Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Muker and the highest pub in Britain (528m/1732ft)

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Tan Hill Inn

During our weekend stay in the lovely market town of Richmond, Yorkshire, we embarked on a long trek from the quaint village of Muker to the highest pub in Britain. Alas, I was driving later so I couldn’t have a wine (although on such a walk like this, I tend to have a thirst for water rather than alcohol!)

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Muker is situated in Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales. All Creatures Great and Small vet James Herriot called it, “the most beautiful part of England”.

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The first part of our journey out of the little village is particularly memorable. We stuck to a flagstone path through hay meadows, bordered by dry stone walls, and squeezing past ‘squeeze stiles’. Along the way, bypassing the old-fashioned laithes (cowhouses). The meadows are still managed in a traditional way, which is wonderful for biodiversity. From what I read in my Country Walking magazine, these upland meadows are rare and there are only 1,000 hectares in the North of England.

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Alas, as it was February, we missed out on the vibrancy and colour which it appears to have when the wildflowers are blooming. So, note to self, come back in spring.

The next leg of the journey is by the River Swale. We were lucky to spot Oystercatchers and two dippers and Kisdon Force – the waterfall – is a gorgeous sight.

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We reached a signpost advertising tea and cake, tempting but we had a job to do so we had to decline our invite to Keld and its tasty delicacies … Interestingly, the sign shows we walked some of the Pennine Way and The Swale Trail (not a walk I’m familiar with) crosses here too.

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The river stroll turned into a more swampy moorland trail.

We would look at the map. “Not too far now,” Simon would say in a bid to boost morale. We started to believe we would see the beautiful sight of the pub – like an oasis – at the bottom of every incline.

I ventured, “I hope the pub isn’t too busy and we will find somewhere to sit.”

And then another thought struck us both.

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What if the pub was closed and we would have to eat our cold cheese sandwiches out in the cold?

The pub eventually made its appearance, just when I started to wonder if it had closed down and was demolished or that it was an old wife’s tale told to gullible hikers.

But look, there on the horizon, was the inn. The Tan Hill Inn. A lovely sight. Somewhere to sit, a nice cup of tea, a snack…

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It was busy (it appears popular with bikers) with a long queue but we found a seat, and enjoyed a hot drink and much-anticipated snack.

I would have been quite happy to stay there for a good while longer but it was time to head back.

I realised that the landscape wasn’t as natural as first assumed. All around are the signs of lead mining, spoil heaps from shafts underground.

These days the pub is frequented by bikers, tourists and hikers. Back in the day, it would have been miners who were regulars.

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Later on, I fell in the mud. This tends to happen a lot on my walks!

There are a number of derelict farm buildings. Later I read about Hartland, which is supposedly haunted, and Crackpot Hall, a farmhouse and mine office. I wish I had read about these two features beforehand as now I try to recollect which empty structure was which. This was another curious sight… An old bridge but with possible outbuildings behind?

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Other curiosities included a rusting tractor skeleton and this unusual tree within a tree…

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All in all, we walked about 17 miles in total that day. It was time to go back to the cottage for a warm shower and a pizza takeaway.

Facts of the Day

1. Tan Hill Inn dates back to the 1600s and is Britain’s highest pub at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level. 

2. During the 1700s, it was used by miners. The last mine on Tan Hill closed in 1929. The pub used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages. These were demolished. 

3. On December 31, 2009, New Year revellers were snowed in and were unable to leave the pub for three days!

Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure

Trek Diary: Part 1 Oct/Nov 2017

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Rainbow en route to High Peak, Fairfield Horseshoe, Ambleside, Cumbria

Like many of us, over the years, I have put on weight. Too many treats, over-reliance on my car and not enough exercise has meant a few pounds have been added here and there. But to be honest, this isn’t about weight. It’s about being happy and healthy. It’s a quest to be fit. Me and fitness have never got on. The minute the pace gets faster, I want off the treadmill. But I’m sick of feeling sluggish, of being out of breath too easily. I want to challenge myself next year. Perhaps a fundraising challenge. Maybe a mountain. Possibly a long-distance trek. Something that will motivate me to finally become fit and healthy. And stay that way. For good. Thus begins my bi-monthly trek diary.

Great Whernside – 650m (out of 704m). Three hours

Sunday, October 22 2017

I met Simon at Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales, a pretty little village of stone cottages and picturesque surroundings. Weather was okay to begin with, which was lucky as Storm Brian had been out and about that week. But as we walked along the track towards the hill of Great Whernside, passing a large farmhouse (now a Scout’s centre), the rain began. The drizzle got worse and the stone path gave way to grass – and bog. The higher we got, the boggier the ground became, the wetter my walking boots became (thank goodness they were waterproof), the unsteadier the ground and more blustery the wind. 🌧️

I’m sorry to say we did not make it to the top. Our (roughly) three-hour walk took us to about 650m of Great Whernside’s 710m. But all I kept thinking about was tea and cake! (We had brought water and sandwiches with us but somehow we lost the desire for a cold cheese sandwich on the cold, windy moorland).

We reached the village about 1.30pm and ventured into Bluebell Inn for a delightful pot of tea by the fire, just what we needed after being soaked through to the skin. A trip to Zarina’s cafe for more tea, a sausage buttie (not very healthy, but warming) and a Yorkshire curd tart. When in Yorkshire, eat what the Yorkshire folk eat… My first time eating the delicacy, and very tasty too.

And so my training began. Oh, if only it could be tea and cake all the time! ☕🍰

Walk Facts

1. Great Whernside is 704m (2,310ft) high. We walked roughly three hours from 10.30am to 1.30pm to reach 650m.

2. It is located on the boundary between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

3. Until 1997, there was no public right of way to the summit of Great Whernside.

Fairfield Horseshoe – Full day (eight hours) 11 miles (roughly) 873m

Saturday, November 4

Today’s challenge was a toughie. A hill walk from Ambleside, where we were staying for the weekend, up Low Pike (1,657ft/508m), High Pike (2,152ft/656m), Dove Crag (2,603ft/792m), Hart Crag (2,698ft/822m) to get to our destination – Fairfield (2,863ft/873m).

And then back down again via Great Rigg (2,513ft/766m), Heron Pike (2,003ft/612m) and Nab Scar (1,493ft/ 455m). I feel exhausted just thinking about it!

We were staying in Ambleside for a weekend and had decided Saturday would be our day for a hill walk. Laden with rucksacks and (for me) hiking poles, we headed away from the town centre. A resident told us we were going the wrong direction and needed to walk towards Sweden Bridge. A quick detour and we were on our way. Up, up, up (so it felt to me)…

Crossing Sweden Bridge took us into fields with Highland Cows, actually my favourite breed of cow with their shaggy red hair, but I always feel a little apprehensive around cows, especially if they have calves. However, these lasses were quite happy to share their fields with hikers.

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Our first hill was Low Pike (1657ft), I would keep stopping and turning to see the panoramic view (a ‘look at the view’ and ‘catch my breath’ stop) of Windermere down below. The higher up, the more expansive the scenery below – Rydal, Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere…

Once we reached Low Pike, S said we were a quarter of the way up. I was surprised, but I should have queried him more on this statistic. A quarter of the way up to Fairfield or a quarter of the way up to High Pike, the next fell? Needless to say the true answer would have disappointed me.

I believe it was around here where there was a short rocky scramble… and my boots got wet in the marsh.

The route to High Pike was along a stone wall, fairly gentle. It was here where it started to drizzle on and off for the rest of the day. And the place where full rainbows were seen. Will we reach the pot of gold that is Fairfield?

I regarded the rainbow as a sign of hope – completing the Fairfield Horseshoe is possible, even for me! 🌈

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We continued to ascend Dove Crag and Hart Crag. Relatively gradual, happily, apart from a scramble section at the top.

At one point, Simon heard a mouse-like sound and I spotted a brisk brown blur from the corner of my eye. Silently, we ventured nearer and observed a tiny shrew scurrying amidst the rocks, before escaping into a hole.

It was hard to know when we actually arrived at Fairfield. The top is very flat, a ‘grassy plateau’ says Wainwright. There are many stone cairns which might be there to help hikers find their way in the mist although Wainwright thought the abundance could actually be a hindrance. Some ramblers were huddled in a stone windbreak shelter when we arrived.

The route down has a clear path. When there is no mist, it is easy to see where one is going.

We were descending Nab Scar when a young couple passed us. The woman was athletic looking, wearing sports clothes rather than rambling gear, and was striding along confidently, clutching a water bottle. The man, lagging behind – so much so I wasn’t sure if they were actually together or not – wore a jumper, jeans and wellies.

When it comes to hill walking, it is a case of walking boots…  yes. Wellies… no. A big no.

Anyway, the pair passed us. Not long afterwards, the woman came back up and approached us, asking if we had any spare water she could give to her partner. Luckily we did. He was lying on the grass next to the path, looking absolutely exhausted. S poured water into the woman’s 1 litre container. Later, we saw them, the worn-out man sitting next to the path. S gave them the rest of the water (the man had already drank the litre Simon had previously given) and three biscuits from the B&B. They thanked us and assured us they would be fine, and sure enough, we later on saw them descending the last section.

It turned out that, while we set off at 9.30am, their hike began after 12noon – in a bid to finish before it got dark, they had no choice but to rush the Horseshoe.

Passing Rydal Hall and Rydal Mount, we opted for a wander beside the river, pleasant until it became dark, started raining heavily, and we took the wrong turning out of Ambleside. An extra mile I could have done without! Still, an exhilarating if tiring walk and I look forward to my next adventure 🏃

Walk Facts

1. On the way to or back from The Fairfield Horseshoe, the hiker goes past Rydal Mount – the home of William Wordsworth.

2. Water is essential for hill walks! And it has a wonderful taste when you’re going uphill!

3. The Fairfield Horseshoe goes up one ridge and down another within a valley. Be careful in the mist.

Sunday, November 5

Stock Ghyll Force, Ambleside – One mile (roughly)

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Legs felt a little fatigued today so we enjoyed a gentle stroll to Stock Ghyll Force waterfall. This is a roughly mile-long woodland walk, 5 minutes from Ambleside. Leaf-strewn (in autumn) paths and steps along a river and woodland takes you upwards towards the waterfall. A very pleasant town walk (although it doesn’t feel urban in the slightest) for tourists and tired-out ramblers!

Walk Facts

1. Stock Ghyll is a tributary of River Rothley.

2. Once there were 12 watermills driven by the power of Stock Ghyll and other streams.

3. Stock Ghyll Force is a 70ft waterfall.

To read about a 2014 Hadrian’s Wall adventure, visit: https://mysabbatical2014.wordpress.com/