So much for best laid plans, several months ago James and I had arranged a hefty three day/two night backpack round a remote corner of Snowdonia to mark the longest day of the year. Spending a few days in a rugged mountainscape and sleeping in some remote valleys would have been a fine way to make the most of the extended light. An exceptionallygrim weather forecast of non stop heavy rain and 40mph gusts prompted us to cobble together a plan B with James setting a shorter route up in Nidderdale. According to the forecast we were still going to get battered by the weather but at least we wouldn’t have to drive four hours for the privilege, plus this route was in Yorkshire, the greatest county in the universe.
Then of course there was the added bonus of James bringing young Reuben the wonderhound along for the trip. You can’t go wrong with a hairy companion who runs around on all fours, rolls about on the grass and licks your face in the morning (I’m talking about Reuben not James, I’ve asked him to stop licking my face in the morning).
We ditched the car in Lofthouse where a nosey local wanted to know everything about us, what we were doing, what we were having for tea etc, he went on to tell us that if we hadn’t spoken to him he would have reported the car to the police as being abandoned, I got the impression that there wasn’t a lot to do in Lofthouse. Leaving our concerned new friend behind we gained a little before taking a track along the ridge towards Scar House Reservoir. The day remained dry but fairly dull, the air was subdued by heavy grey clouds that painted the distant hills with gloomy dark shadows. An unlocked door on an uncharacteristically smart looking shooting hut (it had turrets) gave us chance to brew up a coffee and chuck our crusts in the direction of a very happy Rueben.
Reuben looking dignified and thoughtful
Reuben looking slightly less dignified and thoughtful but having a very nice time anyway.
Not getting drenched and blown about by the wind softened the blow of drab skies, as we approached Scar House Reservoir the thick grey clouds slowly started to break up leaving us with a perfect summers day. Skylarks, lapwings and curlews provided a busy soundtrack as we walked above the waters edge, several Oystercatchers threw warning cries at the perceived threat of two bearded man and an excited dog. A short climb up Little Whernside through hillsides full of cottongrass, revealed expansive views in all directions. The air clarity was amazing, the clear outline of the North York Moors was visible in the east with Roseberry Topping sitting above Middlesbrough, we think we could see Emley Moor Tower in Huddersfield which is about 40 miles away. Not bad considering we couldn’t see much further than a couple of miles when we started out.
As the day slowly turned to dusk we made for the trig point nestled amongst the craggy rocks on Great Whernside, darker skies carrying a lot of rain were quickly approaching from the south. We ended the day by following a stream into a shallow tussocky recess that was spoilt for choice for camping spots.
By 11pm it was still fairly light and dry, young Reuben had flopped on the floor the moment we stopped, the 14 or so miles we’d put in had taken their toll on the wee pup. If he’d had a small white flag he would have been waving it.
After midnight the rain came in thick and fast, the sound of heavy rain showers on canvas sending me off to sleep and then waking me up again. When morning came we were granted the odd 5 minutes between showers to pack up but couldn’t avoid the deluge that followed, poor Reuben let out the odd whimper as the heavens fully opened leaving us to take a lazy trudge downstream.
Just to prove that it wasn’t all sunshine and wild flower meadows, here’s a waterproof James, look at his little face.
Once more the weather gods smiled down upon the three of us as we left the hills and passed underneath Middlemoor, a brief stop off by a farmhouse gave us chance to laze around in a meadow of buttercups under soft white billowing clouds. That’s where you find the real tough guys, down in the wildflower meadows and cottongrass fields amongst the lambs. We finished our solstice jolly with a stop off at the fine ol’ chippy in Pateley Bridge.