Day 6 – Ribblehead Viaduct to Dent

We went a little further off piste today. What would be the point of walking back down the road for a mile or more to regain the official route? Instead we went direct – along the side of the viaduct and then over the hill following the path of the tunnel, to the very top of Dentdale.


 River causeway

It was a wet day – the only really wet day of the walk – and we were in full waterproofs to start the walk. All three of us! I had new boots for the walk, waterproof trousers I’d barely worn, and a reasonably new jacket that I like, so I felt well protected. Nothing like Marisca though, in her bombproof little house.

 In the wet on Blea Moor

Although it was still the weekend, the weather meant it was a totally different experience from the busyness of the preceding day. We only saw one other walker, on his way up Whernside, until well into the afternoon. That meant there was nobody to see us going a little further off piste than we intended at the start of the tunnel. We could see the track we were trying to get to, and the map suggested we took one side of a triangle to get there. After trying to forge our own hypotenuse, we retraced our steps and took the clear path to the track.

What is it with OS maps and marked footpaths? The maps are so fantastic in terms of the detail and accuracy, but there is often little correspondence between the location of footpaths on the map and on the ground. It can’t be that it has changed – the footpaths certainly look decades old in most cases. I have to confess that this time we made the mistake of believing the map for a few minutes longer than we should have.

This was probably the steepest climb of the walk, but it felt like a worthwhile bit of hill, so we didn’t mind it. It was interesting to pass the occasional air shafts, along with what must have been the old metal shaft covers just left to rust next to each one.

 Air shaft

On the way down into Dentdale we passed through a thick area of forest and some incredibly muddy paths until we came upon a small farm with a turkey in the garden. On further inspection there were an abnormal number of different ‘farmyard birds’: turkeys, ducks, geese, pigeons. We spent a good few minutes talking to the owner about his birds. There were some really interesting ones: a pair of Indian runner ducks which were very amusing, an enormous (and angry) duck called Ronald who shared some kind of facial expression with Mr McDonald, and the Polish turkey breed, whose name I forget, that can make its face blue on demand. An interesting diversion for a few minutes, and the owner let us use his drive to get up to the road rather than the slippery paths around the edge of the farm.

 Polish turkey

The rest of the day would now be walking down the dale to Dent. It was a really nice dale, much narrower than Wharfedale, and with the benefit that we’re walking with the river, and therefore the gradient, rather than against it.

 Dentdale postbox

The top of the dale is characterised by a couple of huge viaducts, at Dent Head and Artengill, taking the Settle-Carlisle line high above the valley bottom. I recall that Dent station is the highest mainline station in the country, and it’s certainly a long way from Dent village. I’d not like to have to do that climb every day as part of my morning commute. We’ve been here before, and there’s a nice little spot at Dent Head where there’s an old packhorse bridge in the shadow of the viaduct. It really wasn’t a day for great photos and I’m not particularly pleased with my efforts. We’ll have to come back again.

 Big one, small one

Dentdale is named after the village, Dent, rather than the river which is the Dee. We found the Dee to be a lovely tumbling little thing and it was a pleasant companion for the day. We stopped for lunch at a pebble beach inside a meander, and I had a lovely five minutes playing in the river with Risky.

 The river Dee Daddy and Marisca by the river

 Dabbling in the river

 Disappearing Dee

We then pottered down the valley for the rest of the afternoon. Photo time stamps suggest it took three hours, and they certainly passed quickly. The weather improved to the extent that we could remove all of our waterproof layers, and it was downhill after all.

 Disappearing tracks

 Arrow points the way

We encountered a few unusual sights, including wild strawberries and a goat tethered to the side of the road.

 Goat in the road

There was also a little sheep, which looked like it was probably a pet rather than part of a flock. It didn’t like the look of Marisca pointing at it and saying ‘ooooh’, and unfortunately decided, in its panicked flight, to run down the drive ahead of us rather than into the field. We were then in a difficult position, as there were no further escape routes from the drive, of having to herd the sheep toward the road at the bottom. I don’t really have any expertise in putting sheep at their ease. Eventually, rather than face certain death on the incredibly busy road down Dentdale (not busy at all), the sheep braved running past us – once past it scarpered at immense speed back up the drive and then baaa’ed loudly once it felt safe. Everyone was happy – the sheep was safe, we didn’t need to tell any small children that we’d led their pet to their death, and Marisca had immense fun giggling at the sheep the whole time.

In Dent we were staying at the Stone Close tea rooms. We’d not had an afternoon tea since the previous day so were looking forward to it immensely. I have to say, it functions well as a tea shop – Elspeth had earl grey and I jasmine, and Marisca ate an entire scone. Yet better, tea was on the house as we were staying overnight. I was offered a jasmine tea taste session, effectively getting a second pot of tea for free, as the owner was having to change suppliers and wanted the opinion of “someone who clearly drank a lot of jasmine tea”. What fun! I’ve done beer, wine, whisky tasting, but never jasmine tea tasting. For reference, I preferred the new tea – slightly less floral on the nose but with deeper flavour.

 A girl with a scone

It was a really nice place to stay. I think they have two or three rooms but we were the only ones in. Our first real B&B of the walk, and we noticed the difference in how we were treated – much more friendly than pub landlords. We were given a 3 course dinner (lovely lamb and redcurrant pie and then a really really good blackcurrant crumble) in the tea room and left alone for the rest of the evening. The room was in a nice cottage and decorated accordingly – stone walls, etc – although the cast iron hearth and accoutrements weren’t the best ornaments for a small crawling explorer. I also banged my head on the low ceiling – spotting a theme there?

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