A.J. Walker


Wensleydale Camping Trip

Hawes and Semer Walk Walk

A couple of weeks ago a suggestion was made to go camping somewhere. As per usual there’s a fair group of us going to Bishop’s Castle in early July (usually the week of the Real Ale Festival). But the idea of going away to the countryside for two nights was an attractive one. After a little discussion we settled for a site at a farm on the edge of Hawes (Gayle).


Four of us went up in two separate vehicles around Tuesday lunchtime. We all arrived within a few minutes of each at around 2pm. The forecast for the the two days was grey but no rain. But there was more than enough blue sky and the sun was pretty damn warm. We’d have taken grey of course, as long as it’s not wet when you’re putting up the tent we’re happy.


It was a simple site. Just a small undulating field next to the farm entrance with a little footbridge to access it. So unlike Bishop’s Castle there’s no rucking up and planting your tent right next to your vehicle. The toilet block/shower was a one person only affair - with one female and one male. The water was hot. Decent enough. At £7 a night it was a bargain. It was just ten minutes or so to walk into the town of Hawes, which has several good pubs, and shops and a decent chippy. Between Hawes and Gayle (which to all intents could be considered the same town) is the Wensleydale Creamery, where the spirit of Wallace & Gromit permanently resides.


After pitching our tents up I barely had time to pour my traditional tent erection beer before we left on a walk over the other side of town, across the river and up to Hardraw for a pint or four in the Green Dragon. Other than Tony continually declaring he knew the way, but constantly proving otherwise, it was an uneventful but lovely walk in the sunshine with much of the walk on footpaths through farmland with sheep, cattle, and even free range hens.



The Green Dragon was lovely. We started in the back garden when the sun was half in us and we were in constant conversations with a local robin redbreast along with his juvenile compadre and several inquisitive sparrows. We moved to a table outside the front door, by the Hippies Use The Backdoor sign as the sun disappeared from the back. My drink of choice was predominantly ‘Semer Water’ from Wensleydale Brewery. We would have all liked a few more drinks but were conscious of the 45 minute walk back before eating: Jeanette had kindly sorted out a chilli the day before. We got back all happy from the beer and the pretty much constant sunshine. Whoever had posted the weather forecast was a fraud! But in a good way.



The chilli was lovely, though it had needed to be tamed for Stevie, who struggles to deal with spices. But it was good anyway. A couple of beers whilst chatting and listening to music via Spotify (yes, there was phone signal in this part of the Dales) made it a really nice night.


We hadn't made any plans in advance of the trip (unless Jeanette making a chilli counts as planning). So it was the following morning before we decided on where to go. In the end we drove a few miles to the next town of Bainbridge and parked up there before walking up north a little to Askrigg, it was virtually all footpaths rather than roads - which is of course the plan. We stopped in Askrigg for a coffee (and the other three had scones) in a cafe called Bake Well. After recharging our batteries there we turned around south and headed back across the river, passing over large stepping stones on the River Ure - the stones were marked on the footpath signs as a bridge, which is questionable. The water was crystal clear and seemed to be running slowly and relatively low. I wondered how much rain it takes to cover the stones or at least make them more slippy.

Walking up past a farm we crossed the road to head for a row of trees. passing through a field of sheep: as we were doing almost constantly for our time here. There wasn't really a clear path marked through the field and we simply headed up to the far corner of the field in a diagonal trajectory, where we could eventually see a gate through the stone wall. The other thing we saw was a large group of bullocks all crowded together. They seemed to stare at us for a while, then began to walk towards us as we continued on our path. And then we noticed they were speeding up to a trot then a canter (or whatever the bullock equivalent of cantering is). Having just had a conversation earlier in the morning when we'd gone through a field of cows and a bull about how it wasn't uncommon for people to get killed by cows crowding in on them, the view of a crowd of bullocks beginning to run after us was not a sight we wanted to see. I am not ashamed at all of beginning to run a little myself (as did Jeanette) with the main thought in my mind being I didn't need to be the first away from them, I just needed to be the last. It was a moment of fear and hilarity. The bullocks ran after the four of us, whilst Tony shouted 'Don't Run!' at us: knowing how many times Tony has ended up in hospitals around the world after various incidents I was not minded to take on the shouted advice as gospel.

Long story short: the bullocks sped up as they bounded towards us and then as they ran down a little slope they suddenly veered right and away from us. I can only guess what caused them to do this. I'm thinking there was a particularly vicious sheep in the corner we were getting to. Whatever it was it was a relief.


Hey, you don’t need to know everything do you? We climbed out through the gate, up a scree/dry water bed to beyond the tree line before taking the flat path west back towards Bainbridge. There were no more incidents with animals. The biggest danger as in fact the walls, or more precisely the narrow gaps in them. These ‘squeeze stiles’ were dangerous. Generally the safest way was to take your bag off and try and push one leg through at a time. It was impossible to turn your foot once you’d started through, which was dangerous if you’d picked a less than ideal way through: you often wouldn’t know you’d selected the wrong foot forward until you were half way through and then faced with either a trip hazard or a big drop on the other side. In theory the squeeze stiles are designed to stop livestock (other than bullocks) from getting from one field to another. In reality they must cause a lot of injuries to people too. We were lucky that it was dry, as slipping when half way through a stile could be a disaster. I only bashed one knee once, and got my foot a bit stuck once too. But there but for the grace of god and all that. It must also be a severe problem for people of the larger persuasion - if you were to start a keep fit regime by going walking in an area full of livestock and stonewalls... beware the issue of stiles.


We walked downhill back toward Bainbridge for a short while before hanging left through a particularly narrow stile. We all got through it - eventually - before heading up hill. We were now on the path toward Semer Water (we’d been drinking the beer the day before at the Green Dragon after all). We were not beside the river to begin with as the path follows the top of the hill above it and there is no access along the river. Steve manfully managed it with only a couple of stops as he is only really getting into walking a bit now and this is mostly on the flat; truth be told I was happy he stopped too (I know Tony would happily just plough on otherwise). Tony declared he had qualified as a Team Leader for outdoor pursuits back in the day. But given he’d volunteered that he had THREE maps of the area with him, but had left each and every one back at the campsite I think he may need to resit whatever non-examination was involved to class him as a Leader. Luckily I’d brought my map with me. There were enough roads and landmarks around to not require a compass; it was not orienteering, just basic map reading. We didn’t got lost for even a few metres (although there was a small panic around the whole bullock ‘almost’ incident).

Once at the top it was downhill all the way towards Semer. Steve was a little alarmed when I pointed out we had to do the same walk in reverse to get back to the car. Team Leader was disbelieving and wanted to take another route. There wasn’t one without largely walking along roads, which to me kind of defeats the object of walking in the countryside. We got to the lake, had a brief rest and then walked back. Steve managed the slope even better than on the way and it went off without incident. It had got a little cloudy, but never threatened rain. In any case the clouds, together with a nice breeze, took the edge of the sun. The weather forecast had proclaimed it was going to be grey for three days solid. As it was we each caught the sun a lot over these first two days.

Back in Bainbridge it was a Wensleydale and Ham baguette with a coffee at the Corn Mill cafe (which TL declared was known as Mrs Miggins). I know; a long walk and not a pub to end it. Who’d have thunk it?

The afternoon ended up at the campsite with a race to see who could post their photos on Instagram and (in my case) Twitter first. The TL went for a sleep in his tent - and everyone knows that the one who snoozes loses.

The night finally ended in the pub (The Fountain) after a visit to an excellent chip shop in Hawes. A few pints of Buttertubs capped a lovely day. At the campsite we quickly decamped back to our tents for a relatively early night to see how we could sleep after a few of us hadn’t got much sleep on the Tuesday night.

The final day was a short one. Breakfast was a sausage and bacon, cooked and sorted by TL and Jeanette, and a cup of coffee. The local sausages were lovely. The only plan for the day was to go to the Wensleydale Creamery to pick up some cheese and then go home. We each bought a lot of cheese: both Wallace and Gromit would have been proud and jealous. Then we got off.


I was travelling on my tod and had decided I really had to get over to Dent to record myself reading the poem which was this week’s ReadMeSpeakMe. It needed to be uploaded by Friday and I thought it would be quite cool to read it in the very car park we’d ended up in with the infamous caravanette. See the last blog...

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