I’ve not been far from base recently. There is a cousin, ‘the pieman’, living in Skipton whom I’ve not met up with for two years. Admittedly, he has phoned me on several occasions with a suggestion for a walk, but I have always declined with the excuse of injury. This can’t go on. It turns out he is suffering also, so when I suggest a short walk, on his home territory, the die is cast.

Yorkshire Limestone has been a favourite climbing venue for me over the years. Malham, Gordale, Attermire, Twistleton, Crumack Dale, Oxenber – the list goes on. The last time I visited the imposing Pot Scar the polish on the holds was unnerving, so in recent years, we retreated to the safer bolted climbs of Giggleswick. Why not revisit some of these venues on today’s walk.

There used to be a garage or was it a café on Buckhaw Brow above Settle, but now all is bypassed, and my mind is clouded. In the past, buses came this way, struggling up the hill from Settle. We are parked on the Craven Fault. Limestone high on the left and gritstone down below on the right where the land has slipped. My knowledge of geology is rudimentary.

The pieman’ is proud to display his vintage wool Dachstein Mitts, once an essential item of all climbers, famed for their warmth and water resistance. They had the added advantage that when winter climbing, they could virtually glue you to the ice. Are they still available?

The little roadside crag is examined, yes there would be routes on it, and then we are off along the airy escarpment. A path is followed, linking stiles in the substantial stone walls, with views down the fault to Settle. Up to our left are limestone cliffs with hidden caves, we are heading for Schoolboys Tower, a cairn associated with Giggleswick School down below. Stones were added to the cairn by pupils on their last, or was it their first, day. A smaller nearby cairn has been named Schoolgirls once the school had admitted the other sex.

Having reached the ‘tower’, looking a little dilapidated, we went in search of Schoolboys Cave down below on the steeper escarpment. A bit of scrambling, and we found the entrance to what was only a short cavern, curiosity satisfied we then peered into the more cavernous quarry nearby, now redundant.

What followed was a mistake. I wanted to link up with The Dales High Way coming out of Stainforth. The obvious way would have been to follow the River Ribble or even the quiet road up the valley from Stackhouse. No, I eschewed both for some cross-country  escapade involving some inelegant and illicit wall climbing. I hope the farmer is not reading this, although despite risking damage to his walls, our clothing and appendages, not a stone was dislodged.  As a diversion, we were treated to  excellent views of  the stately  Pen-y-ghent.

Things improved once we were on a signed path. Over the rise, the long escarpment of Smearsett Scar led us on. We started to meet more (sensible) walkers. The last time we were here, we climbed to the trig point on the Scar for its views, today we were less enthusiastic and settled into a wall for lunch. I regret not recording for historical evidence the size of ‘the pieman’s‘ sandwiches.

My eyes were scanning the cliffs of Pot Scar for routes often climbed. Will I ever return to those steep walls?

The farm at the head of Feizor was busy with cattle being let out onto the higher fields. We stood aside as the stockmen herded the cows, calves and a moody bull. Feizor was always a sleepy hamlet, but now there is a café and several holiday lets. Despite this, I think It will always be at the back of beyond.

As we gained height, looking back to Feizor the distinctive top of Ingleborough could be made out. New finger pointers show us the way back across clipped limestone grasslands to Buckhaw. We were both feeling the effects of a short but unintentionally fairly strenuous day.

Make that a splendid day.



        1. bowlandclimber Post author

          Just looked them up, and you can still but ex army Dachsteins for £20. That compares favourably with the extortionate prices for modern waterproof mittens.
          I have just recalled the distinctive smell of them, Herdwick through and through.

  1. Michael Graeme

    A cracking day out. I know Smearset a little, Giggleswick not at all. I’ve tried to get a brew at that cafe at Feizor few times now, but always found it chock full.

    1. bowlandclimber Post author

      As you saw, we didn’t stop at the café. It has become a ‘lunch spot’ for people arriving by car,
      The walk along Giggleswick Scar is recommended. Have you Wainwright’s limestone book?
      There is far more to explore than we did.

      1. Michael Graeme

        I do have that book. I shall look it up. I think I took Wainwright’s advice for getting up Smearset and Pot scar. It’s a striking area, I thought, and fewer visitors, it being away from the three peaks – except for that cafe of course.

  2. Conrad Robinson

    There is something just so special about our dales limestone region. I think for me loaded on top of that inherent atmosphere is a massive amount of nostalgia from my youthful days wandering all over that area, walking, climbing, caving, fishing and memorable social beer drinking with a group of friends when one optimistically believes that the camaraderie will never be end, but alas time moves on. But I still have an undefinable feeling when I visit that doesn’t occur anywhere else.

    I still have my pair of Dachsteins bought in 1960 for a trip to Norway with my current Thursday walking pal Pete – that is one friendship that has stood the test of time from those youthful days.


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