We knew that daylight hours would be our main challenge with planning a walk in January. It would need to be one of the nearest Dales, Wharfedale, and a reasonably short walk. Wharfedale is one of the longest Dales (valleys), running from North to South, named after the River Wharfe that runs through the valley. We chose a dale that was an hours drive away, and made sure we had everything ready the day before, so we could set off early. Or so we thought!! We'd forgotten to sort out the girls hats and gloves, it had been frosty over night so we had to deice the van, and we had forgotten to get diesel! (must remember to note these down, you live and learn, especially trying to get out early with a family). We arrived at Grassington around 10:30, and by the time we'd got our boots on it was around 11 am we set off walking.
We walked through the beautiful village of Grassington, and were surprised to find the shops all redressed in a 30's style.
The village was being used as a film set for a new series of 'All Creatures Great And Small', a popular TV programme from the 70's about Yorkshire Vet 'James Herriot'. I remember my mum reading the books, and watching the TV programme when we were little. Since our walk I've found the whole series on You Tube, and we've begun watching them as a family.
From Grassington we picked up the Dales Way and headed over our first stile, set into one of Yorkshire's iconic dry stone walls
There had been a frost overnight, so it was great to be treading solid earth, what would have been very muddy, soggy ground otherwise. My kids had great fun smashing all the puddles of cat ice as we walked along.
The Yorkshire Dales lies on a platform of ancient rocks, on top of which lies more recent limestone. Over the millennia, great scars, dales and limestone pavements have been carved out of the rock due to glacial movement and weather erosion. The area we walked through was littered with limestone pavements and rock formations.
The limestone pavements are a honeycomb of rocks, with a little eco system living among the cracks. It must be shelter for lots of animals, insects and plants. We had our lunch sat up on one of the sections of rock, with an amazing view on one side, and a flock of swaledale sheep on the other. There were lots of walkers out enjoying the January sunshine.
We carried on along the Dales Way till we reached the section where we would turn off. We could see the dry valley of Consitone Dib below and another limestone pavement up above. We decided to go and have a look. It was a beautiful stretch, high up with views across the moor and down into Wharfedale.
The kids explored whilst my husband I decided to sketch our surroundings. We were mindful of the time, as we were under half way back and the light was changing quite quickly.
We descended into Conistone Dib, a dry limestone valley. It was like heading into a page from Lord Of the Rings. We scrambled down slippery limestone rocks into a narrow valley carved out by ice and water. The kids love this sort of terrain, it's hard work and exciting, squeezing through narrow gaps in the rock.
It was a magical section with high slopes, and trees clinging to the rocks. We reached the village of Conistone just before 3 pm, welcomed by a little group of Wensleydale lambs. The sun was beginning it's descent, so we pushed on, the route taking us back the way we had come towards Grassington. We walked in between, up and down other small valleys, and passed Dib Scar and even more sections of limestone pavements.
It was a tough walk back, as we were tired. The frost had melted, turning the ground much muddier, and harder to walk through. We made it back to Grassington around 4pm, just in time to catch the bookshop before it closed and to see a wonderful sunset.
My eldest had stayed at home as she had an exam to revise for, we let her know when we had set off, and arrived home to a lovely Sunday dinner already made.
A great walk, and a great day.
Lessons for next time in Winter:
• Pack hat and gloves the night before
• Fill and pack water bottles the night before
• Fill the van with diesel the day before
• Plan for a frost, blanket over the van window the night before
Thanks for reading, Angela.