Pennine Way 2007

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 - Cowling to Horton-in-Ribblesdale


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Day 5 - Friday 8th June - 17.5 miles - 2,000 ft ascent

Cowling to Malham - GPS 18.8 miles

I had a very good breakfast at 8.00, with lots of things homemade such as bread, jams and muesli – the rhubarb jam was very good, though not everybody likes rhubarb. My washing hadn’t dried very well overnight, including my walking shorts, so I put my damp things on, as it is the best way of getting things dry. I picked up a few things for lunch from the shop across the road and set off along a shortcut to join the Pennine Way on the way out of Ickornshaw.

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Ickornshaw from Cowling
Ickornshaw
Lothersdale
Lothersdale

The weather was overcast and humid with not a breath of air, which seemed to make the going harder. The start of today’s walk was a bit like yesterday’s, with a series of ups and downs, not reaching any great height, but still rather tiring in the clammy conditions. The views were very hazy and the mist was down over Ickornshaw Moor as I looked back. The route was quite well signposted, but took a little care as it went in and out of fields with several twists and turns to look out for. I missed one of these, but soon realised and turned back to find a stile with the Pennine Way sign missing – there were just a couple of nails where it should have been. Eventually, I dropped down into Lothersdale with its distinctive tall mill chimney, then up the gradual ascent to Pinhaw Beacon. At last a breeze came up to refresh me and I was then able to get into my stride on the way up through heather moorland to the summit, which is high enough to give a good panorama, and a convenient place to stop for a break.

As I was resting at the summit, a lone walker came along and started chatting about the Pennine Way. He envied me for being able to find the time and energy to do the walk. Suddenly the sun broke through, though the view was still rather limited, as there was still a lot of mist lingering about. The descent of Pinhaw is initially over heather moorland, but soon joins a minor road for a while through pastures and meadows, and the route then takes a footpath for the rest of the way down into the valley. At this point, the route is not very well marked as it drops down a grassy hillside with no clearly visible path on the way to Brown House Farm. The familiar Pennine Way signs give way to ordinary footpath signs of yellow arrows in a number of places, but the walking was easy and the route not difficult to find.

It was starting to get hot now in the sunshine, as I walked past hedgerows and verges that were abundant with wild flowers, with all the land looking rich and fertile in contrast to the large tracts of bleak moorland of previous days. The village of Thornton-in-Craven is very picturesque, though the tranquillity was shattered by the rather busy main road passing through. Many of the houses had beautiful displays of flowers in their gardens, now being shown off to their best in the sunshine.

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Approaching Thornton-in-Craven
Approaching Thornton-in-Craven
Double Arched Bridge over Leeds Liverpool Canal
Double Arched Bridge
Williamson Bridge over Leeds Liverpool Canal
Leeds Liverpool Canal

Beyond Thornton-in-Craven, I stopped for a lunch break at Langbar Hill in a rich meadow, and did a spot of sunbathing whilst also trying to dry out the remaining damp in my clothes. I didn’t bring too much to drink, as I didn’t expect it to get this warm, but I would be passing through Gargrave in three and a half miles, so I would be able to get something there to see me through the rest of the way to Malham. The scenery now was of gently rolling pastures, the higher hills having been left behind, but with more to come up ahead as I progressed along. It was very tempting to stay here a lot longer, soaking up the sun and relaxing, but I still had ten miles to walk, so set off again at 13.40.

It was not long before I reached the Leeds Liverpool Canal, which the Pennine Way follows for a little way, passing under a double arched bridge, where one bridge has been built on top of another to carry the road over the canal. Just past there, I wasn’t sure whether the route continued by the canal or parted company before the next bridge. There were no signs that I could see, except for one that could easily have indicated either of the two directions, so I carried on along the canal, but soon found that this was not the right thing to do. Without turning back, I could either follow the canal to Gargrave or drop down through a field to join the proper path. I decided on the latter, walking through some long grass to the gate opposite. The rest of the way to Gargrave was not very interesting, crossing field after field until at last Gargrave Church came into sight. In many ways, the canal towpath route would have been a more interesting option, though that would have bypassed Gargrave and rejoined the Pennine Way on the northern edge of the village. I started looking for a small shop to buy a carton of orange juice, but the only places there seemed to be tea rooms, so I bought a couple of cold cans there, drinking one straight away and saving one for later.

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Gargrave Church
Gargrave Church
River Aire near Airton
River Aire near Airton

It was getting very hot in the sunshine now, though it made everything look so much better, even though the views were still limited to those of distant hills, and there were never ending grass fields to trek across. I stopped for another drink and rest over Eshton Moor with four and a half miles left to walk. Although this area does not have any big hills the walking is not always easy. There is still quite a bit of climbing over small ups and downs and some walking through grass, which drags on the feet. In some places, farmers had only roughly ploughed fields before seeding them and not attempted to smooth out the footpaths again, so they were very bumpy and awkward to walk across. Once the riverside path was reached, however, things were so much better. The grass was close cropped by sheep making it a pleasure to walk upon, and the River Aire was never far away for added interest. Further along at Hanlith, Malham Cove came into view as well as all the limestone fells near Gordale Scar and it felt good to be entering the heart of this beautiful limestone country.

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Hanlith Hall near Malham
Hanlith Hall
Gordale Scar in Distance, from near Hanlith
Gordale Scar

I reached Malham Youth Hostel at 18.00 and ordered a three course evening meal for £8.40 plus a small packed lunch for £3.80 – I had already paid for bed and breakfast online. Pete was in the same dormitory, so it was interesting to hear how he had got on over the past couple of days since I last saw him. There were not many having dinner at the hostel, but I joined a chap from my dormitory who was just walking around the area, plus a woman who was walking the Pennine Way and started on Sunday, the day before I did. She was planning to do the walk with her daughter, but the daughter had to drop out for some reason so she ended up doing it on her own. She had owned a shop and letting property in Rhyl for many years, so knew our hotel, which is only about six miles away.

After dinner, I went down to the Buck Inn and had a pint of Landlord for the extortionate price of £2.90, and it wasn’t even a good pint. I then tried the Lister’s Arms, which was more reasonable at £2.50 for Thwaite’s Bomber. I sat outside near a good hearted group on the next table who were all trying out the different Thwaite’s beers on offer, as Thwaite’s had just taken over the pub. Nobody seemed very keen on any of them and they kept changing from one to another to see if anything was more to their liking. Apparently the pub had been closed on Wednesday whilst they changed everything over to Thwaite’s beers and reopened with a new manager on Thursday. They were having a few problems working the tills and other things, but seemed to have got to grips with them when I went in.

The group on the next table were saying that Malham had a visit from CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) on Wednesday. A group of them arrived in a minibus to sample the local real ales, but were thwarted by the fact that the one pub was closed and the other pub had run out of everything other than John Smith’s and Old Peculier, so they didn’t have a very fruitful visit.


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Day 6 - Saturday 9th June - 14.2 miles - 2,400 ft ascent

Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale - GPS 15.9 miles

My night’s sleep was disturbed by creaking bed springs, which is a common problem in hostels with some of the older type of bunk beds. Pete was having a rest day in Malham, so I would not be seeing him again, as he would then be a day behind me for the rest of the way. Breakfast consisted of a very good cold buffet, with plenty of variety, plus a limited selection of hot food left in heated trays for self-service. The sausage and beans were alright, but the bacon was dried out and the only eggs available were cold hard-boiled ones. However, this does mean that it is a lot easier for the Youth Hostel staff, and must make things quicker and more efficient at busy times.

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Bridge over Malham Beck
Bridge at Malham
Malham Cove
Malham Cove

It was 9.30 before I set off, having had a long chat with Pete, but there were not as many miles to cover today, so that didn’t matter. The weather was very warm with quite a lot of sunshine but some hazy mist and cloud in places, so the steep ascent up Malham Cove made me very hot. I got caught up in the middle of a large crowd of people who were doing a sponsored walk, with the next checkpoint by Malham Tarn, but they eventually went off in a different direction. I kept getting interrupted by calls from home on my mobile phone, but the reception was too poor to sustain a conversation. The first problem was that our computer had died with what appeared to be a power supply problem, and the next problem was how my wife and daughter could turn off the hot water supply so they could change a tap washer in one of the hotel bedrooms. It was not until I neared the Field Study Centre by Malham Tarn that I was able to sustain a conversation for long enough to suggest what to do.

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Dry Valley above Malham Cove
Dry Valley
Malham Tarn
Malham Tarn

On the way to Fountains Fell, I met up with a chap called John who was walking the Pennine Way and had started out the day before me, planning to complete it in twenty days just taking it at a steady pace. I went ahead after a while, and then met up with the woman from Rhyl I had met in Malham Youth Hostel. She had stopped for lunch before the ascent of Fountains Fell, so I had some of my lunch there with her whilst chatting about the walk. We both had some strange brown thing wrapped in cling film as part of our Youth Hostel packed lunch, but when I tried to get into mine it just disintegrated into a pile of crumbs, so there was no way I could eat it unless I used a spoon. It didn’t look very appetising anyway, so I decided that it was better suited to a rubbish bin. She was doing her own version of the Pennine Way, not sticking strictly to the route, but taking short cuts here or there to bypass some of the hillier bits when she felt like it. She was very slow walking, much slower than John, but kept plodding along and got there in the end. As we were sitting there, John came along and then went ahead of us.

The walking today had been very easy so far, with lovely sheep cropped grassy paths for much of the way. A deputy warden from New Zealand at Malham Youth Hostel was saying how hard the ground was at the moment and how there was a need for Sorbothane insoles, as I have in my boots. He then went on to say that half way through the day’s walk it was best to change into a nice fresh, fluffed-up pair of socks. I had to point out that this was a luxury that just didn’t exist when walking the Pennine Way, especially as they are the most difficult things to get dry, so they have to last as long as possible. Also, even with the ground dry and hard, it was still much softer than the miles of wretched flagstones on other parts of the walk, so this was luxury in itself.

Higher up it was a little cooler with more cloud about, so it was better for walking, but not so good for the views. The ascent of Fountains Fell brings with it a complete change of scenery, leaving behind the limestone and returning to peaty moorland, which was mainly grassy but with some heather and bilberry. Although it was a little cooler, it was still quite humid, making it a hot and sweaty climb even though it was fairly steady with only one or two steeper bits. The route does not go right to the summit, as this is a rather flat-topped and peaty hill with a better view from around the edge than from the top. There are remains of old mine workings all around, with warning signs telling people to stay on the footpath because of the numerous mineshafts in the area. I stopped for a rest by the highest point on the path and was eating another bit of my packed lunch when John came along. I had kept meeting the other two from time to time as I had stopped once or twice on the way, letting the others go ahead, then had overtaken them a bit later. It just shows that someone who keeps going at a very steady pace without taking many breaks can get there just as quickly as someone like myself who walks at a faster pace, but keeps stopping from time to time, often for longer periods.

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Penyghent and Ingleborough from Fountains Fell
Penyghent and Ingleborough
Penyghent from Gavel Rigg
Penyghent from Gavel Rigg

There is a fine view across to Penyghent, Ingleborough and Whernside from Fountains Fell, although today it was a bit too hazy to get any more than a profile of them. These are the Yorkshire ‘Three Peaks’ making up a challenge walk that has to be completed in 12 hours, not to be confused with the other ‘Three Peaks’ of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, which make up a 24 hour challenge walk. The route down from Fountains Fell was quite easy with a grassy path much of the way down to the road at the bottom, which then has to be followed for about a mile before picking up the track to Penyghent. This climbs steadily up onto a ridge called Gavel Rigg, which gives some very impressive views of Penyghent from close up, before the final climb of the steep face up towards the summit. The sun started shining again, making it very hot, especially up the steepest part, so I had to keep stopping to catch a bit of breeze to cool me down a little. The steep face looks very daunting from a distance, but it is not as bad as it looks, and there is a stepped path all the way up the face. The final few hundred yards to the trig point are much more gentle, and I stopped there for a while for another rest and a look at the view.

I always find that Penyghent is a hill that is much more impressive to look at than the views it offers from its summit. Fountains Fell to the east is just a featureless moor; to the north is the rather flat topped ridge of Penyghent itself; to the south is lower lying land, and it is only to the west where more interesting views of Ingleborough, Ribblesdale and Whernside can be seen, and even Whernside is rather lacking in distinction, despite its being the highest of the three peaks. The sunshine was rather short-lived and a cool wind sprang up prompting me to continue on my way down towards Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

The route down starts with a section of path-work that is intended to trip and injure as many people as possible, which is why most people avoid it and walk by the side. After a little way, the main path winds its way down the hillside. This was laid about 15 years ago with brilliant white limestone chippings that looked horrendous at the time, and even this many years later it still looks an eyesore – talk about making things sympathetic to the landscape. It is obvious why this surface was chosen, with a huge limestone quarry just across the way, but sometimes people should look at the broader aspect and not just at the most convenient and cheapest solution.

I didn’t take this path, as I prefer to make a small detour to visit Hull Pot, so I followed a route down the hillside a little further to the north, which looked like it had been the route of the three peaks challenge held today. It was a nice, grassy slope, easy on the feet and soon led me down to where the slope levelled out and I was able to pick up the path to Hull Pot. This is a very large and impressive pothole, fed by a river valley that is dry most of the time, but after heavy rain feeds a waterfall into one side of the pothole. At other times, the water sinks below the dry valley and emerges by the bottom of the pothole, only to immediately disappear again underground. This is only about a quarter of a mile off route and a very worthwhile detour.

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Hull Pot, just off the route
Hull Pot
Looking back at Penyghent
Back to Penyghent

From Hull Pot, I picked up the main Pennine Way path again for the rest of the way into Horton. It was very stony for much of the way, and not the best thing for feet at the end of the day. My accommodation for the night was in a bunkroom at the Golden Lion, just opposite Horton church, and as I passed through the village, there were people in great numbers, mostly in campsites, presumably here for the three peaks challenge. When I arrived, it turned out that I had been allocated a static caravan, as a group had wanted to book the bunk accommodation for themselves. That was fine by me as it provided me with my own private accommodation with all the facilities and plenty of space.

When I phoned home, I discovered that my wife and daughter had been unable to turn off the large stop tap feeding the hot water tank, as it was seized up with calcium deposits. Rather than be defeated, my wife held towels over the tap whilst my daughter replaced the washer, both of them getting a good soaking in the process, although most of the water found its way onto them and down the plughole rather than over the floor. When I returned home, I didn’t get round to checking out the tap, but we then had an elderly couple staying in the room. They were just getting ready to go to a wedding when they managed to unscrew the top off the tap, as it hadn’t been tightened down properly. The man was in his underwear trying to hold the tap in place to stem the flow of water, whilst his wife summoned me for help. It was then my turn to go through the same routine of trying to screw the top of the tap back on with water rushing out everywhere, as I was unable to turn off the stop tap either. Once I had got the tap back roughly together, I then managed to free up the stop tap and complete the job properly. Oh the joys of running a hotel!

After a much needed shower, I went to the bar and had a pint of Landlord. I would have liked a meal, but it was so crowded that there was no table free, and I couldn’t sit outside as it had just started to rain. The best option seemed to be to go back to the caravan for a while to rest and return later once some of the earlier diners had moved on. It was still quite busy when I returned, but I managed to get a small table that had just been vacated, so was able to order a lasagne to have with my pint of Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best. As a single person in a busy pub, it is not easy to keep a table. The moment you get up to get another pint from the bar someone else leaps in and grabs the table. However, once I had eaten my meal, it didn’t matter so much, so I wandered into the other bar with my next pint and managed to find a place free in there. Before long a chap from British Telecom who was in the same position as me, trying to find somewhere to sit, joined me. He had taken place in the challenge walk, which was organised by BT. They had fielded about 60 to 80 teams of four themselves, but they also opened the event to other associated companies, many of which were parts of BT before being split off. MacMillan Nurses also joined in, making a total of about 400 entrants altogether.


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