Dales and Lakeland Walk 2008

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 4 - Dent to Windermere


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Day 4 - Friday 20th June - GPS 17.4 miles - 3,200 ft ascent

Dent to Grayrigg (B&B) via Long Moor, and Howgill Fells (The Calf)

Breakfast was normally from 08.30, but two chaps last night had requested it at 08.00, so the landlord had telephoned the breakfast lady, asking her to come in earlier, which meant that I could have mine earlier as well. When I got down, there were three chaps there already, the two from the bar last night plus another one by himself. The two looked as if they might be walkers because of the clothes and boots that they were wearing, but it turned out that they were involved with cabling up masts for the mobile phone network, so often had to climb up hills or across fields to get to their jobs.

I was just asked if I wanted a full breakfast, rather than what items I wanted, and was then presented with a huge plateful consisting of bacon, egg, tomato, beans, mushroom, black pudding and fried potatoes. I managed to eat it all, but only with a struggle, as I don't have the same appetite as I used to have, even on a long walk. I didn't bother with a packed lunch, as I would be passing through Sedbergh by lunchtime and could pick up a few things there. I topped up to a full two litres of drink, even though I had only needed one litre yesterday in the cold wind, but I thought it might be warmer today. One benefit of cold weather is that there is far less tendency to sweat, even when climbing uphill, so walking clothes do not need washing anywhere near as often, and fluid requirements are less. My route today, rather than following the Dales Way along the river, was to take the footpath over the end of Long Moor on the way to Sedbergh, then take a high level route over the Howgill Fells, before dropping back to rejoin the Dales Way near the M6 motorway crossing. I find that riverside walks are fine for a mile or two but often leave me feeling boxed in with limited long distance views, whereas higher up I get the feeling of wide open space and far better views all around.

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Sun Inn, Dent
Sun Inn, Dent
Dent Church from north
Dent Church from north
Whernside, Dent and Crag Hill from Long Moor
Dentdale from Long Moor

I needed to take care with route finding, as my path went round farm buildings and over fields. I missed a turning at one point and had to backtrack a bit, so, from then onward, I kept a careful check using my map and GPS to ensure that I was always going in the right direction. Just climbing a little way up the valley side gave me marvellous views across to Calf Top, Crag Hill and Whernside. The path was not very well trodden in places and went through large meadows with long, wet grass, which started to wet my boots, but they would soon dry out again in the bright and breezy weather, given a chance.

Once I got to the ridge of Low Moor, the view opened up even more, with fine views of the Howgill Fells, bathed in sunshine, with Sedbergh at their southern end. I stopped for a drink and a short rest before dropping down from the moor for the last mile or two into Sedbergh. I intended to take footpaths to avoid some of the road walking, but missed the start of them so just carried on along the small country lane instead. The lane joined the main A684 road into town, crossing over the River Rawthey on the way. I didn't realise until now that Sedbergh proclaims itself to be ‘England's Book Town’, obviously competing with Hay-on-Wye in Wales. I always thought that its main claim to fame was its large private school, which seems to dominate the town. Sure enough, though, there were large numbers of bookshops throughout the town centre to back up its claims.

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Sedbergh and Winder from Frostrow
Sedbergh and Winder
Howgill Fells from Side Farm
Howgill Fells
Sedbergh from side of Winder
Sedbergh from Winder

One thing I wanted to do here was to offload my three Yorkshire Dales maps by posting them back home. Every little helps when trying to minimise weight: first lose a fleece, then post off some maps! After my visit to the Post Office, I called in a small supermarket to top up my supplies for lunch. Rather than stopping for a rest break in town, I thought it would be better to climb up the hillside a little way and stop there where I would have a better view. The weather, though good, was not quite the unbroken sunshine that had been promised, and there was still a very chilly wind blowing, which was fine in the sunshine, but made it feel quite cold when the sun went in. There are several routes up to Winder, but the one I decided on was the one from Lock Bank Farm, going first left obliquely up the hillside, then right towards the Summit of Winder. After my stop near the bottom, where the views were already quite good, I made my way further up with the views getting better and better, with very clear visibility. The grassy path was quite steep, so I had to keep stopping every so far for a breather, at which time I could turn around and look at the ever improving views. Although Winder, at 473 metres is not particularly high, it provides an extremely good viewpoint overlooking Garsdale, Dentdale, Sedbergh, Morecambe Bay, the Lune Valley and the whole range of Lake District mountains. At the summit, there is an orientation table showing the names and distances of all the landmarks, most of which could be seen today with the clear visibility.

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Arant Haw from Summit of Winder with its Orientation Table
Arant Haw from Winder
Lakeland Fells from Summit of Winder
Lakeland Fells from Winder
Pen-y-ghent Whernside and Ingleborough from Arant Haw
Three Peaks from Arant Haw

The ascent of Arant Haw is not quite as steep, but is still a fair climb, and I needed a few more breathers along the way. From its greater height of 605 metres, a number of other things came into view, not least being the fact that all of the Yorkshire Three Peaks were now visible. The scenery was constantly changing as the clouds raced across the sky in the strong wind, bringing different parts of the view in and out of the sunshine. The beauty of the Howgills themselves, apart from the fact that they give views of other hills and mountains, is their lovely smooth grassy slopes with rounded tops and steep sided valleys.

My route then continued on towards Calders, and then to The Calf, which, at 676 metres, is the highest summit of the Howgills. The path changed from a smooth grassy track to one of rough gravel: not so kind on the feet, but still allowing good progress. From the Calf, the view now extended to the Northern Pennines, with Cross Fell and Great Dun Fell, with its bright white golf ball radar station, clearly visible, though the hills to the south were now largely hidden by the summits I had just walked over. There were a couple of walkers out over this part, and I had met another couple near Winder, but those were all the people I had seen. Most people pass this very fine walking area by, generally going for the Lake District instead.

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Calders from Arant Haw
Calders from Arant Haw
Middle Grain Valley from White Fell with Northern Pennines (Cross Fell and Great Dun Fell) in the distance
Middle Grain from White Fell
Towards Morecambe Bay from White Fell
Morecambe Bay from White Fell

I stopped by the trig point for a rest, trying to shelter from the wind, but it was still very cold and breezy, so I made my way over towards White Fell to find my way down. I tried another spot on the way for a rest, thinking it was more sheltered, but it was still cold, so I continued down into the valley along a steep grassy track. When I reached the bottom at Castley Knotts, it was still breezy, but there was far less chill in the wind and, in the now longer periods of sunshine, it was pleasantly warm and much more comfortable for a rest by the banks of Calf Beck.

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Fell Head, Bush Howe and White Fell from Chapel Beck
Fell Head from Chapel Beck
Howgill Fells from Castley
Howgill Fells from Castley
Fell Head from River Lune at Beck Foot
Fell Head from River Lune

From there onwards, there was a stretch of walking along a minor road with a few ups and downs before I picked up the Dales Way. There was little traffic, and the road offered good views of the surrounding hills, which were now largely bathed in sunlight. My accommodation for the night was a B&B at Moresdale Barn, which is right on the Dales Way, so it was just a matter of following the route to the crossing of the M6 motorway, then a mile further on was the B&B.

The young couple that own the place have converted it from a derelict barn into a magnificent house with spacious rooms and fabulous views across to the fells. Because they don't do evening meals, they give a lift into Kendal and back, as there is nowhere else to eat in the vicinity. They didn't plan on doing B&B at first, but found themselves with two unused bedrooms, so decided to make better use of them. It is a pity that they didn't think of this when doing the conversion, as I am sure that there would have been plenty of space available to incorporate en-suites into the guest rooms at the planning stage, whereas now it would present more difficulties. The lack of en-suite didn't worry me and I had sole use of the guest bathroom anyway, but these days more people are looking for these facilities, and it is a pity that such a fabulous place isn't able to offer them.

For the first time since Skipton, I was able to get a signal on my mobile phone enabling me to call home. This didn't surprise me, as it was only a mile from the motorway with its series of masts. My lift to Kendal involved a lot of small country lanes, many being single track, so it wasn't the easiest route and a lot of effort doing two round trips just for one guest on this occasion.

In Kendal, I looked in one pub, which had only keg beers, then went into another with the same, so I ordered a pint of Tetley's Smoothflow and a giant Yorkshire pudding filled with beef. I didn't realise that it was past the time for serving food, as there were others in there eating, but the chef, who was sitting at the bar said he didn't mind cooking it for me. Just as I finished, someone switched on the large television screen just behind me to watch the football, so I made a quick exit and thought I would look for somewhere with real ale.

I went into a pub serving Thwaite's ales and had a pint of their Original, but it wasn't very good, but then I remembered my evening in Malham last year when a group of drinkers there were full of disparaging remarks about the various Thwaite's beers. Further up into the centre of town, I tried another pub advertising cask ales, so I had a pint of Directors' bitter, which was better but not all that great. This is one of the things about many town centre pubs: whereas they have enough turnover to enable them to serve a good range of real ales, they often choose not to, and maybe offer just one as a token gesture. Some of the country pubs, which wouldn't be expected to do so, offer a good selection of well-kept ales that are all very good.

Back at the B&B, I sat watching TV in the lounge, as, for the first time on this walk, I wasn't starting to nod off after a meal and a few pints. I had hoped to see the weather forecast, but the football was running into extra time and then penalties, so I got fed up of waiting and went to bed. I didn't sleep very soundly, despite having a comfortable bed and quiet surroundings, as I think I must have already caught up with all the sleep I lacked by my early nights over the past few days.


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Day 5 - Saturday 21st June - GPS 17.4 miles - 2,600 ft ascent

Grayrigg to Windermere via Potter Tarn, Staveley and the Dales Way

I had a very good breakfast, this time remembering to ask for not too much, so I was just pleasantly full rather than being over-faced. The forecast was not very good, so I packed all my things carefully to try to keep out the wet. Normally, I put my trainers, wrapped in a supermarket bag, in the bottom compartment of my rucksack, along with my waterproofs, any dirty washing and other odds and ends. However, in prolonged rain, especially accompanied by wind, a lot of water tends to find its way into the rucksack and ends up in the bottom compartment. A supermarket bag is little protection when things are sloshing around in a pool of water, and I found that my trainers could end up very wet. If the designers of rucksacks had the foresight to realise that water would inevitably find its way to the bottom, they might also realise that there is no use trapping it in there, and provide a couple of little eyelets to let the water drain out. This would, at least, minimise the water build up and help to keep things moderately dry. It was difficult to decide what I could put in the bottom compartment that could remain unscathed in a pool of water, but eventually decided on my sandwich box.

It was about 9.10 by the time I set off and I had not gone very far before a chap in a car asked where I was going. I had missed the Dales Way sign taking a footpath up the hill and was entering the grounds of a large house. He pointed me back in the right direction where I continued to follow the signposted route, crossing the railway over a bridge and then on a path beside a road going downhill. This didn't tie up with the route on my Ordnance Survey map, so I had to check with my GPS to see exactly where I was. From this, I assumed that there must have been a diversion to the route, as sometimes happens, so continued to follow the signposted route rather than trying to get back onto the one shown on my map. The signposts were taking my along the minor road to Grayrigg, which explained why the lady at the B&B said I would pass by her young son's primary school on the way.

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Grayrigg
Grayrigg

When I reached Grayrigg, the signposts came to an end, with no indication at all as to where the Dales Way went from there. The only thing to do was to work out my own route from the map. In any case, I only intended to follow the Dales Way for a couple of miles before following my own route, but it was still a bit annoying to be led off like this and then be abandoned. When trying to follow routes in areas like this, going across numerous farm fields on footpaths that are often little used, it is essential to keep a constant check that the correct path, lane or road is being followed, as it is so easy to go astray. At every twist, turn or junction, I checked that my route agreed with that on the map, and that I was heading in the right direction by checking my GPS.

The air was heavy, and the sky was grey, with rain threatening all the time, though managing to hold off for the time being. Though not a great walk, it was still quite pleasant, taking me through meadows, by streams, through small hamlets and through farms across the undulating countryside, which meant that there were quite a few ups and downs on the way. Entering one farmyard, I found that the farmer had used the space between two gates to pen in a flock of sheep. This was the route of the footpath, so I had to go through the first gate which made all the sheep gather by the second one, then I had to shoo them all around so that I could reach the other gate.

Further on, I came to a field where a bull had been put amongst a herd of cows and calves. I started to make my way across, keeping a careful eye on the bull as I did so. There was a very waterlogged patch of ground along the route, so I started to make my way across, trying to avoid the water going over the tops of my boots, whilst the bull, that was not very far away, eyed me up suspiciously. The water was getting deeper and very close to wetting my feet, and I was wondering whether I could proceed any further when it started to rain with large spots. This made me retreat to one side, away from the bull and onto dry land so that I could put on my waterproofs, putting my boot in a cow pat just as I was about to put it down the leg of my over-trousers. By the time my antics were finished, the bull had lost interest and wandered to the other side of the field, so I was able to skirt around the boggy bit and make my way onwards without more ado.

By now, I had walked about five miles so, a bit further on, I stopped for a drink and a rest underneath some trees by a minor road. They gave some shelter from the rain, but were already starting to drip water through from their own leaves. I was feeling fine with the walking now, having got into the swing of it. I even kept thinking that I must have left something behind, as my rucksack didn't feel very heavy, but that was just that I was now so used to carrying its weight that I didn't notice it is like most of the time, only when I was lifting it to swing it on or off my back did I only notice the weight.

The rain kept on and on, as I made my way over to Garnet Bridge and up onto the edge of the low fells on the way to Staveley, though it was not very heavy. For a change, there was not too much wind, so I wasn't getting quite as wet as I might have been. There was still moderate visibility, however, and the scenery around and about was much more typical of the Lake District, with craggy outcrops, rather than the smooth topped moors of the Dales. None of the crags were very high, but, on a brighter day, it would make very good walking country. My route led by a couple of small moorland reservoirs, and I stopped by the first of these, Gurnal Dubs, for my lunch. I watched a heron as it waded in the water at the other side. It looked rather bedraggled, just like me, so it didn't do very much. It was still wet and miserable, so I didn't stay for very long before heading on past the second reservoir, Potter Tarn, before dropping down from the moors and making my way into Staveley.

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Potter Tarn
Potter Tarn

From the other side of Staveley, I was able to rejoin the Dales Way for most of the way to Windermere. The walking along this part of the Dales Way is not easy, as it has a lot of ups and downs over undulating ground, which is somewhat of a departure from the usual riverside paths, which are relatively flat. I came across another heron by a small stream, and it flew off on my approach. It is always an impressive sight to see a bird with such large wings lift itself into the air and fly slowly away. So that I would have a better chance of finding my B&B amidst all the backstreets of Windermere, I put its grid reference into my GPS to make it easier to find. It also gave me an indication as to how far I had to go, though that was as the crow flies and not by the more roundabout route of the footpaths.

About two miles from my destination, I passed by a country house that was open to the public. A lady was just coming out of the tearoom and asked, "Did you want the tearoom?" to which I replied, "That sounds like a very good idea." I ordered a mug of tea and sat there in my dripping clothes with my dripping rucksack. It was a stone floor, so I didn't feel too bad about walking in there with my boots on, especially as they were just wet and not muddy, and I also pulled down my over-trousers to save wetting the seat. I had quite a long chat with the lady, as there was nobody else in there and then, suitably refreshed and warmed up by the tea, made my way, leaving a large puddle of water where my rucksack had been.

The rain, which had been quite steady when I went in, was now heavy, and my glasses, which I needed to wear for reading the map, instead of being just rain-splattered, were now covered with so much rain that I couldn't see properly. Fortunately, the route finding was fairly straight forward, so I was able to manage without wearing them. As reassurance, I kept a watch on my GPS and could see that I was heading in the right direction and also watch the distance to my destination decreasing steadily. On the outskirts of Windermere, I parted company with the Dales Way, which doubled back towards its finish at Bowness-on-Windermere, whilst I took the path towards Windermere itself.

Between the footpath and my B&B was a large council estate, so I zigzagged through rows of houses via walkways and roads, following the pointer on my GPS as best I could, until I emerged from the estate and could see my B&B just along the road. The landlord took my wet boots to put in the boiler room, and I went upstairs to have a nice hot shower and to change into dry clothing. Fortunately, the careful packing of things within the plastic rucksack liner and other plastic bags had managed to keep most things reasonably dry, though the clothes I had been wearing were very wet. As the central heating was on, it was a good opportunity to rinse out everything that needed washing so that I could get it all dry on the radiator.

I fully expected my mobile phone to work in a large town like Windermere, but the signal was very poor in my B&B, so I made my way down the road to find a pub and a payphone. When I found a pub, there was just enough signal strength outside to call home, whilst trying to shelter from the rain by the front wall. The news from home was not what I wanted to hear - the weather tomorrow was going to be worse. The pub was very busy, it being a Saturday night, but I managed to find space at the end of a table where I could sit in order to eat the very tasty lamb hotpot that I ordered. The bitter from Tirril Brewery in Cumbria was also very good and helped to revive my flagging spirits.


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