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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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162.  A Cracking Bit of Wensleydale

wallace and gromit     “Eeeeeeeeee, these bank holidays, it’s a problem to decide …
    Gromit, that’s it! Cheese! We’ll go somewhere where there’s cheese!”
            A Grand Day Out (1989).
Yes but why did Wallace and Gromit decide to travel to the moon, even if it was made of cheese, when it might have been a tad easier to visit Wensleydale, home of their favourite cheese?

We didn’t make the same mistake. On the August bank holiday Sunday we headed for Hawes, in order to walk in a bit of Wensleydale where we had not set foot before. The Preston to Richmond bus arrived at our stop with no passengers. Was there really nobody in Preston or Lancaster who fancied a holiday bus trip to the Yorkshire Dales?  It cost us £5 return – surely a bargain for a 60-mile trip, much of it through iconic Dales scenery. Are people saving every penny to pay their energy bills?  Or are they so enamoured of their cars that they never even think of going anywhere without them?  Or are they influenced by the comment (variously attributed) that anyone travelling on a bus is a failure in life?

We walked north from Hawes over the River Ure (which was very low) up to the hamlet of Sedbusk. Sedbusk could be a name invented by a novelist to sound Dalesian. There are Sed-s and -busks around so why not join the two?  The real Sedbusk is "a very typical settlement of the northern flank of Wensleydale", with a number of interesting vernacular buildings (according to a website no longer on-line). We, however, did not pause to study them but walked on along an airy track that led eventually to the farm of Litherskew.

Approaching Sedbusk

from sedbusk

Looking back towards Hawes from Sedbusk

Wensleydale here is a wide valley, rising in stages on both sides up to heights of 500 metres or more. There are therefore excellent long-ranging views along and across the dale. There is, however, little of drama in the scene. The limestone scars are relatively small and most of the valley is, of course, given over to green fields for sheep and cattle, with a few scattered trees. Disappointingly, there are only occasional glimpses of the river. Perhaps when the river is fuller it is more noticeable but I doubt that it is significantly so. Of course, the river here is still small, being only ten miles or so into its seventy mile journey to become the River Ouse. It is also rather secretive, there being no footpaths by the river between Hawes and where we were heading, Camshouse Pasture.

Wensleydale, looking east (the top in the distance is Addlebrough)

We headed for the stepping stones below Hunger Hill. Stepping stones always bring us a frisson of excitement. A planned walk lies in the balance. Will the stones be underwater (not likely on this occasion)?  Will the stones all be there?  Will there be a gap tempting us to risk life and limb?  The Yorkshire Dales seems particularly fond of stepping stones, with a number of them being well-known. I expect somebody has written a catalogue of Dales stepping stones and perhaps even devised a ‘stepping stones trail’ over all of them. In the event, our stepping stones were all there, riveted to the river bed, tracing a graceful curve across the river.
ure stepping stones

The stepping stones over the River Ure

We picnicked on the opposite bank (just over there in the photo), where we could admire the stepping stones and reflect upon our heroic crossing. Our plans beyond this point were vague, as we hadn’t dared to be too optimistic that we’d be able to cross. We improvised.

We walked up across fields, up Mire Bank Lane, and up High Lane to reach the Cam High Road, which is the old Roman Road that continued east to the fort at Bainbridge. Its Roman-ness was not obvious to us but it provided a fine walking track up to the west, which we followed to a height of about 460 metres. By now, clouds had settled over the valley, removing almost all colour from the scene. Prominent ahead was the distinctive top of Yorburgh (515 metres), which I am not sure that I’d heard of before. It’s a subsidiary of Wether Fell (614 metres) and it overlooked most of this walk.

Cam High Road, an old Roman Road (the hill ahead is Yorburgh)

The path north down to the village of Burtersett could be clearly seen ahead of us but it is probably less clear to those walking up. Burtersett is an appealing village, particularly appealing to us as we could make use of the drink-making facilities kindly provided in its Institute. I had not prepared adequately for this walk, otherwise I might have sought out Hillary Hall, home of the Hillary family, from which the mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary was descended, his grandparents having left Wensleydale for New Zealand. But the no doubt manifold attractions of Burtersett did not detain us as we felt an irresistible necessity to get to Hawes in time for some sustenance before our bus came. So we took the easy path across the fields back to Hawes.
to burtersett

The path down to Burtersett

By the way, I am very much looking forward to our soon-to-be new Prime Minister, renowned champion of British cheese, immediately announcing, as a matter of the highest priority in this time of national crisis, that our present Minister for Defence, Mr Wallace, will be moved to his rightful role as Minister for Cheese. Gromit will be the Crackers Minister.

    Date: August 28th 2022
    Start: SD876898, Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes  (Map: OL30)
    Route: N, NE – Sedbusk – E along track that ends below Litherskew, SE across Camshouse Pasture – old railway line – SW over stepping stones, across field, up Mire Bank Lane, E and SE on High Lane – Cam High Road – SW, N – Burtersett – W, NW – Hawes
    Distance: 8 miles;   Ascent: 230 metres

The two following items:
     164.   A Walk in the Kentmere Park
     163.   Baugh Fell and Alpacas
The two preceding items:
     161.   Caves, a Waterfall, Windmills and a Crocodile
     160.   Levens Park and the River Kent
Two nearby items:
       10.   The 'Hillfort' of Addlebrough
       58.   From Hawes, in the Poet Laureate's Footsteps
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell