A breezy outing from Austwick walking up the valley of Crummackdale to Beggars Stile and returning via the top of Thwaite Scars and the Norber Erratics.
|Parking:||Austwick, roadside parking|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
This was a first walk in over ten years with an old friend, David, whom I first did Striding Edge with back in 2006. David has had some health problems and is determind to get himself fit and has set himself a challenge to aim for – the Yorkshire Three Peaks. David, being David, has to take it one step further and has decided to attempt the Yorkshire Three Peaks twice, continuously, in 24 hours.
Having told me about this rather crazy plan (which he is trying to rope me into) I offered to go out on a few walks with him in the Dales to help him get some fitness back. This was the first such walk, on paper a fairly gentle outing with some outstanding rock scenery. I say on paper because the forecast was for gusts of up to 50mph, snow showers and hill fog! Also joining us on the walk was David’s friend Gavin who thankfully was quite happy to give it a go regardless of the weather.
“Little did we know it but while we ate lunch we also had the last of the sunshine. As soon as we crossed over the stile the wind hit us with its full force and the first flakes of snow began to fall.”
Given the rather daunting forecast it was a miracle when we arrived in Austwick to find the village bathed in sunshine – virtually the only sunshine we’d seen en route from Harrogate. Indeed for the first few miles of the walk the only bit of the forecast that they had got right was the wind – it was very breezy!
Starting from the village centre the outward route was very simple. Leaving the village by Town Head Lane we climbed up to a crossroad of roads and tracks. Turning right a short distance we then took a path on our left that dropped down to Norber Sike before climbing up the next pasture where we crossed a stile to join Crummack Lane.
Crummack Lane was our route for the next mile and a quarter as it wound its way up the valley. Highlights of this section include the views up the boulder strewn slopes of Norber on our left hand side and views across Crummackdale to Moughton on the other side of the valley.
Having reached the end of the lane and passed the entrance to Crummack Farm we ignored a turn off on our left to carry on a grassy path heading for the dale head. Contouring gently round a grassy pasture Moughton Scars appeared ahead of us. The view of the limestone cliffs were enhanced by patches of sunshine and shadow chasing each other across the ground.
On reaching Beggar’s Stile (surely one of the few named stiles in the country) we decided to take advantage of the shelter of the wall and crag to get some respite from the wind and have some lunch. The retrospective views of Crummackdale from this spot were quite superb.
Little did we know it but while we ate lunch we also had the last of the sunshine. As soon as we crossed over the stile the wind hit us with its full force and the first flakes of snow began to fall. In fact ‘fall’ is probably not the right description, perhaps ‘whipped horizontally’ would be more accurate.
It wasn’t just the weather that changed dramatically, the landscape above Moughton Scars is so different from the green valley that it is like entering another world. Even for the Yorkshire Dales I find that there is something slightly alien about the limestone pavements and crags of Moughton Scars and Thieves Moss.
Working our way up to Sulber Gate we next turned south heading for Long Scar on a broad grassy path. Although visibility was now restricted by the snow showers the wind was now thankfully at our backs and we no longer had to fight our way into it. In fact it seemed that in no time at all we’d crossed over the plateau from Long Scar to Thwaite Scars and the cairn that marked the summit of our walk.
From the top of Thwaite Scars we made our way south a short way before descending east where we were once again hit by the full force of the winds. Dropping down a bit further we came to a stile and a wall which was being used as a shelter by a flock of sheep. It is often easy to think of sheep as slightly stupid animals but on this occasion it seemed they were the sensible ones.
Crossing over the stile we entered the main Norber boulder field, full of glacial erratics – in this case Silurian greywacke that have been deposited on a bed of limestone. It is a wonderful place to explore, many of the boulders proving to be much bigger on closer inspection than they look from a distance.
Having had a potter about the boulders we dropped down to the foot of Robin Proctor’s Scar to then cross a large field to arrive back at the crossroads we’d met near the beginning of the walk. All that was left was to return to Austwick via Town Head Lane and to have a celebratory pint in the Game Cock Inn.
In normal conditions this is a wonderful walk. For the first half we were lucky to be treated to some sunshine while the second half was perhaps even more memorable for the wind and horizontal snow. It was great to be out walking with David again after such a long time and it was nice to meet Gavin too. All in all a cracking day.
You can follow David’s progress as he trains for the challenge by checking out his Yorkshire Three Peaks: Twice in 24 hours Facebook page.