YORKSHIRE-born author A. Walker loves to follow in the footsteps of his hero Alfred Wainwright and has twice re-traced the renowned walking writer's ramble of more than 200 miles from Settle to Hadrian's Wall and back - the first in 1998, 60 years after Wainwright's original walk.
'In Wainwright’s Footsteps: The Pennine Journey' was published as an e-book in 2014 and concentrates on the history of the route, providing more of an insight into the past of the rural life of the Dales.
Mr Walker says he was never completely satisfied that the e-book version was the best medium for the guide so he has now made it available as a print version. And the author has his book 'Back to the Wall' - a reflective account of a broadly similar journey, and to which he is currently writing a follow-up Back to the Wall Too' - also available.
The extract below is from the first chapter of 'In Wainwright’s Footsteps: The Pennine Journey', the first stage of the journey from Settle to Stainforth.
When AW (Alfred Wainwright) left Settle, he did so by following what is now the B6479 and he took this path up the eastern side of the Ribble valley all the way to Horton in Ribblesdale.
It would be foolhardy to directly retrace his steps as modern traffic levels render such a venture as both unpleasant and decidedly dangerous. There are no pavements beyond Langcliffe and the verges are uneven and not made for walkers.
Even if they were smoother, they are not the place to savour a walk in the country. So, we ignore AW for the first stretch and instead our route crosses the River Ribble on the B4680.
Once across the bridge, just before the school grounds, we follow a narrow path abutting the school fields that runs more or less parallel with the river. The path here is part of the Ribble Way.
The building on the east side of the Ribble noted as ‘The Shed’ was once part of the Langcliffe Mill complex involved in the spinning and weaving of cotton. It is now a retail outlet known as Watershed Mill. Following the western side of the river, our route rises until it becomes close to but high above the river, opposite the buildings referred to on the map as Langcliffe Place Cotton Mill.
The mill still employed some 250 workers when AW passed but, like so much of Britain’s textile production, cotton manufacture ceased in the 1950s and it now operates as a paper mill.
The mill’s postal address is ‘Christie’s Mill’, paying regard to Lorenzo Christie and his son Hector, the owners of the mills from 1861. Hector is commemorated in the village church, recognising his establishing of the Langcliffe Institute.
The map’s reference to Langcliffe Place is actually the rather more grand accommodation for the mill owners. Crossing Stainforth Lane, we then walk parallel to the road for 200 yards, after which our way follows the gentle slope to the left of the trees.
We then follow right down a winding track leading to the delightful hamlet of Stackhouse. The cottages here provided housing for the cotton mill workers. Following a track signposted ‘The Locks’ (the locks referred to are the water race built upstream from the mill to provide power to the looms and which also incorporated a salmon leap), our route then follows the western bank of the river where, after a mile, a short detour takes in the spectacle of Stainforth Force.
The River Ribble’s waters are squeezed through the constricted valley and provide a tumultuous cascade, especially after a spell of rain.
Crossing the river and road into the village of Stainforth, modern visitors will not find the café that existed when AW was here and even the inn was closed on my last visit. I am afraid refreshment will have to wait until we reach Horton in Ribblesdale.
A little way beyond Stainforth Force we leave the Ribble Way and follow the minor road to the hamlet of Little Stainforth. We must turn onto the quiet road heading northwards and follow the quiet macadam road to Helwith Bridge. At the hotel, a track leads off northwards back on the Ribble Way, before passing under the Settle–Carlisle railway to then join the western bank of the river.
Both books are available free to download as e-books for a limited period. 'Back to the Wall' will be available in print version from Amazon. The print version of 'In Wainwright’s Footsteps: The Pennine Journey' will be available from bookshops or by emailing Mr Walker on firstname.lastname@example.org. The Grove Bookshop in Ilkley will hold stocks of the print versions of both books.