The Herriot's Way 2010

Day One: 9th April

Weather: Overcast, but dry and bright

Route: Aysgarth to Hawes - about 13 miles

 

A nice breakfast in the tea rooms to start off the day, with bags packed and ready to go. Goldilocks weather - not too hot and not too cold - just right in fact. After paying the bill and thanking the owners for a very pleasant stay we set off down the road to the War Memorial that marks the start of the Herriot's Way for us. The day promised much and delivered on all counts, so being an optimist I retrieved my shades from the car and off we went. With high pressure establishing over the UK, it meant dry weather and warm air sucked in from the South - a 2 layer day, and a perfect start. Most of the day is spent walking along Wensleydale, following the wide floodplain of the River Ure. We walked down from the memorial to the actual floodplain and stayed close to the river for most of the morning. There was plenty of wildlife to see and they all seemed happy with the weather as well. I was surprised to see Sand Martins flitting in and out of the riverbank so early in the year, but they had plenty of food to go at with the midges. Other birds around today were Lapwings bobbing all over the place with their familiar pee-wit calls, ganders on guard duty making a real noise, but not many songbirds around and hence no birdsong.

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The start of The Herriot's Way for us 

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 Down the bank to the floodplain

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 The River Ure - plenty of Sand Martins along here

The path wanders along the fields for a while before joining up with an old railway embankment, with the old cinder bed showing through the grass here and there. One or two boggy spots had to be circumnavigated, but on the whole it was very pleasant walking. At Nappa Mill we turned again back to the river through a farm and made our way towards our first village of the day. As expected there were plenty of new lambs bounding around, some very shy, but others butting everything that moved. The landscape was very typical of the Yorkshire Dales, the wide valley flanked by limestone escarpments, with drystone walls everywhere - these being very distinctive with protruding stones for the wallers to stand on when they were building - not to be used by walkers for climbing over.

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 walking along the floodplain - Carpberry Moor up to the right

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 the old railway track to Askrigg

nosey little lambs

We left the river as we approached Askrigg, taking a 90deg turn and heading across the fields through more stiles. Askrigg is the 'All creatures great and small' village of the TV series, and many of the scenes were shot here - in summertime that means plenty of tourists abound. It also means that there are plenty of tea rooms and we planted ourselves down on the sunnyside of the street for a lovely cup of tea before moving on. I didn't recognise much from the TV series but it's a busy little village and provides a good toilet stop as well. That's what I really enjoyed about this walk, plenty of places to stop and very relaxing - no hurry. After a quick tour around the village high street and the church of St Oswalds we started back on route towards more fields, along a farm track and through a small woodland. Our guide book told us a good diversion would be to Millgill Force, and my stomach told me it was a good lunch spot even though we'd only just had tea. The sun was shining as we scrambled down to sit beneath the falls, but not hot enough for all the midges to be out and about. We sat and watched a Dipper with a beak full of moss, waiting for us to move on so he could build his nest by the flowing water. The butties from the B&B were great - Wensleydale cheese - very apt.

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very peaceful down by the river 

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 Askrigg village

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 the main street with our tea-room on the left

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Mill Gill Force - time for lunch

I tried to get more stringy waterfall shots with my new camera, but I'm still on a steep learning curve and sometimes it's difficult to hold the camera steady at 1/10sec shutter speed. After a very pleasant interlude it was back to the path which took us along a small road for a little way to make a change from field walking. To the south was a view of Addleborough - pretending to be a mini Pen-y-Ghent, and it dominates the view for a little way. We had a chat with a couple who had put their house up for sale 3 days ago and found a buyer more or less straight away - the lure of the dales I suppose. Their dog like snapping at boots - not a good trait as the Herriot's Way path passes their front gate. From the short section of track it was down to a farm lane, green, grassy and boggy between drystone walls. One thing that was really noticeable for the four days walking was the amount of dead bunnies lying around. It must have been a harsh winter for them or they have been hit by disease again, as there were far to many to have been victims of the farmers shotgun.

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  an arty shot looking back to Carberry Moor

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 the small hamlet at Lukes Houses

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 this shows the height difference between the floodplain and the first river terrace

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spot the paraglider by the limestone crags

Another feature of the landscape was the field barns, hundreds of them, all built in the same vernacular style, and all the hens are really chunky and healthy looking. We passed by a few old lime kilns, plenty of shake holes and back onto the fields towards Sedbusk. A neat stand of trees marked the start of Sedbusk, another neat and tidy village, but no shops. But if you're thirsty I'm sure that one of the locals would fill your flask if you asked nicely. After passing between houses the path comes into a set of small fields with plenty of squeeze stiles to pass through - only one leg at a time or you get stuck. The walls looked like a Grand National course all lined up in a row, with the lambs sunning themselves in the sheltered spots - idyllic scenery. Shortly after passing through the last of the lambing fields the path pops past Simonstone Hall - a posh venue for a wedding, but also available for tea and a pint. I'm a great believer in keeping hydrated so it was time for a swift one on the terrace - I didn't even have to take my boots off as I trudged through to the bar - well worth a visit. But if you don't fancy here the pub is just down the road, actually it's down a steep little slope to Hardraw and the Green Dragon pub. To get to Hardrow Force you have to pay £2 at the bar (there is a new visitor centre being built which should do away with this) and then walk about a 1/4 mile up to the falls. Unfortunately they were a bit of a dribble today and any attempts to make them look spectacular failed miserably. A recent rockfall from above had revealed some excellent trace fossils of worm burrows for me to have a look at.

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 a splendid copse of Beech trees just before Sedbusk

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Hardraw Force

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Trace fossils - worm burrows

The day was nearly done and all that remained was a short walk back across the floodplain to the River Ure and Hawes town. We arrived at the B&B in time for a nice shower and scrub up before retiring to the Chaste restaurant a couple of doors down. We had a good meal paid for by my winnings on the Grand National (that's a horserace for the non sporty) and if Black Apalachi had put his best foot forward it would have paid for the entire holiday. A good day to be a walker, a bad day to be a rabbit.

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