Upper Dentdale & The PBW – approx 14.35 miles
Sunday March 31st 2013
Map: OS Explorer OL2 – Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western Areas
Dentdale – Ewegales Bridge – Lea Yeat – Stonehouse – Cowgill – Dent Head – Newby Head – Pennine Bridleway (N) – Dent Fell – Coal Road – Dent Station – Lea Yeat – Ewegales Bridge – Dentdale
Another chilly morning dawned, this time without the mitigating warmth of the sun. So it was under slate grey skies that we set off up the dale.
Suffering no ill effects from yesterday’s outing, we felt we were beginning to get back to something like proper fitness again. Considering what we have coming later in the year, this is good news! But we wanted another reasonably testing outing – one with a mix of distance and difficulty – to satisfy ourselves we are close to being ready for consecutive full days on the trail.
The first part of the walk was a trundle up the dale – essentially following the Dales Way via Ewegales Bridge, Lea Yeat and Cowgill to Dent Head viaduct. Some Dales Way-ers decry this part of the route, claiming that the lengthy road walk detracts from the experience as a whole, and instead take a higher route via the Craven Way from Ribblehead across the flanks of Whernside. But we (and others, happily) are of the opinion that Upper Dentdale is a unique place with a special atmosphere, and worthy of its place on the route.
Anyway, I digress.
Pottering up the dale is easy enough going. In compensation there is plenty of “countryside” in evidence to add interest to the journey – including some of the more arcane practices.
Later in the walk, we came across Crows tied similarly to the fence. Presumably, they are killed because of a perceived threat to young lambs, but I must admit I thought this type of practice – at least as far as Crows are concerned – had pretty much died out?
As if we needed any reminding, winter is still proving hard to shrug off: what little water there is still subject to its icy grip.
Just below Dent Head viaduct we paused for a quick break, glad of the chance for a hot drink and a quick bite. A bite of a different kind came as we passed under the viaduct and out on to the more open ground of Blea Moor – a powerful, icy wind nipping at any uncovered skin. Jackets were donned.
At the junction with the Pennine Bridleway we turned for home. Climbing away from the road along the stony track, with snow-capped Pen-y-Ghent and frozen Ingleborough visible away to the south, it was as if we had suddenly been transported to Narnia or the arctic tundra of the far North.
Soon, though, the hard work of the day was to begin in earnest. As we rose higher, the snow became deeper and the going more energy sapping. By the time we reached the top of Arten Gill we were ready for another break, so we found as sheltered a spot as we could, made more hot drinks and ate our lunch.
The next section – below Great Knoutberry Hill, as far as the Coal Road – made for a real wintry experience. The prevailing winds, funnelled along the dale, had driven the snow into sizeable drifts.
Plenty of fun was had floundering through the drifts. For some reason we found the gates easier to negotiate than usual, and the low-level signage provided a different perspective.
On reaching the Coal Road we found the way over to Garsdale completely blocked to traffic by the drifts. How long this might take to clear is anyone’s guess, but it’ll be a while if the temperatures stay as low as they have been.
We turned the other way. A trundle down the road, past Dent Station, and down the steep incline brought us into Lea Yeat. Sitting on a handy wall, we took another break for food and drink – and mobile phone retrieval: fortunately snow prevented a wetter or more inelastic landing.
From Lea Yeat it was a straightforward potter back along the Dales Way.
With miles in our legs and time on our feet in the bank, and some great time in the great outdoors, it had been the perfect weekend - if a bit on the cold side!