I have tackled a few long distance solo walks over the last two years to raise money for various charities. The Six Dales Trail, The Esk Valley Walk, The Leeds Country Way and this time as much of the Dales Way in a day as I could manage!
I decided to raise money for Cancer Support Bradford & Airedale as my good friend Mark Winterbourne has received tremendous support from the charity with the ongoing challenges that a brain tumour presents him with.
The Dales Way is a long distance walk of 84 miles that starts in Ilkley, West Yorkshire and finishes in Windermere, Cumbria. The route initially follows a riverside footpath from Ilkley to Grassington before a gradual climb over Grassington Moor and across Conistone Moor before descending back down to the river Wharfe at Kettlewell.
A welcome seat for those travelling in the opposite direction!
8am – START: I leave Ilkley, the highest town on the Wharfe by following a well trodden track that runs beside the river before reaching the Ilkley tennis club. The footpath then takes me through many pastures before I am met with a back road which leads to the pretty village of Addingham. The footpath continues with the river on my right and eventually I am greeted with the busy B6160 road. A permissive footpath across the way helps to avoid the busy road before eventually emerging back onto the road below Lob Wood. A gateway on the right takes me to Bolton Bridge where I cross the road. Beamsley Beacon is clearly visible to my right and after a few hundred yards Bolton Priory comes into view. At Bolton Priory I cross the wooden footbridge over the river and continue ahead until the Cavendish Pavilion is met over another bridge.
Early sunshine at Ilkley
River Wharfe at Addingham
Beamsley Beacon from Bolton Bridge
9.50am – Approx 7 miles in: After a quick toilet stop and an energy bar I continue the route through Strid Wood along a well marked footpath before crossing an aqueduct that provides houses in Bradford with water from the Nidderdale reservoirs. Eventually Barden Bridge comes into view. I cross the road here and continue along the riverside footpath with the river on my left until I reach Howgill. To rejoin the River Wharfe I have to cross Fir beck and double back on myself to walk along the edge of a wood where I am once again met by the Wharfe. This stretch of the Dales Way in my opinion is by far the prettiest as it passes below the village of Appletreewick and gently winds and turns before reaching Burnsall.
Footpath between Barden and Howgill
Lovely scenes at Appletreewick
12pm – Approx 13.5 miles in: Burnsall is a beautiful village with a cosy hostelry inn, tea room and green. After I cross the bridge I immediately pick up the riverside footpath which runs past Loup Scar (a very impressive limestone fault). I reach a suspension bridge near Hebden which takes me to the other side of the river once more. It is here that I feel the need for a rest and a bit of lunch. My legs are beginning to feel the strain but I am determined to carry on and explore more of this wonderful long distance walk! After about a mile I reach Linton Falls before finally reaching the delightful village of Grassington.
Suspension bridge near Hebden
Reflections on the river at Burnsall
1.15pm – Approx 17 miles in: Grassington is said to be the capital of Upper Wharfedale with its thriving community and array of shops, pubs and tea rooms. It has a lovely cobbled market square and many points of interest. My walk continues up the main street in Grassington before heading off over many pastures and a gradual incline eventually leads me out onto Grassington Moor. The well-marked grassy footpath takes me over many wall stiles. It is at this point that I could clearly see how snow clad the dales must have been in previous weeks as the snow drifts are still evident in the sheltered areas alongside the Yorkshire Dales dry-stone walls. I reach the top of Conistone Dib where a spectacular limestone pavement gives some impressive views out across Wharfedale. It is here that I stop to take several photographs of a lone tree that sits proudly on the limestone. I also take the opportunity to photograph the deep snow drifts.
Limestone outcrop on Grassington Moor
Lone tree at Conistone
Deep snow at Conistone Pie
Conistone Moor looking towards Kettlewell
Upper Wharfedale view
2.45pm – Approx 20.5 miles in: As I leave the breathtaking views from Conistone Moor my legs feel heavy and the back of my thighs are really beginning to pull. I battle on and descend the hillside. Kilnsey Crag can be seen across the valley and eventually the rooftops of Kettlewell can be seen. After leaving the moor the route takes me over a succession of fields and stiles before I emerge at a T-junction before following the road into Kettlewell.
Looking down the valley towards Kettlewell
Looking worse for wear in Kettlewell!
3.50pm – Approx 24.5 miles in: It is here where my journey is to end. My legs feel weary and I know in my heart I have given it my all.
I would like to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support with my fundraising. Together we raised £650 for Cancer Support Bradford & Airedale. Without you I couldn’t have raised the much needed funds that this worthy cause deserves.
I would also like to thank Mark for giving me inspiration with my photography. I am amazed at your determination and strength to survive. You are a true fighter. As one of my colleagues said... “Miracles are happening every day!”. This one was for you! x