Swaledale, Yorkshire

When: 22 – 25 May 2009

Present: Dave H (organiser), Nicola (co-organiser!), Keyna, Shaun, Martin L, Ian, Annie, Isobel, Mick, Angela, Ayla.

Friday saw us all heading northwards for a predicted sunny bank holiday weekend – and it was well worth the effort! For those of us who had never before visited this part of the Yorkshire dales, it was a revelation – an amazingly beautiful and unspoilt area. Our campsite was in the heart of the valley and part of a working farm, complete with vocal guard dogs (none of us went close enough to find out whether their bark was worse than bite…) and a barn full of cows, as well as slightly “limited” bathroom facilities… The late afternoon was spent setting up tents and exploring the local area (Muker village pub).The surprisingly warm, though slightly damp evening was spent barbecuing and sitting around the firepot (with the promise to collect more sticks the next day…).

On Saturday a number of splinter groups set out on different missions. Keyna wanted to try out her new toy (a bicycle so light, it almost floats) so she and Shaun pedalled off into the drizzle. Dave, Nicola, Mick and Martin took on Great Shunner Fell (the third Highest peak in the dales), and Ian and family explored some of the Pennine way. Ange and Ayla were bridesmaid dress shopping and had yet to turn up! A notably cooler evening saw us barbecuing and huddling around the roaring fire bucket, now being fuelled by a multitude of sticks and assorted experimental objects.

Sunday dawned with clear blues skies and bright sunshine. This was the day of the big walk, aiming cross-country for the Tan Hill Inn – the highest inn in the country and returning via the Pennine Way. Nicola, Dave, Martin, Ian, Keyna and Shaun started the walk, leaving Mick, Annie and Isobel to wait for Ange and Ayla’s arrival. We set out in spectacular weather and scenery, encountering rabbits, grouse and countless sheep on our way. The route took us through some “interesting” terrain, including steep slopes, bogs, gulleys, and thick heather, not to mention a couple of unplanned detours… The eventual sight of the inn in the distance was as welcome as an oasis in the desert. We joined up with the rest of the group and spent an hour enjoying a pint or two of Black Sheep and were “entertained” by a man-with-a-banjo and a box of ducklings in front of the fire! All but Annie and Isobel set off on foot for the return journey along the Pennine Way, which in part followed the river Swale, and passed the lovely waterfalls above the village of Keld. We eventually arrived back at Muker after an 18 mile round trip, in time to eat our own body-weight in pub grub and stagger back to the campsite for bed.

Monday morning saw nobody moving anywhere very quickly, but eventually camp was struck and people headed off in various directions (such as on to the Lake District to purchase walking boots!). A few of us headed into the local historic town of Richmond to check out the castle, and found it in full-swing holiday mode, complete with a fun-fair crammed into the town square. The most surprising sight in the town was at the River Swale, which was mobbed with underwear clad locals having a whale of a time swimming, paddling and hurling themselves off waterfalls. We even spotted a rubber dinghy…

All in all, a really enjoyable trip to a truly lovely area. Definitely worth a return visit…

Nicola Truman

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