The Indian summer that we had been enjoying for a few weeks has decided to take a break from us but it looks like a session of stable weather awaits us once this weekend is over. It may be the sort of weather that brings frosts after dark that make you reach for winter warmers, especially when your toes are frozen after a bike ride. In the last week, there has been the occasional deluge locally but nothing like what other places got. Last weekend, I was grounded by a spot of furniture rearrangement but this weekend offers a chance for a bit of brain clearing if I can stop tweaking the online photo gallery for a while (more on that in another post). In the midst of this, I have gotten to turning my mind to recounting that stroll along the banks of the Wharfe at the end of September. It might have sounded a little late in the year to seeking a sun-drenched paradise anywhere in Britain, let alone Wharfedale in Yorkshire, but that’s exactly what I found.
The wondrous weather meant that many strollers were drawn out and about and I spent the section of the Dales Way between Burnsall and Howgill (yes, there is one here too) feeling a little hemmed in by those perambulating at a gentler pace. It cannot be pleasurable for anyone to have someone continually leap frogging them so that realisation meant that some of the photographic opportunities were more rushed than I would have liked. That was not the way at the start with Burnsall looking splendid in the sunshine with the only disturbance of the peace being an overly enthusiastic spaniel putting the wind up the local ducks, triggering a spot of human mirth in the process; the aberrant mutt’s owner wasn’t so pleased.
Once on my way, I sought out the Dales Way and saw that I was going to be sharing it with a goodly number undertaking shorter saunters, perhaps a circuit taking in Appletreewick. This always raises the prospect of speed mismatches and the last thing that you want to do to anyone is constantly leap frogging them so any episodes of DSLR action were curtailed in their length. I was still undecided as to whether the walk would take me all of the way back to Ilkley or whether my sole means of propulsion would start to tell me that shortening it and letting a bus carry me the rest of the way would be the most sensible choice. The plan was to see how things went and decide as I go.
Things quietened markedly after passing Howgill and I got the sense that I had more space to myself and got to relax a little more as I shortened the trail to Barden Bridge; I could see folk a field or so behind me but that was no perturbation. the scenery was pastoral too, pleasant but nothing to draw the occasional ambler. That may have been a contributor to my increasing personal peace too and it wasn’t long before Barden Bridge was reached and I entered the Bolton Abbey estate. A convenient bench allow a chance to rest a little while before continuing forth. Barden Tower, the now ruined stronghold of the “Shepherd Lord” Thomas Clifford, remained hidden from view among the trees until an ornate aqueduct took me across the Wharfe. There were more folk about at this stage but I was past the point of caring. In fact, it was no throng and I just ambled along through Strid Wood with the sense of personal peace continuing unruffled. The shade from the afternoon sun was welcome if it did mean that it limited chances for camera usage.
My next stopping point, apart from a short rest in the woods themselves, was the Cavendish Pavilion where day trippers really had gathered. It came in useful for attending to human needs and acquiring a map that was missing from my collection and would become useful for the final stretches around by Addingham and Ilkley itself. Having a Quo print-out meant that I wasn’t dependent on finding a shop selling maps along the way but my expectation was that urban Bradford or Ilkley would have been where the gap in map collection was filled rather than rural Wharfedale. The A4 sheet would have sufficed but having the full OS article felt so much more reassuring because of being able to get a wider sense of where I was.
From the pavilion, I continued my way southwards to reach Bolton Priory, part Church of England parish church and part ruined abbey. In fact, it was this that drew my attentions to the lower reaches of Wharfedale in the first place. When those first monks selected the site all those centuries ago, they certainly knew idyll when they saw it. The human incursion really does seem to add to the mixture of rolling hills and a meandering angler-friendly river. Though there are stepping stones, I stuck with the bridge; the last thing that you want to see on such a long crossing is a lapse of common sense and someone coming the other way. As it happened, I witnessed some folk having a go, even a cane wielding pensioner (I would have thought them too far apart for someone less mobile but there’s always one…), but no mishaps of the type that I imagined. The mixture of directional sunshine, a stunning focal point and pleasurable surroundings had me engaged in photographic capture. There was plenty from which to choose and that was with a goodly number about but not so many as to be intrusive.
Pulling myself away from Bolton Priory took some effort but constant withdrawal was the answer and humanity was left to its honeypot as I continued to ply the banks. Bolton Bridge came soon enough and a handy underpass escorted me beyond the busy A59. A section of the narrow B6160 awaited me but I escaped from the passing traffic onto a path just inside a wall after Lob Wood. A little route finding and a road crossing about Lobwood House was all that was needed to stay on the straight and narrow. The only fly in the ointment was a certain feeling that I was at risk of falling out on the ground from the top step of a stone style, not a good thought at all. The outskirts of Addingham came up soon enough and I left them after me as I rounded by its parish church and old mill. Though I was approaching the A65 all the while, the Dales Way escaped back onto the turf again to shadow the river bank as it had been doing all day. Constantly changing surroundings provided reassuring confirmation of progress with views of Ilkley’s outskirts with Ilkley Moor behind them changing into the very urban surroundings within which the old bridge that marks the end of the Dales Way is located. A look at an OS map might lead one to believe that it goes beyond this point but my understanding is that they are mistaking the link trail from Leeds as part of the Dales Way proper. While U.K. walking community is to be envied when its comes to mapping, it goes to show that the OS isn’t infallible either but who is? It’s not a subject on which anyone needs to dwell for too long and neither was I as I made for Ilkley’s train station with the 18:51 to Bradford coming easily to hand after a good day spent following the course of a river.
Train travel between Macclesfield and Ilkley with changes in Manchester and Bradford. One way bus travel from Ilkley to Burnsall.