Friday, 19 March 2010

Not a stroll in the park

I finally decided that my walk was going to be a one day walk, so I asked my mate Tony if he would like to come along. He wasn't needed at work so he he said he would. Tony isn't an experienced walker, in fact never tackled anything like this before. He was happy to leave the route to me, saying that ten miles was about right. He also warned me that he was a fast walker, I didn't mind because I wanted to get more miles under my belt anyway.

We got to Pateley Bridge, a pretty stone cottagey type small town a few miles north of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, at 9.50am and got on our way at 10am. We left the car in a long stay car park, I was certain that we would be back before they closed the gates at 6pm.

We set off along the Nidderdale Way, this is a circular 53 mile long distance footpath around the valley of the River Nidd. It wasn't long before we reached Gouthwaite Reservoir. Quite often you can walk along the top of a dam, but this one had locked gates across. I was only able to get this photo of the impressive structure as it was partially screened by trees and bushes.

The path follows the edge of the reservoir along the whole of it's length, I looked back and took another shot, you can just see the top of the dam on the left.

And another view forward. By now we were striding along, the well walked path was easy to follow. We arrived at Bouthwaite at the other end of the reservoir, and continued on to Lofthouse.

Tony was beginning to flag a bit so I suggested we take refreshment, there is a hotel marked on the map. His pace quickened when we saw the sign for The Crown, 500 yards. Amazingly a real log fire was ablaze in the grate as we walked in, very hot and thirsty. A pint and a half of cider was ordered and we went out to the garden to sit in the sun. It was turning into a glorious day. The view beyond the lovingly maintained gardens, of the hills reaching up to a perfect blue sky, made me think, you can't get better than this.

It didn't seem to matter that we ate our own sandwiches, in fact I think it was positively encouraged. The elderly rather portly dog which eyed us up in the bar, rose slowly to it's feet and walked ahead of us towards the door. I realised later that he has probably gone through this ritual many times before. We sat down, and so did the dog. He seemed to have a fixation towards Tony, and more importantly to what he was eating. I'm sure he sensed that Tony had the meat and I didn't. It was so funny, his stare never wavered, pleading with his eyes untill Tony caved in. Clever dog.

Leaving The Crown we went up Trapping Hill, a minor road which climbed steeply towards Lofthouse Moor. Nearing the top we took a footpath on the left which took us along the edge of the moor past Thrope Edge. It was very high up here and gave spectacular views.

We were striding along without our jackets on and hadn't noticed the cloud coming over. The wind started buffeting us from across the moors, but we didn't care, we joked as we went along. Two walkers coming towards us were well wrapped up with all the gear, they looked frozen with drips from their noses, and I could swear that one of them had tears running down his face. Anyone seeing us would have wondered what we were on, all I can say is that we had taken copious amounts of our glorious countryside. Surely better than any drug you can get from a dodgy guy on a street corner, and virtually free as well.

I didn't take many photo's because Tony seemed keen to stride on. I'm not sure whether he wanted to get to the end more quickly, but I did say that if he was uncomfortable or he was in pain, I could modify the walk and cut it short and head back. He said his feet were hurting and his back was aching a bit, but he was alright to carry on.

Coming down off the moors we did a u-turn and rejoined the Nidderdale Way to head back. By now jackets were needed, as it looked as if we were in for some rain. I hate walking over the same ground twice so I picked out a route which made a slight detour bypassing Lofthouse, and through a small village called Middlesmoor. We checked the time every so often and I reckoned it would get us back to the car just within the 6pm deadline, although it would be cutting it a bit fine.

So no time to waste, we quickened the pace. We planned to come back down the other side of the reservoir, using mainly footpaths but a little bit of road walking. I'm pleased we took the detour because we came across How Stean Gorge. The road goes along side it and you can look down into a deep ravine, and see the caves and massive rocks below. Pity we haven't time to stop and explore.

All was going well, we were making good time....untill we came across a stream that we had to cross. I'm sure there should have been a footbridge, or some stepping stones to get across. Maybe the fast flowing water had washed the stones away. We could see the stile on the other side that we had to climb over, but how can we get across the water. Tony found a spot with two or three large stones which were above the level of the water, and decided he could stride across. I didn't have the confidence to try it as my stride is not as long as his, and one of the stones was partly submerged and was no doubt slippery.

There was only one thing for it. I took my boots and socks off, rolled my trousers up to the knee, and gingerly stepped into the freezing water. I was in danger of losing my balance not knowing how deep it was, and how slippery the stones were, so halfway across I hurled my boots towards Tony so I could use my hands to steady myself. I reached the big boulders on the other side, my feet were so painfull with the cold, I thought I was going to lose my toes to frostbite. After half an hour of walking they were just about getting back to normal.

Further on we came across this non stream. It looked a bit strange, dry rocks, I've no idea where the water went. This one was a lot easier to cross, ha ha.

Passing Ramsgill we still had a long way to go, but I was still optimistic we would make it and get the car out before 6pm. Although we were covering a lot of ground quite quickly I must admit I was becoming a bit anxious as I checked the map, and the time, every few minutes. I hate deadlines. By now Tony was almost on his knees with his painfull feet, but he put a brave face on it. At 5.15pm our chances of getting there on time were becoming slim. We had decided to stay on the road for the last few miles as it seemed the most direct, and made quicker easier walking.

We passed a bus stop and eagerly studied the time table, was there a bus coming, no. Only one thing left to do, try and get a lift. When we heard a vehicle approaching we turned to face it, put our thumbs up in good old hitch hiking fashion, and prayed for someone to stop. It's a long time since I have done that. Eventually a guy in a Range Rover took pity on us and pulled up. We couldn't thank him enough. I was surprised at how much further we travelled in the car, getting the lift was the right thing to do. We would never have walked that distance in the time we had left.

I have checked the distance we walked, and it was 16 miles. If we hadn't had a time restriction I am sure I could have walked the last three miles. Not bad for a Fit Old Bird.


  1. Brilliant account, and thanks for the pics. Wow, 16 miles? I'd want to do that over 2 days, but I'm bone idle. Well done to Tony for managing it when he's less experienced - I'd be with him.

  2. Once again, your stamina amazes me! Just goes to show what you`re capable of if you had enough training. And by the looks of it, you certainly had plenty of it, lol. I pitty the poor young fellow and his sore feet!

  3. I love the thought of you thumbing a lift Ilona! I used to 'hitch' every where once upon a time and was always amazed by the kindness of others - and who wouldn't take pity on Tony's feet; I'm impressed he kept up with you!