Day 4 – Kettlewell to Swarthgyll

The morning started early. Unfortunately that was Marisca’s decision rather than ours, and she woke us crying at 5. Soothing didn’t work so I took her downstairs to let Elspeth sleep a little longer. Breakfast was at 8:30 again so I had 3 and a half hours to entertain a small and grumpy girl. We were locked in, and not in a good way, so we couldn’t enjoy the outside. Pubs really are odd places in the light of morning, but this one did have a few different rooms with different flooring, different furniture, and different breakable items. So we were kept entertained.

Breakfast, meh.

We’d seen the weather forecast predicting a significant amount of rain at around 2:30, and we were finishing our day quite high, where the Wharfe was barely more than a dribble, so we spent much of the day pressing on. The rain didn’t come, or at least not until bed time. Odd how you can feel disappointed when a good thing like not getting rained on happens. Actually, I think part of it may be that I’ve recently got a new waterproof that I like, and some pretty high tech waterproof trousers that I’ve never used – in the hope that I can wear them and not end up with soaking legs from the sweat.

 Wharfedale barn

As part of the increasing isolation we were (ahem, I was) very keen that we got the tea shop stops right today. After ice cream on day 1, one tea shop on day 2 and two yesterday, I was getting into the swing of walking. The books brags of two tempting tea shop stops, at Buckden and Beckermonds. I was aiming to hit both. Before that, though, we were off up the narrowing Wharfedale.

Riverside path

The highlight of the morning was seeing some cows, a relief from all the sheep that Marisca loved to point out. The best bit of the cows was watching a calf chasing a little family of sheep. All those cows and sheep I’ve seen in my life, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them interact before, let alone in a playful little chase.

 Herd of cows

 A little sheep

 The highlight of the morning, according to the guidebook, should have been a fantastic grove of exotic trees, with a joyful interplay between these offcomers and their native counterparts. It was a thing not to be missed. Nonetheless, we missed it. Here’s a picture though of Elspeth bouncing on a bouncy branch of a tree of some kind.

 Bouncy bough

 We hurried on to Buckden with clouds looming. When we got there, we saw not one, but two tea rooms. And not one, but none of them were open. Grumble grumble.

Once out of Buckden we were turning west, and heading up Langstrothdale. This is a dale of fantastic names. We went through Hubberholme, Yockenthwaite, and Beckermonds. At least one of these had a bridge, which is depicted below. They all had bridges, of course, but only one of them is depicted below.

 A Wharfe bridge

 It’s also a very pretty dale. Where we enter it we are suddenly struck by how much it feels like an upper valley compared to the main part of Wharfedale we just left. There are more meadows and a sleepy bee.

 Buttercups

 A lazy bee

 Anisee

The last photo is of a subject that was the cause of more conversation than almost anything else. I remembered this plant from my days in the cubs, down by the river Derwent, amongst the wild garlic. Break the seed heads open and you get a strong waft of aniseed. Garlic and aniseed are the smells of the river to me. We spent days of foraging in the hedgerows trying to work out if this plant was cow parsley. They look very similar, you see. In the end we managed to find both within eyesight of each other. Cow parsley has much smaller seed heads, you see. When we got home we discovered two things: that the aniseed plant was probably sweet cicely, sometimes used as a herb; and that the aniseed plant was possibly hemlock, usually used as a poison.

I’m getting ahead of myself. At the moment I’ve only just introduced Elspeth to the aniseed plant, as we sit in a lovely spot for lunch. We then press on up the valley, hoping to get to the tea room at Beckermonds before the rain arrives.

There is no tea room at Beckermonds. I never really expected there to be, as it’s such a tiny place, but I did rather trust the twin sources of map and guidebook. Elspeth was prepared though, and allowed me some non-hilltop Kendal Mint Cake. KMC is a thing of beauty anywhere, and a thing to overturn disappointment and low blood sugar alike.

 The river Wharfe

 Beckermonds

 A pleasing bridge as we say goodbye to the Wharfe

Beckermonds was where we said goodbye to the Wharfe. Our first river and the one we knew the best, through its stately flow through Ilkley, its tumbling through Strid Woods and its tinkling down the upper valley, we have enjoyed its company.

I’ve just remembered that we did have a little rain that day – just as we were about to turn off the road onto the track that would take us the last mile or two to Swarthgyll we came across Tony & Guy, waiting by a phone box for their taxi to take them all the way back to their accommodation in Buckden. It was nice, after a couple of evenings chatting with them, usually about Risky half of the time, for them to meet her. We didn’t see them after that, and so my lasting memory is of them scurrying away to shelter in the phone box when a short sharp shower passed over. We hope they enjoyed the rest of their walk and tour of the country.

The last bit of the walk to Swarthgyll was harder than we anticipated: we just never quite knew when we were going to arrive, and the march to avoid the rain was taking its toll. So it was a pleasant surprise when we happened upon the farm, and let ourselves into the little flat with our name on the door. It was a really nice place to stay, and especially a nice change after 3 nights of pubs. Marisca had lots of space to crawl around in – perhaps a little too much, as she slipped over having pulled herself to standing, and cut her mouth on the table. It was the first time I’ve seen her shed blood (excluding injections) and it probably upset us a lot more than it did her. It didn’t stop her enjoying an orange 5 minutes later.

 Enjoying oranges

We heated up the shepherd’s pie we’d ordered and sat in front of the TV in our pyjamas watching old Dr Who episodes all evening. I banged my head twice.

Next >>   Day Five