was a couple of winters back, and it was frozen and snow covered – the time before that (5-6 years ago?) there was no path, but plenty of evil bog!!


  5. Pete Buckley says:

    Did this route a few years ago and I guess I was luck as there was only one damp section! Nice photos.


  6. Thanks for reading Pete, and thanks for the comment.


  7. Paul, I had difficulty recognising the route, as I did this route using snow shoes and it looks like a different mountain! Looks pretty dry up there, but I guess it may have changed back to snow tonight 🙂 Thanks for sharing your walk.


    • I have some pics taken up there a couple of winters ago – skis or snowshoes would have been quite appropriate!

      Whatever happened to the winter we should just have had? 😦


  8. beatingthebounds says:

    Think I might have been this way once, but if so it was also cose to 30 years ago. Looks good – who knows next time we get a long dry spell I might give it a go. In about 30 years then.


  9. Whoops LOL! Just after sanctimoniously commenting on your latest ‘safety’ orientated report, “Looked like a Canny Way Down”, this reminds me that I can be a very bad lassie when it comes to hills! Fortunately, my family and usual walking partner, Richard, know me well!

    My parents, Richard and I had all been in the pub at Cray for a meal and, about an hour before dark, were heading to the pub at Buckden. I said I’d rather walk (via Buckden Rake as in your post) as it was a lovely evening. I think I knew myself at that point that I was lying and had no intention of walking straight from pub to pub. I’d been eyeing up Buckden Pike, which I’d never done, during my walk with Richard in the day and had luckily commented on it at the time – that came in useful later.

    As could be predicted for me, at the top of the climb to the rake from Cray, I continued straight on up Buckden Pike and then, completely mapless (and compassless) and in rapidly-approaching dusk, fabricated a route back down to the rake just above Buckden. Luckily I was fully aware of the mine area just above Buckden so was careful to avoid that area in the dark.

    About an hour and half later, I was just descending the last part of The Rake into Buckden when I was met by a furious Richard.

    “Where on earth have you been?” he asked. I told him he knew perfectly well where I’d been, as did my parents. He immediately said “Buckden Pike” – so proving my point that they knew what I was like and exactly where I’d gone! I was in the doghouse for a bit though. Thoroughly enjoyed my walk though 😉


  10. My first thought was – “Good for you”, which goes to show that you are not the only one with a spirit of adventure!! (or completely irresponsible as far as the rest of the world is concerned)

    Sounds like Richard missed a good walk 🙂


  11. Richard’s ultimately sensible and would never do anything on the spur of the moment! My mother certainly would and has though so she’s no room to talk!


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