Sunday 13 August 2023

Walking the Herriot Way

 The Herriot Way

The Herriot Way is a 4 day, approx 52 mile walk in Swaledale and Wensleydale.  Inspired by a walk first described by James Herriot, the famous dales vet.  The Herriot Way is a circular walk that traditionally starts and ends in Aysgarth in Wensleydale however as I live in Keld in Swaledale, I wanted to start and finish in my own back yard!


The most important element of a long distance walk is careful planning and a good map.  Stuart Greig's pocket size guide and downloadable maps are the most wonderful resource imaginable.  Each of the four days are described step-by-step in the little book and provide almost bomb-proof directions.  The written instructions are backed up with a series of maps showing the Herriot Way path and the surrounding landscape and are annotated to keep you on the right track.  I cannot recommend Stuart Greig's guides highly enough particularly for someone like me who does not want a huge, flapping OS map and who can't use a compass!  Walking the Herriot Way

Day 1: Keld to Reeth - 12 miles

There is a choice of the high road or the low road between Keld and Reeth.  I chose the low route to ease the legs in but the views were still tremendous.  Weather was on our side too.

Plenty of stiles!

Taking a break and taking in the Swaledale scenery.

Day 2:  Reeth to Aysgarth via Castle Bolton - 14 miles

Day two was absolutely spectacular with views to die for and the most beautiful stretches of purple heather as far as the eye could see.  Grinton Moor was as sea of purple and the honey fragrance that floated in waves on the warm breeze was intoxicating.


Dropping over the top into Wensleydale.

Day 3:  Aysgarth to Hawes - 12 miles

In comparison to the other three days on the Herriot Way the walk from Aysgarth to Hawes is a pleasant ramble taking in several lovely dales villages. Askrigg was the first we came to.  Askrigg will be forever immortalised as the village of Darrowby in the original tv series of All Creatures Great & Small, home of the fictitious vet James Herriot. The building that was used as the Farnon & Herriot residence and veterinary practice is still there with the name Skeldale House etched above the front door.  The Kings Arms Hotel was used extensively as the Drovers.  The walls in the bar proudly display photographs of the stars during filming of this iconic and much loved BBC television series that brought the James Herriot stories and the Yorkshire Dales to millions of front rooms on a Sunday evening in the 1970s and 80s.
Hardraw is the last stop before Hawes and a rest and a swift drink at the Green Dragon is most welcome.  The Green Dragon is an original dales pub with stone flagged floor, range fire (even lit in August!), low beamed ceilings and a typical Yorkshire welcome.  No wonder the interior was chosen as the Drovers for the new Channel 5 All Creatures Great & Small tv series which is as popular on our screens in 2023 as the orginal series was over fifty years ago.

Day 4:  Hawes to Keld - 12 miles

The walk from Hawes to Keld over Great Shunner Fell, Yorkshire's third highest mountain, was always going to be the hardest day.  We were however blessed with the most glorious weather.  It was tough walking as the sun beamed down on the steep slopes but at each break for breath the views behind were breathtaking.

and finally to the top ..... and Swaledale opened up ahead .... beautiful Swaledale, beautiful dale.

In 2013 I went to the top of Great Shunner Fell on a quad bike.  Ten years ago I couldn't have walked there to save my life but this year, August 2023, I reached the top under my own steam relying on nothing other than my own feet, legs and lungs.  It was a fantastic feeling.  

I am now looking forward to my next adventure.  I will certainly be chosing one of Stuart Greig's walks as I love his format and his easy to follow instructions.  I feel safe in his hands and in his footsteps Stuart Greig - Lonewalker 

Thursday 20 July 2023

Walking to Nine Standards Rigg, Cumbria

 Nine Standards Rigg

Nine Standards Rigg is an iconic landmark near the summit of Hartley Fell in Cumbria.  Nine cairns, some which once stood nearly 4 metres high, stand at 2170 ft above sea level and provide spectacular 360 degree, panoramic views of the Teesdale hills, Swaledale, the Cumbrian hills and the Lake District mountains in the far distance.  Nobody really knows why they are there.  Some say they could have been an ancient boundary marker between Swaledale and Westmorland.  Another theory is that they were built to give the impression of a large army encampment and that the 'standard' or flag would have flown from the top of each cairn, sending a warning to any approaching foes.

Whatever their purpose, I am pleased I made it to the top,  Another boxed ticked!

My walk stared in the pretty village of Hartley just outside of Kirkby Stephen.  The village has popped up along both sides of a babbling stream with several attractive little footbridges that knit the village together.  At the top of the village is a short path (thoughtfully signposted) through a wooded area that is a pleasant diversion from the road.  Coming out of the wood carry on up hill to a left hand junction clearly marked 'Walkers path and C2C'.

The first glimpse of the Nine Standards

The trail is very easy to follow.  The first mile or so is along a the tarmac road that leads to the fell gate.

Through the fell gate and a wooden seat provides a good stopping place to take on water and admire the wonderful views of the Eden Valley that has been left behind.  The whole walk is largely uphill.  Hartley is 575 ft above sea level and Nine Standards Rigg stands at 2170 ft above sea level.  It doesn't have to be an uphill struggle but it does take stamina and a degree of determination.

Looking back from whence you came.

The path is easy to follow. There are however three different colour coded routes for different times of year.  These are for guidance only and are for those who are following the C2C trail all the way through to Keld.  For the purpose of walking to Nine Standards walkers are asked to use the Permissive Path.

Coast to Coast Walk and Nine Standards.  Due to severe ground damage the path has been re-routed.  Please follow the waymarked Permissive Path.

The fell is a working environment for hill farmers.  When gathered in, the sheep are penned up for one of many reasons; clipping, dozing, sorting, foot bathing.  These pens, although in a very remote spot, are in regular use. 


Although the trail is easy to follow the stone cairns have a habit of coming in and out of view.  There they are on the horizon but the next time you look they have disappeared.  Stick to path, you will get there eventually.

 Wow!  That last half mile is certainly worth it. 
This is also a natural watershed.  From here any water that falls to the west of the cairns flows back down to the River Eden and any water that falls to the east of the cairns flows into the River Swale.

For me this is where the walk ended.  After a short break and a well deserved sandwich I turned round and walked back down the 3.5 miles to Hartley.  

For a small bribe and by prior arrangement, any serious walker staying at Pry House Farm B&B who would like to tackle the whole stretch from Kirkby Stephen to Keld, a lift to Kirkby Stephen is possible. 

Saturday 24 June 2023

My Own Garden and Favourite Gardens to Visit

 My Garden and My Favourite Gardens to Visit

I love nothing more than being in the garden.  To see the borders, change from bare soil to lush green, hot pinks, purple, peeping blues and sunshine yellow gives me untold pleasure.  From the earliest bulbs to the vigourous hardy perenials, every aspect of my garden is a joy.

Gardening at 1300ft above sea level with a prevailing westerly wind and above average rainfall presents its challenges.  It is no good being over ambitious when choosing plants for the garden at Pry House Farm.  Everything has to be very hardy so its best to try and mirror what grows naturally here and not to pick a fight with Mother Nature! Plants like marshmarigold, forget-me-nots, foxgloves, michaelmass daisies, hardy annual geranium, geum, astilbe, primrose & primulas, London pride, Russian iris and Yellow flag all do well in the garden at Pry House.

At Hillcrest Cottage the soil conditions are completely different.  The garden is very well drained and drought resistent plants thrive in the south facing aspect.  Peonies and Japanese anemones, roses, fuchia, foxgloves, aquilegia, lavender, hardy geraniums, rosemary and poppies grow in abundance at the cottage. The front garden at Hillcrest  is a lovely place to be.

The garden is delightful but the eye is always drawn to the fells beyond with the miles of drystone walls snaking up the hillside, sheep dotted here and there, a couple of tumble down buildings completes the scene. Idyllic.  

There is generally something to catch the eye.  A farmer checking his sheep, people out for a walk, heigher up a vehicle squeezes slowly between the walls of a narrow lane.  The views from Hillcrest are mesmerising. 

Gardens I like to visit

Parcevall Hall in Whafedale - my absolute favourite

Parcevall Hall

Parcevall Hall is quite literally a hidden treasure.  Hidden down a narrow lane that leads to nowhere except Parcevall Hall, hidden by trees but with the most amazing outlook, the journey is more than worth it. Not that the journey is in any way unpleasant. A lovely drive through quaintly named places like Kettlewell and Starbotton, the journey is a treasure in itself.

Parceval Hall is so well hidden, it is never overcrowded.  The woodland walk winds its way along shady paths to the formal gardens which are meticulously kept, beautifully symetrical with well tended borders, a traditional lily pond, rose garden, niches and corners to sit to admire the jaw dropping vista towards Simon's Seat and the high fells.

Behind the hall (not open to the public) is a large limestone rock garden. A footpath explores every area with bridges over the stream, a natural pond full of water plants and marginals and occasional quiet seating areas.  

Don't take my word for it, go see for yourselves.

Eggleston Hall Gardens near Barnard Castle My nearest-to-home, all time favourite

(photos courtesy of Ryan Slee)

Eggleston Hall Gardens, the secret garden of the North.  
Eggleston Hall Gardens is primarily a nursery that grows and nurtures a huge range of plants and shrubs.  The staff are highly experienced plants people with a wealth of knowledge and are readily on hand to give advice and help.

 In addition to the nursery, the growing beds and the glass houses is an enchanting garden walk.  Nothing formal here, instead pathways and yew arches that lead from one fabulously planted area to the next.  

For hundreds of years there has been a private chapel at Eggleston Hall.  It fell into disrepair when it closed in the late 1800s and stood unwanted and overgrown for over 120 years until it was cleared and tended and returned to a quiet place of contemplation and peace.  Not just a spiritual place but a place full of local history.  The earliest gravestones are marked 1607. On the edge of the churchyard, by the wall, are three small headstones marking the graves of family pets.

Less than an hour from both Pry House Farm and Hillcrest Cottage, a visit to Eggleston Hall Gardens and the Court House Cafe is a super day out for all garden lovers.

Aysgarth Edwardian Rock Garden

Built for a wealthy local game & fur dealer and amateur horticulturist, the Edwardian Rock Garden can easily be found on the western edge of the small Wensleydale village of  Aysgarth.  Its an unusual find, a folly perhaps, as today it would be unheard of, to move giant pieces of limestone rock to create a garden. Nevertheless its a little gem of a place and Mr Frank Sayer Graham's whim is our gain.

The garden is home to over 300 varieties of plants and alpines.

Listed in 1988 the Edwardian Rock Garden is perhaps the most unusual listed property in the Yorkshire Dales. Having fell into disuse for many years funds were raised to restore it to its former glory.  The  present owners are happy for visitors to venture through the gate and enjoy this small but magical place. 

There is an honesty box for donations which are gratefully accepted and used for the upkeep of the garden.

The Swaledale - one big garden of meadows, moorland, pastures & roadsides

Let's be honest, the whole of Upper Swaledale is every gardener's dream.  

Our traditional hay meadows produce a show of flowers worthy of Chelsea Gold.  

However its not just our meadows that cause gasps of delight.  Swathes of tiny wild pansies and viola grow on the high moorland pastures.

Along roadsides dog rose and hawthorn blossom flower in profusion and marsh marigold or king cup create ribbons of yellow in damp places while gentle primrose, shy violet and beautiful bluebells hide in the shade.


Despite being surrounded by natural beauty and wild flowers of every description I could not be without my own garden.  Once you've caught the gardening bug, its with you forever!
Happy Gardening and Happy Garden Visiting.


Thursday 22 June 2023

Tan Hill to Pry House Farm via Keld with optional extension via Ravenseat

 Walking on Top of the World 

Tan Hill Inn to Pry House Farm on both the Pennine Way & Coast to Coast Paths or finish in Keld

This is a linear walk of between 4.5 and 10 miles depending on which route you choose.

By prior arrangement only and for a small bribe, Pry House Farm B&B guests can ask to be transported to Tan Hill.  Otherwise 2 cars are required, one being at your finishing point.    

Start at the Tan Hill Inn and take the Pennine Way footpath which is directly opposite the pub and clearly signposted.

Looking back at Tan Hill Inn, this is top-of-the-world walking. 

The path is well marked with fingerposts and waymarkers.  Along the entire route the footpath is pretty obvious and relatively easy going.  The day I did this walk the weather was very warm.  Despite this, a sweatshirt was definitely required.  At 1700 ft above sea level, even on the hottest day, the breeze on the tops dictates an extra layer.  

Under foot was dry, tinder dry, infact unusually dry for the peat moors of the upper dales.  But don't be fooled, whatever the weather and whatever the season strong, waterproof footwear is essential. 

Its wild up on the open moors but there is plenty company; curlew, skylark, golden plover, grouse, pipets & peewits and naturally lots of sheep and lambs.

In late spring the moor is covered in cotton flower, blowing delicately in the wind.

The path winds and turns, down over becks and streams, twisting and turning past shepherd's sheep pens and exposed black, peat hags.  Reassuringly the Stonesdale to Tan Hill road is often in view far below to the right.  There is no chance of getting lost or going astray on this well worn track with so many landmarks to guide you.

Frith Lodge Ahoy!

After passing through a gate between a couple of stone farm buildings or cow'uses as they are known as in Swaledale the first and only dwelling between Tan Hill and Stonesdale comes into view;  Frith Lodge.  Frith Lodge is an exceptionally fine Bed & Breakfast establishment that is reknowned for its high standard of accommodation, panoramic location and wonderful hospitality.

Looking down to West Stonesdale and towards Swaledale. 

Having past Frith Lodge, the path meanders down to Keld village in less than an hour.  As the track decends look out for a fingerpost marked Pennine Way straight ahead and public bridleway right.  If journey's end for you is Keld village then continue downhill following the Pennine Way.  If you are walking back to Pry House Farm turn right here along the public bridleway behind East Stonesdale Farm (now a very smart looking house) and on to meet the twisty road to Tan Hill.

Turn right, uphill for a few strides and on the opposite side of the road pass through the waymarked gate.  The path is adjacent to the B6270 road and the River Swale but high above both tracking the limstone scar.  This is a lovely path with occasional glimpses of the river below through fissures in the giant limstone rock.  Some parts are open, others shaded with woodland or crowded with giant fern.  

Shortly the path meets a track that goes down to the road.  Turn left and at the road turn right to walk the last half mile back to Pry House Farm making the walk a total of 6 miles. Alternatively turn right and continue up hill on the rough track which is the Coast to Coast path to Ravenseat.  At Ravenseat take the single track tarmac road for one & a half miles back to Pry House Farm.  The Ravenseat option extends the walk by 4 miles making a total of 10 miles.
Click on this link.  It describes the path to Ravenseat. Ravenseat walk