The Duke of Devonshire, Bolton Abbey Estate, owns a large area of grouse moorland NE of Skipton. Confusingly Barden Moor to the west of the Wharfe and Barden Fell to the east. I’ve spent many days on these moors mainly on their edges climbing on Rylstone Crag, Crookrise, Eastby and Simon’s Seat. I felt it was time to revisit and make a walk of it across the moors. The Pieman doesn’t get out much so when he phoned suggesting a walk this week I gladly agreed and decided on this walk on his local hills. I cajoled JD into the party to show him a new area. Wednesday was the day and the forecast was for improving weather, but first we had to get rid of the tail end of Hurricane Dorian. Early morning and the rain was still heavy, I even had a phone call from Skipton querying opting out but I’m made of sterner stuff. Miraculously as we drove across the skies cleared and the sun came out, there was a sneaky breeze when we met in Rylstone.
Rylstone with its duck pond and church; the famed ladies who produced the original nude Calendar; the inspiration for Wordsworth’s 1808 poem ‘The White Doe of Rylstone’ and above the village Rylstone Cross. The latter was visible on the fell as we set off but it would be several hours before we stood alongside it. Originally a stone figure, the ‘Rylstone Man’, changed to a wooden cross to commemorate the ‘Peace of Paris’ in 1814. This had to be replaced several times until the wooden structure was replaced by a stone one in 1997. I remember a wooden cross held by a metal frame from early trips to Rylstone Crag.
A bridleway climbs away from the road and was followed easily into the heart of the moor. We chatted away and hardly noticed the increasing tailwind. The heather, unfortunately, was past its best. Views started to open up to familiar hills but putting a name to them often eluded us. Simon’s Seat across Wharfedale was prominent. Upper Barden Reservoir came into sight and veered off on a track to it. Sitting on an ancient stone gatepost out of the wind we had an early snack. Across the dam was an old waterboard house, we speculated on its value – isolation and views against accessibility.
The estate has signed most of the tracks and we changed course once again heading back to the moor’s northern edge. Another small reservoir was passed and we focused on an old chimney up the slope, this with some obvious old pits suggested past mining activity.
By now the wind was almost gale force and difficult to walk into, JD’s hat became the focus of attention as it somehow stuck to his head. We took our second break in a beaters’ shelter, the shooters more commodious lodge being firmly closed. We gazed across upper Wharfedale to Grassington, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, Grimworth Reservoir with Nidderdale behind. The Three Peaks were hidden in cloud.
Refreshed we commenced battle with the wind as we bypassed Rolling Gate Crags and made a beeline towards an obvious Obelix, Cracoe War Memorial erected to honour the dead from the Great War with a plaque added for the 2nd WW. It was difficult to stand up on the summit because of the wind and we set off down the ridge towards Rylstone Crag and its Cross. Now below was the limestone country around Cracoe and the contrasting greens of the Winterburn Valley.
A visit to the base of the main face of Rylstone Crag was obligatory to gaze up at President’s Slab, Dental Slab and all those other climbs that have given me so much pleasure in the past. Last climbed six years ago.
The cross was another gale swept vantage point now looking towards Pendle.
A couple of boulders took our attention and we played around trying to stand up in the hole or reach for an edge, only long-limbed JD was successful with the latter. We reflected on ageing bodies and ‘the last of the Summer wine’ as we trotted down the hill back to the car, getting out of the wind and enjoying the warm sunshine.
Not a grouse was shot during this walk.