Sunday, 22 September 2013

Conistone Dib & Wharfedale

GPS Track
Date: 22/09/2013
From: Grassington

Parking: Overflow carpark west of Grassington
Start Point: The Dales Way, Grassington
Region: Yorkshire Dales

Route length: 11 miles (17.7km)
Time taken: 4:10
Average speed: 2.6mph
Ascent: 563m
Descent: 674m

Points of interest: Conistone Dib, Conistone Pie, Swinebar Scar, Grass Wood, Ghaistrill's Strid

Route: Grassington, Cove Scar, Lea Green, Conistone, Conistone Dib, Dales Way, Conistone Pie, Swinebar Scar, Highgate Leys Lane, Low Close Lathe, Throstles Nest Farm, Conistone, White Nook Lathe, Grass Wood, Ghaistrill's Strid, Grassington

Taking advantage of some returning warmth towards the middle of September, Sara and I headed into the Yorkshire Dales after a failed attempt to arrange a trip to the Lakes. We'd chosen to do a walk that we had completed previously, though this time we would return via a different route, following the River Wharfe between Kettlewell and Grassington. Here's how we got on.

We were almost thwarted as soon as we arrived in Grassington; a 1940s themed weekend had closed the National Park car park which forced us to use the prescribed overflow car park to the west of the village. This also meant having to pay the additional fee of £6 which we just about managed to cobble together. On the plus side though, the location of the car park actually put us closer to the start of the walk and after getting the kit out of the car, we set off.
A helpful footpath sign on the Dales Way
Facing into a cool breeze, I had thought that the choice of shorts for the day may have been a bad idea, however, once we had got a move on and were into our stride, they seemed to ideal choice. We followed the Dales Way out of Grassington and up towards Sweet Side before taking a fork to the left that leads down to an unnamed scar on the northern edge of Bastow Wood. It's an impressive sight, though sometimes obscured by foliage and the view of it improves as you continue along the path
Hopefully no one was badly hurt
Sara heads along the top of the unnamed ravine
Limestone erratics line the route
Rounding the ravine and climbing a slight rise, you're presented with a fine view of Wharfedale and, in particular, the striking Kilnsey Crag, a large limestone cliff that towers over the village it's named after. It goes without saying that Kilnsey Crag is a very popular spot for rock climbing. Continuing on, we remained on the path as it takes you to the small village of Conistone and the start of Conistone Dib, the highlight of the walk.
Kilnsey Crag and Wharfedale
After a brief passage through the village, we began the climb up Conistone Dib, a dry limestone gorge, similar in appearance to both Troller's Gill near Appletreewick and Trow Gill near Clapham. The Dib is a wonderful place and we were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves, and not for the first time. The Dib can be split into three distinct sections with the first being an ever narrowing, vertical walled gorge. At one point, you're able to touch both sides simply by stretching out your arms.
The entrance to The Dib
The gorge narrows.... the point where you can touch both sides
After this, the Dib opens up to reveal a valley protected on both sides by limestone outcrops and copious amounts of scree. So much so that a series of very large, unnecessary cairns mark the way to the valley's head.
A large cairn marks the way up the valley
In the final section, the path steepens and the valley narrows as it approaches the head and you're forced to tackle a very short scramble out. Suddenly, you're stood on the Dales Way again and, looking back, you wouldn't know the valley was there. This may explain why we've yet to encounter anyone else while in the Dib.
The path eventually reaches the end of the valley
The final scramble out to the Dales Way
With thoughts turning towards eating, we made the quick half mile walk along the Dales Way to Conistone Pie, an entertaining little limestone outcrop perched on top of a grassy hump. Funnily enough, it does actually resemble a pie from many angles.
Conistone Pie
It had to be done
Using the circular rock to find a sheltered spot out of the wind, we paused for a quick bite to eat. 'The Pie', as we'll call it offers a fantastic view of Wharfedale and includes a peak at a number of the 2000ft hills; Old Cote Moor, Fountains Fell, Buckden Pike and Yockenthwaite Moor are all visible. A brief reminder of the task I've set myself.
Old Cote Moor, the smallest of the Yorkshire 2000s
Continuing along the Dales Way, we moved towards part of the walk that doesn't require much description. After passing underneath the exposed limestone of Swinebar Scar and down Highgate Leys Late, we joined the Grass Wood Lane, a small road that links Kettlewell to Grassington and the route we would follow for a few miles to Grass Wood and the River Wharfe.
Swinebar Scar
Highgate Leys Lane leads down to Grass Wood Lane
We encountered very little traffic on Grass Wood Lane
Walking down in the valley, we were sheltered from the breeze and we quickly began to notice the temperature rising, a late September day suddenly started to feel like one more akin to mid-summer. You can't really complain about that.

After an hour or so, and only a handful of cars seen on the lane, we found the path that would take us off the road, through Grass Wood and down to Ghaistrill's Strid on the River Wharfe.
To path passes through Grass Wood
The River Wharfe looks inviting in the afternoon
Ghaistrill's Strid (according to a number of sites I've looked at) actually refers to an area of calmer, flatter water in between two narrow, fast flowing sections. Located on a sweeping s-bend in the river, it's a popular spot with many people to swim in the river or admire it from the banks as we did. We've said many times that we'd like to come to Wharfedale on a hot summers day to spend some time paddling around in the river and on a day like today, I'm determined to make that a reality sooner rather than later.
A narrow whitewater section flows into Ghaistrill's Strid
Ghaistrill's Strid
Erosion caused by eddy currents
Heading away from the river, we were left to cross a couple of fields in order to find ourselves back at the car. Despite the long section of the walk along Grass Wood Lane, this is a very pleasant walk and has a number of marvellous scenes to gaze at, particularly from Conistone Pie. The Dib can be tackled in a number of ways and there are several paths in and out at various points. It is also possible to complete much smaller routes that do not require having to venture onto any roads. I'd heartily recommend this walk to anyone wanting to have a poke around in Wharfedale.