Having recently returned from the Dolomites and a holiday travelling around Europe I was lucky enough to bag a stint at our B&B, Eastfield Lodge, leading the walks for our August Walking Break. Checking the forecast on Tuesday afternoon I was pleased to see that the Yorkshire Dales were set to be bathed in sunshine (or as near as it gets!) for rest of the week and was hopeful for 3 great days of walking around Wensleydale.
After arriving late on Tuesday and letting myself into the apartment, I wandered into the kitchen on Wednesday morning to the sound of kettles boiling, toasters popping, and Vic humming along to Radio 2 – breakfast was underway! Two of the guests set to join me on the Walking Break had already been at Eastfield for a few days so I was keen to know where they had already walked and took the opportunity to say hello over breakfast. It turned out that John and Jan had already walked my planned route for the following day so with a bit of head scratching I changed plans – needless to say the potential for great walks around Wensleydale is huge so coming up with 3 great walks was easy. I left John and Jan to their breakfast and went to help, or possibly hinder, Vic and Thurza in the kitchen.
Rooms cleaned, dinner cooked and bag packed for tomorrow we spent the rest of the day preparing for the arrival of our other guests, before the door bell finally rang at around 3.00pm – Maria and Anne had not travelled far but were obviously keen for tea and cake as they disappeared off into the lounge for refreshment. Later that evening, Eric and Stella had joined our little band of walkers and over a glass (or two!) of Prosecco we discussed plans for the following day before tucking into Vic’s superb homemade lamb skewers and new potatoes – plenty of energy for the days to follow!
Thursday dawned fine, and after a hearty full English breakfast prepared by Vic we all set off to West Witton from where we walked through fields and woodland to the beautiful village of West Burton, via the old Templar Chapel which was uncovered in a farmers field in 1840. Before I knew it we were deep in conversation about the history of England and it’s various Kings, Queens and pretenders – my A level history teacher had nothing on my group of experts it seemed!
On approach to West Burton the path led us through a small but picturesque piece of woodland on the edge of a farmers field, but little did I know it also harboured the dreaded nettle, which I had promised Eric we would not find during today’s walk, to which he had responded by wearing shorts! After a hop, skip and jump, accompanied by the odd yelp, he was through – note to self “must remember that for next time”. Fortunately, both he, and the rest of the group saw the funny side! The rest of the walk passed without incident and the saga of the nettles was quickly forgotten as we absorbed the stunning vistas of Wensleydale whilst meandering through open fields, secluded woodland and picturesque riverside paths which lead back to our cars.
Back at Eastfield we were met by tea, coffee and fresh flapjack, what more could you want from a day!? Just before 7.00pm the final two members of the group arrived and with big smiles and rumbling tummies, were pleased to hear that dinner was about to be served.
The following day saw us tackle Fremington Edge, a superb outcrop of rock which dominates the skyline above Arkengarthdale and runs for 4km between Langthwaite and Reeth. Once the initial ascent was over we were rewarded with superb views over Reeth, Swaledale and Melbecks Moor, our destination for tomorrow.
The light wind was behind us and we were spurred on by the thought of lunch in the cafe in Reeth. It soon became apparent that Tim and Jacqui, the most recent additions to our team, were definitely the ‘racing team’ of our group and after more investigation it turned out that although they were relatively new to walking they had been in training for a 52 mile yomp in under 24 hours – impressive! Despite being super fit, they were more than happy enjoying the scenery of the Yorkshire Dales with the group on our more moderate walks – roughly 10 miles with 500m of ascent.
After a well-earned lunch in Reeth we lurched out into the fresh air again, trying to convince our legs that we definitely did want to continue walking after eating too much. The afternoon was accompanied by the sound of squelching as we made our way alongside the river, which, we learned for a farmer later had been upto our waist only 10 days before. Fortunately this afternoon there was no need for goggles and snorkels, and we were soon back at the cars and making our way home to discover what sort of cake awaited us this time!
Our final day saw us exploring the old lead mines around Gunnerside Gill and Surrender Bridge, which took its name from one of the old mines in the area. A favourite of mine, this loop around the Melbecks Moor provides everything you’d expect from the Yorkshire Dales; pretty stone built villages touting their tea-rooms and cosy log fires, unspoilt woodland intersected by the rushing of a nearby stream, and the wide open expanses of the bleak but somehow beautiful moors which seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. As we descended back to Gunnerside, where we had left the cars earlier in the day, talk turned to our planned evening out in the local bistro which promised good, hearty food, and plenty of it! I noticed a theme developing here…
We certainly weren’t disappointed and our 3 days of walking was rewarded by another superb dinner in the centre of Leyburn, from which we all struggled to walk back afterwards. But as the saying goes, “all good things have to come to an end”, and so it was with the Walking Break as people began to drift off the following day, either wending their way home to prepare for work the next day or onto the next part of a holiday as was the case with the lucky ones amongst the group. Leaving the B&B in the afternoon, it dawned on me that having just spent a month in Europe, you really can’t beat the UK when the sun is shining!
Collett’s Walking break blog was written by Rich Manterfield. About Collett’s Mountain Holidays