Leader : John Borrill Distance : 8 miles.
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On this beautiful sunny and chilly November day the magnificent outline of Pen Hill on the southern side of Wensleydale dominated the landscape. Although at 143m not high by Dales’ hill standards it nevertheless forms a striking backdrop to the cosy Wensleydale village of Redmire, our walking base for the day.
The winds of Friday had gone but nevertheless suitably wrapped to keep out the morning chill, the 14 of us led by local resident and club member John, set off from the village and initially headed down over surprisingly lush grassy fields to the banks of the River Ure. Springing into life near Hell Gill the river trundles along through Wensleydale until it is consumed by the River Ouse at the interestingly named Cuddy Shore near Linton on Ouse.
On reaching the river banks we followed its course for a while enjoying the pleasant gentle stroll until after a while we entered the edge of West Wood where we took off our backpacks and paused for an early coffee break. Once fed and watered we wandered on with the Ure still babbling along by our side until shortly before 11.00 we again paused- this time to observe silence for a moment to remember those without whose sacrifices we may not have had the freedom to walk as we were this day.
A short distance further along the river bank brought us to a small typical Dales’ stone bridge spanning the river and at which juncture our leader pointed to the treeline high on the distant northern horizon and in hushed tones informed us that this was to be our ‘high point’ of the day. Oh dear! At his word we turned due north and headed towards Bolton Hall standing proudly in the mid- distance and not far from the village of Wensley from which stems the name of the dale, one of the few in Yorkshire not named after its river. The hall itself was originally built in the late 17th Century but rebuilt following a fire in 1902 and is the home of the current 8th Lord Bolton and his family.
On reaching the hall we passed to its left along one of the estate farm roads as we began the inexorable climb which was to take us some 700ft to the high point of the day. Firstly on hard surfaces and then alternately field and wooded paths we puffed our way upwards until we came to a halt after crossing the line of the Wensleydale Heritage railway which has its terminus in Redmire. Originally used extensively to carry stone from the nearby quarry it was ‘reinvented’ by a group of enthusiasts and began carrying passengers again in 2003.
But we had not time to ‘stand and stare’ so onward and upward again gradually gaining height and on occasions looked on in scorn by young heifers who, like us, were enjoying the autumn sun. Soon with almost half of our journey over our surroundings began to change, the grassy fields making way for bleak and intimidating heather clad moors. It was here we encountered the vast stone quarries. Some areas were still operational which explained the plethora of stout metal fencing and warning signs but others, their life span run, were being prepared to return as Mother Nature intended. Time for lunch and the redundant stones provided for comfortable dining and some shelter from the chilly wind now blowing on the tops.
With appetites sated we climbed a little more heading towards and passing near the old Smelt Mine chimney, evidence of the area’s lead mining past and on to meet the Grinton and Reeth tarmac road from where we were assured by our leader with that time worn phrase ‘it’s all downhill now’ And indeed it was. The descent took us alongside the Bolton Gill Plantation and provided fine views of Bolton Castle a short distance to the west- a walk for another day perhaps.
Conveniently located at the bottom of our road was the Bolton Arms hostelry, like so many of its ilk in those parts, of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ fame. In the comfort of the cosy bar we enjoyed our well-earned beer and chatted to put the world to rights once again. A little surreptitious eavesdropping revealed tales of an embryonic CHA dating agency but this being a family publication the subject was not pursued further.
A lovely day out in a lovely part of the Dales.