En-route to these northern delights, I always drive via Skipton, the gateway to the Dales, and, this also takes me passed the village of Addingham, which sits alongside the River Wharfe between Skipton and Ilkley. Although there’s little relevance to my blog, hike and wild camp, I have a wonderful story about the village which I find intriguing and incredible, and, because of that, I feel a desire to share it, mainly because, each time I pass by, I think of it so it does become part of every trip.
- “AD 867. The army went from East Anglia over the Humber’s mouth to York in Northumbria. There was great discord in this people amongst themselves; they had overthrown their king, Osbriht, and had taken an unnatural king, Aelle. They decided late in the year that they were going to fight the others, yet they gathered a great army and sought the force (Vikings) at York, they broke into the fort; some went in and there was immeasurable slaughter among the Northumbrians, some inside and some outside. The kings were both killed, and the survivors made peace with the force. The same year, bishop Ealhstan died; he had the bishoric at Sherbourne for fifty years, and his body lies there in the churchyard.”
- Fearing for his life, Archbishop Wulfhere of York, fled to Addingham where he remained until 875 until he was recalled to York by the then Christian Danish ruler of the city, Guthred. Remaining in York until his death in 900. An interesting story I always think of when I’m driving past the village.
After my aborted and disastrous previous visit, this time, I was definitely following the map and designated footpaths, no shortcuts through fields containing cattle, no barbed wired walls to climb and no unnecessary difficult terrain to scramble over, this time I was going to complete it, something I had convinced myself of..
The walk is about 12 miles long and, although the ascent to the Calf isn’t easy, I’ve known many greater challenging ones. The route basically heads south from the tiny hamlet of Bowderdale following the valley basin adjacent to the Bowderdale Beck, before ascending the footpath to The Calf. then, reversing the route in a northerly direction along the wonderful Dales High Way footpath, over the gently rolling summits of the Bowderdale Ridge home to Hazelgill Knott and West Fell prior to descending back to Bowderdale.
Initially, I found (as I usually do), the opening footpath awkward to find, on this occasion I shouldn’t have done, but, I became confused regarding the visible choice of two, and, where each one led, basically, as the OS map clearly displays, it’s a matter of following the outside of the dry stone walls, where, the path takes the upward or downward route, one taking the lower walk along the beck, and the other, taking the ascent to the summit route.
As recommended I chose the lower route to follow, starting at 1500 hrs, this walk can easily be completed in a single journey within a few hours, depending on age and fitness, but, for me, it’s the wild camp challenge of which I choose to participate, so, if I commence at late afternoon, it gives me time to complete half, prior to bedding down overnight and completing it the following morning, that way, for me, I achieve the best of both worlds.
The footpath is exceptionally good, (once I’d discovered it), and, although it was a cloudy, late summers day, the terrain was saturated, I don’t know why I bothered purchasing my canvas summer boots, they’re no use at any time in the mountains of northern Britain, regardless should I feel the desire to wear them. The biting cold wind funnelled down the valley as I trudged along this bleak location, surrounded by these gargantuan, bleak and featureless herd of sleeping elephants. The only visible evidence of any other recent human activity were those from a single mountain bike and it’s tracks, and, like myself, at certain saturated parts of the footpath, the rider had obviously sunk into the marshy ground.
It’s not surprising they are called the lonely Howgills, it’s not a location for the autophobic. Not that my canine companion noticed anything in the form of an obstacle, she was, as always, in her element, bouncing through the landscape as though it was her second home, she was in her element and enjoying every second of it.
The ascent to the Calf commenced at Ram’s Ghyll, where, the stream runs down to Bowderdale Beck and the ascending footpath veers to the right, for me, after this wonderful but testing, wet and very windy trail, this seemed an excellent spot to take a rest and make myself a well deserved coffee, and, as it was the last running water on the map, top up my two water bottles and purify the contents. Clean water on summit ridges isn’t always readily available, and, for my evening meal and hot drinks, water is essential, not to mention, for the following days refreshment, a little forethought can reduce a potentially difficult situation. This break gave me the opportunity to add a plaster to a blister which I’d acquired on one of my toes, a small blister but irritating and annoying, a simple plaster covering it and the problems solved, a small detail but one better been addressed than neglected.
The ascent for the Calf wasn’t too aggressive, I’ve done many more severe ones, but, it’s still an ascent and none are easy, this one was simply less strenuous than so many others that I’ve done, and, as my old legs are definitely lacking the strength they once had, it soon became very noticeable that I was ascending. The rewards for this effort, as always, awaited me. Unfortunately, as it was early evening, the weather was deteriorating, the clouds were becoming darker and full of threatening rain. The thing is, if you wait for sunny warm weather before venturing out, you’ll never go, so, be prepared for the worst weather, hope for the best, and, just do it.
I reached my destination sooner than I’d anticipated, but, entering the Dragon’s Den of summit camping, the weather isn’t going to improve. Level and sheltered locations aren’t easy to find and exposure to the elements is guaranteed, on a more positive note, isolation is virtually guaranteed, not necessarily peace and quiet, strong winds, thunder and lightening, hail and storms are always a potential for a wonderful nights sleep, but, solitude is almost confirmed, so thought I!
I discovered a little, seemingly level, little dip where I pitched my bivi, at the time I didn’t realise just how close I was to the summit footpath and ridge, a matter of yards, but, the dip did provide me with some shelter from the now biting cold wind and mist which had covered and surrounded me. I’d fed Meg, fed myself with a boil in the bag meal, (in future I’m bringing my own pre cooked meals), made myself a hot coffee, and, I was sat perched on a little step overlooking the pitch black valley below. I love these moments, drifting away into my alter ego of the wandering Norseman, thinking about Saga’s and runic stone carvings, wondering to which Pagan god would be guiding and protecting me, it turned out that the message would come via a shaggy, curly haired, smelly black dog sat alongside me.
The ever alert and very protective Meg suddenly and protectively, broke into alert mode, I recognise her sense of reaction and immediately realised that we weren’t alone, she’s amazing, for a soft, daft dog, she’s as sharp as a razor. I turned around to see a fellow lone walker only a few yards away descending the footpath towards the valley below. Good old Meg. It turned out he was heading for the waterfalls around the nearby Cautley Spout, but, he wasn’t too sure which way to take from our present spot. He was a young lad, in his early 20’s, and like myself, spending the night on the hills. We chatted for a few minutes and he was gone, I’m not too sure about walking in the dark in search of Cautley Spout, that certainly is pushing the safety barrier, one slip around there and it really is good night. I knew which direction they were located but I didn’t tell him, simply because I knew of the dangers, so, in the end, he aimed for the lights coming from a farm house at the bottom of the valley, and, informed me of his intention to return to Sedbergh the following morning, after he’d camped out, a safer decision, we said our farewells and he was gone.
The rain came down all night, due to my weight, the gradient and gravity, the bivi slid down slightly, tearing the 2 canvas loops which held the tent pegs at the front, thus collapsing the arched front. It wasn’t an evening to become claustrophobic, and, it would ensure some necessary repairs once I’d reached home.
Once awake it was time to make a move, I fed Meg, packed the kit away and ventured for the Calf’s trig point, no home comforts but a necessary part of the agenda. After taking a grid reference reading, I realised I was only a few yards from the trig point, and, not far from the Dales High Way footpath junction which separated the ascending one. At some point I must have crossed it but I certainly didn’t see it, this caused a little confusion, as, it hadn’t vanished, it was around there somewhere? It turned out to be located alongside a flooded area, and, after another check on my map and GPS, I walked to where it should be and happily discovered it, a little tester, not something I needed on that wet, windy and rainy morning, but, at least I’d found it, the Dales Head Way footpath and my second part of the journey and the homeward bound section, the decent.
I was still relatively dry even though the mist and cloud were doing there worst, the bivi had gathered condensation, but managed to keep the rain out, my new goretex jacket was incredible, my second one, a lighter and thinner version of my winter one, and, ideal for the conditions. Now, all I could hope for was the blowing cloud would disperse and supply me with the wonderful ridge summit views I was constantly been tormented with, it could occur at any second, and, it may not have, I remained an optimist. On my ascent I’d had a brief view of the Calf, it appeared for a couple of seconds as an intimidating black solid carbuncle in the distance, but, that was as much as it displayed itself.
The return journey across the Bowderdale Ridge did improve as the cloud passed over and the terrain became visible, thus ensuring I’d received full benefit for my efforts. The surrounding hills and valleys are absolutely breath taking and magnetic, this wonderful, ignored landscape, the forgotten Howgills, they are absolutely outstanding, shared almost equally between the traditional counties of Westmorland and the West Riding of Yorkshire, and, on this occasion I’d even crossed over from my home county to Westmorland, a worthy piece of treason by my standards.
The descent went well, the surrounding fells and dales eventually came into view, the Langdale valley to my left opened up and displayed its treasures, the pleasure of been there, descending and having the entire area to myself, well, it takes some understanding why they are the least favourable in the area, they have just as much to offer as the Lakes and Dales, but, that’s my secret and I’m keeping it to myself.