Resting in Wensleydale

In 1975 I was doing teaching practice in Garforth near Leeds. Colleagues were going on their annual walk to the Yorkshire Dales. I had never walked there. I had done the Lake District the previous year with a friend and enjoyed walking but my teenage years had been spent exiled in Suffolk far away from the Yorkshire’s hidden delights so I was keen to go and have a look. We parked at Starbotton in Wharfedale, walked up to Buckden Pike, a magnificent vista. Then along to Hubberholme for lunch at The George Inn. Here I recall having foot-pumped real ale and quail egg sandwiches. Never since I have seen foot-pumped beer. We drank too much and retuned on a winding river walk, or was it the amount we had drunk, to the cars at Starbotton. I was smitten, this countryside spoke volumes to me and I have been coming back ever since. I have camped by myself and with my family and with friends, have stayed in so many beautiful cottages in all the different Dales and came year after year in autumn/winter with friends where we discovered the autumnal beauty of Swaledale. I have come for the day to do selected walks again and again until my feet can no longer do that. 

Only two years ago in memory of those trips my children arranged my pre-birthday mystery weekend to Gunnerside and I was able to renew my association with my favourite national park. We took a ride up to the famous Tan Hill Pub (pictured below). I had tried to do this previously with friends J and R on a wintry trip to celebrate my 60th but had, in my car, slipped and slide in the icy weather and could not get up the hill and we never got there. So after all these years I made it. As a surprising postscript, in the Gunnerside pub, the Cow and Calf Inn, my children had arranged for J and R to join us for the evening and the children then cooked a wonderful meal, a great memory in a great place.

This week I have been staying in Wensleydale in a small village called Hunton. Just outside of the National Park I found it a great vantage point by car to most of my favourite Dales – Wharefdale, Swaledale and of course Wensleydale. My visits now are firmly by car as walking is just not possible, but driving along on a lovely sunny day is just heart warming and restorative. I cannot now explore the nooks and crannies of the hills but I can appreciate the landscapes and the dry stone walls, such a singular feature of the Dales and around almost every corner is a beautiful village nestled as if carved out of local stone to provide a perfect village Haven. I never tire of discovering yet another village, hopefully with a quaint tea room to enjoy and unwind or a small shop where I can wantonly buy something I don’t need but brings yet another little memory of the Dales home. This time I bought a flat cap, made by Swaledale Woollens. I also bought some miniature original paintings in Leyburn. I will stop one day.

On the first morning I had watched the weather on TV and saw this picture of Reeth looking down from Fremington Edge. I decided I wanted that view. I knew where it was but could not walk up there. I set about finding a route by car. At first I went in the wrong direction towards Marrick but then I saw a sign saying High Fremington. I went gingerly up this single track pot-holed ‘road’, hoping I would not meet another car. Eventually I came to a bridal path and got out. A gap in the wall revealed Reeth in all its glory below. I got my picture, see below.

There is something about the Dales which induces in me a calming and relaxed feeling. If I ever were to move anywhere I could think of nowhere better than the Dales and if pushed Swaledale would get my vote. My lack of mobility would not make it an ideal move for me now though as I simply could not get the most from it. The walks, the bike rides, the hills, are such a vital part of breathing in the full impact of being here. Around 10-12 years ago I used to come walking here with a friend and we did around 12-14 miles on each daily trip and those memories still stay with me. But even though my experience of it is more limited I now take photos, something I did not do in my youth so my experience of the Dales is distinct and still captures the imagination of it.

Friends, J and R, mentioned above, joined me halfway through the week and we explored more of the Dales, reaching Arkenthwaite Dale on Friday when we met other friends, J and S, in their lovely cottage in Langethwaite. An isolated courtyard opened up over a tiny bridge to reveal lovely cottages, originally lead miner, one-up, two-down cottages, converted now into some lovely cottages, like the one we visited and it’s own pub. Majestic.

I never tire of my visits up to the Dales and this was no exception. The world can be such a harsh and difficult one at the moment and this simple escapism was just great. I’ll let the photos do their job to speak to the beauty of this national park. Enjoy. 

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