Narrowing a gap28th February 2008
The chance of a few fine February weekends has allowed me to continue my Pennine Way project after what has been a lengthy hiatus. The gap in my northbound progress to Hawes has been between Haworth and Gargrave and it is one that’s been nagging at the back of my mind for a while now. It’s a section that may be a light workout for the legs in comparison with others, but that means that you are crossing farmland. That introduces field navigation, a practice fraught with opportunities for error due to OS’ difficulty in showing the lines of footpaths to the required level of precision and accuracy on their Explorer maps. The same issue affects any attempt to exit any sort of sizeable conurbation into hill country. Waymarking does help but only if it is done properly and I have got the impression that it’s not one of North Yorkshire County Council’s finer points. In fact, the sight of homemade signs and arrows paint and on stone walls is a little amazing when the role of such interventions is to direct you along what is a major national trail.
If I had taken heed of such amateur signposting, I would probably have avoided heading in the direction of someone’s backyard at the start of my walk south from Gargrave a few weekends ago. I was set right when I heard tapping on a window and I was suitably chastened because it was my own curiosity that led me to continue in the wrong way. Getting to Gargrave in the first place was a minor travail with the railway taking the strain for me. I had planned to allow a bit of slack by catching an earlier train from Macclesfield but it got cancelled due to a staff shortage. Nevertheless, everything went as I had hoped, even if the train carrying me from Manchester to Leeds got crowded by ramblers at Dewsbury; they seemed to have headed off somewhere else because Gargrave was quiet and I starting out, which might have been just as well…
Once I had got onto the PW, it was very much a case of paying attention as I plied my way. Finding the initial sign in Gargrave itself required patience and the same quality was much required as I made my way from field to field until reaching the canal at East Marton. After following the canal for a short while, it was back to more careful field crossing until I reached Thornton-in-Craven. I may have veered slightly off route at times, but things on the navigational side were keeping up. After Thornton though, a spot of navigational bumbling struck around Brown House Farm before I got back on track again. After my thankfully unobserved fumbling, moorland began its encounter as I headed up and over Elslack Moor before more field walking until I reached Lothersdale, a pretty spot. I did have designs on continuing a bit further along the PW before returning to civilisation, but navigation looked uncertain at that hour of the day and I chose an alternative route that mixed footpaths and roads until I met up with a bus stop near Lumb Mill Bridge from where I took a bus to Keighley and it was all rail travel until I got home.
There was a gap between Lothersdale and Haworth to be closed and it wouldn’t have received attention on the following weekend were it not for the fact that I couldn’t muster up enough energy for a visit to Borrowdale in Cumbria on the Saturday. The fine weather was prodding my conscience, so a trip to Haworth was in order for the Sunday. The journey there involved: a bus to Manchester, a train to Hebden Bridge and a bus to Haworth. From Haworth, I got to Ponden Reservoir over public footpaths and roads in just over an hour, not very fast for some but I was satisfied. The day was glorious and icy conditions remained in places where the sun couldn’t work its magic. The walking around the reservoir was easy and uneventful, but an energetic climb up and over Ickornshaw was soon to great me. Steady progress saw me up onto the moor where an observant eye kept me on track. The way down to Ickornshaw can cause confusion because of its many twists and turns with some homemade signposting in evidence; the waymarking people could do with visiting these parts. The good people of Ickornshaw have resorted to painting arrows on stone walls to keep weary walkers on track but I was to potter through to Cowling for a bus to Keighley and a railway journey back home.
The remaining piece between Ickornshaw and Lothersdale still beckons, but that is another opportunity for exploring these parts rather than something maddening. The section itself is a reasonably short one, so further walking can be added to see these parts from another angle. It’s good to see more possibilities…
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