Dales Way

Introduction

The Dales Way was our third long distance path. Up to a year ago we didn’t even know it existed but it is thanks to Ken and Barbara at White Gill B&B in Kirkby Stephen that it was brought to our notice.

Last year (2011) we completed the Coast to Coast and stayed at White Gill for one night. They asked us whether we had contemplated doing The Dales Way as they had completed it previously. They enthused over it and so we made a mental note to check it out on our return home.

Although much shorter and a lot easier than the Coast to Coast and the South Downs Way, both walks that we had completed previously, we thought that it might be a good one to tick off our wish list next. We really enjoyed the C2C but it is a long walk and took a lot of planning. Attempting such a contrasting walk seemed to be a very easy option, perhaps too easy but we decided to go for it anyway.

On the plus side it was an area we didn’t really know, so it was new ground which is always interesting. Kettlewell was the only place on route we had been to before but that was just a drive through on the way to Hawes. Of course we knew Windermere well, having stayed there several times previously, but everything else was new to us. Grassington and Linton had often been described to me, as had Wharfedale itself, as being beautiful and a place to visit. In addition, we wanted to travel by train to the start and from the finish and this fitted in well, both ends having good rail links.

On the down side, we knew that it was predominately a riverside and valley walk which can be very easy and tedious and having been used to walking high mileages over high ground on the C2C we were worried that we would be bored. It is often described as the easiest of all long distance paths, so again we wondered whether we were taking things too easy.

But, overall we did want an easier walk this time. We had got a little bored with the training for the C2C, as we struggled to find new routes over the South Downs. The advantage of walking The Dales Way meant that the training could be kept to a minimum. There, in theory, was less pressure to crack on and tick off the miles, so we hoped it would feel more like a holiday than a trek.

Again we decided to do the walk over Easter, so preserving as much of our holiday entitlement from work as possible. We travelled up by train on Good Friday and came back on the following Saturday, eight days later. We assumed, and were proved right, that 2 night stays over Easter were required by most B&B’s but once again we decided to have Sunday as our rest day so we needed a 2 night stay anyway. We didn’t really need a rest day, as such, but we wanted to spend some time exploring the area around Grassington so everything seemed to fall into place. Therefore, we had 6 walking days in total which spread over 80 odd miles gave an average of 13 miles a day which was fine.

We booked our accommodation during September and October 2011 but in some ways it was harder than when we had booked our C2C accommodation the previous year. We were met with a reluctance to accept a booking in one year but then stay in another year, even if it was only a few months between the two. Rates quite often weren’t available for 2012 and with the exception of one, they weren’t prepared to give 2011 rates even though we were booking well in advance. Another good one was that they hadn’t met up with other B&B establishments in the area to decide on rates – the words monopoly, cartel and ripoff come to mind! They really don’t deserve to be in business if their intent is to fleece the punters and bite the hand that feeds them. They would be the first to moan if walkers passed them by and carried on to the towns where market forces are still in evidence. One even moaned that walkers were more work as it involved one night stays. True, but come on Yorkshire and Cumbrian lads and lassies, another £70 in your pocket in exchange for a linen change and a room clean, isn’t too much to ask. We also had a couple that tried to increase what were already agreed rates, and that after deposits were taken! What is it with these people? Phew…….rant over – for the time being!

We had all our equipment and clothing from the C2C so we knew everything worked. We would be carrying all our own stuff again which was fine but I decided that I would splash out on a new pack. Rachel had used her new pack on the C2C and I was quite envious of it. Consequently, I purchased the same model albeit in a different colour. I had already completed a dummy pack using hers to make sure that my larger clothes and additional items that I normally carry, would fit.

Our fitness regime for this walk was different to what we had done before. In a nutshell it was less. We walked everywhere we could during the week and had one 8-12 mile long non pack walk each week. In addition we had 5 (one each week) proper walks with packs, starting with lower mileage and full packs and then increasing the mileage each time. We hoped we had done enough, after all it was an easy walk apparently, but at the same time we didn’t want to be complacent. Only time would tell.

My knee problems from the previous year that I thought might scupper the C2C were still with me. I finally went to the doctor and cruciate ligament damage was diagnosed. After a 10 week wait for physiotherapy I embarked on a regime of exercises over a 3 month period to rebuild strength of the surrounding muscles which in turn, hopefully, would reduce the stress on the ligament. This worked to start with but then I hit a plateau, with no improvement, and, I was still in pain. But, and more importantly, when out training on the South Downs with full pack it was fine so I was quietly confident it would hold up. Again, only time would tell.

So with patched up bodies, waterproofs re-proofed and final checks done, the day came for our Dales Way adventure. The weather forecast wasn’t great and it appeared that we were going to be cold and wet. It was bound to happen at some point, on one of these walks. We had had a very easy introduction to long distance walking, with very good, warm weather and almost totally dry experiences, so I suppose it was payback time.

 

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