A pleasant walk along the Wharfe

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Farfield Meeting House

First published in Walking Craven Herald: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Editor

START POINT: from middle of Addingham.

TIME FOR FIVE-MILE WALK: two-and-a-half hours.

GOING: easy apart from a couple of steep climbs and one muddy descent.

MAP: OS Outdoor Leisure 2, Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western.

PARKING: small free car park off Bolton Road (right turn off Main Street by Crown pub).

TOILETS: in Addingham.

REFRESHMENTS: in Addingham.

AS I drove up Hollins Hill early on a Thursday morning, passing the long line of commuter traffic heading in the opposite direction, an orange sun was just surfacing above the horizon and rising into a cloudless sky.

The forecast had been right. With the best part of a week of rain behind us and more forecast for the next few days with wind as well, this was the window in the weather.

Cold, clear, still and sunny - just the day for a stroll along the River Wharfe from Addingham, which was where the outing began.

The village's streets were busy with people escorting their children to school as I pulled on my boots in the small public car park and walked toward the riverside.

I headed upstream along the Dalesway, initially through the caravan site and soon joining the path which follows the bank.

The water was calm above the weir. A heron took off and flapped over the river in a lazy loop, initially accompanied by its reflection, to land higher up the field.

As I walked on, a flock of sheep in the field alongside the fenced-off path struck up a chorus of bleating and began to trot me, apparently thinking I was the bringer of food.

I looked back as I left the field behind. They were standing and staring at my departing figure. If sheep's faces can register disappointment, theirs did.

The path eventually turned away from the driver, crossing the busy Bolton Abbey road and going across the back of the Quaker Meeting House, which dates from 1689.

I paused to admire the front of this venerable building before climbing the stile to join the fields path which accompanies the road in the direction of Bolton Bridge, rejoining it at the top of a steep hill. At the bottom of the hill the road and I parted company again as I turned into the trees, climbing with the path as it passed beneath an arch of the impressive viaduct on the dismantled railway before heading up steep steps to the top of Lob Wood.

Over a stile and into a field, the route climbed steeply again through another field of sheep (silent and still ones this time) to the top of the hill. The views from here were superb, looking back up the dale toward Bolton Abbey and Simon's Seat.

As I headed on toward Hag Head Laithe, the field barns of Highfield Farm came into view on my right.

Here was where things began to go a little wrong. The OS map was not too clear about which way the route lay from here. I set off in one direction, soon realised I was heading for the Skipton Road and retraced my steps.

When I tried again I ended up in the field corner just over the wall from Highfield Farm where a man was detaching a trailer from his car. I asked the way, had the stile pointed out to me and found I'd got things right this time.

At the next stile I paused to make a note and realised I'd dropped my notebook somewhere along the route. As I'd taken copious notes of what is quite a tricky walk, there was nothing for it but to retrace my steps.

Half a mile back along the path, there it was. A sheep was eyeing it curiously. I think perhaps it was about to be turned into lunch.

The return route from Highfield Farm was easy enough, straight down from the golf course and then through fields back to the edge of Addingham.

1. From middle of Addingham, walk up Bolton Road, passing oddly-named Rookery (a row of weavers' cottages) and following fenced-off footpath alongside road to cross footbridge and emerge near school. Walk ahead past school and up hill, passing end of Bark Lane and continuing to High Mill Lane. Fork right here, going down lane to cluster of cottages at bottom and turning left into caravan park.

2. Walk through caravan park looking for Dales Way sign pointing to fenced-off path by river bank. Walk upstream, sometimes close to river and sometimes above it. Where fence stile leads to a crossing path, go right down steep (and muddy when wet) steps back to river bank. Dales Way eventually leaves river bank to go round back of house and meet road.

3. Cross over here, going through wall stile behind Quaker Meeting House and half left to meet lane at end of building. Turn right and go through gate, immediately going right again over wall stile signposted 'Permissive Footpath to Bolton Bridge'. Follow this through fields, with road over wall on right, to where it meets a facing gate with stile on right into road. Go through stile and walk down hill, crossing over with care to pavement at other side then crossing back at bottom to take gap stile into Lob Wood.

4. Follow clear path up through wood, passing beneath viaduct and climbing steps then turning right at top and following wall on left up to stile into field. Go half right up field if you like (that's how the map shows it). Alternatively, follow clear path that skirts bottom of hill and swings right near facing wall at top of small wood. Ignore first stile in that wall and slog up steep field to another stile near top, pausing there to get your breath back and admire Wharfedale views.

5. Over this stile, keep ahead along wall side. Where wall swings away to right, continue on track toward barns (Hag Head Laithe). Go through metal gate to left of barns. With back to gate, go sharp left in direction of Highfield Farm on far hillside, walking down toward wall corner and passing gorse bushes along way. Walk up hill with wall and then farm on right.

6. Look for stile in facing wall, immediately on left of barn just over wall. Then go diagonally across field to stile to right of gate into golf course. Follow path down golf course (marked with striped posts) as it passes behind Highfield House and then becomes fields path just to right of sunken lane, joining lane itself near bottom of hill to emerge at narrow road. Go left here, under viaduct, to meet Bolton Road bv school. Turn right to return to start.

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