Dent (Sedbergh), in the dales. Solo. June. Warm and sunny, perfect walking weather. 4.8 miles linear (7.7 kilometres)
TL;DR up and down, mostly down, with an excellent pub at the end.
I’ve really walked away this time. I’m on my own for a week: no work, no kids, no family, no dog. I sit on the train and try to let go of everything that has been causing me stress this year. Work takes its toll, I listen for a living.
It’s a gorgeous journey from Leeds to Dent, the highest mainline station in the UK, part of the Settle-Carlisle line. I’ve clung to the views of Shipley to try to see my grandad’s house and my dad’s school at Saltaire, and I’ve watched the dales roll out before me. It’s just beautiful. The train is hot and we go steadily over the Ribblehead viaduct.
I’ve packed incredibly light for a week, just 22 litres and my pack is light if a bit unwieldy, it needs to be for the journey back up.
I’m the only person who gets off at Dent. I love it. The station house is a real gem of a building, and it is holiday accommodation. I stayed here one Christmas a few years ago, all the family came. It has lovely memories for me. The builders are in today, I’m told later the Settle-Carlisle Trust now owns it which seems the right thing.
The hill down to Cowgill is ridiculously steep, and my pack propels me downwards alarmingly. But when I stop I see orchids growing everywhere, they’ve even spread into the station plant pots.
At the foot of the hill is a sign for red squirrels which makes me more excited than it should, and a pointer for the church. It’s not an ancient church, the foundation stone was laid by Adam Sedgwick, one of the founders of modern geology who was born here in Dent, but it is a lovely spot and has a memorial to the men and women who died building the train line, at least 72 during construction and hundreds more from smallpox which raged through the navvies’ camps. Grim and almost unthinkable to us now.
I don’t have time for the church so I cross the river and meet the Dales Way which runs beside the river Dee. The stream is enticing my hot sweaty feet in, I feel so fortunate to be here right now. It’s a moment of real happiness which only seems to happen when we stop desperately scrambling for it. So I enjoy being here right now.
I feel like i’m making another kind of mental journey, a transitional one from one space to another, from noise to peace and from chaos to calm. With my feet on the rocks and the water running over them I am standing in a liminal space but it isn’t uncomfortable and i’m excited. I remember I have a reservation for tea at the George Inn and the moment is gone. I’m back to thinking about arrangements, timetables and forecasts.
So I put my boots back on and carry on along the Dales Way. Dentdale is an up and down kind of a place and even this walk along the valley floor takes me by surprise as it skirts the bottom of Whernside, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (but more about Whernside later).
Eventually I join the road and head towards the town. Dalespeople still call it Dent Town. It’s a very small town now though, which is why I like it so much. I’m tempted by so many footpaths off into the hay meadows and up to the gills and off to the becks. I’ve made an excellent choice for my solo retreat.
As I come towards town I can’t resist and make a detour over the field back to the Dales Way and Church Bridge. It’s evening and the light is beginning to turn to gold. It’s a beautiful evening but it’s just me and the yellow wagtails.
I’ve still time to walk, but not much of it to spare, as my dinner and a drink is waiting for me at The George and it isn’t a good idea to keep a dragon slayer (or a restaurant reservation) waiting, so I head back into the village with its timeless old cobbled streets to find my bed and board.
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The GPX for this route can be found here and was designed as a linear route for staying in Dent, but of course you can retrace the path back to Dent Station, but give yourself plenty of time if you need to catch a train back as the way back up is heavy going.
The book I was reading, while not connected to this walk, is a beautifully written exploration of nature and solitude and I thoroughly recommend it, Deep Country by Neil Ansell. It’s available from good independent bookshops.
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