God’s Own Country. Day 3: High Lane to Hebden.

Monday 28th February 2022

(Grassington, North Yorkshire)

If yesterday was like Utah, with its blue skies and sunshine, today was like…well…like Yorkshire. Unfortunately the weather report was accurate, and the view over breakfast of the hills up the Dale was obscured by low clouds and mizzle. Last night it was my turn to not sleep so well, so I was far from up and at ‘em, instead moving from bed to the sofa, before eventually making coffee (I took Andrew boiling the kettle as a hint) and making breakfast. Still, we had planned this as an easier day, hoping for the sunshine again tomorrow, so there was no rush.

I reviewed the walk options again and decided on a 3 or 5 miler, depending on how we felt part way around. The main route would be 5 miles, but there was an opt out part way round if we wanted to shorten it. It’s always good to have options. For the start, we found our way to High Lane, just off Low Lane, our destination potentially being Hebden, and it was very promising, an old gravel road fairly solid underfoot, even if it was uphill.

The lane soon became muddy and we crisscrossed its width, seeking out the less deep puddles and avoiding the mud as much as possible, but it was slow going. The mizzle had turned to light rain and the great views across the valley, as promised by various walking guides, were instead hidden by clouds and horizontal bands of rain. Even the sheep couldn’t be bothered with the day.

We continued on our way, the lane giving way to fields which were more of a muddy challenge, as we tried to pick our way across without slipping over, or getting a pole or a boot stuck in the mud. If you’re after some building materials, I’d have to say it’s good, this Yorkshire mud…extremely sticky stuff! To add to the obstacle course, there were frequent stiles to be climbed. The local fashion is for putting a tiny, narrow wooden gate, secured with strong spring loaded hinges, at the top of narrow stone steps, steeply spaced and arranged sideways to the narrow opening, such that you have to swivel on top of the stile and risk getting booted off the top by the fast closing gate hike you do so. On occasion, this challenge is further enhanced by the placement of a metal bar across the top opening, such that there isn’t really room for your foot on either side of it. Then, of course, you have to step down the last big drop to the ground without slipping over on the mud. I wondered if farmers were awarded prizes at the end of the season for how many tourists they’d taken out.

Eventually, after crossing a particularly bad section of mud in which I nearly lost my trekking pole, and where the muddy water over topped the boots and seeped into my socks, the path got easier and we entered a SSSI, comprising the old hospital grounds and a hay meadow apparently famed for its wildflowers. At this time of year, however, and in this weather, it just looked fairly bleak.

Soon after that we reached Hebden, and found our way to the Old School House tearoom. It was already in my route plan, but walkers coming the other way had offered unsolicited praise, and fortunately it didn’t let us down. We found a table, peeled off our damp clothing (well, coats and hats) and studied the menu. After a good look, lunch was a hot chocolate each, accompanied by a lemon muffin (me) or a three-sausage and egg bap (Andrew), with apparently very tasty sausages. There was an interesting old school clock on the inside, and a pendulum swinging back and forth high up in the roof, which it seemed was connected to the outside clock.

It has been raining when we arrived, but it turned out that this was nothing compared to the rain we had when we left. Within minutes, our clothes, which had dried out nicely over lunch, were soaked through. Our route back took us down the hill to the river. We joined the river path at a suspension bridge, and a set of stepping stones, the latter being mostly underwater. After a brief look we turned right and headed upstream, back towards Grassington.

I didn’t take many photos due to the persistent, heavy rain, but along the way we passed several toppled trees, which I presume were brought down in one of the recent storms. We waded through puddles and mud and over soggy grassed areas, but generally it was easier going than the outbound, even if it was a slightly longer route. We spotted two hares running across a field, numerous rabbits, sheep, ducks and a flock of unknown birds.

We soon reached another set of stepping stones, equally unsuited to the purpose as the last ones, given the height and speed of the water. I’m sure in summer they’re lovely. We headed up the hill, towards Grassington, intending to follow the main road past the visitor centre and then climb the main road through the village. Instead, we saw a footpath that promised to lead us to the centre of Grassington, so we took it. A few small passageways later, we ended up on a familiar lane at the top end of town, having cut off the corner and had a slightly easier climb. From there is was just a short plod back to our cottage, Garside.

I haven’t been that wet for a long time, or at least, not since I last went swimming… Our coats, trousers, tops, hats, socks, boots, rucksacks…things in pockets….everything was soaking wet. After we had towelled down, we made a pot of coffee and relaxed, while warming up. Then it was time for showers, wet again but at least nice and hot, and to decide what to put on to go out for dinner. Luckily, the rain had mostly eased off, and was now only a very light affair. It was back to the Black Horse (yes, other pubs are available, but we liked the food, the ambience, the staff and we hadn’t exhausted the menu by any means). Then we walked back, in the now dry, cold evening air, for a final evening in our cottage. We need an earlier start tomorrow as check out is at 10am.

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