Thursday 4 April 2013

Easter In Dentdale – Day 1

Firbank & The Lune Valley – approx 7.35 miles

Friday March 29th 2013

Map: OS Explorer OL19 – Howgill Fells & Upper Eden Valley

Firbank – Fox’s Pulpit – New Field – Whinny Haw – Stocks – Goodies – Dales Way (N) – Crook Of Lune Bridge – Lowgill – Lakethwaite – Old Scotch Road – Firbank

I was beginning to think Easter would never come. Since our last trip north about a month ago, the days – at least the weekdays – have flowed by like treacle: viscous and slow. To top it all off, the forecast during the previous week had predicted such foul, wintry conditions that we were concerned we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near our digs even if we tried: so much so we had even contemplated hiking in if necessary.

In the end, there was nothing to worry about. Blue skies and bright sunshine greeted our mid-morning arrival, and the snow-capped Howgills were looking at their best. It was bitterly cold, though – something that would be a common theme all weekend, and which made us constantly aware of the juxtaposition between winter and spring in which we found ourselves.

After a stroll along the lane past Fox’s Pulpit, we cut across the fields to pick up a track past Whinny Haw. Away to our right, views extended beyond the Howgills to Middleton Fell, Great Coum, Whernside, and the other high fells in the area.

As we descended towards Stocks, we picked up something of an entourage, and for a few minutes we were quietly but purposefully followed at a distance of about two paces. It was quite comical, really: when we stopped, they stopped; when we moved on, so did they. What’s the time, Mr. Wolf?

After a short road section, we took a field path that dropped steeply down below Goodies, and crossed the dismantled railway line to reach a bridge over the River Lune. I don’t think we have ever seen it with so little water in – much of the riverbed seen here is usually under water.

Beyond the bridge we connected with the Dales Way. Heading north, we followed the undulating path along the riverside, passing across pasture and through woods, stopping briefly for lunch by a rocky beach. Despite the pleasant conditions, the Bank Holiday and the fact we were on a major walking route, we saw few people – no problem, really, as peace and quiet were being sought. Ambling along in the sunshine, it was easy to imagine that spring was almost upon us.

From Crook Of Lune Bridge, we followed the Dales Way further, along the lanes, beneath Lowgill Viaduct and on through the hamlet. Road, river and rail all pass through here, taking advantage of a low pass through the fells, and you are always aware of the them – not least the nearby M6. But filter out the drone of the traffic and the scenery more than compensates – especially the views back to the Howgills.

Beyond the motorway, the Dales Way heads off into the eastern fringes of Lakeland (and succumbs to a change in character which we found not entirely to our liking when we did the whole route a few years ago). Today, though, we kept to the lanes, and made our way back to the car.

For a short, half-day walk, this route passes through quite varied scenery. Being near to the motorway, is a good option if you are travelling to or from the area, and the views of Lune Dale and the surrounding fells – particularly the Howgills – are excellent.

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