Wednesday 11 September 2013

Poetry, Produce and Perambulations In The Cotswolds

Another weekend, another good forecast, and another in what is rapidly becoming a series of walks-we-have-done-before-but-in-other-seasons.

This time we headed for the Cotswolds, and a spin round the villages of Daylesford, Lower Oddington, Adlestrop and Chastleton. We had first done this circuit last November, on a crisp, frosty morning bathed in bright sunshine, and had enjoyed it so much that it immediately joined our roster of “regular” walks, ie: those that you can go and have a great time doing anytime of the year, whatever the weather, with great views and plenty of points of interest along the way. A “classic”, if you will.

With route finding honed and the rough edges now polished, the circuit comes in at 8.75 miles, with little other than gentle ascent and descent involved. Details of the original attempt can be found:

Today’s weather was much more of the late summer/early autumn variety: bright blue skies filled with white fluffy cloud predominated, with the temperature settling somewhere around the mid-teens of Centigrade. It was nigh on perfect, and far too good an opportunity to miss.

In the grounds of Daylesford Hall

We set off across the grounds of Daylesford Hall to the accompaniment of a helicopter landing somewhere close by. As mentioned in the last report, the farms hereabouts are not your usual scruffy muck-holes. It’s often said, “Where there’s muck there’s brass”. In these parts the muck comes from horses, and instead of covering the farmyard it’s on the fields fertilising the crops. Horses and organics: looks like there’s plenty of brass in that!

Huge "horses head" sculpture. Because they can, I suppose ...

Leaving the estate, we passed the Daylesford Organics farm shop, and picked up a route past St Nicholas Church towards the twin villages of Upper and Lower Oddington. 

Looking back over the Daylesford estate

St Nicholas Church

A spell of road walking followed, but in these quintessentially Cotswold, chocolate-boxy villages there is much to look at and enjoy. And, if your timing is right and you are thusly inclined, there are two pubs offering drinks and lunches to take advantage of.

Approaching Adlestrop

We approached Adlestrop across the estate grounds, and climbed gently into the village via a tree-lined track. We stopped at the church for lunch and a good look round. Of course, Adlestrop is immortalised in Edward Thomas’ poem of the same name (see previous report), but it is the name, the (now defunct) station and the surrounding countryside that is remembered, rather than the village – which is a shame, as it’s a fine village, typical of the area, and with some fine houses.

Adlestrop churchyard: dark clouds brewing

Crossing the fields towards Chastleton, we stopped to pick blackberries. This year we’ve found brambles weighed down with fruit, but much of it seems destined not to ripen. So we took advantage where we could, and filled our empty sandwich box to brimming.

All through the morning the cloud had been building. Whilst ahead of us the blue sky/white cloud combo suggested waterproofs might not be required, behind us dark skies told a different story.

By the time we reached Chastleton, it was time to don jackets. The last mile or so was a wet affair, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. Whether this weekend marks the last throes of summer or signals the fledgling days of autumn, it doesn’t matter – in truth, we were just happy to be out.

After the walk, we popped in to Daylesford Organics for a bit of food shopping. Make no mistake: this is not your average farm shop. Besides the usual organic fare – meats, vegetables, etc, - there are a variety of organic drinks (including beer and cider) plus a range of breads and cheeses too. Expensive it may be, but is it worth it? One bite of Adlestrop cheese on Spelt Sourdough bread tells me it is!

Like with this walk, sometimes simple and uncomplicated things are the best.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Great Expectations

Earlier this year – Easter Sunday, in fact – we did a walk comprising upper Dentdale, part of the Dales Way, and a stretch of the Pennine Bridleway above Dent Station. It was a chilly affair, with ice underfoot and deep snowdrifts to contend with, but great fun nonetheless! Details of that outing are:

In the course of that circuit, we discovered a permitted path over Great Knoutberry Hill and made a decision there and then to come back and tackle it in better weather. Today was that day.

The forecast was good, but, as we set off, the weather tripped a tightrope between summer and autumn. One moment, conditions were overcast, with a cool breeze and hint of rain flecking the air; the next, blue skies and fluffy white clouds predominated, and the sun was warm on our faces.

A reasonable start to the day

We have walked the route through upper Dentdale numerous times: a string of familiar paths and lanes roughly following the course of the Dales Way, walked in all seasons and all weathers. Lea Yeat, Cowgill, Dent Head: places as familiar to us as home, but which never fail to delight.

Steam train crossing the Dent Head Viaduct

Climbing out of the dale towards Newby Head, we turned to watch a steam train cross the Dent Head Viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle line. We fell in with a couple tackling the Coast-to-Coast cycling route, whose forward progress was temporarily moderated by the steepness of the hill. We got chatting: their next overnight was in Thirsk, some fifty-odd miles away, giving them plenty to do in the day. So, as soon as the gradient lessened, they were off again. We wished them well, and turned our attention to more immediate matters.

Newby Head & Three Peaks country

At the junction with the Pennine Bridleway, we turned for home and followed the rising track on to Wold Fell. Being out in the open, the breeze was making itself decidedly felt, so we stopped for lunch in the shelter of a drystone wall with a view overlooking Three Peaks country.

As we were eating, we could see a couple slogging their way over the rough, boggy ground of the adjacent field. Now I’ve got nothing against bog-trotting or off-piste walking in the slightest: indeed, some may say it’s our stock in trade. However, as there was a perfectly good track this side of the wall we suspected they might be temporarily misorientated. This turned out to be so: in fact they had been following the Ribble Way and were looking for the source of the river. Unfortunately, they had ended up on the wrong hill. But no matter: all the paths they needed were in plain sight, and we soon had them on the right track again.

At the top of Arten Gill

The top of Arten Gill marked our departure from the previous route. Instead of following the PBW along the contour, we turned right towards Widdale, then took a left over a stile and on to Access Land, where a semi-clear path meandered beside the wall, assiduously trying to avoid the wettest bits.

Trig point on Great Knoutberry Hill with Wild Boar Fell behind

A steady climb brought us on to the top, where we were confronted with 360° views of the surrounding countryside. At 672m, Great Knoutberry Hill ranks as the sixteenth highest fell in the Yorkshire Dales, something that might explain it’s relative anonymity. It’s no giant, but neither is it a minnow: what it lacks in stature, it more than makes up for situation, for the view encompasses an entire skyline of more sexy summits – the Three Peaks, Great Coum & Crag Hill, Calf Top, The Howgills, Wild Boar Fell and Great Shunner Fell to name some of the more alluring.

Cairn on Pike Edge with Ingleborough behind

A pair of tempting looking tarns lay just to the north of the trig point, but our route took a westward bearing to descend over Pikes Moss, where a series of cairns marked the line of Pikes Edge.

Some cairns are quite large

Below Pikes Edge, we rejoined the Pennine Bridleway, made our way to the Coal Road and descended into Dentdale past Dent Station. We took a short break by the bridge at Lea Yeat, then followed the Dales Way back to the start.

As described, this circuit might be a bit heavy on road walking and a bit light on hill time. But it suits us as we can do this from our digs without moving the car, and at 14.25 miles plus around 890m of ascent/descent it’s a pleasantly satisfying day out.

Looking over upper Dentdale

To my mind, upper Dentdale is beautiful. However, I know others disagree, citing the road walking between Dent Head and Lea Yeat as one of their least favourite sections of the Dales Way. I guess it will always divide opinion. But one thing I think can be agreed upon is that Great Knoutberry Hill is a superb vantage point for Dentdale and the surrounding hills.

Rather like the bass player of the band, who is often overshadowed by the singer, the guitarist and even the gonzo drummer, it is a stalwart whose contribution would be missed if absent.

Why not see for yourself?