The Mrs's Dales Diary

Boxing Day 2006.  The traditional day for a family walk.  But it was a dark, damp, grimbly sort of day.  The MWIS forecast said that above 2,000 feet it was unrelenting sunshine and superb visibility but to earn this you would have to endure 1,500 feet of freezing conditions. And then Margaret said, "Why don't we start the Dales Way?"

She has wanted to do this classic long distance walk for quite sometime and earlier in the year we had bought the Cicerone Guide- chosen from other guides partly because it was genuinely pocket sized and partly because it offers descriptions in both directions, whereas some only do it south to north.


The Lakeland Sections

Stage 1:  Bowness to Staveley

26th December 2006

We left one car in Staveley, parked for free in the Mill Yard car park and then drove the other car down at Bowness to park at extortionate cost.  The first section is a bit of a road slog up St Martin's Hill and then Brantfell Road but we made light of it by contemplating, in crude verse, what the Bishop of Southwalk might have consumed at the Irish Embassy:

  • Did he begin with the gin?
  • Hogged the Egg Nog?
  • Made merry on Sherry?
  • Couldn't fail with the Ale?
  • Did finish the Guiniesshh?
  • Thought the Wine was divine?
  • Made sport with the Port?
  • Found the Brandy just dandy?
  • Got frisky on Whisky?
  • Went boozo on Ouzo?
  • Poured Rum in his tum?
  • Felt queer on the Beer?
  • In-Cider dealing sent him reeling?
  • Had some Lube on the tube?
  • Had a Jar in a car?
  • Threw toys out of a pram whilst downing a Dram?
  • Fell down with a Brown?

You get the idea!  

We found the 81 miles to go to Ilkley sign near the start of the official walk.  Cicerone's words of comfort that it was actually only 79 miles somehow did not seem too consoling.


Team Picture


Only 81 miles to go!

On walks of this nature there is a fundamental decision to be taken.  Should one follow the guide book or follow the map.  Or just follow the signs or the track?  


The critical lonesome tree that marks the route

We opted for the guide book and its directions were extremely precise. Where we did go wrong, it was because we had not observed the precise detail of the instruction.  The route is well waymarked but strangely not at the key points such as where the path disappears and a critical lonesome tree needs to be found or where one meets a road junction.  Relying solely on the signs or the track is doomed to failure.

Although we have lived up here for over 35 years, much of this walk was new territory for us.

The countryside is typical outer Lakeland- rolling fells that give the impression of being much more isolated than they actually are.

However in near zero temperatures and poor visibility, we did not see it at its best, especially when the light began to fail.

Perhaps we should repeat it in summer.  

A much needed hot drink stop

We reached Staveley just in time before the light went- it would have been extremely embarrassing to have been lost in the dark so close to home! 

The drive home was enlightened (literally and metaphorically) by what Emma calls Niddrieness- houses with extravagant external Christmas lighting. She loved it!

 Don, 26th December 2006


6.7 miles

Height climbed:
1,132 feet





Stage 2:  Staveley to Burneside

4th February 2007

Staveley to Burneside.  Short and Easy.  Or so it should have been

It was a beautiful winter's day- the sort that ahs been in short supply this year.  Cold, still a trace of frost on the ground, but bright and sunny with no wind.  Just the afternoon for this short section and back in time to make Granny's tea.

We set off in the two cars to Burneside where we parked Margaret's.  From there we went to the start of the section at Staveley where the back road to Crook crosses the A591 and found a good place to park.  Put the boots on, put Margaret's keys into the glove compartment for safe keeping and headed off down to the interesting cottages at Moss Side    Under the railway, out to Stock Bridge farm and then to pick up the path that eventually follows the river.  Easy going in brilliant sunshine with the Howgills in particular looking well defined.  And some huge catkins by the River Kent.


Start Point


Catkins and Kent



There is a remarkable amount of mole activity round here and to remind me of it I decided to take a picture of some molehills.  

However I had the camera on the wrong setting and inadvertently took a movie of the molehills. I have examined it carefully and can see no signs of activity.  I think they must have been on their kit-kat break! 

The Dales Way is so well marked on this stretch and the route, or at least the environs, so familiar that we hardly needed the guide book.

And although at times it gives micro instructions, it leaves out certain vital information.  Why for example is it totally silent about the fact that the walk passes opposite the Staveley poo farm?  This would help you identify that you were on the right path irrespective of how thick the mist might be!

Much further on where the air was fresh again, we had our coffee stop by the river near High Hund Howe then carried on to Cowan Head reminiscing about how this tiny hamlet has changed with the development of the mill- not necessarily for the worse. 

Team Picture

Bowston's new art form?

On to Bowston where a very strange looking device dominated the skyline.  What could it be?  Answers on an e-post card please.  We crossed the river and followed it until it ran behind Croppers and we joined the road where the car was parked in good time to get back to put tea on Granny's table without her doing an impression of Grandad in Bread.  

Only where were the car keys?  In the glove compartment of the other car for safekeeping.  Three miles away in Staveley!

First panic!  Then inspiration- John S lives up the road- perhaps he could be persuaded to give us a lift back to Staveley?  But no answer on the phone.  Perhaps there might be a train?  As we got to the level crossing the gates started to close and the crossing keeper informed us that the train to Oxenholme was about to pass and would be back in half an hour or so.  Too late to avoid disaster.  So we cheated and phoned for a taxi to take us home.

After performing Meals on Wheels to Granny in Jamie's car, we had the latest variation on the Fox, the Goose and the Hen problem.  Jamie's car was at home but only I can drive it.  That could take us to Staveley to pick up my car but Margaret doesn't drive it so we would only be able to pick up her key and then go to Burneside so she could collect her car drive it home where I would leave Jamie's and she could then take me back to Staveley to pick up my car.  Inspiration dawned that this could be foreshortened by finding the spare key to Margaret's car but even so it was quite late before all vehicles were returned to their allotted position.  But Granny had had her tea on time so all was well!

What a good job this fundamental error was made on the shortest stage of the walk. Imagine if we had arrived at Ilkley to discover we had left the keys at Bolton Abbey! Let this be a lesson to all two-car linear walkers: keys must be kept on person at all times.

Don, 4th February 2007

3.7 miles

Height climbed:
190 feet



Stage 3:  Burneside to Lambrigg Head

Saturday 24th March 2007

With Spring starting to make an appearance, albeit with a cold north easterly wind, it was time to continue the trail.  After last time's fiasco, the care taken with car keys bordered on the paranoid!


Burton House Farm

Starting at Burneside Hall we made our way to the Sprint Bridge and then across the fields to meet the A6 at the splendid Burton House Farm with its Shetland ponies.  

What a horsey outing this was to prove to be. 

Crossing the A6 we headed into this lovely triangle of land that somehow was overlooked by both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

Up past Skelsmergh Tarn until we came to a junction where we were so confused by the instructions in the previously admirable Ciccerone guide that we stopped for lunch. 

In the stage 1 report, I debated whether it was better to follow the map or the book.

The third possibility is just to follow the "Dales Way" markers.  

However whichever you choose for this section, you run the risk of going wrong.


Washing Day

The markers disappear at key points. The map shows an out of date route across the railway.  And Terry Marsh's directions are very detailed and accurate but on three or four occasions contained insufficient information.

"Cross the field to a metal gate" is a bit of a challenge when no gates can be seen, or worse when more than one such gate is in view.  A simple directional addition would prove most helpful.  Words like "diagonally right" or "to the South" would avoid such confusion.  But would remove the fun of orientating the map by the sun.

Anyway, lunch taken and path resolved, we continued on our way and it was with relief that the promised Whinfell Beacon came into sight.  And what a pleasant sight this range makes.  

Whinfell Beacon

On reaching Black Moss Tarn we chanced upon the only other walker we saw all day- a lady having a bronzy out of the wind overlooking the tarn.  She looked set for a long stay.

Black Moss Tarn

On to Patton Bridge then past a splendidly renovated stable block to a building I remember from years ago as a ruin but now seems suitable for a Jane Austen production.

We had our second stop at the Mint bridge where the team picture proved a little challenging.

  Near Patton Bridge

 Sprint for the Mint- late arrival for team picture

Crossing the A685 brought us into train crash territory.  What a good job the crash was not two hundred years further west, on the viaduct!  The old path across the railway has been blocked (permanently, not because of the crash) so we had to undertake a detour before heading into more Jane Austen territory at Moresdale Hall with some fine barn conversions and more splendid views of Whinfell and Howgills.  

  Moresdale Hall


Mass transport for Dales Way walkers?

Across a few more fields, surviving an attack by dogs at another horsey place (the original Holme Park School) and we at last reached the car, although alternative mass transport seemed available.  Not!

The drive back to Burneside took us past several more horsey houses.  We hadn't realised just how just how equine this unsung but lovely part of the country had become.

7.0 miles


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The Mrs's Dales Diary

The Lakeland Sections

Stage 1:  Bowness to Staveley

Stage 2:  Staveley to Burneside

Stage 3:  Burneside to Lambrigg Head


The Mrs's Dales Diary

The Lakeland Sections

The Lune & The Rawthey



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