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 8 - Malham to Mankinholes

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Day 13 - Friday 24th June - Malham to Ickornshaw - 17.5 miles - 2000 ft ascent

Accommodation: The Hawthorns B&B - 17.50 B&B

It was a beautifully sunny morning and I had breakfast at the first sitting and picked up my clothes from the drying room. Most of them were dry, but there were still a few damp patches on some despite the good drying room. This is where it would have been so much better with a spin dryer or a mangle to get out most of the water first. This hostel had also got me down as having booked a packed lunch, so once again I ended up getting one for free.

I set off from the hostel in very good walking conditions with hazy sunshine and a pleasant breeze. The walk along this stretch is very easy, following the river Aire for the first few miles, but the scenery gets flatter and less interesting. I stopped for a rest after five miles and was soon met by a group of girls carrying camping gear, followed at a discreet distance by a woman who was making sure they didn't get lost. They were doing this as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. This went against what I had been told by someone earlier on who said that the Pennine Way was now considered to be too well signposted to qualify for the scheme. Perhaps some sections are, but others are definitely not and require quite good orienteering skills to find the way.

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River Aire at Newfield Bridge
River Aire
Lock on Leeds - Liverpool Canal at Gargrave
Canal at Gargrave
Lothersdale from Stansfield Beck
Lothersdale from Stansfield Beck

I pressed on with the intention of having lunch by the Leeds - Liverpool canal. The intervening walk was rather uninteresting so I thought I may as well get a few miles done so that I could have a more leisurely walk over the undulating ground later in the afternoon. I spent about an hour sunbathing by the towpath, airing off my feet. Several cyclists passed by as well as a couple of boats and a man walking his dog, but not much sign of any other walkers. After Thornton-in-Craven came the first real climb of the day up to Pinhaw Beacon where I met several Pennine Way walkers in fairly rapid succession. The scenery is much more interesting around here, but it can be quite hard work climbing up and down the series of hills and valleys. I bought a few things for the following day's lunch at Lothersdale to save me time the next morning. There was quite a good view of Ickornshaw coming over Cowling Hill but the sun had just gone in, so I waited for about half an hour to see if it would come out for me to take a photograph. Unfortunately the cloud seemed to be thickening after a day of almost non-stop sunshine, so I took a photograph anyway and headed down to find the bed and breakfast for the night.

I found the place quite easily from the map I had been sent. It was a modern bungalow with a swimming pool and very nicely furnished with every modern convenience. There were two couples staying there and another chap expected later. The normal guest bathroom was out of action because of some work being done, so I had to use the shower in the en-suite bathroom off the main bedroom, which was fitted out with a whirlpool bath and all sorts of keep fit equipment.

The landlady advised me that a pub called the Harlequin did very reasonable meals, so I set off to look for it, calling at a telephone box on the way to call home. I kept on walking most of the way into Cowling but there was still no sign of the pub, so when I reached a fish and chip shop I decided to call in there and forget the search. Out of curiosity, I looked around Ickornshaw on the way back to see if I had been looking in the wrong place, but I still couldn't see any sign of the Harlequin. I called in the Black Bull on the main road for a couple of pints of Boddingtons, but it is not the most inspiring pub and the few people who were in the bar were all pigeon fanciers, with pigeon timing clocks, apparently waiting for some birds to return.

I took a look along the wooded valley above the bed and breakfast, which was quite pleasant, but swarming with midges, so I hastily departed and returned to the bungalow. I had been rather curious as to what I would have to do if I needed the bathroom in the night, but the normal one was now back in service again, so there was no problem. I had offered to share my room, which had a single bed plus bunk beds, if anyone wished to share it. The landlady had not been sure whether the chap who was arriving later wanted to do so, but he had arrived and declined on the grounds that he was a very loud snorer, so the single bed had been moved into the lounge for him. I watched television in my room for the rest of the evening, whilst a violent thunderstorm passed overhead causing several dips in the mains supply.

I had a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed and got up for breakfast at 8 a.m. The couple running the place were very friendly - they had built the bungalow themselves four years ago, modelled on another one just down the road that they had built some years prior to that. The chap who nearly shared my room was there for breakfast. He was about 60 and was out walking, taking the train for a way and then walking back.

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Day 14 - Saturday 25th June - Ickornshaw to Mankinholes - 18.8 miles + 0.8 miles to YHA - 3420 ft ascent

Accommodation: Mankinholes Y.H.A. - 15.10 full meals

I set off at 9 a.m. into a rather overcast morning with low cloud hanging over Ickornshaw Moor, which is probably more widely known as Keighley Moor, although strictly speaking this is the area further east. As I reached the open moorland the way was not very distinct and I followed a fence, thinking that it was the line marked on my map, as I headed into the mist. As I followed it on and on through the mist I started having some reservations as to whether I was on the right track as the line of the fence didn't follow that on the map and the path seemed too small to be the Pennine Way. However, whilst I was heading uphill I thought that I must be going roughly in the right direction for the top of the moor. As the slope levelled off somewhat, the fence turned 90 degrees to the right and I was faced with either following this, which at least had a faint path following by its side, or heading across the open moor in the direction I thought I should be going, but tramping through bogs and heather. I tried walking across the moor for a little way but soon gave up as it was so much more difficult to make progress and there was so much surface water underfoot. I returned to follow the fence and, after a while was rewarded by reaching a stile where the Pennine Way crossed over and I was able to regain the right route. I had gone quite a way off to the east and then come back round when the fence turned the corner.

The miles always seem so much longer when you feel you are lost as there is always the worry of going further and further off the route. It also seems longer when tramping over bleak featureless moors in the mist, so it was a very welcome relief when I did get back on the right path. Ickornshaw Moor is one of the bleakest stretches of moorland along the Pennine Way; later in the year when the heather is in full bloom and the sun is shining it may be quite pleasant, but on a day like this it is the sort of place to get away from as quickly as possible. Before long the path started to descend from the bleak misty moors and dropped below the cloud level revealing a good view of Ponden Reservoir, which was very low on water. On the way down I met one Pennine Way walker who was heading from Haworth to Earby and two others going from Ponden Hall to Thornton-in-Craven. I also met a chap who I didn't recognise at first, but who greeted me - it was the chap from the bed and breakfast who had missed the train so had decided to walk a bit of the Pennine Way coming back from where he had left his car.

I stopped by Ponden Reservoir at about 11 a.m. for a rest. The weather had brightened up quite a bit and the cloud had lifted off the moors. The route up to Top Withens, the ruins of the farmhouse which is supposed to have inspired Wuthering Heights, was quite easy after an initial rather steep climb. The number of tourists around here seem to have warranted a two lane path of stone slabs instead of the normal single lane - a pedestrian dual carriageway, or maybe it is to allow vehicles to get up more easily. However, there were not many tourists around today to spoil the isolation, which is the main characteristic of the place.

Dropping down the other side of the moor to the Walshaw Dene reservoirs it became quite sunny for a while. Two of the reservoirs were almost empty due mainly to maintenance work which was in progress, so the area did not look as attractive as it could be. There are a lot of rhododendrons around the middle reservoir which were just at the end of flowering; a few weeks earlier they must have added a much brighter splash of colour. I stopped for lunch by the middle reservoir. It was a bit cool for sunbathing, but still very pleasant. At 1.40 p.m. I set off again with a little over 10 miles to go. There were a few diversions to the path near the lower reservoir to keep the roadway clear for construction traffic, although no work was being done today as it was Saturday. By the road near the Pack Horse Inn I saw a bird, which I think was a kestrel, hovering nearby showing off a beautiful fan of tail feathers. I resisted the temptation to make a detour in the direction of the pub, as I still had quite a lot more walking to do.

The walk along Graining Water and Heptonstall Moor was a great contrast to the walk over Ickornshaw Moor, as the path runs along the side of the moor rather than going over the top and gives some good views across the valley and down into Hebden Dale. Rounding the end of Heptonstall Moor, the end of the day's walk, Stoodley Pike monument came prominently into sight on the distant hilltop.

The way then goes across a series of hills and steep sided valleys, one of which is Colden Clough, a local beauty spot where an old pack horse bridge crosses the stream. There were several families there taking advantage of the sunshine and some of the children were paddling in the stream. This is also the place where the Calderdale Way crosses the Pennine way. A little futher on, I had a rest on Pry Hill at 3.40 p.m. with 5 miles left to go, and was off again at 4 p.m.

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Pack Horse Bridge at Colden Clough
Pack Horse Bridge
Colden Clough
Colden Clough
Calder Valley and Stoodley Pike
Calder Valley & Stoodley Pike

Down in the shelter of the Calder Valley the weather turned very warm, making it hot work climbing up the other side through Collis Wood towards Stoodley Pike. Higher up, however, it started to turn quite cold and windy and the sky clouded over. After spending a little time by the monument I headed down the steep hillside to Mankinholes Youth Hostel and was quite cold by the time I got there as I hadn't bothered to get out my pullover.

There were very few people staying at the hostel, with dinner places laid for only four but with a few others self-catering. Dinner was soup, Cumberland sausage and apple pie. The others having dinner were the overspill from a Y.H.A. regional A.G.M. in Haworth, so all the conversation centred around youth hostelling. There were a number of others from the same meeting who arrived later, having had their meal at Haworth. Some came by motorbike, and the rest cycled, but all in all they were a mildly eccentric bunch of people.

Over the last few days my feet had started to ache a bit more than earlier in the walk, although far less than on previous walks, which I put down to the combination of insoles in my boots. The day's walk was not far short of 20 miles, so it is not surprising that my feet should suffer a bit. The next couple of days involved much shorter distances, so it would give my feet an easier time.

Towards the end of the evening I walked down to the Top Brink for a couple of pints of Boddingtons. It was very lively in there, but then it was a Saturday night. Most of the people in there seemed to be local people who had arrived by car, although there may have been a few walkers amongst them as this is also on the Calderdale Way.

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