5.3 miles (8.5 kilometres) rambling around Dent, with some of my favourite views. April, sunny but cool, with the family.
There’s another weather warning in place. There seems to be one every week, some dire prognostication of hurricanes or torrential rain which on closer inspection covers hundreds of miles and as many topographies. Like clickbait headlines, it’s another way to frighten the weak minded. It promised me a 91% chance of rain and 60 mph winds. I look out of my bedroom window and wonder why these idiots are in shirtsleeves under blue skies with fluffy clouds, then I realise I’ve been duped again. It’s a beautiful day.
We grab our raincoats, just in case, and head down to Church Bridge, past the church with the grave of the Dent vampire.
Yes indeed, in 1715 George Hodgson, recently deceased, began appearing around the village again and by accounts drinking blood and generally making a nuisance of himself. The villagers did what parochial villagers do and held a meeting then dug him up, whereupon it was decided George was insufficiently dead. He was reinterred by the church door and a metal stake was driven through him to prevent him getting out again. Bullshit, I hear you shout, but from that day forward he was never seen again, so there you have it, the dubious tale of the Dent vampire.
Moving on, we test the water, both literally and metaphorically by walking by the River Dee for a while. There are no ducks. Of course there aren’t, because we remembered to bring the duck food. With the sun shining down, gaining in confidence we decide to head up Flintergill, one of the nicest lanes out of the village, and all uphill. Steeply uphill.
I’ve written about Flintergill (or Flinter Gill) before, this mossy gnarly tree tunnel, this lush green lane, this netherworld of boggarts and sprites. Today it is as green and otherworldly as I remember. I circumnavigate the wishing tree once again, three times, making a different wish; my son is appalled by this display of credulous balderdash. We continue on up. The trail is close with the smell of wild garlic.
As we pass the old barn, now a tiny museum, the trees slip away and the world opens up to blue, green and gold. Son scoots ahead and as I plod slowly up to the orientation cairn I find him sitting gnome like on it meditating. He’s never meditated in his life. I wonder if perhaps he’s testing it as a picnic seat and checking on the wind.
The views are gorgeous, expansive, full of light and air. As we reach the Occupation Road, or the Occy as the locals call it, we turn right. I’ve written before about this green lane here, it is a favourite path of mine.
But it’s also a reminder that once these hills were open to all. In 1859 as part of the Enclosures Act, the land up here on the fell was divided and enclosed, or occupied. Where once was open fell and old drovers roads, the ground was stolen from the commons and walls were built. Lovely looking walls, but built to keep people out. All that is left of the old ways is the Occupation Road.
On a good day you can see for miles. Today is a good day. Together we name the hills we know, Aye Gill Pike, the faraway Howgills, towering Calf Top, Crag Hill with its distinctive cairn, and Whernside in the distance. We find tadpoles swimming in deep puddles and I wonder what their chances of survival are in this wilderness. I’m struck by the difference between these tiny new forms and the vast 450 million year old fells around them, the world implodes into a teeming puddle.
We walk lazily towards Calf Top, an impenetrable fell wall that rises steeply, too steeply for us to consider walking it. The scale doesn’t come across in the photos I take, no matter how many adjustments I make. The sheep watch us closely, they don’t seem bothered by us and wander over to sniff us, they have an exceptional sense of smell.
At Keldishaw we come to the end of the road and turn into Stone Rigg Outrake. We’ve passed back through the portal into the real world. There is an occasional car to remind us, and working farms of muck and rusting tractor parts. Rural farmers are the world’s industrial hoarders.
As we cross back over pasture towards Dent, we find a dingly dell with a clapper bridge over the beck. And then it’s cross-field sheep and mud all the way back home. I’ll take it all. I expected to spend the day indoors reading a book. I feel like I’ve stolen a day back that I never knew I had; I’ve found a day down the back of the sofa.
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More walks in this area
The walk was somewhat impromptu, so I followed my nose to paths I knew were there. My GPX is here. Credit also to both the Dent Heritage Centre for their info boards on land enclosure, and to writer and campaigner John Bainbridge whose blog about the Occupation Road was very informative as I was writing.
The walk begins and ends at the bus stop/ car park in Dent by the Heritage Centre where there’s a café and small museum of rural history.
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