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?

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