The Mrs's Dales Diary

This page follows the Dales Way down to its conclusion at Ilkley.  



Stage 14: Barden Bridge to Ilkley

14th September 2008

Wowee!  We've done it, at last!  We have finished the Dales Way.  This route, which according to the Harveys map should be completed in 5 to 10 days has taken us 628 days!  Indeed it is 328 days since we left our metaphorical marker at Barden Bridge, before picking up the final challenge yesterday.

It was not through lack of will but partly the awful weather this summer and partly the logistical challenge of fitting it in with other commitments and sorting out the travel logistics!

What made it possible was the discovery of a bus from Ilkley to Barden Bridge that sets off at 2:15 p.m. on a Sunday.  Provided we did it before the clocks went back, this would just give us enough time to sort out Granny in the morning, travel to Ilkley for the bus, complete the walk before it went dark and return home in time to inject the cat.

Given a favourable weather forecast it was too good a chance to let slip.

The drive down had its entertainment.  We found ourselves in the middle of a convoy of scooters.  Travelling at reasonable speed but virtually impossible to pass due to the length of the snake.  At last there was a sufficiently long and clear straight stretch to overtake and as I did they pulled in to the side and stopped.  Then only a few miles later, exactly the same thing happened with another convoy of scooters, with exactly the same overtaking experience.  Weird.

The four windmills at Draughton were looking very sad.  Small by modern standards, two no longer had their blades and the other two were not working.

By the time we reached Ilkley the weather had decidedly gone off.  It had become very grey, a cold wind had arisen and it was trying to rain.  Ilkley was being dug up.  New gas mains to be installed, one way system in operation and this lovely little town was looking a bit of a mess.

We were in good time so we dined at Costa Coffee and then caught the bus.  There was moment of panic when we wondered if our bus passes would work down there and we had insufficient money on us actually to pay for our travel.  However, there was no need to worry.  Whatever Gordon Brown's failings might be (I'll say no more) he has ensured the universality of free travel for wrinklies.

The bus driver had quite a challenge to fit the vehicle through the gateway at Bolton Abby; talk about passing a camel through the eye of an needle!

Through the eye of the needle

Bardon Tower

We alighted at Barden Tower, where I had had to leave Margaret in the cold and gloom last October whilst I cycled back for the car.  The weather had brightened up a bit but it was not the nice day with sunny periods that we had anticipated from the forecast.

The Way is very easy to follow here, starting on the east side of the river then crossing over by a fine Victorian looking bridge where we could look down on a fly fisherman- one of several that we would see that afternoon.

The first fly fisherman

The Victorian Bridge

We entered the Strid forest and soon reached the Strid itself.  I am pleased to say that I was not tempted to jump it.  It is an impressive stretch of water rushing through the narrow limestone gorge.  

The Strid

The Strid continued

After this excitement, the river broadens out and calms down.  It takes on a remarkable golden brown hue- due presumably to its peat content brought down from the moors.

Downstream from the Strid

The Peaty Wharfe

A face in the tree

The forest path was very busy.  All the world was out with his wife and their various dogs- half of them Westies.  

One old girl was wheeling a sort of pushchair for dogs into which her 16 year old Westie would be popped once it was worn out, although I suspect its real purpose was as a zimmer for the old girl!  I wish I had taken a photograph but it seemed too intrusive.

I did however take a picture of this mask, hanging high in a tree for no apparent reason.

As we neared Bolton Abbey the field was heaving with cars and people.  Some, mostly youngsters and dogs, were bravely tackling the stepping stones across the river.  We took the bridge- the direct route to the ice cream van.

Bolton Abbey

The Stepping Stones to Bolton Abbey

There is a fine old house standing in the grounds of the Abbey, no doubt, as Margaret observed, built out of Abbey stones!

Abbey stones house

Bolton Bridge team photo

The crowds thinned out as we headed south towards the Devonshire Arms and the old Bolton Bridge and completely vanished thereafter.  That was just as well.  There is a very nasty and quite long road bsection here.  Inadequate or non-existent footpath coupled with a busy, winding, narrow road.  This is seriously dangerous for a high profile route. Fortunately there is an escape eventually into a field but it really ought to be a lot sooner.  

After a couple of pastures we emerged into a lane by the Farfield Meeting House.  It is a very simple little Quaker building dating from 1689 and offered what I anticipated- a bench in the graveyard. We were over half way so it was time for a very late lunch- more like a slightly late afternoon tea!

Farfield Meeting house interior

Farfield Meeting House

Refuelled, we crossed the road and dropped back down to the river, past a house with a strange device seeming flying overhead- actually one of the Draughton windmills looking like an approaching bomber.  

Low flying wind mill

More fly fishermen

Along past more fly fishermen before we reached a very cruel stepped climb up a banking.  

Margaret on the cruel climb

The next stretch of the Way goes by Addingham and it seemed to go on forever.  After passing a mill, we went up from the river into the village, which must be immeasurably more pleasant these days than in my youth when the main A65 rumbled through.  One of the houses seemed to be shrine to cats!

Approaching the mill

The shrine to cats

There was an interesting bridge from the cat house over the stream to the next dwelling.

Bridge of miaows?

Addingham  washing

I had feared this might be a washing free conclusion to the Way but first a poor offering and then a much more satisfactory one was presented in the village.

The Church, with its huge clock, looked lovely but it was too late to explore, we had to press on over the rather twee little pack horse bridge.

Addingham Church

The packhorse bridge

The Old Rectory

Mill Cottages

The Old Rectory is being done up by someone with very deep pockets, by the look of it. 

We then passed by some old weavers cottages and on into the Addingham Mill complex that has been greatly gentrified, with the Mill being converted into two bedroomed apartments.

Very nice but how many more two bedroomed apartments does the world need?

I shouldn't be so cynical- it is far better than having a derelict mill.

Addingham  Mill

A big of a road slog followed.  It was starting to darken and spirits were flagging somewhat by this stage.  Twinges and aches were setting in and there was still two miles to go. Things cheered up as we returned to the fields near the river and Ilkley, plus the Cow and Calf, at last came into view.  We disturbed a heron by a stream- a very tame one who just walked away at the same speed as our approach.

Ilkley comes into view

The tame heron

The mist was starting to gather on the fields as we approached the town.  Despite dusk falling, the Cow and Calf could be seen much more clearly now.

Mist starting to form

The Cow and Calf

Up on the main road we could see a house that we had noticed from the bus- its roof was covered with Boston Ivy turning a fine autumnal red.  Shortly afterwards came the beginning of the end- our first glimpse of the official terminus- the old bridge.

The Ivy House

Ilkley Way terminus

We took what was intended to be a final team picture by the map of The Way at the start point where the sign said it was only 82 miles to Bowness.  We then realised that thoughtfully placed by the bridge was a stone seat, decorated with flowers and a plaque to denote that its use was for those who had completed the Dales Way.  It would have been discourteous not to have used and commemorated it.

At the End of the Way...

.... Just Sit and Stay

However, for us, that was not the end point- we still had to get back to the car, which was in the centre of town.  This was no hardship- Ilkley is a delightful place and it was good to be able to explore parts we had not seen before.  We would have liked to linger longer but it was now getting dark and we had to get back to give Bob his injection.

So there we are.  Job done.  Dales Way completed.  We could of course contemplate the extensions to Harrogate, Bradford or Leeds but for now, we will draw a line under this expedition. It has been a wonderful experience, though much varied terrain, great views, lots of pretty places each of which would merit another and dedicated visit.  

And the celebratory award that we had promised ourselves at the end?  Something quite appropriate really. A nice cup of Yorkshire tea once we got home!

Don, 15th September 2008

miles with 659 feet of climbing (plus 869 of descent)

Cumulative 86.9 miles


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