SEEING as its awfully damp underfoot at the moment, even though we're still in early-ish winter, I thought I'd do a walk with a fair bit of roadwork in it. That said, the fields and tracks I did have to negotiate were very muddy indeed, and me still in summer walking boots, big mistake. Lovely walk though, setting off from outskirts of Gargrave and criss-crossing the A65, taking in the lovely Mark House Lane and a stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath. Bearing in mind the time of year, I kept coming across flocks of Canada Geese and a large Heronry, where several of the normally solitary birds had gathered. I set off from the canal bridge on the back road between Gargrave and Bank Newton, but you can equally start off from Gargrave itself.
1. With canal bridge behind you, take footpath across field, following closely to the beck on your right to the stile. Cross over the stile and then immediately after, the stone footbridge. Head for the bend in river - and look out for the heronry on the right. Head for stile to left of a five bar gate. Go uphill and pass to the right of the copse and then go down again towards the river. After a short way, you will come to a stile, get across this fenced off area as best you can - it is usually very wet and overgrown. On the other side is another stile into a field, walk up the middle and over wall stile into another field. Cross over field, moving away from river on right, and through a five bar gate - with yellow arrow on it. Follow line of trees on right and then remains f a wall through gate and join track to A65.
2 Cross over A65 - taking great care - to join road directly opposite, with Bell Busk way marker. Continue along road for about three -quarters of a mile, passing village hall on right and Coniston Parish Church on left, pass under Bell Busk viaduct and then over bridge to right, marked Airton and Malham. Immediately right again, take the lane signposted bridlepath.
3 You are now on Mark House Lane, which takes you all the way to Gargrave. On route, you will pass a few houses and before the track bends to the left, Hesper Farm, which makes the dairy product, Skyr, sold amongst other places, in Keelham Farm Shop, Skipton. After the entrance to the farm, the track becomes increasingly narrow, and stony, winding gently uphill and then down, eventually becoming surfaced, passing Gargrave House on right, which is now apartments to join a road coming in from left. Go straight over here, cross over canal bridge and immediately after, right to join towpath.
4 Make sure you are heading towards Blackburn and Liverpool and continue along towpath, under A65 this time, and with Anchor Inn on right continue until towpath goes under bridge and immediately after, exiting onto road, where you started.
Start/finish: From the canal bridge on the road between Gargrave and Bank Newton.
Distance: About six miles.
Difficulty level: Easy, but can be very muddy
Terrain: Fields, tracks, quiet roads and canal towpath
Livestock: Sheep all year round
Gates/stiles: Easy gates but some tricky stiles for less nimble dogs
Refreshments: Plenty in Gargrave
Parking: On road, if start point on road to Bank Newton, or plenty in Gargrave