The Mrs's Dales Diary

This page follows the Dales Way down Langstrothdale.  



Stage 9: Gearstones to Beggermonds

Stage 10:  Beggermonds to Buckden



Stage 9:  Gearstones to Beckerrmonds

Monday 27th August 2007

This next stage had threatened to be the most logistically challenging, crossing as it does the English watershed.  A two-car strategy was obviously possible but it would be an hour's travel from dropping one car at the finish and returning to the start, a process that would have to be reversed at the end of the day.  A taxi from Hawes collecting us from a car at the finish and dropping us off at the start would be only slightly less inconvenient.  But today we had a secret weapon- Jamie!

He kindly agreed to drop us off where we needed to rejoin the Way at Far Gearstones Farm in upper Ribbledale and drive round to Beckstones in Langstrothdale where he would park up and walk up the Way to meet us.

So after phoning brother Alan to wish him happy birthday- poor man, having to drive back from Cornwall on a Bank Holiday for his 70th- we set off on a day that had a fair amount of grey cloud around but would not be likely to soak us.  But there again, not a day for photographing any washing!.

Rejoining the way near Far Gearstones Farm

Bridge or track over the fledgling Ribble

The Way soon leaves the road to cross Gayle Beck.  In torrent, the bridge would be essential but today the ford was equally dry. It was all very quiet and peaceful on the almost but not quite desolate moors, so it was a bit of a surprise on reaching Cam End to see two off-road vehicles approaching up the Pennine Way from the south.  From this point, on a clear day like today, you can get a good view of the Three Peaks.

Looking back, Pen-y-Ghent, Pennine Way, Ingleborough, Dales Way, Whernside

The two Ways run together here for over a mile as it climbs to the Dales Way's highest point- insignificant on the ground but deeply significant to us as psychologically we were now into the second half of the entire route.  Consequently, when our path dived off to the right, we had a celebratory half lunch.

Shortly afterwards we encountered a dense wood.  The Way marker pointed directly down into it but just as we were about to enter, three girls emerged, stage left.  It seems some idiot has turned the marker round.  Had I read the Ciccerone instructions, there would have been no doubt- "immediately turn left and follow the yellow marked trees" but I hadn't got to that bit!

Pendle Hill in the distance

Margaret follows the yellow tree trail, with spikes

In the wood I learnt a lesson.  Something hard and sharp poked me in the temple and first I moaned that two inches to the right and it would have had my eye out.  Then I realised that the real problem was that I had my hat on and the peak was obscuring sight of the pine spikes aimed at careless walkers' faces.  Long ago I learnt the lesson in buildings by bumping my forehead severely.  Now I realised the same precaution should be taken amongst trees.

We emerged at Cam Houses, reputed to be the most remote homestead in England but today it was the most remote building site.  But remote does not equal lonely; the volume of foot traffic is apparently the motive for development.

The vast majority of people doing the Way seem to be going south to north.  On this stretch, they must become sick of the sight of Ingleborough.  It would dominate the view every time we turned round.

Cam Houses building site.  No washing.

Team photo on meeting Jamie

Partway between Cam Houses and Swarthgill we met up with Jamie who had made better time than we anticipated.  However, soon I had cause to worry.  He was complaining about a sore Achilles tendon and after experimenting with different boot tightnesses he found it more comfortable to walk with no boot on his right foot.  But he was wearing my best Brasher socks.  What state would the right one be in after three more miles of rough track?  Ripped to shreds I feared.  Extreme measures were needed.  I proposed the other half lunch after which he felt able to walk in his boot loosely tied.  Sock preserved!

Swarthgill, without washing

Sheep by Oughtergill Beck

Oughtershaw is a strange little place.  It is where moorland ceases and softer, greener land starts.  The first buildings look pleasant until you realise that one of them has several collie dogs, tied and caged, and they bark their agitated heads off at every passer-by. The poor neighbours must be subjected to that row from dawn till dusk.

John Ruskin's Oughtergill School

Oughtergill School Front Door.  No washing.

Next, you come to what was the village school.  This has quite an incongruous appearance and it turns out it was designed by John Ruskin.  Why?  One wonders.

Soon after, there is a possible answer.  Oughtershaw Hall is reached- a Victorian mock Tudor building.  Was Ruskin pals with the owner?  "John, we need a building to knock some learning into the local kids, will you sketch out something suitable in exchange for a side of mutton?"

Oughtershaw Hall without washing


From Oughtershaw you climb up a little back onto moorland and then drop down a steep hill (where we met an embarrassed cyclist pushing his bike) to Beckermonds (or Beggermans) in Langstrothdale, which is arguably the start of Wharfedale proper.  

Ingleborough watching over the Way

As Jamie drove us back up over Oughtershaw Side and we could see most of the route we had travelled, Ingleborough was once again making its presence felt.

Dropping down the other side into Gayle then Hawes, there was a lot of building work taking place.  Seemingly Hawes is flourishing.  

One day we must return for a good look round.  But before then, we have another 33 miles to go to reach Ilkley.

Don 27th August 2007

miles with 942 feet of climbing.

Cumulative 53.6 miles




The Mrs's Dales Diary

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Stage 10:
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Stage 10:  Beggermonds to  Buckden

Thursday 13th September 2007

I must admit to feeling somewhat guilt ridden.  I had fully intended to go to the Westmorland County Show this year.  However when the new foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey had the illogical consequence of stopping animal movements 300 miles away, it rather lost its appeal.  So when Margaret suggested that we might tackle the next Dales Way section before the weather deteriorated, it seemed a good idea.

The problem was that this was a tricky logistical stage as we were not yet down into bus route territory.  Or to be more correct, it was easy logistically, provided we were prepared to take two cars for a 90 mile round trip lasting maybe 3 hours in total.  I did check with five different route-planning services.  AA said go via Aysgarth, 45 miles, 101 minutes. RAC suggested going via Skipton, 58 miles but only 94 minutes.  Green Flag on the other hand agreed with AA but thought it could be done in only 66 minutes.  Michelin suggested going via Chester- well, they are French.  And Snockers, bless her, was just a touch less optimistic than Green Flag at 46 miles and 67 minutes.

I did not believe the faster times and the trip was veering to being decidedly off when I had a brainwave.  "There is another way," I said.   Margaret replied, logically, "We can't start another Way until we have finished this one."  "No," I explained, "There is another way- the Norman Tebbit way-  On Yer Bike!"  One car loaded with bike.  Bike left at the finish point.  Car left at start point.  And one of us retrieving bike at the end of the walk and returning to pick up the car whilst the other rests in the nearest pub.  Why we hadn't thought of this months before escapes me- it could have greatly simplified several stages (especially the one where we left the car keys in the other car!).  The "one of us" would, of course, have to be me.

It is some time (i.e. years) since my bike last had an outing and Margaret was concerned both about its fitness for purpose and mine.  However once tyres were pumped and chain sprayed with WD40 it worked absolutely perfectly and an exploratory trip down our drive proved I could still ride it without falling off.  And it did fit in the back of the Forrester.  And a 300 foot climb in five miles did not seem too daunting.  So "on yer bike" it was to be. Accordingly, under my walking trousers I put on my cycling knickers- the ones that turn ordinary trousers into cycling trousers thanks to the ample padding of the nether regions..

The journey to Buckden via Aysgarth was complicated slightly by a detour on the way to Sedbergh for the strengthening of Firbank Bridge, which added a mile or so.  Traffic was also quite heavy in Hawes (it, too, having an event devastated by lack of animals). Consequently the time to complete the 47 miles to Buckden was 90 minutes.  Points victory to the AA.

We left the bike chained to a fence in the Buckden car park. I took a photo of it in case we never saw it again before driving up the valley to Beckermonds.  The Cicerone guide book had said that the road was "undulating".  And it was. 300 feet in five miles might be the net climb but the gross figure was going to be more than twice that.  Too late to panic!  We, or rather, I was committed.

Return Transport

The Way, The Wharfe and The Forrester

With the car parked at Beggermonds we once again set off along the Way.  This is very much a transitional stage in which the Wharfe develops from a small fell beck into an embryonic valley river and the surrounding countryside similarly gradually changes character.

Early Wharfe

More Early Wharfe

The Way mostly chooses the opposite side of the river to the road so when one crosses the river, the other mirrors the move.  It is, it must be said, very easy going.  Provided, that is, that you are not wearing cycling knickers that turn ordinary trousers into something of a cauldron generating a heat of which Damart would be justly proud and which insisted on becoming ever more intimate.

Margaret and the Giant's Grave 

We could not help but notice the bus that kept running up and down the road on the other side.  This was not shown on any timetable I had consulted and we could not help but wonder if the bike (and the knickers) had really been necessary- especially as there was quite a breeze blowing down the valley.  

Pity I was unable to direct it internally.

We discovered the Giant's Grave- the smallest prehistoric stone circle ever seen.                                                                       

We stopped for a snack, seated by the side of the river on thrones considerately grooved out of the rock - the King and the Queen of the Wharfe.

King and Queen of the Wharfe

Lime Kiln

Next we admired the stone work on a Lime Kiln.

At Yockenthwaite we spotted washing but the dogs spotted us so whilst I photographed the washing the Westie barked his head off.  The Tibetans looked as if they were more likely to give us a licky welcome.

Yockenthwaite with washing

Welcoming Committee

The widening vale and Wharfe

Hubberholme Church

By Hubberholme, the Wharfe and the valley are starting to broaden.  The village boasts a fine little church- remarkably squat in appearance.  The graveyard contains the ashes of J B Priestley. Inside, it boasts one of only two oak rood lofts in Yorkshire but we were more interested in the pews that were made by the Mouse Man of Kilburn and bore his mark.  It reminded me of our wedding.  The first words I said to my new wife, whilst kneeling at the altar, were "Look- there's a mouse!".  The Mouse Man had made the Candleholder and had similarly left his mark.  

Inside the church with oak rood loft

Look- there's a mouse!

After Hubberholme, the road and the Way share the same side of the river.

Kirkgill Manor looks a delightful place to stay B&B where, if my information is correct, they run you down to the village pub at night for dinner and pick you up at throwing out time.  And they have washing!

I have made little reference to the Cicerone Guide lately, mainly because it was virtually impossible to go wrong.  However I have to record a distinctly "blond" error on the part of Terry Marsh where he says that 300 yards after Grange Farm you "leave the road by branching right through a gate" to rejoin the river before arriving in Buckden.  Left, Terry, Left.  Not Right.

Kirkgill Manor with washing

That bus!

The bike was where we left it but it had now been joined by the bus that had puzzled us. Unmarked, we can only conclude it was a school bus or some private hire.  Not for the likes of us.  Bike redeemed.

The cyclist's way back

Off he goes back up the dale!

I changed shoes, donned helmet and set off back again, leaving Margaret sat outside the Buck Inn.  I am proud to say that although the ride was undulating, I only had to get out of the saddle once and never needed to resort to pushing.  In fact I was quite smug about my performance- 5 miles uphill in 20 minutes is not bad going for an old 'un.  The strange thing is that when I drove back down to Buckden, the road seemed much steeper than when I had cycled up it!

Back at the Buck Inn it was reward time.  Black Sheep Ale, bangers and mash for me, scampi and chips for Margaret (and me!).  

To go home, I decided to use the route that I would have chosen had I not consulted the route planners- the direct route back up to Beckermonds and over the moor to Hawes and then Sedbergh to Kendal that jamie had taken us on the previous stage.  Only 40 miles and about 90 minutes in the dark.  Who needs route-planners?  To be fair, I have to confess that it was quite comforting to have Snockers' gentle voice confirming the route whilst we were in the deep isolation of the pitch black of moors.

Don, 13th September 2007

miles with 420 feet of climbing (net 318 downhill).

Cumulative 58.8 miles

Plus of course 5.0 miles and 682 feet climbing by bike!




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