Sunday August 26th 2012
Map: OS Explorer OL2 – Yorkshire Dales: Southern & Western Areas
Ribblehead Station – Blea Moor Road – Dales Way (N) – Winshaw – Black Rake Road – Newby Head Gate – Pennine Bridleway (N) – Swineley Cowm – Arten Gill Moss – Dent Fell – Coal Road – Dent Station
In complete contrast to yesterday’s circular walk from a guidebook, we decided today on a linear walk from the map. The plan was simple enough: park at Dent Station, the highest main line station in England, catch the train to Ribblehead and walk a route back again. Which is what we did.
Being a Sunday, there were fewer trains to choose from than might be expected on a (Bank Holiday) weekend in the height of the tourist season, but I had printed off a timetable beforehand so knew that the first one of the day was due at 10.40am. At least this gave us chance for a lazy start to the day.
We boarded the train for the nine-minute journey to Ribblehead, the next station along the line. It’s a very nice, scenic ride although £3.10 for a single ticket seems enough to me. However, the train was pretty packed: a useful service, well supported – which is good.
Before long we were stepping on to the platform at Ribblehead, surrounded by the majesty of the 3 Peaks. The first part of the walk took us along the busy B6255. For the most part it was possible to keep to the safety of the grass verge, but the unremitting traffic was an annoyance tempered only by the fantastic views. It was a busy morning round Ribblehead.
At the planning stage, we had devised two possible routes for this walk: following the Dales Way over Blea Moor to meet the Pennine Bridleway at Newby Head and on from there, or via the Pennine Way to Cold Keld Gate, then PBW to Newby Head to join the same finishing section. In the end, we opted for the shorter version: with a later start and Missy G still not 100% fit, we felt the 13+ mile route of the second option might be a bit too much.
From the road, we made the short climb up on to Blea Moor and stopped for a quick snack break. A cloud topped Pen-Y-Ghent sat in the middle distance.
For the next mile or so we followed an undulating path of lovely, wet bogginess. Behind us, the distinctive flat top of Ingleborough dominated the skyline.
Soon, though, we reached the firmer footing of Black Rake Road, and our route ahead over Wold Fell came into clearer view.
On reaching the road above Dent Head viaduct, we turned right to join the PBW on it’s journey north. A little way up the hillside we picked a spot for lunch, another view of Pen-Y-Ghent gracing the middle distance.
Thus far it had been an overcast but dry start to the day. However, as we ate our sandwiches, we could see the rain sweeping in from the west, and knew this was soon about to change.
So we took the opportunity to don our wet-weather gear: with lunch on the inside and waterproofs on the outside, we felt ready to take on whatever the afternoon had to throw at us.
From the brow of the hill, we began the short descent to the junction of paths at the top of Arten Gill. Last time we had been this way, parts of the path were still being upgraded (after all this is now a bridleway, and needs a suitable surface for both horse and cycle riders). That work was now complete, and grass was already growing up through the stones to stabilise the bed.
The views from here were somewhat curtailed by the rain and low cloud, but out there in the clag lay Whernside, Crag Hill, Middleton Fell – and, beyond, the Lake District. It’s funny: as walkers, we often dream of long days of fabulous weather and fantastic views, but sometimes the quiet introspection and inward reflection brought on by paddling for ages through a downpour, raindrops constantly pattering on your waterproofs hood, can be just as rewarding.
Our route continued to follow the PBW on a good track that contoured round the west side of Great Knoutberry Hill. At 672m, this fell falls just a whisker below the exalted top ten highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales, but it is still a worthy summit. We would be bypassing it today, but the views along Dentdale from its flanks are impressive, even on a poor day such as this!
Finally, we met the Coal Road and pottered downhill towards Dent Station. We passed a foreign tourist pushing her bike uphill in the rain, looking a bit forlorn and wondering how much further she had to go. I have to be honest; she wasn’t getting a very good impression of English summer weather – on days like today, the subtle enjoyments of the great outdoors are more difficult to discern.
Which is a pity really, because – as we’d proved once again – you can still have a great day out if you pack your lunch, your waterproofs and a slice of positive thinking.