Day 26 – James Herriot Country

Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale

And that photo is the fearsome Pen-y-Ghent, today’s big challenge.

I’m in the Yorkshire Dales National Park for a few days. It’s the land of James Herriot, the much loved veterinary surgeon. At this precise moment I’m sitting in a farm outside Horton in Ribblesdale looking out of the window. The Settle to Carlisle railway runs just ahead and beyond are the massive hills of Millstone Grit which I’ve climbed today. There are tiny patches of sunny blue sky overwhelmed by masses of fast moving low black clouds. Colours everywhere.

Last night I phoned the farm to order dinner. I knew it was going to be a tough day because there are three steep climbs, the last of which is Pen-y-Ghent, one of the three Yorkshire peaks. I asked what time walkers normally arrive. “Between 4pm and 5pm but it depends on the weather on Pen-y-Ghent, of course”

I set off from Malham at 8am with my flask of coffee and packed lunch and headed for Malham Cove. It’s a popular walk and you soon reach the spectacular high limestone scenery as you climb to the top of the Cove and admire the view over Malham. The limestone pavement featured in a Harry Potter movie. Some will venture on across the National Trust Malham Tarn Estate to the large expanse of glacial water which is Malham Tarn.

At 8am I had the place to myself. It’s a strange feeling because it’s wild and remote but also very popular with the crowds swarming up from Malham after breakfast. I followed a trail of orange peels and there were occasional sweet wrappers too.

Beyond the tarn is the field centre where school children and students spend several days studying the local environment. I enjoyed my field trips while at school but the big house looked deserted today.

After that, the litter vanished and the Pennine Way turned towards the wilds of Fountains Fell, the second big climb. I met a man who was spending a few days walking and camping so we had a quick chat. It was grey and overcast with a strong wind and some rain. This Fell was the most remote and desolate part of the day. I couldn’t choose my thoughts. They just come, distant memories but for once, someone else’s mistake. Nothing to do with me.

The summit of Fountains Fell was windy and treacherous; one false step and you could disappear down an old mine shaft. Also, you can see Pen-y-Ghent ahead, the third steep climb of the day and the highest. It’s a formidable lump of millstone grit on limestone. I descended the Fell and ate my cheese sandwich in the shelter of a dry stone wall and prepared myself for the challenge.

Pen-y-Ghent is the Pennine Way’s own north face. Looking at it you’d imagine it had never been climbed before. It appeared to be vertical on all sides but the Pennine Way goes over the top so I set off on my climb.

In a short while I saw my second human beings of the day. A small group on the way down. I was keen to hear news of the ascent and conditions ahead. They said they were locals and that they often make the climb. I looked at the girl. She was wearing denims and one leg was soaking. She had fallen down a hole covered with grass and full of water. But she was cheerful enough. I said, “how old are you?” “Six”, she replied.

It got worse. Admittedly the climb up the other side was more gentle but when I reached the summit there was a crowd up there including a couple with a poodle, several fell runners in skimpy outfits and the hardened elderly.

I walked down the easy side of Pen-y-Ghent into Horton in Ribblesdale and drank a pint of Fosters in the Crown. The time was just 2pm. I didn’t dare go to the farm in case they thought I’d come by bus.

Malham Cove

The Harry Potter limestone pavement

Malham Tarn

Summit of Fountains Fell

The climb up Pen-y-Ghent

17 comments on “Day 26 – James Herriot Country

  1. David Jury

    Seems you had an enjoyable day on the moors. Well done Tim !

    • Hi David, itโ€™s a joy! You are spoilt living on Exmoor. Tim

  2. Not Last of the Summer Wine then eh

    • I never watched any of them but itโ€™s a great title. What does it mean? Is there a winter wine?

      • I think the title song lyrics explain.
        Winter Wine is a song by Caravan

  3. Tassie Kaz

    Very specky Tim!
    What is the approx elevation of Fountains Fell & Pen-y-Ghent? Assume you’re already ASL before the ascents.
    Also I’m curious about English road & trail signs being in miles but you speak (write) in kilometres. I was a bit thrown off by the distance signs walking London to Dover last year & was always converting. If locals convert too, why aren’t signs in metric? Of course I realise it’s a huge undertaking to replace every sign every where but even new signs were still in miles; just curious as to the reasoning…. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Keep going…you’re doing well. ๐Ÿ‘

    • Malham 200m, Malham Cove 350m, Fountains Fell 650m, Pen-y-Ghent 700m, Horton 250m. I walk overseas so I always work in kilometres. Britain is a mess. We went half way to decimalisation then stopped. We work in centimetres and metres then switch to miles. I canโ€™t imagine how teachers explain it to the kids. Island mentality.

  4. Tassie Kaz

    PS. I see there’s a new breed a sheep to add the the list..the Blue Butt…I’m sure Vicky will note that too! ๐Ÿ˜„

  5. Vicky Williamson

    Kia ora, Tim, The countryside is definitely more challenging but it is also very old judging by the rounded shapes. Well done on the speed at which you completed today’s mission. How did Pen-Y-Ghent compare with Temple 12, Shosanji, aka the pilgrim crusher? Yes, Tassie Kaz, I noticed Blue Butt. Wrong time of year for tupping so possibly it has a fate not wise to contemplate! Tim, why Fosters? Surely there are worthy local beers to be investigated?! Kia kaha, Vicky

    • 12 has the big dip in the middle otherwise itโ€™s up all day. Here you tend to end up more or less where you started. Both just as tiring! All our local beers are rubbish compared to Fosters.

  6. Vicky Williamson

    On second thought – watch out, it could be a werewolf in sheep’s clothing! Kia kaha, Vicky

  7. Hi Tim. Again what amazing countryside! I know my lovely dad Garth would have enjoyed sharing the James Herriot part of your walk (he loved watching the TV series). Hope you got fed well at the farm house!

    • Thank you of course I was well fed. I could have had one of their chickens or they would have happily slaughtered a sheep but I chose pork to keep all the other animals happy. Tim

  8. Rebecca

    Such a pleasure to read your blog each morning as we drink our coffee and watch a scorching sun come up over the lake through the cypress trees. It is such a balm to imagine the cool misty landscapes you are experiencing and the sensation of being cold. Then we check our weather forecast only to learn again that the temperature will be in the high 90ties but will feel like a 104 due to the 95 percent humidity. Yesterday I never left the AC to go outside. No relief in sight.

    • Hi Rebecca, I hope my blog is ๐Ÿ˜Ž enough for you both. Itโ€™s perfect walking weather and a delight to experience England at walking speed. Tim

  9. What an absolutely beautiful place. Bleak yes, but stunning. Well done you, what an achievement!

  10. Magnificent photography as usual ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

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