|The Pennine Way|
I arrive at Tan Hill Inn
Overnight it had been raining, so the morning started by following the Pennine Way along the glistening tarmac of a country road (Brunt Acres Road) for about 1/2 a kilometre until the River Ure was crossed.
|East House||B&B||01969 667405|
|The Green Dragon Inn||Pub||01969 667392|
|Hawes||YH||0870 770 5854|
|Hunters Hill||B&B||01969 667137|
|Laburnum House||B&B||01969 667717|
|White Hart Inn||Pub||01969 667259|
Wensleydale is the only one of the principal Yorkshire dales that is not named after it's river (Wensley is the name of a village in the valley). Until the 12th century it was Yoredale (i.e. the old pronunciation of Ure), and you will hear some of the old-timers hang on to the name. After the river the road is left for a path that heads through fields until it becomes flag-stoned as it arrives at Hardraw village.
I visited Hardraw Force - a 30 metre high waterfall situated a short walk (about 200 metres there) behind the Green Dragon Inn in the pretty gorge of Hardraw Scar. The inn charges a small fee but the diversion is well worth it to see the highest (above ground) waterfall in England. The natural amphitheatre of the waterfall gorge was often the venue for band and choir contests with its heydays between 1884 and the 1930's. Note that the photo below does not really do the waterfall justice - there can be a great deal more water going over it. This was especially shown on 12th July 1899 when a torrential rainstorm caused a flood that all but washed Hardraw Village away, destroying all of the bridges over the beck and making the exquisite pencil-like waterfall into a muddy trickle. One visitor to the devastation (Lord Wharncliffe) happened to own not just the Scar but all the land around it. He turned to his estate manager and commanded: Put it all back and so it was, including a new man-made lip for the waterfall to restore its elegant descent.
Hardraw Force (30m)
I left the village along a walled drove road that climbed onto a ridge and followed the ridge up for a kilometre to the open moorland. In theory the views from the moorland would be pretty good. However I was soon walking in low clouds - my view was restricted to less than 100 metres around me. I did get a few views through breaks in the clouds across the dale of Hearne Beck to the moorlands of Fossdale Moss.
The green richness of the lower slopes soon degrades to the typical tougher moorland plants broken by the occasional limestone shelf. You are unlikely to encounter any wildlife other than sheep but there are plenty of upland birds to be seen: skylarks, pipits, wheatears, golden plovers and curlews. Nearer the top you may see some dunlin who prefer high ground in the summer, especially boggy moorland.
Lower down the stony path is fairly clear on the ground. Once it passes over the fell shoulder on Hearne Top, the path becomes less clear as it winds its way through peat hags in its climb northwards on the ridge to the summit. The path is mostly dry as it skirts around some patches of wet bog. I stopped for lunch in a patch of heather near the path at a point that I thought was about 1 kilometre from the summit. Resuming the walk, it was less than 100 metres before I reached the summit cairn (a much better and drier place for lunch).
The climb to the Great Shunner Fell summit is over 7 kilometres long and really needs a good day to make it more interesting. On a misty day the only way to gauge progress are a few landmarks - the wall at which you start to climb the main ridge, a tall cairn on rocks at Humesett (below Black Hill Moss), Crag End Beacon and a small tarn halfway between the beacon and the summit.
From the summit, the path leads through some more peat hags, across the hillside and then races down to meet a walled drove road. The valley to the right contains Thwaite Beck, leading into Swaledale. To the left are Great Sled Dale and Birk Dale. 'Birk' is the old name for birch which suggests that this area was once extensively wooded. On the hill top at the junction of the dales is Birkdale Tarn - a dark and often glassy pond which is also seen from the Nine Standards on the Coast to Coast walk. Soon the narrow and stony track emerges onto a tarmac road and a short descent to Thwaite village. 'Thwaite' is of Norse origin and means a clearing in the trees. This was a good place to refresh myself for the climb up Tan Hill.
|Kearton Country Hotel||Hotel||01748 886277|
As I left Thwaite, the cloud cover parted to let in some sunshine - it actually felt a little hot after the coolness of the morning. Keep an eye out for a sign in typical Yorkshire dialect: "NO CAMPING INt FIELD". Rising up through meadows (sometimes muddy), the path leads to Kisdon farmhouse and then contours along the side of Kisdon Hill on a natural limestone shelf. The going is good and dry with interesting sections through scree, especially over North Gang Scar. The views across and down Swaledale are very pretty. The many wall-stiles made some tight squeezes with my pack.
|Usha Gap||Camping||01748 886214|
I soon entered the woodland above Kisdon Force waterfall - worth the detour if you have the time. The woodland is left where a bridge crosses over the River Swale. This route misses out Keld but the little cluster of buildings is also worth the detour (the Catrake Force waterfall just upstream of the hamlet is also worthy of a visit). The Keld Youth Hostel is on the hillside above the village. Here I followed a section of the Coast-to-Coast Walk (been there, done that!) up to the pretty East Gill Force waterfall and East Stonesdale farm. Butt House has a reputation as one of the most hospitable bed and breakfast places in the country - it is even licensed which is good since Keld village has no pub.
|Butt House||B&B||01748 886374|
|Keld||YH||0870 770 5888|
|Park Lodge||Camping||01748 886549|
|Prospect House||B&B||01748 886688|
The path quickly breaks out into rough "out-pasture" and passes over a shoulder of Stonesdale into Birk Dale. Two kilometres later (past Low Brown Hill) the gradually ascending path takes a sharp right turn to climb fairly steeply onto Stonesdale Moor. It is recommended that you keep to the path (an old packhorse trail) since there are several unfenced coal pits in the area. The sight of Tan Hill Inn in the distance gave my legs an extra boost of energy and made the last 1.5 kilometres pass quickly.
Tan Hill Inn is the highest inn in Britain at 1732 feet (528 metres). The accommodation there is very good - newly built in 1991, clean and roomy with hot, strong showers (just right to ease tramping aches). By this time the stone cladding on the new section should be wearing enough to make it fit in with the old pub walls. It is also the first pub in England to get a licence to host weddings - a very romantic place for eager trampers to get hitched. Being a Theakston pub just makes it perfect - if you like your beer dark and tasty then Old Peculiar is the beer for you. A quiz night and drinking with a couple of fellow Pennine Way trampers made a great evening (good food too!).