Sunday, 13 January 2013

Simon's Seat & Trollers Gill

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Route: Appletreewick, Dales Way, Howgill, Simon's Seat, High Skyreholme, Ridge End, Trollers Gill, Appletreewick Pasture

Date: 13/01/2013
From: Appletreewick

Parking: Street parking in Appltreewick
Start Point: Appletreewick
Region: Yorkshire Dales

Route length: 8 miles (12.8km)
Time taken: 04:42
Average speed: 1.7mph
Ascent: 472m
Descent: 472m

Summits: Simon's Seat (485m)

Our first walk of 2013 was to revisit a place we'd walked to a year of so ago, Troller's Gill. A real gem of a place, like few others in the Yorkshire Dales, and one of those rare features that tend to be hidden away from the masses. The two times we've been now we've had the place to ourselves. The walk we'd planned covered an 8-mile circuit including a climb up onto the popular Barden Moor to visit Simon's Seat, a very Peak District-esqe pile of gritstone, perched atop the moor.

The walk started from Appletreewick, a delightful little village perched on the banks of the River Wharfe. Apparently, a study in 2009 found Appletreewick to be 'Britain's Friendliest Town to Drive Through' which is a bit spurious really as only 200 people live there.

Passing through a campsite, we joined the M1 of the path world, the Dales Way, as it follows the River Wharfe towards the hamlet of Howgill. Being January, it was bitterly cold but one of those perfect clear days you can only get in winter. Perfect walking weather, providing you wrap up of course.
The benign River Wharfe at Appletreewick
The Dales Way hides under the covering of frost. 
Following the Dales Way for a mile, we reached Howgill and left the main path to head into Howgill and start the quite strenuous climb up the side of Barden Fell through the Lower Fell Plantation. Christmas excesses made this climb a bit slower than normal but we eventually reached the top of the winding road and savoured the stunning view into Wharfedale. There was also time to photograph a very placid grouse as it too surveyed the scene up the valley.
Sara marches up the steep plantation road
The view along the River Wharfe and Wharfedale
The Famous Grouse
Leaving the grouse to its daily business, we followed the path to Simon's Seat, the high point of Barden Fell. The rocks provide a commanding view over the Yorkshire Dales and are a very popular spot for walkers and climbers alike. The paths around are suffering from erosion though and are in the process of being renovated to protect the fragile moorland around. After a stop for lunch, watching the weather closing in, we took one last look at the views before descending the steep northern flank of Barden Fell to Dalehead Farm.
Simon's Seat, the high point of Barden Fell
Sara enjoys a rejuvenating cup of tea
View over Barden Moor from Simon's Seat
The OS trig point that marks the summit
Crossing Blands Beck, we passed through High Skyreholme before making our way to Middle Skyreholme and joining the path north towards Parcevall Hall, The Bradford Diocesan Retreat. Following Skyreholme Beck, we passed over an old breached dam. It's said the dam was built to retain the waters of Skyreholme Beck for a local mill, however, being built on limestone, the water found it's way underneath instead. Apparently, it was deliberately breached to liberate the beck. Further upstream lies the entrance to the mysterious Troller's Gill.

Crossing Blands Beck
The breached dam on Skyreholme Beck
The entrance of Troller's Gill looms ahead, much like the scene in the Lord of the Rings where Aragorn heads to the mountain to summon the ghosts of Dunharrow. All that was missing was the movie smoke. Legend does, in fact, have it that the gorge is haunted by the Barguest, a terrifying mythical hound though to possibly have been the inspiration for the famous Hound of the Baskervilles. Being off the beaten track, Troller's Gill is an eerie, quiet place where you can let your imagination run wild. Taking a deep breath, we wandered in.

The entrance to the White Mountain aka Troller's Gill
The narrow limestone gorge of Troller's Gill
It was indeed eerie and quiet while we were there
Troller's Gill is nothing more than a limestone gorge and can be impassable if the river is in full spate. Luckily for us, it was bone dry and other than hopping over the larger boulders, the going was fairly easy. Reaching the top, the walls open out into the classic scenery of limestone country, typical of many river valleys in the Yorkshire Dales. We crossed the bridge at the top of the path and climbed out of the valley onto Appletreewick Pasture.
Skyreholme Beck before it disappears into/underneath Troller's Gill
The track crossing Appletreewick Pasture
Following the path down Appletreewick Pasture, the weather eventually deteriorated as it had threatened to do for much of the afternoon. The light quickly faded and a light dusting of snow started to fall. Lucky for us, we were not too far from the sanctuary of the car and a back-up brew that had been stored in the boot for just such an occasion.

The weather became a bit grim towards the end
A light sprinkling of snow covered the final mile of the walk
The final descent back to Appletreewick
The wintry weather painted quite a nice picture
A stunning walk with a little bit of everything characteristic of the Yorkshire Dales; open moors, awe inspiring views, creepy limestone gorges and flowing water aplenty. If you're looking for a walk with interest around every corner then this is the one for you. Troller's Gill is a unique place that every walker should experience at least once and is a startling opposite the wide open views and busyness of Simon's Seat.

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