It is that time of year again where I submit my walk review for the year, and what an excellent year of walking it has been!
For the first time since 2004 almost all of my walking activity has taken place in the Yorkshire Dales. In fact apart from the Harrogate Ringway and a couple of walks in the North Pennines all of my walks have been inside the boundaries of the extended Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Nidderdale AONB. The latter of course has a far greater right to be classed as the Yorkshire Dales than the large chunks of Westmoreland that were added to the national park in August.
Stats wise I managed 64 walks in 2016, just slightly down on the previous couple of years. In total these walks added up to just over 500 miles of footpaths, bridleways, country lanes and open access land. Whilst much of this was revisiting walks I’d done ten or so years ago there was still much that was new to me.
The reason that I spent so much time in the Yorkshire Dales this year is simple – this website. I started work on it early in the year and launched it on 1st August 2016 to coincide with the day the national park officially grew larger. After I’d decided I wanted to move away from the all encompassing approach that my www.mypennines.co.uk website was taking, to something more focused on the Yorkshire Dales, I knew that I also needed to focus my walking activites on the Dales in order to generate content and photos for the new website. It truly has been a labour of love.
Having made this decision I’ve had the most wonderful time revisiting walks I first did 10-12 years ago when I first ‘discovered’ the Dales. Even more enjoyably I’ve been able to do so in radically better weather conditions than most of those early walks. At the same time I have been constantly delighted by the amount of new places I’ve come across. It truly is amazing that after 12 years of regularly visiting the Yorkshire Dales it is still possible to discover so many new features of interest.
Continuing on from late 2015 one of my favourite activities of 2016 has been waterfall bagging. Over the course of 2016 I’ve visited countless waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales, famous and not so famous. Indeed my waterfall mania rose to new heights when I had an image of Aysgill Force, near Gayle, tattooed to my upper left arm!
One of the most exciting walks of the year, up Uldale in the upper Rawthey valley, was a veritable feast of waterfalls. Some of the scrambling in the gill and up some of the waterfalls certainly got my adrenaline flowing! Some of the lesser known waterfalls I visited, such as Great Force in Coverdale and Burnet Force in Raydale, were real finds. Meanwhile I was also very impressed with some waterfalls that are either not named on the Ordnance Survey map, such as Crackpot Falls and Mel Beck Falls, or even marked on the map such as Nidd Falls near Lofthouse.
Apart from surviving Uldale Gill, without doubt my other ‘big’ achievement was completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Walk for the third time. The achievement was not so much in my completing the walk but in the fact I led six friends from work around the walk and in doing so raised £2,200 for mental health charity selfharmUK.
Most of them hadn’t done any hillwalking so over the first half of the year I took them on a number of practice walks. The first was a walk up on to Great Whernside where we encountered winds as fierce as any that I’ve experienced out on the hills. That this, and some of my subsequent routes, didn’t put them off says a lot for my friends’ character and determination.
Including a few walks post the Yorkshire Three Peaks I did thirteen walks with various combinations of people from work. Added to this I did twelve walks with my friend Paul, two with Tim, one with Matt and thirteen with my wife Lisa and daughter Rhiannon. Added together this meant that 2016 was easily my most sociable year of walking for some time. Solo walking has a lot of advantages but there is definitely something to be said for being able to share the experience with other people. Thanks to everyone who has joined me on a walk over the last year, here’s hoping for more adventures together in 2017!
Weather-wise I personally can’t have too many complaints. I can only think of a few walks where low cloud obscured the views and even on those occasions it was views that I knew well. The hammering we got from the wind on Great Whernside was memorable but otherwise there have certainly been windier years up on the hills. I didn’t even get rained on that much which is something of a miracle and most of the rain I did experience seemed to be on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge!
As always at this time of year I not only reflect on what I’ve achieved over the last 12 months but look forward with anticipation to what I hope to do in the next year. I’ve already started planning my walking itinerary for the coming year and unsurprisingly it includes a lot more walks in the Dales and lots more waterfalls! I also have plans to tackle a couple of longer distance walks this year starting with the Nidderdale Way in June with my friends from work and then, later on in the summer, the Dales Way.
Finally, as has become a tradition, here are my favourite walks, views and walking moments of the year…
Top 5 Walks of 2016:
These are in no particular order. Click on the links to read the full walk reports.
- Fremington Edge and Calver Hill
- Plover Hill and Pen-y-Ghent Gill
- Malham Classic
- Buckden Pike via Naughtberry Hill
- Whitaside Moor and Crackpot Falls
Honourable mentions go to Ease Gill Kirk, Great Roova Crags, Conistone Pie with my daughter, Wether Fell, Great Knoutberry Hill with Wold Fell, Wether Fell and of course the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Walk.
Top 5 Views of 2016:
- The view of Arkengarthdale from Fremington Edge
- Waldendale from Walden Head
- Wensleydale and Bishopdale from Morpeth Scar
- Dentdale from Galloway Gate
- The northern Howgills and the Lakeland fells from Crosby Ravensworth Fell
Top 5 Most Memorable Walking Moments of 2016:
My favourite moment of 2015 was visiting the red squirrels of Snaizeholme. Continuing this theme animal encounters make up many of my highlights for 2016 too.
- Leading six friends to completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Walk.
- The little terrier that appeared from nowhere and accompanied Paul and I on a long walk in the North Pennines. Thankfully we managed to find where she came from and get her back home.
- Spending an enjoyable ten minutes with an adorable little shrew near Conistone Pie. My daughter said it was one of the most awesome things she’d even seen.
- Practising some meditation bathed in sunlight whilst perched on the Hanging Stone high above Barbondale.
- Accidentally interrupting a stoat’s rabbit hunt near Holgate in the upper reaches of Marske valley.