The Ramblers AssociationMilton Keynes & District Group
On Saturday, we walked from Wells, through Wookey Hole, home of the caves and legendary Witch of Wookey, up the Ebbor Gorge, and across fields to Priddy. This isolated village on top of Mendip often gets cut off by snow in winter, but this weekend the annual Folk Fayre brought throngs of musicians and dancers from around the country. We stopped for a well-earned half of scrumpy at the New Inn where an informal music session in the bar added to the entertainment. Some of us would have been happy to stay there all day, but our leader, Mary dragged us away with promises of a cream tea if we got to Cheddar on time!
We stopped for lunch at a good view point on the south side of the Mendips, but as it was rather windy we sheltered behind a dry-stone wall and had to be content with a view of gliders overhead from the nearby Mendip Gliding Station. The afternoon took us along ancient drovers' trails down to Draycott and then up again to the area around Cheddar Gorge where many of the waymarks had disappeared. Luckily we managed to avoid getting lost and leaving the path at the top of the Gorge, walked down into Cheddar where we enjoyed a very filling cream tea - well worth the effort of getting there! Afterwards we caught the bus back to Wells.
On Sunday we met at the entrance to the Black Rock Nature Reserve where we'd left the path the previous day. The weather was rather cloudy and close with promise of rain to come. This area abounds with nature trails and there is plenty of evidence of the lead mining which took place in the Mendips from Roman times right up to the beginning of the 20th century. The walk took us across fields to Rowberrow Warren, Forestry Commission land, where we stopped for coffee by a stream. After that the weather progressively deteriorated and we found ourselves trudging along Winscombe Drove, a muddy track which seemed never-ending, in the pouring rain.
We finally reached the bottom of Wavering Down, a wooded area where we snatched a 10 minute lunch break standing under the trees where it was only slightly less wet than in the open. After lunch as we climbed out of the trees onto open down land, the rain stopped, the wind got up and blew the clouds away and the rest of the day was bright, sunny and clear with excellent visibility. A few of us made an optional detour to Crook Peak, the last high point in the Mendips from where we had wonderful views in all directions. After that it was all downhill to Uphill (more or less!). The last part of the track took us through some pretty villages, across open scrub land and finally through low flat countryside criss-crossed by drainage dykes or 'rhynes', finishing in the small port of Uphill. We were all exhausted, but no wonder - we'd walked 18 miles that day!
Photos provided by Mary Yates
Field Centre in Giggleswick, a picturesque village next door to Settle. Facilities at the Centre were very good and food cooked by Monica was of an excellent standard.
Alex Barbour, who owns and runs the Centre is extremely knowledgeable about the local area, particularly the geography and geology, and was able to give us useful tips, such as the best way to climb the Gordale Waterfall! She provided transport each day in her minibus, to the start of the walk and back from the finishing point which meant we didn't need to use our cars at all during the week.
We'd planned 6 walks of approximately 10 miles each with different leaders. They all turned out to be quite different and we saw some beautiful and very spectacular scenery. Our first walk, led by Peter Thompson started at the Pen-y-Ghent Cafe near Horton in Ribblesdale. This is where people sign in for the 3 Peaks Challenge, which I'm determined to have a go at next year! We walked up Pen-y-Ghent (694m) (some people passed us running).
We then veered across country towards the Ribblehead Viaduct, skirting the boggy areas and passing a pothole called Hull Pot on the way. Lunch was eaten in the pub at Ribblehead to avoid the rain which started about midday. Some of the group opted to take the train back to Settle, while the rest of us took a low level path between Whernside on the right and Ingleborough on the left.
Monday's walk started with a scramble up the waterfall at Gordale Scar. Led by John Frankland and David Blakeney we continued across country to Darnbrook passing some places with wonderful names, eg Low and High Midge Hills (although we couldn't see any midges, I wasn't the only one who got bitten!), Cowside, Scab Hill, etc.
Typically it started raining at lunchtime, so some of us sheltered in a little farm shed. The rain didn't last long and leaving Darnbrook, we followed the Pennine Way for some distance passing Malham Tarn, the highest alkaline lake in England. From there we walked to Malham Cove with its spectacular cliffs and limestone pavement.
That evening after dinner, Alex gave us a fascinating lecture and slide show about the geology of the area, explaining how the limestone features which the Dales are famous for, including potholes and sink holes, caves, and limestone pavements and erratics (large boulders deposited when the ice retreated after the ice age) were formed.
Martin Lucas was our leader the next day and he organised beautiful weather as well! The walk started at Halton Gill from where we climbed over Horse Head (605m)and down to a village called Yockenthwaite on the River Wharfe. We then started the ascent of Buckden Pike, stopping halfway up for lunch. There was a lot of boggy ground to cross which involved some detours from the path before we reached the summit at 702m. We saw lots of sink holes or shake holes, some full of water, some oozing with black mud and some colonised by plant life. It seemed a long way back down to Kettlewell, a pretty village which unfortunately we didn't have much time to look around.
The ladies took over the following day with Jenny Greatbatch and Jo Messenger leading us on the Ingleton Waterfalls walk and on to Kingsdale and the Greta Valley. The Pecca and Thornton Force falls were very impressive despite the lack of recent heavy rain. We were able to climb up behind Thornton Force and look out through a curtain of falling water. Instead of turning east towards the Beezley Falls, we carried on up the Kingsdale valley, then climbed uphill over lots of limestone boulders and ridges until we reached the Cheese Press Stone. This is a large boulder (or erratic) perched on top of some smaller stones. We stopped for lunch in a village called Masongill where we made friends with a large woolly goat.
It got very hot in the afternoon as we trudged across fields and along narrow country lanes till we reached the River Greta which we followed back to Ingleton.
On Thursday we set off for Ingleborough with Peter Thompson leading. The path we took was very well maintained and allowed us to cross what would have been awkward boggy bits with the greatest of ease. It was a lot colder with quite a stiff breeze, so we needed to keep moving to avoid getting cold. The ascent was gentle to start with, then got fairly steep for a short distance. We reached the summit (723m) in mist which made it a bit difficult finding the route down.
The downward path took us past Gaping Gill, an enormous pothole where we stopped for lunch. We couldn't see the bottom of it, so someone dropped a stone down. I distinctly heard a wail emerge from the depths, though everyone else looked a bit sceptical! Fell Beck which falls into Gaping Gill makes its way through a labyrinth of underground passages to emerge from the cave lower down the mountain. We took the easier route down the mountainside which was very scenic despite the rain which became quite persistent. We all decided to take a tour of the caves with a guide who was very knowledgeable about all the amazing rock formations and told us some amusing stories. Afterwards we walked down to Clapham village where we visited the Information Centre and had a cream tea.
Our final planned walk was in the Dentdale area, led by Allan Burnett. It was a leisurely day, starting to the west of Whernside, meandering around Crag Hill and crossing the River Dee to walk along Dentdale. We finished in the picturesque village of Dent with its quaint cobbled streets, interesting little shops and tearooms. That evening Alex took us on a walking tour of Giggleswick, finishing at the Black Horse pub where a few pints soon dispelled the gloom at having to leave the next day!
On Saturday after saying goodbye to those who wanted to leave early or were going elsewhere on the way home, the rest of us went to climb Whernside before beginning our journey back. The heavy rain which greeted us when we arrived at the start, soon blew away and it turned into a glorious day, if rather windy. From the top it was wonderfully clear and we could see over to Morecambe Bay and beyond, quite making up for the lack of views from Ingleborough.
It was a brilliant week and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves thanks to Alex and her staff, Jenny and all those who helped in the planning and organisation.
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