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Trail talk: Pennine Bridleway. The Mary Towneley Loop to Settle

My Pennine Bridleway continued. I had walked the 72 miles from the start at Middleton Top in Derbyshire to the Mary Towneley Loop. Having walked all of that 47 mile loop, I was now continuing to the National Trail’s end in Cumbria. But before then, I had to get to Settle for yet another optional loop.

Day Eight, continued. Gorple Road to wildcamp above Swinden Water. 1.87 miles, 409 feet ascent

Once back on the main Pennine Bridleway, the Mary Towneley Loop behind me, I was as usual unsure where I was going to stop for the night. Little leapt out at me on the map and I soon came across grazing Belted Galloways. I am always a bit wary of camping near bovines as, even lacking malice, they can trample a shelter through sheer curiosity. Dropping down to cross a gully and one of the little tributaries of Swinden Water I could see the ruins of some long abandoned folds or buildings. Despite being lumpy inside the tumbled walls there was no sign of cows having wandered in so was able to orientate the Duplex sufficiently well that there was a Three Points of the Compass shaped flattish spot diagonally below the footprint. The Duplex is a forgiving shelter and this was by no means the first time that I had managed to pitch it in an apparently unsuitable spot.

Descending to Swinden Water I espied what may be a suitable halt for the night, away from the cows on the hills beyond
Descending to Swinden Water I espied what may be a suitable halt for the night, away from the cows on the hills beyond
Wildcamp near Swinden Water on Day Eight. About fifty metres off trail
Wildcamp near Swinden Water on Day Eight. About fifty metres off trail

It had become a fairly long day with only modest miles walked. Some ten miles in the morning to Summit followed by almost two more once the taxi had dropped me off on the Gorple Road. Both halves of my day eight totalled just 12.09 miles with 2035 feet of ascent. I tent washed and got water on the boil for a brew and meal. My evening meal was rubbish- after a few nights of pretty good if expensive dehydrated meals, my couscous and tuna pouch was unsatisfying and I wished I had packed along a few treats to improve it. Instead I dived in to my trail snacks bag- peanut M&Ms, liquorice allsorts and dried mango. Quite a few cyclists passed, rattling through the double gates not far away. None noticed me. Two motorcyclists also passed. Obviously illegal off-road biking but I can’t say much as my wildcamp was equally as illegal. Though I was inflicting little if any imprint on the environment and I would see the following morning they had torn the path up quite a bit.

Water on for a brew and meal at the end of my eighth day on trail
Water on for a brew and meal at the end of my eighth day on trail, 28th July. Stove is the Fire Maple FMS-117T

Day Nine. Swinden Water to Kings Field, Barnoldswick. 14.82 miles, 2242 feet ascent

After the expected overnight rain, the day started wet and greasy. However the rain cleared off, early mist cleared off, grey clouds turned to blue sky and it gradually turned into a dry and hot day. Pretty much typical UK hiking with extremes being experienced within just a few hours.

All that remains of New House, built by Robert Parker in the 1670s. Mostly demolished in the 1920s, stone was taken for nearby buildings. Barely legible on the lintel are the words: “Robert Parker and Jane his wife, May 2nd 1672”
All that remains of New House, built by Robert Parker in the 1670s. Mostly demolished in the 1920s, stone was taken for nearby buildings. Barely legible on the lintel are the words: “Robert Parker and Jane his wife, May 2nd 1672

I never seen to learn. I continue to raise my hopes of a bacon sandwich and mug of tea when entering many villages on trails where there never really is that much chance of such niceties materialising. Nonetheless as I approached the pretty little village of Wycoller I had already decided it was just the sort of place to have a well appointed cafe and was trying to decide whether to ask for an egg in my bacon sarnie. Nope, it wasn’t to be. There was a handful of visitors pottering around, no doubt drawn to the Bronte connection, but that was just about it. I wandered the ruins of the 16th century Hall. It must have been grand ‘back in the day’ but 300 years later the rot had set. This was probably the inspiration for Charlotte Bronte’s Ferndean Manor in her novel- Jane Eyre. Beyond the hall was the village itself and walking down to see what was on offer (nothing) I viewed with slight dismay a window at one property saying that it would open to sell ice creams at 16.30. Not being prepared to wait half a day for a bit of cold dairy, I walked on. I still had miles to cover.

It was a wet start to day nine on trail, but things dried up during the day
It was a wet start to day nine on trail, but things dried up during the day
Simple clapper bridge and Wycoller Hall, latter dating from the 16th century the rot had set in 300 years later. It was the inspiration for Charlotte Bronte's Ferndean Manor in her novel- Jane Eyre
Simple clapper bridge and Wycoller Hall
Packhorse bridge at Wycoller
Packhorse bridge at Wycoller
At the trig point on Knarrs Hill someone had placed two handy picnic benches for some reason. This coincided with lunch. Serendipity, when it raises its head, is a wonderful thing
Someone had placed two handy picnic benches at the trig point on Knarrs Hill. This coincided both with a day when the sun shone and lunchtime. Serendipity, when it raises its head, is a wonderful thing

I had a welcome lunchtime halt at a handy bench with a view on the modest height Knarrs Hill. From there it was just a few miles of non-noteworthy walking to Barnoldswick with no sign of anywhere particularly inviting for a nights wildcamp. As I crossed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to the south of the town I could see a boatyard and chandlers close by. Never turn down an opportunity, I walked in to enjoy a good mug of tea and banter with the small group gathered there, buy a couple of sweet snacks for the next couple of days and enjoy a long chat about boats, the cost of boats, the maintenance of boats, the trials of owning boats. I should have expected such chat from the enthusiastic and friendly boat crowd.

Crossing the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick
Crossing the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick

More importantly, I eventually asked if anyone knew of a place where I could pitch for the night, half hoping for a grassy corner of the boatyard, but no, “he can camp in Kings Field“. I was then introduced to the owner of a field just a quarter of a mile away. Everyone around me now regarded the matter as closed, I would camp in her field.

Unfortunately Gail didn’t look too chuffed with the notion but my new found friends won her round with reassurances. I drained my mug of tea, handshakes all round and fifteen minutes later the Duplex was up. It was not even five in the afternoon and for the next few hours dog walkers looked surprised to find me camping with impunity in ‘their’ field, just a few metres from the Pennine Bridleway. This was no arrive late, stay inconspicuous, leave early wildcamp site and I took advantage of this unexpected kindness of strangers with plenty of time to rest, a half-way decent tent wash, multiple brews, a hot meal with a modest view, video chat with Mission Control and a long and quiet nights sleep. Despite there not being too much to see during my ninth day on the Pennine Bridleway it had been fairly enjoyable nonetheless and I felt good with no aches or body issues.

Wildcamp on day 9 on the Pennine Bridleway. Barnoldswick. 29th July 2022

Day Ten. Kings Field, Barnoldswick to wildcamp on the Settle Loop. 22.54 miles, 3001 feet ascent

I knew I had a longer day so was up fairly early. Dressing in the tent at six with the vestibule doors open I was at the maximum state of undress when a dog walked up, closely followed by his female owner and another dog. Polite good mornings all round while she gathered her charges and left. I was obviously not up early enough! The weather deteriorated as I packed the shelter away and I walked off under grey skies and a light drizzle. As altitude increased approaching Weets Hill the trail not only got a bit mucky underfoot but I was surrounded by swirling cloud and I wondered where summer had gone and if I was in for another wet day. The descent from there however gradually improved, the track got firmer, this gave way to metaled road and I began a speed march all the way to Gisburn while the sun came out and reminded me it was July.

Leaving Barnoldswick behind
Lister Well Road. A misty and damp start to day ten on trail
Lister Well Road. It was a misty and damp start to day ten on trail
Not arguing with this chap
Not arguing with this chap

I passed at least three “Gisburn Park 1/2 mile” signs and it wasn’t worth it when I did reach it. Gisburn park was one of those large estates that routes you through in such a manner as to keep you out of sight. Even when reaching the A682 beyond it is a foot dragging energy sapping walk on the field side of the hedge through wet fields. Thankfully not for long. I found the miles from Gisburn to Long Preston mostly uninspiring, with far too much poor pasture and road walking. But before Long Preston I had the River Ribble to cross and an unexpected bonus find at Paythorne but before that it is a bit of a precarious walk over the bridge and up the pathless winding road climbing away from it. Chatting to a lady later, she told me that cars hurtle down the road and the bridge has been struck dozens of times. It was being repaired when I crossed it.

It was yet another day where a rumbling stomach coincided with finding a lunchtime pub. Why can’t all walks be like this! I walked into the open door of the Buck Inn at Paythorne before they were even open for trade but was made welcome and my food order was taken in advance of the kitchen opening in fifteen minutes time. I ordered two pints of IPA and took them to the little conservatory type area at the front of the pub where I surreptitiously took off socks and shoes to allow my feet to dry out a little. I also managed to put my powerbank on charge beside me and get my two litre water bladder taken away and filled . My below table bare ‘gradually returning to pristine pink’ feet were un-noticed and bothered no one, not even a chicken that wandered in to peck around.

The Buck Inn at Paythorne
The Buck Inn at Paythorne
Posh Fish Finger Sandwich and chips, plus a couple of decent pints of beer. It's called feeding the inner man
Posh Fish Finger Sandwich and chips, plus a couple of decent pints of beer. It’s called feeding the inner man
I'm not eating here again, the chicken was underdone
I’m not eating here again, the chicken was underdone
Meeting Buttercup, while the sheep talk amongst themselves
Meeting a docile Buttercup, while the sheep huddle and talk amongst themselves

I was away a full hour and a half later- ‘I’m on holiday!” There was quite a bit of grazing pasture crossed in the afternoon but the miles fell easily enough. This was probably why I was now encountering quite a few Clegs. Or rather, the little grey blighters were encountering me. Bare legs are always an attraction to those silent flying and soft landing vicious vampires. I also came across a couple of huge horseflies that I at first thought were hornets due to their size, almost an inch in length.

Huge horsefly. Tabanidae sp.
Huge horsefly. Tabanidae sp.
Miles of grazing pasture made for less interesting walking
Following lunch, miles of grazing pasture made for less interesting walking in the afternoon

Eventually leaving pasture behind, there was just a little almost decent moorland walking. I had begun looking for a wildcamp prior to reaching Settle but the only halfway decent spot was already occupied by a gypsy caravan, complete with gigs and wagon alongside.

There was also a rather capable looking dog studied me. Further on there were five horses chained for large individual grazing circles. What John Hillaby referred to in Journey through Britain as ‘poovin’ the greys’. Basically, often illegal, free grazing on what may be, but is not always, access land.

Gypsy caravan beyond Long Preston
Gypsy caravan up on the moors

I finally reached the road descent down into Settle. It is a long long walk down to the town but enjoyable nonetheless. I passed a waymarker post where the trail divided. I originally had no intention of starting the Settle Loop today but I simply couldn’t find anywhere suited to a camp. If I turned right at this point it was obvious that once I had completed the Loop tomorrow I was going to have to complete a long climb out of Settle to this place tomorrow, to then turn round and walk back the same way back into town. It looked like I was going to have to walk down into and continue on, beyond and out of Settle today. I wouldn’t get to experience much of the joys of Settle, that would have to wait until tomorrow. But I did have unexpected entertainment as I walked through the upper streets. Settle has a flowerpot festival each summer and I passed dozens of designs, some quite inventive.

It is a steep climb out of Settle, at least initially, followed by pleasant walking along the contours of rolling hills, but I could see I was ascending into low cloud and the weather forecast was poor for the night. I had just completed an 18.85 mile walk to Settle with 2061 feet of ascent. I didn’t know it then but I had another three miles and a thousand feet of climb before I would find my pitch for the night, but that is for the next blog on the next stage on my Pennine Bridleway- The Settle Loop.

Leaving Settle behind
Leaving Settle behind
The Trail divides
The Trail divides
Wildcamp on the Settle Lop on Day Ten on trail
Wildcamp on the Settle Loop on Day Ten on trail

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