Thursday, 19 May 2016

Wild camping in the Yorkshire Dales

Day 1
It's a year to the day that I left home to America where I began the PCT.  A year later I find myself in the Yorkshire Dales out for a bimble. The weather is set to be bleak but I didn't want to stay cooped up in the hostel so I packed up a few things and headed off. I had a vague idea where I was going. 
My bag felt pretty heavy but I guess that was due to a slow climb to the top of Weets top. It was pretty sunny - so far so good. Once at the top I turned left and started towards Park House a lovely stone farm house. I pass through and startle two young children, their toys scattered everywhere. Next I enter a crowded sheep field and enjoy the sun. The track leads me down into a valley and I follow the road which goes up and out the other side of the valley. A lapwing calls at me and I see 4 fluffy chicks scurrying this way and that, all unsure of where to go.  I keep moving and the mother relaxes. For the moment I am chasing a dark cloud on the horizon, my path behind is illuminated by sunlight. Sadly this all changes as a few patters of rain hits me. I add layers of waterproofs, head down and march. 

The rain comes down hard and I get soaked. I come close to a village and see some farm space being built and a large trailer of some kind which is bone-dry beneath. I dive under it and am able to sit up comfortably.

 Sitting on rocky ground, my clothes are hanging all around me drying. The sun is trying to make it one last time through the clouds. It succeeds and casts faint golden rays over the land allowing the sheep and lambs to enjoy the last moments of warmth. You wouldn't have known it was pouring down half an hour ago. I read a bit of my book before getting too tired and drift off.

Day 2
I wake on and off through the night with the moon at one point illuminating everything. When I finally enter a deep sleep its 5 am and my alarm goes off. I'm slow to pack up and by 5:20 am I'm walking.
I layer-up to get warm and head out.  Low clouds hang over the town as I follow the road towards Linton.

I startle some sheep and end up following their hoove-worn path by accident and get a little lost in the process. I reach a road and head down - the wrong way, so quickly a-about turn and go the right way. I reach a tiny village - it's petite and very English. Large cottage and baskets of greenery everywhere. I head out and follow the short crossroads towards Linton Falls. A man driving a lorry sees me - for the second time and points me in the right direction. It's 6 am and I'm understandably the only one here in this pitiful dreary morning. It's very wide and a heron takes flight as I arrive. I take a few snaps and hike on. 

There is something awesome about hiking first thing. Its only you and the path, nature, early morning wildlife, the dawning sun, no cars, no one. I plod along and enter fields brimming with sheep and lambs. A foot bridge/mini suspension bridge hangs over the river and sways as I get to the middle. I swap sides over the River Wharfe and coast down the Dales Way - which I'm hoping to hike this summer. It looks awesome! The path seems to go back in time and as moss covers everything and plants line the banks. 
An old metal railing leads up some old worn down stone steps and I keep going. The river becomes more turbulent and creates deep groves in the limestone. I reach the village of Burnsall and have breakfast and use the very convenient toilets. I cross over the road and reach the grassy embankment. The clouds still hang love the hills. Rabbits make their homes in the sandy river wall reminding me of the places I'd like to travel too where people lived in the walls. I pass tiny blue flowers with yellow centers and wish I knew their names - forget me nots?

I get out my food for free book and see what you can eat out here. The path then enters the Bolton Estate which is full of Oak trees. The river grows in size and danger. A little home made shack appears selling various hand crafted things. It turns out to be run by this gentleman and a very unexpectedly but welcomed find.  I reach civilization in the form of a pavilion selling tasty smelling food but I stick with my cold yet satisfying cous-cous. Only 1 mile till the abbey. I go and follow the gentle ups and down a of the path. I reach a tree with rock climbing hand grips nailed all the way up. The abbey then comes into view which looks very grand despite it's decadent status. It's free to wander inside. I wander around its ancient walls and see the fragile yet defiant flowers clinging there. Somehow managing to grow out of the stone. 

I stop for lunch and 2 brave ducks sit at my feet knowing I have food..
Next I leave the estate and head up into the hills to the moors. I enter a beautiful wood full of bluebells and verdant leaves. I take it very slow not wanting to miss anything. It zigzags up and down and I soon enter a huge field of sheep. Again the wind picks up and I do battle to the reach the moor. The isolation and change of scenery is welcomed and lapwings twist and dive making their unique metal-detector cries. It's meant to rain at 5 pm so I hike on. I'm hoping to find some large boulder type grit stone to rest under when I see a few huts dotted on the horizon. I check the map and they turn out to be shooting huts. I hike on to meet them and see a dry, wind-free place for the night complete with benches and tables. And it starts to rain. I climb inside and its only 3 pm. If it stops raining maybe I can head out for a wander and leave my bag. I want to see more of this place before I leave tomorrow. I'm planning on getting the early bus and doing a bit of shopping.

The rain patters down and I chill varying between emails, reading, writing, map plotting, napping and eating. I'm asleep by 9:30 pm and wake briefly. It's hazy throughout the night and faintly bright.

Day 3
I wake at 4:30 am and snooze till 5:15 am. I debate getting the early bus, change my mind and opt for the afternoon one. I pack up and head out in to the heart of the moor. Rain patters down periodically but its not too bad. I head towards upper Barden reservoir and walk around its edge. Loads of birds loiter and the noise is tremendous. Love reservoirs. I continue upwards and follow the track. A grouse startles and runs out in front of me. I see her chicks to the left of me as she feigns an injured wing to distract me. Low clouds hang across the moor, showering me a damp sprinkle. Crags spring out here and there. I past a tiny hut.
I'm more than half way round now and reach a memorial stone. I pause for lunch or rather brunch. Then I reach the cross roads where I've been before and follow the main path and head gradually towards Embsay reservoir. I pass another 2 grouse huts and take shelter briefly. Good to know they're there. I speed into Embsay and head home ready for a bath.