Mike and I were always planning on walking over Easter, but Mike wasn’t too keen on difficult terrain (i.e. off piste etc) so I suggested the Dales Way between Ilkley and Dent.
After an early start we got to Ilkley and the nice man inside Betty’s Cafe let us buy a couple of Simnel Fat Rascals before opening time which you can only get around Easter.
The morning was grey and we were subject to drizzle, but it wasn’t particularly cold and we headed along the path. I remembered walking this trail (in full) around 6 or so years ago. Christ, I am getting old when I a) can’t pinpoint exact dates and b) have a hobby which I’ve been at long enough to not be able to pinpoint exact dates. The first few miles from Ilkley are pleasant if unremarkable and the walk only really finds its legs once you get to Bolton Abbey. That being said we’re in lambing season at the moment and I am always amused by their frolicking.
The walk through Strid Wood was very busy as they were having an Easter Egg Hunt and it was crawling with families walking with kids and the occasional Easter bunny. As soon as we turned towards Barden it got much quieter and the weather at this point had turned sunny which, largely speaking, it stayed being for the duration.
After Barden we walked towards Burnsall and lunch; this part of the world is always strange for me as I used work selling ice cream in various locations along the way and worked in the village shop in Burnsall for two or so. I went there for a sandwich and it’s quite different from when I was working there. I gave some crumbs to a duck and we headed towards Grassington a few miles on. Here we had a brief pit stop and got a few things for the next day’s lunch and then onto the tops.
This part of the walk is probably the the best of the entire long distance path with its isolation, limestone formations and great views of Upper Wharfedale. We had made pretty good time covering the 25 miles or so and we wound our way into Kettlewell for a few evening beers and large pubs meals.
The next day after a great YHA breakfast (Mike, as ever, ate an unreal amount of food) we pressed on as orange fingers of light warmed us through the gentle mist. We covered the villages past Kettlewell in good time and then Mike started to get feet problems which would remain the rest of the day and, along with his dodgy knee, caused us a few extra stops along the way.
At the head of Wharfedale the path heads onto the road to Oughtershaw and then to Camend. This is one of the more remote areas of Yorkshire and is extremely muddy at the moment which did for Mike’s knee for a while and he considered finishing early, but was persuaded not to by my assurance the path was a lot better once we were headed to Ribblesdale. Along the way we stopped in Nethergill Farm and used their Field Centre kitchen to refresh ourselves happily giving money to the honesty box there. It seemed a good time for lunch and two dogs phased into existence including a lovely Border Collie (I want one when I stop travelling) who started licking the floor where Mike’s Eccles cake had shed some sugar.
The tough part of the walk over we headed across Ribblesdale, over Blea Moor and into Dent Dale. Mike’s feet now causing him major grief, but the going was easy and we were soon in the pub enjoying a few pints in the sun before the horrible (after drinking!) mile long road up to Dent station which has about as much to do with Dent as I do and should be called Cowgill Station!
I was pretty stiff the next day and I realise I am out of practice multiday walking and we’ve made plans for a couple of days along the Pennine Way this weekend. Three weeks to Japan and I need to get sharper!