Wednesday, 15 August 2012

In Search Of Emmerdale

     With a few days backpacking in the wonderful Dales on the cards a cursory glance at the OS showed a glaring omission in my Yorkshire CV.  Wharfedale cuts a huge glacial gash through the South of the national park and its upper reaches and offshoot valleys were virgin territory.  My obsession with a certain TV soap made the decision to go here even simpler, a few days relaxed wandering in an area where the hills aren't too big, there's plenty of pubs and none of the crowds of the Lakes.
     Setting off in the evening from Kettlewell we camped high on a level plateau overlooking the village, bustling with campers there for the scarecrow festival.
Above Kettlewell
     The hot sun woke us early and we wandered over the hill and down into the scenic Littondale, another characteristically flat-bottomed valley with a meandering river passing through sheep fields and meadows.  There's a lot of rock around here although lots of it above steep slopes.

360degree view of Littondale and Blue Scar (may take a few moments to load)
     Littondale used to be called Amerdale, a name that can still be seen at the confluence with the main valley and purportedly where the name Emmerdale came from.  Arncliffe lies in the heart of the valley and was the village, Beckindale, in the shows original incarnation.
The Woolpack
     It was strange to come across cattle on the high ground between Littondale and Malhamdale.  The upland limestone grasslands were historically maintained by mixed livestock grazing but the move toward sheep and commercial cattle breeds that don’t live well in upland areas have had a detrimental effect on the areas diversity.  For more info on this reintroduction check out The Limestone Country Project.
     There were no climbers at Malham but plenty of tourists.  The limestone pavement at the top of this huge crag is extensive, one of the best examples of such a feature in the UK. At the Lister Arms in the village I had one of the nicest beers I’ve ever tasted, Nutty Black brewed by Thwaites.  If you're into your ales by the way check out Dave Lozmans Taste Sensations Blog.  

Limestone pavement above Gordale
     We found shelter for the tents just above the drop down into the impressive Gordale Scar and the following morning hopped our way over the limestone pavements back in the direction of Malham Tarn to join a Roman road rising and falling all the way down to the village of Kilnsey.
Kilnsey The Crag
     Kilnsey crag was as impressive as I expected.  The overhang is massive and after a pint of the sheep we sat in its shade for a cuppa before making our way back up-valley.
     I love the freedom of carrying everything on your back and just bedding down when it gets dark.   I’ll have to make an effort to do this more often.