Nobody can believe that for birthdays and Christmas these days all I ever ask for is walking gear and OS maps. “Who is this outdoor obsessed man and what has he done with my son?” my mother asks.
It all began with the arrival of our furry bundle of trouble, Herbie. My fiancée Sammy and I agreed to look after a rescue dog for a weekend as there was nobody else to do so, but we fell in love with the naughty little pup and so he came back to stay forever. Beginning with walks in the local woodland and fields of Wiltshire, it didn’t take us long to begin to appreciate the benefits that being outside brought. Fresh air, beautiful scenery, and exercise were just the start; soon we realised how walking can de-stress, unburden, and re-focus you, and so we decided to pursue it further.
When we moved to Essex, we began to put in a little more planning. Rather than just heading out and seeing where we ended up, we downloaded plans and routes, sought out local landmarks to discover, and bought our first ever OS map (OS Explorer 195, you served us well). Then a holiday on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset changed our lives forever, as we had our first taster of a National Trail in the form of the South West Coast Path, and over the course of a week walked all the way around Portland, visited the iconic Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, and hiked through the challenging Undercliffs between Lyme Regis and Seaton. We were hooked.
Now we live in Yorkshire and we’re spoilt for choice when deciding where to go walking. The Dales, the North York Moors, and The Peak District are all within 90 minutes’ drive of our home, and our library of OS maps has grown to cover them all. But walking doesn’t always have to be an expedition planned with military precision. Some of our favourite walks are where we get the family out to join us, and four or five miles around a local reservoir or country park can provide the same rejuvenating effects of blowing away the cobwebs, leaving behind the stresses of day to day life, and providing a more enjoyable way to stretch the legs than any gym I’ve ever been to.
There is always an adventure to be had, and I’m so happy that T.O.G have given me the opportunity to share some of ours with you, and I’d like to begin with a recent trip to Barden Moor.
Located at the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales and therefore taking just over an hour for us to reach, we headed to Black Hill at the edge of the moor, where we parked on a small gravel car park. We were thankful we did park here and not the one a little further down the road, as it had a handy information sign and a map instructing us to ignore the various ‘no dogs allowed’ signs we would later encounter on the route. Had we not have seen this we would have taken a vastly different course around the access land, and would have missed some of the main highlights of the day. We’ve since found it worthwhile to check in advance of our walks about any restrictions against dogs, as you find that some areas, particularly access land such as this, will not allow dogs due to the control of ground nesting birds.
Herbie discovered such birds very soon after we set off, and went berserk for the majority of the first half of the walk as grouse burst hysterically from the undergrowth, flapping and squawking wildly, much to the frustration of our (well leashed) pooch. We encountered many of these birds along the way, and the area is a shooting ground from mid-August until December – so be aware of shooting days.
As always in these parts we were immediately struck by the beauty that surrounded us. The area is vast, rugged, and wild. Huge hills engulf you, with views of the Dales stretching for miles in all directions. As I took them all in I wondered if we would ever get used to such sights, and if the increasing amount of time we spent amongst them would begin to detract from their ability to produce a constant stream of ‘wows’ as we walk. I’m going to guess that won’t ever happen. The same way that pure physical attraction develops into a deeper-rooted love, so will our devotion to this landscape we’ve started to think of as our own.
The moor contains two reservoirs, the first of which was visible to the right of the path at the start of the walk, the second coming into view as we progressed. To the left of us stretched open moorland, with stone ridges in the distance, one or two grouse shooting huts dotted around the place, and more than one or two grouse exploding from the shrubs and adding to Herbie’s excitement. Sticking to the public path, the track gives way to a narrow trail, muddier and bendier, with springs and marsh to skip and traverse. And as we forged forwards, the sight of an obelisk war memorial remained firmly in view ahead of us, which intrigued us so much that we changed our plans to include the monument on our route.
We climbed a ladder over the dry-stone wall to see Rylstone Cross, a large stone cross at the top of the fell that looms over the parish below. One of these days I’ll learn a word that can suitably describe the impact of the view that greeted from this vantage point, but nothing I can say would come close to the seeing it for yourself, it is just astonishing. Overlooking the village, neighbouring hills, and surrounding expanse from a height of 400m above sea level, the sheer vastness is overwhelming, and could not be justified by any photograph we took.
Taking the path along the edge of the crag tops and past the gorgeously curious rock formations, we headed on to see the obelisk monument dedicated to those who died in the great wars, which crowns the mighty Cracoe Fell. Here we had similarly breath-taking views, and as such decided on using this opportunity to have a rest and a bite to eat. There are few better places on this planet to have a meal, and pause to reflect. Up there the trappings of the modern world seem so distant; it’s just you, your sandwiches, and nature.
Cracking on, we headed down a path clearly well-trodden, but not featured on the OS map, which became so boggy in parts that Herbie’s feet became caked in mud so much that he looked to be wearing little black boots, until we reached a grouse shooter’s track once again. From here it was more open moorland to the right of us, and more wide open views of towns and villages such as Grassington and Hebden in the distance to our left. As the path led towards an area of disused mine shafts, we continued on the track past an old chimney protruding from the ground, and a shooting hut that had clearly had a recent makeover, before heading down to the level of the reservoirs we had passed at the beginning of the circle some hours before.
We snaked down to Upper Barden reservoir and enviously eyed the house on its water’s edge, then continued further down to Lower Barden reservoir via a track that crossed many gushing springs, before the final stage of the route brought us up a sharp hill back to the car park.
What amazed us about this walk was the absence of other people, and at times we truly felt like the only walkers on the moor. You may not find Barden on any top ten lists of places to walk in Yorkshire, but it’s a hidden gem, and an ideal place to get away from it all. You should try it.