Last week I was in Harrogate for the annual BOHS Conference. Harrogate is north of Leeds and close to the Yorkshire Dales. it came to prominence as a fashionable spa town during the Georgian period, although much of the architecture is Victorian, and today is a pleasant tourist destination. Very pretty to look at.

I was staying at the Premier Inn, which was to one side of the once grand Majestic Hotel. This was the view from my room on a sunny Tuesday morning.


As usual, there wasn’t much time for sightseeing between conference sessions and social events – not helped by unseasonal cold weather. However, when I arrived Sunday evening, it was quite pleasant (if a little chilly!) and there was an hour of daylight left, so I had a quick wander round the town centre and snapped a few photos on my phone.

The Edwardian Royal Hall


It has a very spectacular golden decor and they hold free guided tours of the interior from time to time.

The Royal Baths


Much of the building has been given over to restaurants, but the original Turkish Baths have been refurbished and reopened in 2002

The old Royal Pump Room – now a museum








A memento for the Tour de France that started in Yorkshire in 2014 – there was a stage finish in Harrogate on the first day



The Tour of Yorkshire cycle race was due to start on Friday, the day after the conference ended, and second stage finish took place in the centre of Harrogate on Saturday.

The famous Bettys tea rooms – expensive tea and cakes and usually a long queue to get in.





Sunday morning the sun was shining. We got up early, loaded our boots and rucksacks in the car and drove over to Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales, which is less than an hour and a half away  (traffic willing), to climb Ingleborough. The mountain is one of the one of the “Yorkshire Three Peaks” and as we’d climbed Pen-y-ghent a couple of years ago we’d be able to tick off our second of the three.

It was a beautiful, warm sunny morning when we arrived in Ingleton. We parked up near the Community Centre and set off walking through the small town centre past the church


After about half a mile we reached the start of the path up to Ingleborough


It’s a good track and as it hadn’t rained for a while the path was dry underfoot (which meant I didn’t need to get my new boots muddy!!)


There were good views over to Whernside, the third of the “Three Peaks” but visibility wasn’t as good as the previous week when we’d walked up Clougha Pike, over the border in Lancashire.


The route involved a gradual ascent over a couple of miles along a well defined path followed by a short steep climb of the cliffs up to the gritstone cap at the end to reach the summit.



About half way along the route we passed this isolated farmhouse – “the Little house on the Prairie”? It looked nice in the sunshine but it would be a very bleak setting for much of the year.



As we were walking along the valley, looking back we could see cloud coming in from the north west and there was a strong breeze behind us. The wind became fiercer as we climbed the final steep section up the millstone grit cap that gives the mountain it’s distinctive shape. Luckily we’re reasonably sensible and had come prepared with jumpers, gloves and coats in our day sacks. It was time to put them on. Yet we passed quite a few people ill-equipped wearing t-shirts, flimsy tops and dresses and completely inadequate footwear. As a popular mountain in a National Park it attracts a lot of day trippers who setting out on a bright, warm, sunny day don’t realise just how quickly conditions can change.

As we climbed, the cloud had come in, engulfing the summit at almost the same time as we reached the top and the wind was blowing strongly enough to knock the unwary off their feet.


Despite being a “peak” the summit is a flat plateau which, on a good day, has extensive views over the Dales and to Pen-y-ghent and Whernside.


We managed to find a seat inside the wind shelter to take a rest, a drink and a bite to eat. And we chatted with some other walkers, some of whom were attempting the Three Peaks Challenge. Not for us though, one peak was enough for today!


Unfortunately, the low cloud was obscuring the views


We set back down retracing our route. A circular walk is possible but it would have meant either finishing with a long stretch on tarmac, which didn’t appeal, or navigating along unfamiliar territory without clear paths and we didn’t want to risk that in misty conditions.


The countryside is a mixture of moorland and limestone outcrops


Looking back the mountain had disappeared!


Approaching Ingleton village


A brew awaited in one of the many Cafés in the village. (I wonder what the Bristol ‘grammar vigilante’ would make of the sign!)


A proper mug of tea! (and only a quid!)IMG_0039

So our second of the “Three Peaks” conquered. Whernside next!

Hebden Bridge, Gibson Mill and Hardcastle Crags

After a hectic few weeks at work I took something of an inprompu decision to extend the Bank Hliday weekend and take a few days off work. I had a commitment on the Wednesday but decided that I could afford to take the other three days of the working week as holiday.

On the Tuesday we caught the train to Manchester and then transferred on to another that took us to Hebden Bridge. A total journey time of just over 1 1/2 hours.


Hebden bridge is a picturesque, small former textile town. Like most similar towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire, its industry declined in the 1960’s and 70’s. However, it got a new lease of life when it was colonised by artists, writers and “New Age” types in the 1970’s and 80’s. Today it’s a thriving tourist “honey pot” with art galleries, independent shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s featured in TV recently as one of the settings for the gritty police thriller “Happy Valley” and was in the news over the Christmas period when it was badly hit by the floods that affected the North of England.

We had a quick look around the town, but our main objective was to walk up to the National Trust site of Hardcastle Crags.

A beauty spot of the South Pennines with more than 160 hectares (400 acres) of unspoilt woodland.

Hebden Bridge has been designated as a “Walkers Welcome Town”. As part of this there are way marked trails  and other facilities for walkers. We were going to follow one of the trails up to the Hardcastle Crags site and then explore the woodlands. So we made our way across town and then crossed the small bridge over Hebden Water. The track more or less followed the course of the right bank of the river


The trail took us through pleasant woodland along the bank of the river


Before deviating up hill


Following a track higher up the side of the valley


before descending back down to the river bank


Close to the beginning of the Castle Crags estate


There are several waymarked trails in the woods. We took the path that continued to follow the course of the river, heading upstream towards Gibson Mill.


At several points the river could be crossed using stepping stones. Not too bad as the river level was low, but probably more scary when the water is deeper.


Eventually we arrived at Gibson Mill, about  half a mile along the valley, which was built around 1800.

The National Trust website gives us a little history

The mill was driven by a water wheel and produced cotton cloth up until 1890. In 1833, twenty one workers were employed, each working around seventy two hours per week and living in the adjacent mill workers’ cottages.

In the early 1900s, Gibson Mill began to be used as an ‘entertainment emporium’ for the local people. It offered dining saloons, a dance hall, a roller-skating rink, refreshment kiosks and boating on the mill pond. After the Second World War, the mill slipped into disuse, and was acquired by the National Trust in 1950.



We had a bite to eat in the obligatory cafe and then had a look around the mill building where there were displays and information about the mill and it’s history.


It was only a small building and only a few spinners were employed. This coupled with its location made it uneconomic. But in the early years of the 20th century it became a popular destination for workers from the nearby West Yorkshire textile towns


One of the displays was a recreation of the tea rooms that occupiedthe top floor of the building with two sections – First Class and Second Class.


The NT have made efforts for the mill to become a model of sustainable development and self sufficiency. Power is provided by two water powered turbines, photo voltaic panels and a wood burning boiler. There’s also a wood burning ceramic stove and composting toilets (being repaired currently so they’ve had to bring in temporary chemical porta-loos) and they’ve used locally-sourced reclaimed interior materials.

After looking around the mill we decided to follow the Railway Trail that headed further upstream.

Map route for railway walk at Hardcastle Crags

Back through woodlands



There were still lots f bluebells to be seen higher up the valley



Eventually we came out of the woods into more rugged moorland


before descending back down to the bottom of the valley, turning back to head downstream.

After a while the trail took us over a footbridge on to the other side of the river, climbing up the valley side and through more wodland


There were large expanses of wild garlic coming into flower (we could usually smell it before we could see it!)


The path took us past the crags themselves – stacks of millstone grit (a hard sandstone found all over the Pennines).


Eventually we arrived back at he mill.


We retraced our steps and leaving the estate took the path on the left bank of the river back to Hebden Bridge. Then on to the station to catch our train back to Manchester and beyond!


Roseberry Topping and the Cook Monument circular walk


We were travelling back from Sunderland last Monday and as it was forecast to be a fine sunny day (as it transpired to be!) we’d decided to divert off the A19 and go for a walk in the North York Moors. I’d checked out the National Park website where they have a number of walks and picked one that looked the right sort of length through some varied countryside at the north end of the National Park.

Starting from the village of Great Ayton, it was a circular walk that would take us over two hills, the second of which was topped by a monument to Captain Cook.


James Cook was born in the nearby village of Marton but in1736,when he was 8, his family moved to Airey Holme farm at Great Ayton, where his father’s employer, Thomas Skottowe, paid for him to attend the local school.

I’d seen the cottage in Great Ayton which was the last home of his parents when I was in Melbourne, in November 2014. It had been dismantled and shipped out to Australia where it was re-erected in Fitzroy Park.


There’s a family connection with Captain Cook and this area. My wife and, therefore, my children, are descendants of one of his siblings.

So, we parked up in the village, close to the village green and the Tourist Information office. It’s a pleasant little place, especially on a warm, sunny day.


The old school house has been turned into a museum.


And, not surprisingly, there’s a statue of the famous explorer

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He was decked out in a fluorescent tabard for the Tour of Yorkshire Cycle race that had passed through the village a few days before on 1 March


We set out through the village, crossing a field and then the single track railway line that runs to the north.


Our route took us through woodland, where the bluebells were in bloom.


A distinctive, strong odour indicated the presence of “stinking Nelly” – wild garlic


Eventually we got our first view of the distinctive summit of Roseberry Topping, our first hill, which is owned by the National Trust.


The NT website tells us

At just 1,049 feet (320 m) high, Roseberry Topping may not be the biggest hill you’ll ever see, but it will certainly be one of the most distinctive. Its shape, caused by the combination of a geological fault and a mining collapse in 1912 has made the hill the most beloved landmark in the Tees Valley area. With its half-cone summit and jagged cliff, some say it reminds them of the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

We carried on through the woods


and then took the steep path up to the summit


where we were rewarded with fine views over the surrounding countryside.





It’s said that the young James Cook would climb to the summit, enjoying the opportunity for solitude. But he wouldn’t have had much of that these days, as it’s a popular destination. It was quite busy but, with careful framing and timing, I managed to avoid too many people being in shot when I took my photographs!

It was quite windy up top so we didn’t stay too long and then set off down eastwards along the ridge towards our next destination. A steep descent then another climb up on to the moors


This is the view looking back towards the east face of Roseberry Topping.


Our route took us along the Cleveland Way across relatively flat moorland


and then on to our next destination. The summit of another hill where there’s a monument dedicated to my wife’s relative!



Looking back to Roseberry Topping, zooming in with my camera.


There were good views across the North York moors.



Then we set off down the steep path through the pine woodland.


At the bottom of the hill there was a good view of Roseberry Topping and the moors  we’d walked across.


Our route now took us through farmland


More bluebells


Looking back towards Cook’s Monument


We eventually arrived back at Great Ayton where we had just enough time to reward ourselves with a brew before the cafe closed for the day. (Why are cafes so eager to close at 5 o’clock? There were plenty of tourists and locals around who clearly would have liked a brew but were turned away as soon as it struck 4:30. We only just made it)


It was a good walk through varied countryside – fields, woodland, a couple of hills and wild moorland. It could get quite muddy in places, but recent dry weather meant that other than a few places (especially in shaded woodland) it was relatively dry underfoot.

Bolton Abbey, Simon’s Seat and Wharfedale


Last Sunday the weather forecast was promising so we decided to drive over to Bolton Abbey and go for a walk. It’s only about 80 minutes drive, but we hadn’t been there for quite some time. Bolton Abbey Estate is owned by the Devonshire Estate, best known for Chatsworth in Derbyshire, and they’re very commercially savvy, so charge a relatively hefty £8 flat fee for parking.  Reasonable if you’re stopping for the day I guess, but a little hefty for a short visit. But the car parks on the estate were busy, so I guess it’s a case of supply and demand.

In the past we’d done the circular walk from the Abbey around the river through Strid Wood and back, but this time we decided to try a more challenging walk taking a route over the moors to Simon’s Seat returning along the river.

The route description and map is available on the Bolton Abbey website. It starts from the Cavendish Lodge car park but we decided to lengthen it a little by setting out from near the old ruined Abbey. About 10 or 11 miles in total passing through varying countryside – a pleasant river valley, woodland and peat moorland.



We walked past the Abbey ruins and crossed the river. The old stepping stones were closed as a number had been washed away by the winter floods so we had to use the bridge (If I’m honest, we would have anyway as crossing by the stones is a little hairy at the best of times!)


We followed the path along the river to just past the Cavendish Pavilion bridge and then cut in land taking the path to Waterfall Cottage


Then we went through the Gate heading towards “The Valley of Desolation”.




The rather tranquil valley was given it’s rather ominous name following a damaging flood in the 19th Century


The path, climbing steadily, then led us through some woodland


and then on to the open moor.


We crossed the moor which is dotted with outcrops of millstone grit.


The path got a little rough undefoot


Finally we reached Simon’s Seat, a collection of gritstone boulders


Cloud had come in obscuring the sun and it had become rather chilly but we stopped for a while to take in the dramatic views over Wharfedale and beyond.



Then we set off back over boggy moorland


Eventually te path took us down into woodland


and into the valley


We took the footpath following the rive back downstream.


through pleasant pastoral countryside.




Eventually we reached Barden Bridge and the start of Strid Woods.


Here the river passes through a rocky gorge, becoming narrower, deeper and faster. The Strid, after which the woods are named, is a particularly narrow, turbulent and infamous section of the river.


Eventually we reached the Cavendish Pavilion where we stopped for a re-energising coffee.


We followed the river back towards the Abbey


We stopped for a little while to explore the ruins


and then through the village to the car park ready to drive home.


Bill and Ben in Settle?


During our day trip over to the Yorkshire Dales, we called into Settle, a pleasant little town, on the way back from Pen-y-Ghent. Over the summer months they’re holding a “flowerpot festival” where local shops, businesses and even some residents have created characters from flowerpots of various sizes. There were some really imaginative creations dotted around the town centre.












We didn’t find Bill and Ben, though. Floberdop!

A Walk up Pen-y-Ghent


(Map source: Andrew’s walks website http://www.andrewswalks.co.uk/pen-y-ghentmaps.html)

My passion for hill walking was reignited after our recent holiday in the Lake District. So while I had the chance I took a day off work so that we could head over to the Yorkshire Dales to to attempt to conquer another mountain – Peny-y-ghent.

Pen-y-ghent, together with Whernside and Ingleborough,  is one of the “Yorkshire Three Peaks” which form the basis of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, the aim is which is to climb all three mountains, usually in under 12 hours.

We drove over to Horton in Ribblesdale, about an hour and a half away from home, parked up and set off. We decided to adopt the most popular route – up via Bracken Bottom and then down the other side.


The start of the walk took us through some typical Yorkshire Dales rolling limestone country


Pen-y-ghent came into view. Covered in mist it looked rather menancing


But the mist cleared as we approached the mountain revealing its dramatic outline


It’s a made of limestone topped with a cap of hard gritstone.

We joined the route of the Pennine Way and the climb started to get steeper. There were a couple of more hairy vertical scrambles up the gritstone


We finally made it to the summit to be greeted by views towards Ingleborough and Whernside, the other two “Three Peaks”. The scenery isn’t as dramatic as the Lake District and the grey cloudy day with flat light didn’t bring out the best of the landscape.  But you get what you get and we were grateful that the mist had cleared.


We set back down the other side, following the rout of the Pennine Way.


A short steep section followed by a gentle descent down the ridge before taking the path almost a couple of miles along a relatively flat landscape. This is the view looking back towards the mountain.


The landscape here wasn’t so exciting but we took a short detour to visit the very dramatic Hull Pot, the largest natural hole in the UK


The steam running into the pot, which creates a waterfall in wetter weather, was dry, but it was still a dramatic sight.

Continuing the walk back to Horton – a shot looking back over the limestone outcrops to Pen-y-ghent


Coming back down to the village – with the summit of Ingleborough on the horizon


But one hill was enough for us so we headed to the Pen-y-ghent cafe for a well earned mug of very good tea.