With Ulrike. We drove up the tiny road that leads from Stainforth towards Halton Gill, past the Pennine Way sign pointing north up Pen-y-ghent, past, not far after, the Pennine Way sign pointing south up Fountains Fell, to park, not far after, where a land rover track branches off right of the road signposted “New Bridge 3”. We followed this east for a bit, past a big herd of cows that paid us no heed, to where a wall heads off SE towards the top of Darnbrook Fell. We followed this on its left side where much of the time there was something very faint underfoot trying to be a path. As we neared the summit the way was blocked by a wall-fence coming in from the left. There was no gate or stile but by following it a very short way we found a place where there was a gap in the wall and all we had to do was step easily over the (not barbed) fence. From there is it five minutes to the summit where the base of the trig point is rather spectacularly exposed above the surrounding peat. I fear it may soon topple. Now we wanted to cross the wall we had followed up which was easy enough as Ulrike spotted a small section where the wire was unbarbed. After a whole we met another wall coming in from the left which had a gate which we went through before turning left and following it. Again there is something here trying to be a path. There is also a bit of bog but not too bad.
Pleasant easy walking eventually took us a junction with the Pennine Way to a stile across the wall where there is a National Trust sign marked “Malham Tarn Estate” and warning “There are a number of open mine shafts in this area. Please keep to the footpath.” The Pennine Way doesn’t visit the top of Fountains Fell but follow it over the stile and south a very short way post some a stone man and there is a good clear path that will take you to the top without undue fear of disappearing down a hole. The descent back down the Pennine Way took us very easily back to the road which we followed to the car. We met a herd of bullocks heading up the road the other way. We stood aside to let them pass which they did without bothering us. Fifteen minutes later, driving back to Settle, we had to negotiate them again by car where they had stopped and were standing around a cattlegrid looking defeated by it. And so down to Settle - where Ulrike was charmed by the eccentric explosion of flowerpot sculpture they have there in the summer months - and a snack in the Olde Naked Man Café.
It was raining steadily as I walked past the front of the Crown Inn to join the Pennine way north from Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Fifteen minutes later it was raining torrentially and the thunder gods had come out to play. I contemplated turning round and giving up. I’m glad I didn’t. It had stopped soon enough and stayed dry all day but with dramatic enough skies to keep doubts alive. Soon after passing Old Ing Farm, I took a couple of short detours, one to collect the trig on top of Cave Hill, another to peer into the dark interior of Browgill Cave. By the time I reached Ling Gill, it was a lovely afternoon. Harebells abounded. From here to Cam End was familiar ground from walk 50 a couple of months ago. The view from here round theThree Peaks hasn’t got any less wonderful. Left at Cam End down to where Donkin in his Pennine Way Walks book tells us “steep cobbles lead down to a slippery ford.” Not any more. The road has been done up for the forestry lorries and there is now a fancy new bridge in place of a ford.
Pennine Way out. Ribble Way home. I picked the latter up at Gearstones Lodge where I went through the grassy grounds and into a large field extremely densely populated with sheep. After crossing this the way is not all that clear. The landowner is very keen to tell you where not to go with various signs on gates announcing no right of way. But there is a not very easy to spot step style in a wall made a little awkward by a broken first step. Down a bit, left a bit and there was a river to cross that took a bit of care. (Only when I was done did I notice the footbridge.) It is a lovely walk from here over Thorns Moss. There were some cows about an a large bull to guard them but too reassuringly far off to cause concern. At Nether Lodge, the path, signposted to Birkwith, bypasses the farmbuildings over a little bridge on the left. Near High Birkwith a footpath on the left that allows a corner to be cut is unsignposted but obvious enough. Here I was a stone’s throw from Old Ing and it would have been easy enough to switch back to the outward route.
But best not to as the Ribble Way south of here is rather splendid, following a grassy terrace amidst lovely little limestone crags and limestone pavements. At one point a gull cuts in and it is necessary to descend a bit to a footbridge. Or not quite, as if you keep your eyes open, there is a point vwhere the wall can be crossed a bit higher up (just before it stops being a wall and becomes a fence). From here you can stay on the Ribble Way until it meets the Pennine Way at Sell Gill Holes. Instead I decided to follow Donkin’s route cutting right by Top Farm and follow the road home past the Tarn and New Houses. I seemed to reach the farm sooner than I expected and, after picking up its track I reached the road much sooner than I expected. Only ten minutes later when I passed a farm entrance signed “Top Farm” did I cop on to my mistake, cutting right too soon, taking Scales Farm for Top Farm. Pay attention Lenman. It was a pleasant walk home by verges bright with late summer flowers. This had been a lovely walk. The storms at the start were all forgotten.
Otherwise not much to be said. Easy walk. Nice day. Thistles and herb Robert abundantly in flower. The top is a pleasant spot with a great view and, if you fancy a seat, the smallest bench ever.