Welcome to LEJoG Day 44

Day 44 pre-amble

Exactly 52 weeks after another long Saturday walk, it seemed right to have a callback to Day 15. That was a long hot day, this was a long good day, here’s the reference. It’s that simple.

LEJoG Day 44 (Saturday 4 May 2019)

Haworth to Gargrave (19½ miles)

Cumulative: 619 miles

Facts: Time on walk: 6 hours 10 minutes. Average speed: 3.16 mph. Weather: Bright, cloudy, windy on hills; generally cool though warm in Lothersdale; dry but some spots of rain near Woodhead Farm.

Practicalities: Train to Keighley on Friday afternoon (finish work at 1pm on Fridays), with a change in Leeds. Bus from there to Haworth, walk to the Apothecary Guest House. Not there until 7pm, had fish and chips from a takeaway for my evening meal. Checked out at 10:25am after breakfast.

The walk

Start: Stanbury bridleway sign, Haworth, 10:35am. End: Junction of North Street and West Street, Gargrave, 5:35pm (linear for LEJoG). Actual end: Old Swan Inn, Gargrave, a couple of minutes later.

The bridleway path to Stanbury is soon done, and you turn right along Reservoir Road, with Lower Laithe Reservoir on your right (yes, another one). Turn left at the top along Sun Lane, through the small village of Stanbury. Narrow pavements, but no real danger – before you reach the part of the road with no verges, you branch off left along Back Lane. This is quite narrow and also has no verges, but it is only used by farm traffic. Take the first right and after ¼ mile you rejoin the Pennine Way near Buckley Farm.

From there, a steep downhill takes you to the edge of Ponden Reservoir. Turn left along Ponden Lane and uphill right past Ponden Guest House. 3 miles completed already. Ponden Hall is close by – this was the “inspiration” for Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights. You’ll be amazed to learn after yesterday that “it does not match the description given in the novel”.

A grassy, enclosed path takes you past Old House Farm. From here follow the stone wall downhill to the right. You will cross a stream by the west end of the reservoir and come to Scar Top Road. Cross the road and climb a hill (steeper than it looks in the guide) through a couple of stone walls, past a ruin and a cottage, to an access road. Cutting the corner, you reach Dean Edge Road. Follow the bend to the left and then pick up a footpath heading NW towards Old Bess Hill.

This is where today’s walk starts to stand out in the memory. It’s a prolonged but steady climb, in open country, with sun, cloud and a cooling breeze in your face. Doesn’t get much better than this to be honest. As the hill flattens out, you follow the obvious path via slabs on to Ickornshaw Moor. Apparently Alfred Wainwright really didn’t like this moor, describing it as an “arduous little wilderness” and “dull stuff”. Perhaps he had bad luck with the weather, because I loved it. Especially when this view opened out before me:

Ickornshaw Moor, LEJoG Day 44

View north across Icknornshaw Moor, towards the Yorkshire Dales

Views like this foster a sense of freedom and discovery. Every step felt light, undoubtedly helped by my chosen podcast (see My Listening Pleasure below). The remaining (13) miles seemed like something to look forward to rather than struggle through. I found it one of the most enjoyable moorland sections since Kinder, to be honest.

After crossing a couple of streams, followed a stone wall on the right and then headed left down a very steep hill to a narrow footbridge. An obvious lunch spot was already taken: bit early for me in any case. Back up a less steep ascent, joined another enclosed path between stone walls which bears north for the village of Ickornshaw. Next door to Ickornshaw is Cowling, surname of one of my best friends from university, born not too far from here. I’ve known her for more than 20 years without ever realising there was a Yorkshire village bearing her name, as well as a common noun. Her full name has a great anagram. Hello R, should you read this.

A little wobble in Ickornshaw, as I nearly walked up someone’s drive while trying to find the path to Gill Lane and Gill Bridge. Cowling Hill (can’t escape her!) next, which was less tough than it looked on the map. Having crossed the field at the top of the hill, there’s a brief stretch on roads before a sharp descent to Surgill Beck and then a climb past Woodhead Farm, where it rained very briefly. Just as suddenly as the rain came, it disappeared and the approach to Lothersdale was the warmest part of the day. Stopped for lunch at 1:55 on a conveniently-situated bench, at the top of the steps down to the main road. Approximately 10½ miles completed at this stage, so I had broken the back of the journey. Quite important that, on long walks, however enjoyable they’ve been.

By the time I was embarking on the easy-ish climb out of Lothersdale, the sky had turned grey again. It brightened up though, in time for the best part of the whole day. This is the climb along Elslack Moor to Pinhaw Beacon (386m), the highest point between Ickornshaw and Sunday’s destination, Malham. Not an especially high trig point, but one of the best locations on the Pennine Way so far for extensive views.

Pinhaw Beacon 1, West, LEJoG Day 44

View west from Pinhaw Beacon (possibly of Pendle Hill?)

Might have spent more time there on a shorter day, but there were still 7 miles to go. It’s a short descent to the main road between Skipton and Colne, then downhill along a road directly opposite. At this point I saw a huge cloud some miles in front of me, with rain seemingly visible below. Had to try and capture this in a photo:

Amazing raincloud, LEJoG Day 44

Rain cloud, apparently lashing the distant hills (not me, thankfully)

Shortly afterwards, branched off left, following a stone wall towards Brownhouse Farm and my closest encounter with curious cattle since Day 24. First, a brown cow was blocking off a footbridge I absolutely had to use, rubbing his head against one of the end posts. This was not something I’d ever seen before, so it was quite frustrating. The longer I hung around waiting, the more attention I expected to get from the couple of dozen others hanging around. Finally, Brown Cow was relaxed enough after her little massage to move elsewhere, but not before she’d shat out a brown cow pat right in front of the bridge…

Fortunately this was easy enough to avoid and I continued down the hillside on the other side of the bridge… and straight into another field of cows near the farmhouse itself. This was less eventful, as none of them bothered to rise to their feet even as I crossed the field and came within a few yards.

Joined a wide track after the farmhouse, which led directly to the village of Thornton-in-Craven, just metres from the Lancashire/North Yorkshire boundary. Uphill along Cam Lane, passed another farm and then made the crossing of Langber Hill. At the end of this path lay the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which I followed for about ½ mile in the Leeds direction (NE) as far as East Marton. There were several narrowboats heading in the same direction on a lovely late spring afternoon, and one heading towards Liverpool. Below is a view of the “bridge on a bridge” where the canal crosses the A59.

East Marton tunnel 1, Leeds-Liverpool canal

Leeds-Liverpool Canal A59 bridge, just before East Marton

Leeds 38¼ miles in my direction, Liverpool 89 miles behind

Soon after leaving the canal, had a 10-minute break near a sign for Trenet Laithe. After re-starting, the only downer of the day, as I relied far too heavily on the guidebook rather than OS map and compass, and struggled to reach Trenet Laithe itself after wandering E rather than NE. The 15 minutes lost to nonsense here was deducted from my overall time. Once re-orientated, the rest of the walk to Gargrave was very easy and almost completely flat (even Scaleber Hill barely deserved the description). My accommodation, the Old Swan Inn, was on the corner of High Street and North Street. I stopped the Fitbit at the junction of West Street and North Street – the Pennine Way continues north from there.

After the walk

Booked a time for my evening meal, was able to watch most of the deciding frame of this snooker semi-final before showering. The Old Swan Inn was one of the best hotels so far – enjoyed a well-earned three-course meal and a couple of drinks, as well as a good chat with a couple on the next table who visit every year from London.

Postscript: My Listening Pleasure

Several of the people I most often look up on Twitter had recommended the Rule of Three podcast, so I decided to download some promising episodes and save them for this weekend. Today’s were as follows:

  • Tony Way on Trading Places. One of my most-watched films as a teenager, featuring arguably the greatest ever use of the two-word term F*** O** on celluloid.
  • Cariad Lloyd on Whose Line Is It Anyway? Absolutely wonderful nostalgia trip and a hugely insightful discussion I wanted to listen to again straight away. It helped that I’d read this article about Tony Slattery less than a week earlier.
  • Katherine Jakeways on Ever Decreasing Circles. One of those sitcoms I feel like I should know more about: always enjoyed it if I saw it, my first girlfriend used to love it (but didn’t think I would). Very interesting to listen to genuine fans of the programme. I’m 90% sure, by the way, that Ms Jakeways was the female lead in virtually every play I watched at university during my postgrad years.
  • Series 1 clip show – taster for more episodes, two of which I listen to on Day 45.

Picture (taken 4 May 2019) shows the view north from Pinhaw Beacon, towards the southern dales of Yorkshire.

Next: Day 45 (5 May 2019)… in which I’m politely interrupted.

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