The Pennine Way Revisited - 1994

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 7 - Hawes to Malham

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Day 11 - Wednesday 22nd June - Hawes to Horton-in-Ribblesdale - 13.5 miles + 1.2 miles to Bunk House - 1300 ft ascent + 100 ft to Bunk House

Accommodation: Dub Cotes Bunk House Barn - 5.75 bed only (no meals service)

I had a very good breakfast at 8.30 a.m. The only others staying were a Norwegian couple who came down at 9 a.m. Most of my things were dry from being on the bathroom radiator and my boots had been near the stove so were also not too wet. Mrs Guy decided not to charge me the single room supplement as she had not had anyone else wanting to book the room, so it cost 15 instead of the 17 that I expected.

The weather was very blustery with a few showers to start with but with quite a bit of sunshine. After calling at the Post Office to send my Pennine Way North guide book back home, I set off on my way to Gayle. The waterfalls in Hawes and Gayle were much less spectacular than last night: it is surprising how quickly the rain drains away from the hills. I took the wrong path just after Gayle and had to backtrack about half a mile to get onto Gaudy Lane. I was not feeling at my best as I had felt a bit of a cold coming on for the last couple of days, or perhaps it was hay fever. Whilst I stopped for a rest after battling into the wind up Gaudy Lane, a chap came past in trainers with a dog. He had come 12 miles from Horton-in-Ribblesdale that morning whereas I had done just 2 miles. He was going to call for a quick bite to eat in Hawes and was then pressing on to clock up quite a few more miles. He realised, however, that he had dropped his map so I looked after his dog whilst he went back to find it, which didn't take long.

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Looking towards Hawes from Gaudy Lane
Hawes from Gaudy Lane
Penyghent from Birkwith Moor
Penyghent & Birkwith Moor

I thought the wind was strong up Gaudy Lane but that was nothing to what it was like when I reached West Cam Road at the top of the hill. There was nothing to give any shelter as the wind came rushing up the hillside hitting me from the side, and it was very difficult trying to walk in a straight line without being pushed off to one side. I stopped to take a photo and had great difficulty trying to hold the camera still even with my back pressed up against a wall. There was quite a lot of sunshine and the views were very good, the only problem being trying to keep one's eyes open enough to see properly. After a couple of miles of battling with the side wind I at last reached the section where there is a wall on the windward side. It was just as if the wind had suddenly stopped, as the wall took the full force of the wind and deflected it up over the top of my head.

I met three separate Pennine Way walkers. The first was an elderly Irishman who had bought a compass but had no idea how to use it until someone along the way had taught him. With his new found skill he was now taking compass readings everywhere, even along the unmistakable track of Cam High Road.

The Roman road past Cam Houses was slightly sheltered by the hillside and there were also a number of sheltered hollows by the side of the way, so I took the opportunity to have lunch in one of them at 1.15 p.m. Further along towards Cam End there were fine views of Penyghent and Ingleborough except that they were not in much sunshine and I was again exposed to the full force of the wind, making it difficult even walking downhill. However, as I dropped down further there were more areas of shelter, which was a welcome relief.

Along the route to Horton-in-Ribblesdale there are a number of potholes nearby so I thought I would take a look at some of them. The first one, which had no name on the map, was not very deep but looked very nice with a little waterfall running into it. Penyghent Long Churn is not so picturesque but drops down to an awe-inspiring depth of what looked like about 100 ft or so.

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Overlooking Horton-in-Ribblesdale
Penyghent from near Horton-in-Ribblesdale
Horton-in-Ribblesdale Church with Penyghent behind
Horton-in-Ribblesdale Church

Walking down towards Horton, it was plain to see that much of the thicker cloud was forming as it came over Ingleborough and Whernside, as it was much lighter south of there. I reached the Penyghent cafe in Horton at 5.15 p.m. where I had beefburger chips and peas and one of their famous huge mugs of tea. I waited until 6 p.m. to 'phone home before making my way to Dub Cotes bunk house barn which is a bit over a mile out of the village, up the hillside. There were only two others staying there for the night and they were doing the Three Peaks and had not yet returned. It was a lovely evening and the wind had dropped quite a bit, which was quite a relief. The top of Penyghent is visible from the lane just up from Dub Cotes, in fact it is also visible through the lounge window. I hadn't brought anything with me for breakfast as I was not sure whether there would be crockery and cooking utensils there, but it was fully equipped and there is a small shop in the village selling provisions. My intention had been to have breakfast in the cafe and it was too late to buy anything now, so I stuck to my original plan.

Later I went down to Horton for a drink. The nearest pub is the Golden Lion near the church but it looked a bit dead inside so I went on to the Crown at the other end of the village thinking that there would be more life in there. I went inside and the bar was completely deserted. The landlady said that it had been quite busy earlier on with people having bar meals, and there were still a lot of people in the restaurant. After a while two cyclists from Leeds came in and then a few people from the restaurant came trickling through the bar heading for their rooms. Most of them seemed to be Dutch or American and the landlady said that it was the Dutch Pennine Way walkers who kept her mid-week trade going last year. Thinking about it, having further to travel they probably don't start at the weekend like most of the English do, so they come through between the peak waves of south to north walkers.

At about 10 p.m. I left and returned to Dub Cotes under a cloudless sky and a beautiful full moon, prompting me to get out my binoculars when I got back. There was still no sign of the other two residents although they had obviously been back and then gone out again, so I went to bed. It was quite cool overnight and I was only just warm enough with the three blankets I had put on my bunk. Normally there is only one blanket per bed with the option to hire a duvet for a small charge, but when it is not full blankets can be borrowed from the other bunks.

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Day 12 - Thursday 23rd June - Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Malham - 14.2 miles + 1.2 miles from Bunk House - 2300 ft ascent

Accommodation: Malham Y.H.A. - 14.25 dinner B&B

I got up at 8.30 a.m. and was off by just after 9 a.m., still having not seen the others who were still in bed. I called at the cafe again for a bacon buttie and a mug of tea and was rather disappointed when the butty arrived and was only a couple of rather thin slices of bread with two rashers of bacon for 1.80 - I had expected it to be a bit more substantial, if only with thicker bread. Still trade is rather seasonal and they have to make a living. I set off from the cafe at 10 a.m. and the weather was already looking good with the sun shining through quite a bit, so it was not long before my pullover came off and then my T-shirt.

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Hull Pot near Penyghent
Hull Pot near Penyghent

On the way up to Penyghent I detoured to Hull Pot which is about a quarter of a mile off route. I wondered if there would be any water running over the waterfall into the pot following the recent rain, as most of the time the water has all drained away underground through fissures in the limestone before it reaches the pot. I was in luck and there was a reasonable flow of water falling into the pot. I headed back onto the way and then took a look at Hunt Pot which is very close to the path, but which I had never visited before because I had often been cutting a corner off when going to Hull Pot. Hunt Pot is much smaller but the water can be seen plunging down to an incredible depth - not the place to lose a foothold. Further up the hill another short detour brought me to the pinnacle of rock that is hanging off the side of Penyghent. This is another thing I had read about and seen in photographs but not seen before, even though it is only a short way off route.

The view from the top of Penyghent never really impresses me; to the west is a good view of Ingleborough but its profile is far less distinctive than when viewed from the north. To the east is Fountains Fell which is not very impressive to look at, and to the north and south there are few distinctive features. On the other hand, Fountains Fell has a fine view of Penyghent with Ingleborough behind. The moral of this is that the mountains which look the best do not always have the best views and those that do not look much themselves can provide fine viewpoints for others. Certainly in the case of Penyghent, its distinctive shape makes it much more of a mountain to be looked at and it looks impressive from almost any viewpoint.

Between Penyghent and Fountains Fell is a stretch of about a mile of road walking as shown on the latest guide books, but the earlier route went along the hillside. Ever wishing to make as many variations as possible and always looking for ways to keep off roads, I took the old route which, although boggy in places, gives a better view across to Penyghent. The weather had clouded over quite a bit and had turned somewhat cooler so I put my T-shirt back on and also attended to my nose and cheeks with sun cream as they had caught a bit too much sun and were rather sore. It was still pleasant for walking, however, and I headed on up Fountains Fell where I stopped for lunch at 1.35 p.m. just before the summit, where there was still a good view as well as some shelter from the cool wind.

The actual summit of Fountains Fell itself does not give much of a view as it is rather flat topped; the best views being on the ascent and descent. There is a lot of evidence of old mine workings up there with a number of fenced-off pit shafts here and there. The path down the other side, which I remembered as being rather rough and boggy, has now been made up to the standard where a vehicle could easily drive to the top. The interesting thing about this pathway improvement is that it has been done with hard core mixed with sandy soil and seeded with grass, some of which has already started to grow. I would think that in a few years' time it will form a very good 'green' road which is pleasant to walk on whilst blending in well with the landscape. It is a pity that there are not more pathway improvements like this but it may be that it is not suitable for some types of terrain.

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One of the Dry Valleys above Malham Cove
Valley above Malham Cove
Looking down Malham Cove
Malham Cove
Bird's Eye View of Malham Beck from Malham Cove
Malham Beck from Malham Cove

On the way down towards Malham the sun started to break through again and I sat for a while on the limestone pavement waiting for the view to clear in the valley towards Arncliffe. The limestone scenery is always at its best in the sunshine and the walk to Malham past the Tarn and over Malham Cove was marvellous. After a leisurely walk with many stops to admire the views and to take photographs, I arrived at Malham Youth Hostel at 5.50 p.m. and booked in. Malham is a large hostel with an annexe in which I was staying. All was peaceful when I went in there with only a few other bunks occupied in a large dormitory, then suddenly there was bedlam - a school party arrived with much shouting, running and crashing around of the children who were about 9 years old. To my horror they were mentioning room 12 as one of the dormitories that they were to occupy and that was the one I was in. Fortunately they checked again and found out they were in other dormitories, but still in the annexe.

The drying room seemed particularly good so I washed out everything that was in need of washing and put them in there to dry before going to the dining room for dinner at 7 p.m. When I got there dinner was halfway through and it ensued that they were having two sittings to cater for the large numbers of people, as there were other school parties in the main building as well. The next sitting was at 7.30 p.m. and wasn't quite so full. I had soup, beef ragout and chocolate and orange sponge on a table with some of the teachers from one of the other school parties. The food was very good considering the hectic conditions for the catering staff - the girl there said she couldn't remember when they had last had a quiet day, but she was very pleasant and helpful despite all the pressure of work.

As it was a very pleasant evening, I decided to go for a walk to Gordale Scar, which is one of my favourite spectacles in this area. I called first at Janet's Foss which is almost on the way and then went on to Gordale Scar itself where I climbed up the waterfall and then up the steep scramble to the limestone plateau above. The climb up the waterfall was very easy as there was hardly any water flowing, so there was no problem about getting wet as is often the case. The huge overhanging cliffs looked just as impressive as ever and I made my way round the edge to get a view from a different angle.

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Bridge and Cafe at Malham
Malham Bridge & Cafe

The daylight from the long summer's day was starting to fade, so I made my way back across the plateau towards the little road which leads down into Malham. As I came round the corner of a wall, I came face to face with a strange looking animal. I don't know which of us was more surprised, but it quickly turned tail and retreated round the corner into the next field. As I reached the roadway I took a look cautiously over the wall and there, poking its head out of a hole in the ground, was the animal again. It was about two foot long including its tail which was so bushy that it looked almost the same thickness as the rest of its body. Its coat was a chocolate brown colour, slightly darker underneath than on its back and it had lighter coloured patches around its eyes and face. It stood for several minutes looking around from the hole in the ground and I had a good look at it through my binoculars. I thought it was still aware of my presence, so I ducked down and looked through a crack in the wall and after a few more minutes it then walked off on the route it had been following before it was interrupted. I could not think what animal it could have been, but later I consulted a naturalist friend and, from books of British mammals, the nearest animal in appearance was a pine marten. However, I later saw an article in The Times which mentioned the fact that pine martens were extinct in England so it prompted me to search further for identification. One book on the subject claimed that most reported sightings of pine martens turn out actually to be of polecats. Apparently polecats can have a wide range of colours due to cross-breading and it was mainly the colour which had lead me to believe that it was a pine marten. In fact the facial markings of the animal did more closely match those of one variety of polecat. The only characteristic that didn't seem to match up was the fact that it is not a burrowing animal and I had assumed that the hole in the ground was its burrow. However, there are many natural holes in the limestone moors, so it was probably just using one of these to hide in for protection.

I eventually got back to Malham at 10.15 p.m. where I called for a pint, drinking it outside as it was still quite warm, before returning to the hostel and my bed. On the way in I could see the teachers from the school party having a drinking party in the kitchen even though the Y.H.A. rules normally ban alcohol on the premises, although these may have been relaxed more recently as some hostels do actually serve alcoholic drinks with meals. The kids in the next dormitory made a racket until about midnight preventing any possibility of getting to sleep and then, at about 2 a.m. the kids in the dormitory above started crashing around like a herd of elephants, obviously jumping out of their bunks and running about. This went on for a couple of hours despite the fact that one chap from our dormitory went up twice to tell them to stop. I could understand them being excited on their first night away, but there seemed to be no attempt at any supervision from the teachers in the party who must have heard the noise. Fortunately I did manage to get some more sleep later on so I didn't feel too bad in the morning.

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