The Mrs's Dales Diary

This page follows the Dales Way down Mid Wharfedale.  


Mid Wharfedale

Stage 13: Grassington to Barden Bridge

It was one of those mornings that shouted at you "It doesn't matter what you had planned, today you have got to get out into the sunshine".  As such days have been all too rare this year, we ignored the slightly fragile feeling caused by the Saturday night excesses and resolved to make serious inroads into what remained of the Dales Way. So, once Margaret had completed her filial duties, we prepared to depart.  However, by this time- 11:30- and contrary to all forecasts, it had clouded right over.  What was going on? Were the forecasts wrong or was this just a junction 36 problem?  We gambled on it being the latter and true enough, by the time we got as far as Kirkby Lonsdale, we had left the cloud behind and it was a good an Autumn day as you could reasonably hope for. The only downside was that half the population of England seemed to have had the same idea and progress was rather slow.  Eventually we reached Skipton and then a very busy Bolton Abbey where we turned north up the Wharfe.

Foolishly I had told someone on Saturday night that the logistically difficult stages were now behind us and in the lower part of the valley there was a good bus service.  Sadly that is not the case on Sundays.  Not even on half term Sunday.  So the bike was making its second appearance on the Dales Way.  The aim was to walk from Grassington to Barden Bridge, having previous deposited the bike at the end point. However when arrived to deposit the bike we found that there was no pub and the café marked on the map at Barden Tower was actually a restaurant that closed at 4 p.m. and reopened at 7 p.m.- not exactly ideal for leaving one's tired wife around sunset whilst the car was retrieved.

Barden Tower

Lady Anne Clifford's Tower and Bike

Margaret, however, seemed unperturbed so the bike was chained to the Barden Tower board and we drove up the dale to Grassington. This was when my forebodings really started to kick in.  The road was not only rather longer than on the previous biathlon, it was considerably hillier and although this meant it had superb views, I was not looking forward to having to cycle it after the walk.  

Appletreewick from the high road

Once we found just about the last parking place in the massive overspill car park at the Yorkshire Dales Centre at Grassington (the bus company forewent thousands in revenue today) I consulted the map and noticed there was another route along the east side of the valley that did not look as hilly and had the merit of being much quieter, so that was an option.  Two other possibilities were to go as far as Burnsall and then return on foot to the car or to leave Margaret at Appletreetwick which was a little off the track but where there definitely were pubs, whilst I headed south to the bike and north to the car.

Linton Weir

Downstream from  Linton Weir

Comforted by having such options, we made our way down to the river and rejoined the Way, trying to make up lost time by getting stuck into sausage and ketchup butties as we walked.  The guide book (which is largely superfluous here other than as a source of information as opposed to direction) describes the section from Grassington to Burnsall as "immensely popular" and indeed it was and understandably so.  It is easy terrain and delightful scenery, both natural and man made, right from the beginning.  First Linton weir and bridge, and shortly afterwards Linton church with its stepping stones approach.

Stepping stones to .....

..... Linton Church

Near Hebdon there is another set of stepping stones and a quite exciting suspension bridge, much wobblier than the one over the Kent at Sedgwick!

Upstream  near Hebden

Suspension bridge and stepping stones

Just before you reach Burnsall there is the mini gorge of Loup Scar where we stopped to eat the rest of our lunch (other than that which went to the ducks) and, as we had been going well, we took the decision to do the full walk to Barden Bridge.

Loup Scar gorge

Picnic time

Burnsall itself was an anti climax.  The Way bypasses the village and had we more time (or chosen the curtailed walk) we might have branched off to explore.  However we pressed on, over the bridge and into a field where it looked as if we might be challenged to pay 50p to enter. I rehearsed my script about reporting the individual for operating an unlicensed toll on a public right of way.  However no challenge was issued and we continued on our Way, now much less populous.  

Burnsall Church

Burnsall Bridge

We saw the road leading off to Appletreewick but Margaret was still happy that the wait at Barden Tower would not be too onerous.

Cows in the Way

Team  Picture

Near Haugh, the character of the Way changes as we passed through a wooded ravine that looked quite splendid with all the autumnal colours after which we discovered yet another set of stepping stones, this time to Drebley, but whereas the previous sets had both been busy, no one was interested in these.

Haugh Wood Ravine

Footpath to Drebley

The sun was getting lower in the sky and we were starting to slow somewhat by the time we reached Barden Bridge where there was a line of cars neatly parked on the double yellow lines with their rather expensive parking tickets tucked under their windscreen wipers!

Autumnal Evening Splendour

Barden Bridge

All that remained was to climb the hill to the Tower, pick up the bike and retrieve the car. I decided that I would take the easterly road back.  Margaret seemed happy enough, she had some coffee left, plenty of extra clothing to put on as it got colder and darker and the guide book to read whilst there was still light.

The easterly road turned out to be a bit of a brute.  After the steep downhill to the river there was an almost as steep uphill to Appletreewick, which looked a lovely little village with two pubs- if anyone reading this ever replicates our journey I recommend that on this stage you leave the wife at Appletreewick.  Or even better- you stay at Appletreewick and let the wife cycle back for the car.

I have to say that all along this route, without exception, all the drivers I met on the road showed me the utmost consideration even though they must have been cursing at being stuck behind this aging peddler wobbling his way along.  Near Hartlington I made a mistake and followed the signs to Burnsall, forgetting that I should have kept up the hill. In consequence I lost time that I could not regain and height that I could at the expense of more time retracing my route.  It seemed quite a long way along Scuff Road to Hebden and even further to Grassington but after a very unimpressive 50 minutes I arrived at the car.  By the time I got back to Barden Tower I was outside the time parameters I had told Margaret it would take but, bless her, she said she was only just starting to get worried and had not yet got too cold.

The bike will definitely not be making another appearance on the Dales Way which, if everything goes to plan, we will finish at the next attempt with one long section down to Ilkley.  And hopefully a little celebratory reward!

Don, 22nd October 2007

miles with 745 feet of climbing (plus 7.7 miles and 968 feet on bike)

Cumulative 76.9 miles


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