Linton, Grassington & Conistone – 8.75 miles
Saturday 2nd March 2013
Map: OS Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western Areas
Linton – Linton Falls – Sedber Lane – Grassington High Street – Dales Way – Conistone Dib – Conistone – Grass Wood – Ghaistrill’s Strid – Beside The Wharfe – Linton Falls – Linton
It had been a hard week: physically, mentally and emotionally draining, and topped off on Friday night with a boozy business dinner that went on into the wee small hours. So a weekend given over to the holy trinity of walking, eating and sleeping was just the tonic needed – a pick-me-up made even more invigorating when Saturday dawned clear and bright with plenty of spring sunshine.
The Yorkshire Dales was our destination for the weekend, and it was looking at it’s glorious best as we pulled into the little Wharfedale village of Linton.
This is a circuit we have done on a number of occasions, so required little in the way of navigation. What makes it such a good outing is the wide variety of scenery and landscape the route passes through, much of which encapsulates the best the area has to offer – open fellside walking, Nature Reserve woodland, classic Dales villages, a riverside stroll and some striking examples of typical Limestone features – all in one compact package.
Linton Falls is an impressive sight in all weathers. On our last visit just a few weeks ago, the river was high and water thundered powerfully through the defile: in fact we couldn’t recall having seen it so full. Today, though, we were amazed at how little water was flowing through the blocky channels: the ducks were practically standing on the river bottom.
Grassington Main Street was busy but soon negotiated, and before long we were out on the fell side following the Dales Way towards Kettlewell. Aficionados of the walk will know this as a favourite section, with expansive views and big skies – and often an invigorating breeze.
Soon the path levels out and begins to pick a way through an area of Limestone pavement. Bent, misshapen trees attest to the strength of the winds encountered hereabouts, and there is a definite wild feel to this stretch. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, there is evidence that this landscape was not only inhabited but farmed as well as far back as the Bronze and Iron Ages.
After the breezy, high-level traverse of Old Pasture, the drop into the shelter of Conistone Dib provides an impressive contrast. Here the path follows the course of a dry, rocky gorge that becomes increasingly narrow and steep-sided with the descent.
Care must be taken as the smooth limestone and loose rubble provide ample opportunity for slips and twisted ankles, but the drama of the surroundings and the Geological demonstration on show means that time taken over this section is not wasted.
Conistone is a small, attractive village and an ideal spot for lunch: a central triangular area being equipped with wood and stone benches for this very purpose. We sat and ate our sandwiches, watching the comings and goings and the to-and-fro of life in this particular corner of the Dales.
A short section of road walking and a field crossing brought us to Grass Wood, an area of ancient woodland that is both a Nature Reserve and a SSSI and numbers amongst it’s mix of species Ash, Wych Elm, Sycamore and Hazel.
Leaf cover is low at this time of the year, and it was obvious that some cropping of the timber had been undertaken. Piles of slim switches (probably hazel and produced by a kind of coppicing process) lay all around, with emerging new growth protected by a “Witches Hair-do” swirl of intertwined undergrowth.
Across the road we picked up a clear path that brought us down beside the Wharfe and followed the riverbank as far as Ghaistrill’s Strid. Normally tempestuous, the lack of water had diminished the impact of these rapids, but they are still worthy of a few moments contemplation and we obliged.
We continued to follow the riverside below Grassington, returning to Linton Falls, before taking a different route back to the car.
The afternoon was still young, though. Despite being slightly more overcast than the morning, there was still plenty of sun and time for more walking. So we picked a section of riverside path and ambled along for a further hour, taking advantage of our good fortune.
That evening, we ate at the Forester’s Arms in Grassington – friendly staff, a convivial atmosphere and good food in sizeable portions. I had a planetary-sized bowl of Steak & Ale, topped with a tectonic plate of pastry and served with a Continental Drift of chips and vegetables: it’s not often that I’m stuffed after one course. So, if you’re on the look out for hearty helpings of good food after a day’s walking, I can recommend the Forester’s!