Pete's Walks - The Dales Way

Day 1 27/0604 Ilkley to Burnsall (13.5 miles)

From what I remember (and from the few photographs I took!) this was a very nice day for a walk. A minibus or small coach took us from HF Holiday’s house at Malhamdale and dropped us off at Ilkley. After the obligatory group photos at the signpost marking the start of the walk, we set off on our way, following the charming River Wharfe, which would be our companion for the next two and a bit days.>

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My fellow walkers at the start of the Dales Way in Ilkey

Early on in the walk, somewhere around Addingham, Roy and I spotted a Dipper, a bird I very rarely see. The two of us were both interested in bird watching, and several times during the holiday we would point birds out to each other. Years later, purely by chance, I bumped into Jean (our leader) and her husband, at Titchwell on the North Norfolk coast. Apparently, she’d been frustrated that Roy and I never told her about the birds we spotted, as she was a keen birder too but somehow we hadn’t twigged this!

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A mid-morning break by the river Wharfe

Just after Addingham, the Dales Way crosses from West Yorkshire into North Yorkshire. We passed a caravan park, and soon after stopped in a meadow next to the river for a short break. Continuing on, we passed a former Friends Meeting House at the start of the drive to Lobwood House. Further on we entered what was clearly parkland (grass dotted with mature trees) and soon we could see the magnificent ruins of Bolton Abbey (my guide book points out that strictly speaking it’s Bolton Priory, the village being Bolton Abbey).

We sat and had our packed lunches on a row of benches beside the ruins, joking that it was jolly decent of the Duke of Devonshire, the owner of the Bolton Abbey estate, to provide them especially for us! Only the nave remains intact of the Augustinian priory that was built here in 1154 – the nave was spared at the time of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, to be used as the parish church (a familiar story, the same happened with Priory church in my home town of Dunstable).

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The river Wharfe, as we approach Bolton Abbey

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The ruins of Bolton Priory

After lunch, some of us immediately crossed the Wharfe on a long footbridge. Braver souls (obviously not me!) used a long set of stepping stones, though they were held up a while by a very inconsiderate girl who crossed two thirds of the stones from the opposite side, then stopped and was just playing about, despite there obviously being a large group of people waiting to come the other way.

A little further on we reached Strid Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its bird and plant life, but also a popular pleasure area with a well laid-out network of paths. The real highlight here though is the Strid itself, a long and narrow channel through which the river Wharfe is forced. Lives have been lost by people foolishly trying to leap across the foaming waters – utter madness, I can’t comprehend how anyone could contemplate crossing the raging white water of the river here. It certainly makes for quite a spectacle, a complete contrast to the quiet river we’d been following for most of the day. I was obviously so awestruck, I forgot to take a photo!

I don’t remember too much about the rest of the walk, except that I stopped and bought an ice-cream, a most rare event for me, so it must have been pretty warm. We ended the walk at a bridge immediately before Burnsall, where our small coach picked us up and took us back to Malhamdale for the night.