Saturday started with long intervals of sunshine and it appeared that the forecasters may be wrong and that the rain yet again, would not arrive. So, washing on the line and work done, I got out my map and decided where to trek.
As I made my flask of coffee and sandwich, some clouds appeared, but there was still plenty of sunshine around. I popped my waterproofs in my day sack just in case and looked forward to a good long walk.
My plan was to park up at at Ickornshaw, only five miles from home and pick up the Pennine way to Lothersdale and beyond and then circle back Cononley way, walking nine or ten miles.
There’s a handy roadside pull in as you turn down into Ickornshaw off the A6068 and lucky for me there was room for just one more car. So boots on and map tucked into my front pocket and I was off.
Ickornshaw is a tiny village, with a jumble of cottages lining the steep little road, a converted old mill, a stream running behind, pretty gardens and little snickets here and there leading to leafy lanes and hidden houses. The Pennine way drops down into the village on wooden edged steps and crosses the road over the stream. Picking up the way-marked sign, I turned left into a lane leading between cottages, past a bungalow where flowers spill over the walls and on towards a working farm.
The sun was warm and soon my fleece was off and my water bottle was in hand. As I crossed the fields, cows calmly chewed and I started to relax as nature worked its magic. Past farms, down narrow lanes and along a stream side path, where the sun filtered through an archway of branches and butterflies danced between the foxgloves.
Now for the first climb up Cowling Hill and my calves reminded me that I hadn’t been doing enough walking lately, oh how they burned! But soon I was on the hill top and the long views towards the Yorkshire Dales opened up. The skies were wide and blue ahead but behind me skies were steely and to the East, showers fell in soft bands of grey. The wind whipped my hair across my face and I laughed at the force of it.
Down into Lothersdale and a short stop for half a Thatchers and some Yorkshire crisps, the sun still keeping those clouds at bay. Then leaving the Pennine Way, I walked up Tow Top Lane, enjoying the long and familiar views of hills and dry stone walls. The weather was definitely changing, the blue skies heading away from me now and clouds behind rolling in from the East. The fleece was back on as I checked my map and considered whether it would be wise to visit the pretty village of Cononley and climb Gott Hill beyond. The skies behind me were menacing and Boulsworth hill looked like it was already getting a soaking, so I resigned myself to cutting my walk short and headed for Street Head farm and started to drop down Cononley Moor on a well-defined track. Lucky for me, as the first rain shower hit me, I’d just reached the corner of the field where, tucked down near the bottom of the wall, was a through stone protruding just far enough for me to perch on. Hood up and coffee poured, I watched the rain pelt the parched ground.
It was a short shower and I was soon on my way again, stripping off the layers and rolling up my walking trousers as I headed back towards Crosshills, with Gib Side and the old mine workings opposite. Wishing I had time to wander up and explore but knowing I’d had to leave this for another day, I pushed on trying to beat the worsening weather which was now moving in quickly. Past the converted farms and barns of Ley House and down to the ford. Feeling the temperature drop, I made my way up through the wooded bridleway, no sunlight filtering through the leaves now; all felt dark and eerie. Only a mile and a half now back to the car and I thought I might just beat the rain. But as the path levelled and I headed across the fields to Long Lane, I heard the first rumble of thunder and rain swept across the tops. Quickly pulling on my waterproofs and covering my day-sack, I sat on a grassy tussock behind a wall and tucked myself into the side of a holly bush, balancing my rucksack on my knee to keep my feet as dry as possible.
Hunkered down behind the old wall
I watched the wildness unfold.
Gone were the blue skies and gentle breeze,
Now all was grey and wet and loud
as the skies poured down weeks of rain.
And the lightening cracked
and the thunder rolled
as I counted the seconds,
Close, closer still.
And me, hunkered down behind the dry-stone wall
in the midst and fury of it all.
Now – overhead.
Hailstones pelted the puddles
and trees swayed in glorious confusion
as the wind roared and the rain swept
through their summer leaves.
And I sipped my coffee and closed my eyes
and smelled the storm.
Full forty minutes I hunkered down
until the storm rolled away
towards Skipton and the Dales.
Then, smiling, I strode into the rain-soaked summer
and watched the steam rise from the tarmac
as hailstones melted in a road-side pail.
And so, down into Ickornshaw, past the farm where an old tractor rusted and a sheepdog barked. Past the school, with upturned chairs on tables in an empty classroom, past the cottages with hanging baskets dripping and the lane running like a river. Smelling the freshness, the heady scent of flowers and the sharp smell of the stone walls and people emerging from their cottages into the newness of the rain.
Back to the car and the modern world, exhilarated and thankful for another walk, a walk on the wild side.