Lady Anne's Way - 2009
This year’s Away Weekend began in fine style as ten of us left Penrith on a beautiful October morning. Five group members were suitably balanced by five guests and the gender ratio was similarly harmonious allowing conversation and banter to flow smoothly throughout the holiday! As last year we were transported safely along M6 and A65 to alight in the charming Dales market town of Skipton, birthplace of Lady Anne Clifford in 1590, where we were joined for the day by new member, Louise.
Grassington was the first objective, a mere 15 miles away along pleasant paths through Embsay and Barden Bridge before briefly joining the Dales Way and River Wharfe. The sun continued to shine as we left Burnsall to take the high route above the river through Hebden before finally dropping into Grassington and our night’s abode. This was a most classy B & B where we were made welcome and comfortable both before and after a good feed at the Forester’s Arms.
Day 2 started dull and gloomy with the forecast drizzle continuing for most of the day. Our destination of Askrigg in Wensleydale was a daunting 24 miles away but an early start saw us safely negotiating the high limestone country on Conistone Moor to descend at last out of the murk for a welcome coffee break in the delightful village of Kettlewell. Starbotton then Buckden were next up after another short section of Dales Way river walking and a short lunch break out of the rain at the day’s half way stage followed in a fortuitously discovered NT barn.
The misty heights of Stake Moss were soon reached as we marched more rapidly through the cool afternoon and easy downhill going soon saw us skirt Addlebrough to cross the River Ure at Worton. Although our day’s destination was a mere mile away our route took us on a detour to visit Nappa Hall, a former resting place for the redoubtable Lady Anne, then allowing a final scamper into Askrigg and the fleshpots of the White Rose hotel. It had been a tough day of 9+ hours though a finish just after 6pm meant head torches were thankfully redundant.
Tougher was to follow the next day as it was a further 24-miler out of Wensleydale and into Mallerstang before reaching Kirkby Stephen. Winds of 70 mph with squally showers was the meteorological promise but a goodly modicum of alcohol helped to numb the senses a little as we listened to the rain lashing at the windows all evening and night. An early start was interdicted by the fearsome landlady (no breakfast before 8.30!)but a start was eventually made in full waterproof regalia. As is usual conditions are rarely as bad as feared and although wet and (head) windy the five mile westward trail into Hawes soon passed and it would have been a brave leader who denied the bedraggled bunch a coffee and re-stocking stop here.
A long 19 miles remained, however, as we left Hawes slightly shy of midday and our leader’s few remaining grey hairs were rapidly turning white at the thoughts of benightment or worse still an enforced kip at Pendragon Castle! As to be expected, of course, the company rose magnificently to the challenge and even the most footsore hobbled rapidly up Cotter End for lunch to join the magnificent sweeping tramp along Lady Anne’s Highway above and into Mallerstang passing the infant River Eden in it’s fearsome ravine at Hell’s bridge on the way. Fortunately the wind was now largely dry and increasingly less in our faces as the day became gradually less unpleasant.
The last few miles of the day were mainly Edenside through fields and isolated hamlets passing the impressive ruins of Pendragon, another of Annie’s restorations, before finally crossing the river at Frank’s bridge and debouching at last into Kirkby Stephen after another day of over 9 hours of welcome daylight (just). Fearsome landladies abound in this part of the world but this one’s bark was worse than her bite as she fed us tea and home-made scones, hustled us shoeless to our rooms and showers before describing the way to the excellent eatery in town.
To the great relief of the less experienced in the party, Day 4 dawned fine, mild and clear making the 17 miles to Appleby along the Eden valley a walk in the park compared to the previous two days. With no time pressures this was a day of pleasant ambling with an extended stop to view Brough Castle, another recipient of her ladyship’s attentions. The paradise of Westmerian villages continued through Warcop, of firing range fame, skirting Sandford and visiting Great Ormside before ultimately reaching Appleby, capital of old Westmorland, along the peaceful river bank.
An early finish gave us time to explore this attractive town, visit Lady Anne’s (there’s a surprise)alms houses and find a riverside teashop for refreshments. The night’s digs produced a charming landlord who welcomed us unconditionally and set us off into the next fine morning replete with full tummies and pack lunches. The previous evening the Royal Oak also provided us with a memorable final meal and mucho vino enabling most to ignore our bold leader’s ramblings.
Perhaps a little sadness imbued this final day, a stretch of some further 20 miles in the Eden valley back to Penrith. Or perhaps everyone was just pleased to finish and go home! After scuttling across the awful A66 at Kirkby Thore familiar territory was reached as we briefly joined Ring 2 of our Three Rings of Shap fame. An unavoidable stretch of road walking, slightly eased by welcome and familiar views of Blencathra, lead eventually to teatime at Brougham Hall then onward to Brougham Castle now closed for the winter courtesy of English Heritage. This was where her ladyship died in 1676 at the age of 86 so it seemed a fitting place to leave the Way and skirt east of Penrith to climb its Beacon and descend over the golf course to our starting point after an excellent expedition of some 100 miles.