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Water way to enjoy a week’s walking break!
There are some fine walks to be enjoyed around and between Yorkshire’s reservoirs. Yorkshire Water has steadily improved access to the land it controls and encourages people to make the most of it via various collections of walks leaflets and descriptions on its website.
Another step forward in this campaign is the publication of a couple of books charting the Yorkshire Water Way, produced by the company in partnership with respected walks writer Mark Reid (of Inn Way fame). The first of these, covering the 41-mile Yorkshire Dales section, was produced in 2006. And now it’s been followed by Volume 2 covering the 62 miles of the South Pennines and Peak District section.
“It was a pleasure working on the Yorkshire Water Way as we discovered parts of the Pennines we’d not walked before,” said Mark at the launch of Volume 2 in a bookshop which had been converted, via a scenic backdrop and a bit of drystone walling, into a corner of the Yorkshire Dales.
The “we” was a reference to his dog Elvis, who has padded along thousands of miles with him as he devised walking books for the Inn Way series, which includes the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, North York Moors, Northumberland and Lake District.
Mark added: “Working with Yorkshire Water also opened my eyes to the importance of the reservoirs and the company’s role as a custodian of the countryside, which I think few of us really appreciate.”
Yorkshire Water catchment and recreation manager Geoff Lomas said: “We hope the Yorkshire Water Way will be welcomed by seasoned hill-walkers who prefer the challenge of the open moors. The walk combines some of the best countryside Yorkshire has to offer.”
Volume 1 was divided into three “day stages” designed for serious hikers: Kettlewell to Middlesmoor (11 miles); Middlesmoor to Pateley Bridge (11.5 miles) and Pateley Bridge to Ilkley (a challenging 18.5 miles).
And now comes Volume 2, which picks up the route at Ilkley then heads across Rombalds Moor to descend via Weecher Reservoir and Shipley Glen to Saltaire before meandering through Harden and on to Haworth. It’s a 16-mile stride, timed by Mark Reid at seven to eight hours.
Next stage is a six-hour 12-miler between Haworth and Hebden Bridge past the Lower Laithe and Walshaw Dean reservoirs, with the Bronte Bridge, Wuthering Heights and Gibson’s Mill at Hardcastle Crags as highlights.
After that relative rest day, there’s a 16.5-mile section. That takes us up and over Marsden Moor after an initial route which passes Stoodley Pike and Blackwood Edge before crossing Slaithwaite Moor. There are reservoirs galore along this high-Pennines stretch: Withens Clough, Baitings, Booth Wood, Dean Head and Cupwith.
And so to the fourth and final leg of the journey: a 17.5-miler (eight hours) that passes through glorious Summer Wine country. There are four reservoirs in the first couple of hours alone: Butterley, Blakely, Wessenden and Wessenden Head. Then come the delightful twin reservoirs of Bilberry and Digley en route to the hamlet of Holme, to be followed by Brownhill and Ramsden then Harden Clough, Winscar and finally Langsett to journey’s end at Langsett village, a well-deserved pint and the start of a bus journey back home.
If you have the time and the stamina to follow this route’s 103-mile distance over a week’s walking holiday, you’ll see some of the finest scenery this county has to offer.
Each day’s walking is divided into two half-day sections, with a convenient stopping place suggested (usually with a pub). The maps are good, the route directions excellent, and there’s lots of useful information about such essentials: where you can get a bed for the night or a bus or train back home; shops, post offices and pubs along the route, toilets…that sort of thing.
Each volume of The Yorkshire Water Way by Mark Reid (part of the Inn Way series of guide books) is priced at £3.99. They’re enlivened by black-and-white line drawings and colour photographs.
It rains a lot over the Pennines. Anyone who walks in this area knows that only too well. They’ve had many a drenching to prove it.
And when it rains, the water runs off in one of two directions in the form of trickles which become streams which join rivers. It either descends westwards to the Irish Sea and the Atlantic or it goes east towards the North Sea. But how is it decided?
“A few yards, perhaps a few feet or – in theory – even a few inches, can be all that it takes,” writes Andrew Bibby in his preface to The Backbone Of England, a fine new coffee-table book which is subtitled “Life and landscape on the Pennine watershed”.
That watershed is the meandering line which decides what water goes where. Andrew Bibby has studied that line carefully, divined its route with the help of seven Ordnance Survey maps (he had a few problems in the limestone Dales, where water-courses can disappear underground), and then he walked it.
“The general direction may be northwards, but there are all sorts of deviations and diversions needed to get round the headwaters of the streams and rivers which run off the hills,” he writes.
“Here a tack to the west, there a big sweep around to the east. Furthermore, the watershed doesn’t like to be obvious. It shuns some of the best-known hills in the Pennines – Pendle, Ingleborough, Whernside, Great Whernside and Great Shunner Fell, to give a few examples – and instead seeks out some of the lesser-known summits like Boulsworth Hill near Haworth and Great Knoutberry in the northern Yorkshire Dales.”
He started out at Mam Tor in the Dark Peak, and plodded up Kinder Scout where in 1932 Benny Rothman and his fellow trespassing ramblers challenged the right of landowners to deny them a right of their own – the right to roam (it took until 2000 for that right to be fully granted in England and Wales).
And then he headed northwards. In Yorkshire, he followed the watershed between Earby and Barnoldwick, over Hard Knot Hill and to the east of Hellifield, heading for Rye Loaf Hill and Fountains Fell, then up Pen-y-ghent and over Cam Houses to Great Knoutberry and Garsdale Station. The ultimate goal was Gisland on Hadrian’s Wall.
It’s a fascinating journey, packed with geographic, environmental and historical information and punctuated with interviews with people who earn their livings along the route and, in some cases, are responsible for maintaining the countryside.
Lots of excellent photographs by John Morrison make this book a fine addition to the collection of those who are fascinated by, and care for, that long line of fells, hills and moor they call the Pennines, which those of us who have lived our life close to them sometimes take too much for granted.
The Backbone of England, by Andrew Bibby, is published by Francis Lincoln at £20.