13 miles (21 kilometres) circular walk from Dent along the postman’s path to Snaizwold Fell, Rise Hill and Aye Gill Pike. April, sun and cloud. With son and dog.
Aye Gill Pike is a sleeping giant. It looms above Dentdale, watching over the village, guarding it from invaders. There haven’t been any for centuries so now it lies there still to the north, pincushioned by sheep and lambs. I’ve walked it before from North Lords Land but never from the station end. Today we are looking for the postman’s path to take us out of the valley and up onto the moor and onto the pike’s back.
We decided to tackle the longest walk on the first day. I don’t know if that sounds like a good or bad idea to you but today promised the best weather so we set out back down the Dales Way to reach the turning near Ibbeth Peril, the swimming spot with a waterfall that I haven’t yet braved swimming in. One day. Ibbeth Peril is the home of the Dent witch, who lives in one of the caves by the waterfall, but I’ve yet to meet her, perhaps she got fed up of all the cavers.
The path takes us up behind the farmyards and by barns, past proper traditionally laid hedges fringed with primroses and watchful staring sheep until we find ourselves at last on the postman’s path which will take us high up onto the fells. It is warm and bright and there’s a cloudy haze near the horizon but even so we can see Dent station clearly across Cowgill Beck. We look for ourselves coming down the Coal Road. We are listening for trains but it’s bank holiday and everywhere is silent, except for the babbling skylarks. There is no one but us.
In the far distance we can see Ribblehead Viaduct, the location for the final scene of one of my favourite films, Sightseers. It’s a slow steady hike up the top and the railway disappears into a tunnel as we climb above it. The higher we climb, the peatier and boggier it gets underfoot until we are squelching through black and mossy sponge.
We turn onto Snaizwold Fell and get hungry. Suddenly we hear the train’s horn but it’s only the sound coming from below, the line is out of sight to us. The line sometimes has occasional steam trains as it’s the Settle-Carlisle heritage line. At the top we park ourselves on a dry stone wall, from where I note we can see the railway line again. And out come the sandwiches and crisps at last.
With a pause there is space to look around, and in what at first sight seems a boggy moorland devoid of colour I see form and structure. There are intricate and beautiful mosses and lichens, and tiny yellow anthers on cotton grass which tell us where not to tread, as cotton grass loves the wet. Things are wild and understated, perfectly adapted to the wind and rain.
As we hike over Rise Hill we begin to see frogspawn, at first a new discovery, then everywhere there’s a boggy slick. So much of it, and in such huge splats like translucent cowpats, I start to wonder if there is some giant frog I’ve not come across before. Some piles seem to be on land when a perfectly serviceable hill pond is nearby. Some ponds seem big enough to qualify as tarns. It makes for slow walking, trying to keep boots from drowning.
At the pike trig point we see people for the first time on this wild walk so we stop briefly to bag the peak and move on. I’m getting tired now and the dog is playing up, he was spooked by the two sheep dogs at the trig, he is scared of other dogs and sheep dogs are his least favourite. It becomes a bit of a slog to get back down the slope of Aye Gill Pike, avoiding the deepest water. The beautiful Howgill fells are before us in the distance, near enough to inspire but too far for a day hike. It’s a long way down.
But of course we descend from the fell, just a little grumpy, and reward ourselves with a shortbread biscuit. The landscape changes from copper and gold to green, and far away in the distance, or so it seems, we can see Dent. The green lane slowly warms me back up. I always feel the cold and take a long time to reverse back, I am becoming lizard as I get older: cool, dry and scaly.
The warmer air carries us down past the sheep farms and along roads back down to Barth Bridge and the river path back home. There is no café for us today, but it’s easter and there are two easter eggs waiting for us back at home. At 13 miles across peat bog we’ve most definitely earned them.
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This walk is adapted from a walk I originally saw on go4awalk.com which is a useful site for anyone who enjoys fell and mountain walking in the UK. Their walks always carry very detailed instructions and are not expensive to download, each walk costs one credit, roughly equivalent to no more than £1. My GPX is here.
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