Following the success of last week’s walk, I was concerned that we may have peaked too soon – see previous blog post for terrible pun reference – in our northern walking adventures. How could anything come close to the beauty of Kinder Scout? Thankfully, it appears that the north of England is going to continue to reward our strenuous slope scaling with sumptuous scenery, and Barden Moor certainly did that.
Located at the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales and therefore just over an hour’s drive for us, we headed to a car park located at Black Hill. After deliberating between two roadside gravel patches within a short drive of each other, we rested on what I thought to be the correct one. As usual, I was wrong, as I’d thought we were heading in from the opposite direction. Our car park did however have a handy information sign with a map of the moor, of which we were appreciative as it informed us to ignore the various ‘no dogs allowed’ signs we would later encounter on the route. Had we not have done so we would have taken a vastly different course and missed some of the main highlights.
Setting off along a track to join up with the public footpath, signs warned of ground nesting birds in the area. Herbie discovered the birds very soon after, and went berserk for the majority of the first half of the walk, as grouse burst hysterically from the undergrowth flapping and squawking wildly, to the frustration of our (well leashed) pooch. We encountered many of these birds along the way, and the area is a shooting ground from August until December. A point of discussion with the vegan Sammy.
Once again we were struck by the beauty that surrounded us. The area was vast and wild. Huge hills engulf you, with views of the Dales stretching for miles. I wonder if we’ll ever get used to such sights, and if the increasing amount of time we spend amongst them will begin to detract from their ability to produce a constant stream of ‘wows’ as we walk. At the moment, I’m going to guess that won’t happen. The same way that pure physical attraction develops into a deeper rooted love, so will our devotion to this landscape we’re starting to think of as our own.
The moor contains two reservoirs, the first of which was visible to the right of the path at the start of the walk, the second coming into view as we progressed. To the left of us stretched open moor land, with stone ridges in the distance, one or two grouse shooting huts dotted around the place, and more than one or two grouse exploding from the shrubs and adding to Herbie’s torment. Sticking to the public path, the track gives way to a narrow trail, muddier and bendier, with springs and marsh to traverse. As we forged forwards, the sight of an obelisk war memorial remained firmly in view ahead, and it would soon become our unintended destination.
We were heading towards the village of Rylstone (made famous by the Calendar Girls, I’ve recently discovered), just outside of the moor boundary and down the steep Rylstone Fell, after we had taken time to climb the ladder over the dry-stone wall to see Rylstone Cross – a large stone Christian cross at the top of the fell that looms over the parish below.
One of these days I’ll learn a word that can suitably describe the impact the view that greeted us had on us, but for now all I can say is bugger me… what a view. Overlooking the village, neighbouring hills, and surrounding expanse from a height of 400m above sea level, the sheer vastness is overwhelming. After we had climbed up to the cross itself and began to take it all in, we considered choosing this place to stop for lunch. Then a lone walking man, as if teleported from another realm, materialised a few metres behind Sammy, startling and baffling us both considerably. With the forfeiture of our privacy and the desire to go see the obelisk, we decided to abandon our plans to descend the hill to Rylstone, and instead took the path along the edge of the crag tops, and past the gorgeous rock formations to see the monument dedicated to those who died in the great wars, which crowns Cracoe Fell. Here we had similarly breath-taking views, and as such decided on using this opportunity to have a rest and a bite to eat.
Cracking on, we headed down a path not featured on the OS map, which became so boggy in parts that Herbie’s feet became caked in filth so much that he looked to be wearing little black boots, until we reached a grouse shooter’s track once again. From here it was more open moor land to the right of us, and more wide open views of towns and villages, such as Grassington and Hebden to our left. As the path led towards an area of disused mine shafts, we intended on taking a path down the hillside to the village of Thorpe and on to the river Wharfe. There was no path to be seen, (unless both of us missed it, which is entirely possible), so instead we continued on the track past an old mine chimney that protruded from the ground, and a shooting hut which despite my rattlings was securely locked, deciding to cut the corner off our planned route by staying on the moor and heading down towards the reservoirs we had passed at the beginning of the circle some hours before. A significant factor in this decision was not only the lack of the path to Thorpe, but also the fact we had plans for a Chinese takeaway with family later that evening, and thoughts of sesame prawn toast dipped in curry sauce began to dominate my thoughts.
We snaked down to Upper Barden reservoir, then continued down to Lower Barden reservoir via a track that crossed many gushing springs. After the highly populated tracks from Kinder Scout the week before, it was refreshing for us to have bumped into only five people on this walk, (four of whom we saw approaching and the one who was apparently beamed down to the cross). It’s not that we’re unsociable people, and we’re always friendly with our fellow walkers, but we do like it when it feels like we have the land to ourselves. Having worked hard all week – Herbie excluded of course, he just gets doted on and pampered for five days – when it comes to the weekend and we’re out amongst nature, despite the exertion required to get up hills or walk long distances, it is only time that I feel completely relaxed. And to help me achieve that I only require the company of one person, and one dog.
The final stage of the route brought us up a sharp hill from the house on the reservoir back to the car park. Having picked up a couple of niggles and aches, but with the forecast of good weather the following day, we decided that we would take advantage of it and go for a gentler stroll somewhere close to home. As is often the case for us, things didn’t quite turn out that way. But that’s for the next post.