THIS is a gentle walk, half of which follows the Pennine Way, and half the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
When I did it, it was a lovely warm early summer's day. Some fields had just had their first cut of the year and smelled lovely, there was plenty of sheep about and some young cattle, so be wary if you've got a dog - they were a tad over-curious for me and my unfortunately coloured English Pointer, who appears to be a magnet for young cattle who seem to think he's one of them.
The canal was busy with lots of boats and there were plenty of walkers on the Pennine Way. It's rare to walk the national trail without coming across others and the occasional long-distance fundraiser. Not so long ago, I came across a group of lads including one dressed in a banana suit, and on this walk I came across a man with the most enormous rucksack who was taking a rest in the shade, it being unexpectedly warm for the time of year.
I started this walk from East Marton, but another good place to start would be in Gargrave, where there are two free car parks and plenty of cafes, pubs and shops.
Step by step
1. At East Marton, off the A59, next to Cross Keys Pub, passing Abbots Harbour Cafe, and Wilkinson's Farm Livery, on right, walk along lane, over canal bridge and after a short way, take Pennine Way, on right. Follow the path as it works its way across a field, and closely to the right of woodland before emerging back out onto track. Continue along track for a while until it bends off to left, by a converted stone barn (Trenet Laithe).
2. Over the stile, following Pennine Way sign, and follow the path as it climbs up across field, before dropping down to a wooden footbridge. Keep to the path, which is well-marked and well-used, as it crosses fields. Keep to Pennine Way, which eventually comes out onto a lane, passing over railway bridge. Follow path as it leaves lane and over stile into field, which drops down into Gargrave, passing closely to Old School House, on left and emerging onto Station Road, in the village.
3. Turn left, passing parish church on right, and The Mason Arms pub on left. Over bridge over River Aire, cross main road and onto West Street, directly opposite, next to Dalesman Cafe. Continue along West Street, passing village hall on right, and straight up to Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
4. Turn left along towpath, and continue along, with canal on right. Follow towpath as it leaves Gargrave, passing school on left, and under A65 bridge, with Anchor Inn on right. Outside Gargrave, the towpath goes under a bridge and joins the road for a short while, go over bridge and walk along road before joining the towpath, with the canal now on your left.
5. Continue past Bank Newton locks, and shortly past the lock house on the right, go under a bridge, and turn right along the road for a short distance before rejoining towpath, with canal back again on your right. Continue along towpath all the way to East Marton where you will go under a bridge, cross over track and rejoin towpath, with canal on your right, and Wilkinson's Farm Livery. Continue along towpath, under double bridge and after a short distance, take bridge over canal heading towards East Marton Church.
6. Walk through churchyard, or take path to its left, and exit onto Church Lane and walk up to A59. Cross over and you are back at Cross Keys Pub.
Factfile: Start/Finish: East Marton
Distance: Seven miles, allow three hours
Difficulty level: Easy
Terrain: Fields, lanes, towpath, some walking through Gargrave
Livestock: Sheep and cattle, dogs should be under close control
Stiles/gates: A few, but easy to manage.
Refreshments: East Marton, Cross Keys and Abbots Harbour Cafe, and plenty of pubs, cafes and facilities in Gargrave
Parking: Close to Wilkinson's Farm Livery, East Marton.
OS Map: Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales, Southern and Western areas