I ‘discovered’ Roeburndale whilst walking Wainwright’s Way between Dunsop Bridge and Hornby a couple of months ago. The route I was following dropped into the valley and climbed out just as quickly. I thought there must be a better way to explore this valley of natural woodlands. Research on the web showed some permissive paths but even those didn’t link up completely. When Sir Hugh was wanting to complete his WW trail in the area I was only too keen to revisit and investigate paths in the valley. The plan was to leave one car at Hornby, drive to the foot of Salter Fell and walk back down the hidden valley. Simple. Come the day and we struggle to negotiate the ice on the narrow steep road, expert driving by Sir Hugh. Shaken after skidding up that steep hill we consider what to do. I became nervous about returning up the hill in my car later in the day and having two cars stuck. We decided unanimously to get the hell out of here as soon as possible, so Sir Hugh in first gear retreats. The skid marks on the road were still there later in the day – good decision. The road is much steeper than the picture suggests.
Now parked up in Wray our option is to walk up Roeburndale and somehow [all a bit vague] find a circular route back. Wray is a quiet village of stone cottages which hit the headlines in August 1967 when the Rivers Roeburn and Hindburn flooded causing loss of properties, bridges and livestock but thankfully no villagers. The way out of the village is by Kitten Bridge over the River Roeburn, this was the way for workers going to Wray Mill [wool and silk] now converted into accommodation. Looking back over the village Ingleborough was prominent.
We picked up a track leaving the road at a small building and followed it into the woods quite high above the river. The path was intermittent and hidden beneath all the Autumn leaves. In about a third of a mile, it started descending steeply and remains of wooden steps in places suggesting we were on track. Once down level with the river, there was some boulder hopping to be done and lots of fallen trees to get around. A truly hidden valley.
A meadow was then traversed to the bridge I had crossed before in the middle of those apple orchards. This time we followed the permissive footpath signs along the valley. The vague path climbed away from the river ending at a belvedere overlooking the river. Onwards we went, picking up the odd waymark and guessing, intelligently, where the path would go. We spotted a diversion to the wire bridge across the river and went to explore the other side. The bridge was exciting – slippery, creaking and swaying. A camping barn was marked on the map and we found it after one false alarm. We gained access from the outer stairs which led into the bunk room, all very cosy. Down a ladder, we were in the kitchen with all you would need for a night’s stay. I wonder who owns/runs this place. Once back over the bridge……we pick up the permissive path once more as it contours high in the valley just in the edge of the woods. The day was passing, there was no sign of a thaw and we didn’t have a plan. My thought of returning along the fells to the east was slipping away with the daylight. We decided to follow blindly the permissive path and cross the river by the bridge Sir Hugh had found the other day. Lots of undulations in the trees before we came out into open fields and started dropping down to the river. A muddy track led us to ‘Sir Hugh’s bridge’ which was sturdier than the last one. The path seemed to go away from the river so we made the decision to climb up to the road which would be our quickest way back to Wray. [It would have only been another quarter of a mile to Barkin Bridge and thus completing a stretch of Wainwright’s Way wholly in this delightful wooded valley.] In parts the road was an ice rink and as I said our tyre marks were still visible from this morning. This otherwise pleasant stroll down the lanes was enhanced by views to Ingleborough, Whernside, the Howgills and the Lakeland tops.
They were just starting carol singing when we arrived in Wray.