Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Dales Way #5: Millthrop to Burneside 29/05/13

Self at Millthrop Bridge
Bank Holiday Monday turned out to be a complete washout, because of course it did, which allowed me a day of rest and relaxation, at least it would have if I hadn't been handed Roast Dinner duty for the evening, and attempts to get my blogging done 'live' went south due to me almost getting worked up into a device smashing rage when trying to plot a map using the slidy mouse-substitute contraption on the MacbookPro (I loath touchscreens with a passion, and can only handle devices with buttons). Then, Tuesday featured yet more rain, so more opportunities were taken to cook, my signature Morroccan lamb, and to take trip to Kendal to revisit the Museum of Lakeland Life before my annual free-entry ticket expired, and to hit K Village in search of bargainous outdoor gear, landing a gilet and lightweight waterproof jacket for under £43, and the latter of those looks like it will prove useful as the return to the Dales Way is made. I have three days of walking to do and three days of holiday to do them in, so Wednesday has me riding back out to Sedbergh, and the pleasant weather of lakeland passes as we travel inland to find cloud hanging heavily and ominously over the Howgills and I steel myself for another 16 mile haul in less than ideal conditions.

Walking to Windermere: The Dales Way #5: Millthrop to Burneside. 16 miles

Rawthey Bridge
My parents drop me off at the pull-in next to Millthrop Bridge over the Rawthey, and I make my first river crossing at 10am, wondering why this river doesn't claim a dale of its own and if we are already in Lonsdale as we are within the catchment of the Lune. My trail leads me over the fields above Millthrop Mill (!) and into the woods which rise above the river before dropping me out by the 1525 plantation, which is being cultivated by Sedbergh school, a notable private school whose grounds we circumvent before crossing the edge of their playing fields, where one Will Carling developed his rugby skills, apparently. The river walk features some road as we pass through the hamlet of Birks, and beyond the mill (still in industrial use and forcing very large trucks onto a very narrow road), the path is squeezed down into a narrow sliver of land between river and sewage farm. the aroma of wild garlic propels me along, and when the fields open out again we can look back to see Winder, the southernmost of the Howgills peeking out to keep us company, and below we can look down to see the Dee emptying into the Rawthey and Dentdale passes from our company. Up pops a railway relic, and I've missed talking about those, and cross over the embankment to get a view of the very attractive arched iron bridge which once carried the L&NWR's Ingleton to Low Gill branch but now only supports gas mains, and that old line will get more interaction before today is out. Carry on down the river for quite some distance, finally getting a view back to the other face of Middleton Fell, before running up to the main road and finding two lambs stuck on the path and unable to escape form the walkers bearing down on them from both directions. The A683 is the first major road that I've encountered long the trail since Bolton Bridge on leg #1, and walking along its edge is no fun at all it has no verge on either side for a stretch, but it's not very busy, thankfully, and I depart it by the encampment of travellers, camping up before Appleby Horse Fair, and the path takes me over the fields for a slightly confusing walk into the farmsteads at Oaks, and the path then leads over the finger of land between the Rawthey and the Lune, and I make my official arrival in Lonsdale (of belt fame).

Lune Viaduct
Head north along field boundaries and tracks, avoiding the muck-spreading in adjacent fields, until a very helpful waymarker directs me over the fence and down to the edge of the River Lune, an altogether more substantial river than those that had accompanied me since the first day in Wharfedale, and the path leads very picturesquely to Lincolns Inn Bridge where the A684 crosses the river and in turn is crossed by me, and where I had ridden over and hour and a half earlier, and from there it's up into Lonsdale in earnest as major settlements pass from the landscape and I head into the completely unknown. The weather starts to close in as I pound along the riverbank and this is annoying as the most dynamic man-made feature of the day is about to appear in the haze, namely Lune viaduct, the most attractive fixture of this particular abandoned railway, and the best views of that can be taken once across Crosdale beck, which no longer needs to be forded, thankfully. There it proudly stands, two pairs of three arches in red sandstone with a single iron span in the centre, a fine embellishment on this remote landscape and hardly seen by anybody, indeed it cries out for a cycle track! The path leads away from the river, and into the fields and hedgerowed paths between the distant farmsteads, and it threatens to get confusing a few times as it rises and falls, and using the Howgills as navigation points is pretty much pointless as the all have similar heights and profiles. I have sight of the Lune gorge and the minor fells in the far distance, so keep heading towards those, before almost losing my bearings completely at Nether Bainbridge farm, one of the few seen that is utterly dilapidated and having the feel of 'Crow Crag' in 'Withnail & I'. Avoid the irritable sheep, and have to make my way carefully through a field of cattle as they obscure the descent down to Hole House farm, and I am led directly between the farm houses to meet Smithy beck, which takes me back to the riverside.

Crook of Lune Bridge
Having had the path to myself for most of the first couple of hours, it's a surprise to meet three other walking parties making their way up the riverside paths, as well as finding a rather large party set out on one of the stony islands out in the river, complete with campfire. For me, the river is followed as the bank goes through squishy marsh and rising to pass through some very attractively bluebelled woodlands, and the river changes character a couple of times too, sometimes slow and sedate, and rapid and churning at others. Gradually overtake the other walking parties as the last stretch along the riverside passes, and rise to get a good look at the nearby hills before descending to cross over the Lune at Crook of Lune bridge, and with that exit the Yorkshire Dales national park. I'd set out for a 1pm lunch break here, and hit it right on the nose, and I need to let some air out as the new jacket I'm wearing doesn't seem to be very breathable, and letting the sweat out becomes the major problem for the remainder of the day, with run-off making my map and guidebook look very well (ab)used! Up the road to meet the hamlet of Low Gill, if that doesn't overstate it, and the last relic on the Ingleton Branch is walked under, namely Lowgill viaduct, nine arches in red sandstone and gently curving, but atmospheric conditions don't allow for the best view of it from either side, and to think this railway was built to be a main line and ended up being forgotten about for most of its operational life. I hit the path that leads uphill towards the M6 and West Coast mainline, now the dominant landscape features, and it takes longer to get to them that I'd thought as a long field walk leads to Lakethwaite farm, where the sheep are actively determined that I will not be crossing their pasture, and these oddly aggresive creatures force me onto the farm track that leads to the new installed signage that directs me to the M6 crossing at Lambrigg Head farm.

Grayrigg & Whinfell Beacon
Field walking leads me past Holme Park farm and on to Morsedale hall and its very desirable guest houses, and crossing the becks there and wandering through Rhododendron bushes has me wondering where Lonsdale ends and Kentdale starts, and its at this point, I realise why the trail is called the Dales Way, it's not just the Yorkshire Dales, it's about Dales generally, river valleys, and I feel like an idiot for taking so long to have realised that. Signage directs me to a new path, post-dating both map and guide, taking the shortest distance possible to the road bridge which crosses the railway, as the foot crossings on the line have been closed due to not wanting walkers to tussle with the Pendlinos and Voyagers. Pause for watering and to get my bearings, and the church tower must be the one in Grayrigg, probably the largest settlement in the vicinity, and the pleasingly shaped hill beyond it must be Whinfell Beacon, outside the nearby national parks, and thus missing from most walking literature. A long and twisty field walk starts along the railway, before descending to meet a farmer laying an eletric fence, right across the path before rising to Green Head farm and the descending to Grayrigg Foot, where cows in separate fields seem to want it make it difficult to cross the beck between them, not as bad as the one at Lammerside last year, but still momentarily troubling. Meet the main road, which feels like a country lane but is actually the A685, and the road down to Thurgill farm indicated that the bridge over the beck is closed, but its still sound enough to be traversible so no detour is needed, and the tuckshop not raided (actually a cool-box by the road, and a very admirable exercise too). A rise and fall over the next few fields has the stately Shaw End house standing prominent before arriving at our third river crossing, of the Mint, which must mean we are in the catchment of the River Kent now.

Black Moss Tarn
Rise to the road leading to Shaw End, but depart it by the holiday houses, offering the opportunity for a brew or toilet break, which is also admirable, and the path then gets overgrown for while before arriving at the wonderfully named Biglands farm, and then leads up a very marshy enclosed track that slows my going by a few paces as I pick my way up before arriving at Black Moss tarn, a spot remote enough for impromptu skinny-dip, if it wasn't for slatey skies and cool temperatures. A big rise allow for a look north to the fells of Whinfell Common, which didn't make it into the Lake District National Park, and descend to New House farm where the track beyond actually has a descent surface and feels like another of those ancient tracks that has been long forgotten, and it's a good feeling to get on hard surfaces again as beyond Goodham Scales we are on hard surfaces all the way to the A6, so the pace might be picked up a bit. The fenced off track down to Garnett Folds feel like an obscure farm track, but it is an actual by-way for the ambitious driver, and the sun finally breaks through to warm the day as I pass Tarn Bank, and a couple of miles south the familiar shapes of Scout Scar and Benson Knott can be seen, and between them is the town of Kendal, a proper town with many facilities, almost taunting us by staying distant from the path of the Dales Way walker, as we remain out in the fields. I get a buzz on the phone that I borrowed off my Dad, and I let my parents know that I am still on schedule, and my arrival is still due in less than an hour as I'm about to cross the A6.

Burneside Hall
The old main road to Scotland is actually a lot further on than I had projected, but it's now a very quiet trunk route, and easy to cross, and beyond Burton House farm, a paddock of chickens and ponies needs to be crossed before descending to a beck crossing and probably the softest going of the entire day, and the guide did warn that this day's walking is always the muddiest of the whole trail. A hill rise gives us a glimpse of the paper mill at our destination, before a descent needs to be picked out carefully to meet a pleasing little nature reserve and pasture before meeting the back road into Burneside, but the trail avoids a long road walk by detouring through more buttercup-strewn pasture and descending to meet the River Sprint at Sprint Mill, and short walk along the bank past the flow measurement station leads back to the road for our last river crossing at Sprint bridge. The road beyond is without verges and tough to walk along as there is way too much traffic on it, but the aspect of Burneside Hall farm, with its ruined Peel tower, is a pleasing distraction, having to answer the phone and dodge the oncoming traffic is less fun. Hall Road leads me into the woods and towards the village and just past the sign welcoming you to Burneside, the Dales Way continues west, whilst I carry on into the first real township on the whole day's walk, and make an unofficial fifth river crossing of the Kent as I go, and it's 5.40pm when I turn up outside the Jolly Anglers. No time for drink, as I've a 6.15pm hot date at Pizza Express in Kendal, and my parents are to be found in the car over the road, and I'm glad they've got a change of clothes for me, as I've sweat more today than I thought was possible, and I think I've earned my dinner too, even though I'm too spaced to be the best of dining companions.

To Be Concluded...

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 647.2 miles
(2013 total: 181.9 miles)

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