There are no hills on this walk, but there is some uphill. The route takes an old drover’s (and Roman) road, Mastiles Lane up to around 420 metres. It’s steepish in the lane, but the going is nowhere difficult. You will encounter quite a lot of cattle, though. They presented no difficulties to us, but if you’re nervous around big ungulates, this might not be your route.
Susan, Harvey-the-shorkie and I park up on the road that runs up out the back of Kilnsey – I assume it once served the quarry there. There are a couple of massive lay-bys here so parking should not be an issue.
We walk up the road from the car as the strange, skirling of a green woodpecker whoops from the woods to our left. The road soon forks and we take the sinister…um…prong? We’ve left the tarmac now, new woodland on the slope above us. The track loops around below Cool Scar quarry before turning roughly west southwest, dropping down towards a large herd of my third favourite breed of cattle, blue greys. Not for the first time in a blog post, I feel compelled to assert that cattle are not a reliable navigational feature. You should be looking for walled lane running steeply uphill.
Susan picks up Harvey in his harness and we skirt widely round the cattle in case he decides to offer them all outside, which would be bold and (given our location) nonsensical. We traipse through the mud and/or manure and pass through the gate without incident. Above the field to our right, lapwings dance madly in the air sounding their lilting, disyllabic call. The name lapwing comes from the Old English hleaēpwince, meaning (roughly) leap with a waiver in it, which perfectly captures their hesitant, tilting flight.
The lane steepens before us and the exertion combines sweatily with the spring sunshine. Not for Susan, you understand, just me. Susan doesn’t sweat. Harvey floofles. Yes, yes, floofling is a verb. We pause for coffee not far shy of the crest of the lane. A brown shape on the track above us reveals itself as a skylark when it takes to the air. It’s the first I’ve seen this spring and its trilling is surely the season turning a corner.
As we crest over the summit of the lane, we encounter around a dozen backpackers in a long strung-out line, all in their mid-40s or over. I honestly had no idea how much the DofE Award demograph had changed this much since I left school.
After passing through the next gate (Mastiles Gate, in fact, according to the map). We turn south southeast and handrail the wall. There is a track through this field, and there are more blue greys here. They’re not at all threatening – in fact most of them are laid down – but we give them a wide berth just to err on caution’s side. At the far end of this field, we join the tarmac of Malham Moor Lane and head (very) roughly east. Looking across to the tops, I can see a herd of my favourite breed of cattle – belted Galloways. FY information, I think my second favourite is probably English longhorn.
Above us, the the curlew’s liquid call bubbles into the sky. They are so distinctive in flight, bowed, pointed wings and that long drooping bill.
We follow the tarmac for just over 900 metres before turning north through a gate and onto a well-established track. There’s a massive tyre chained to the footpath sign, with white-paint instructions about keeping your dog on a lead. Harvey is on a lead, so we’re good. Yours should be too. Yes, I know he’s a good boy and always does as he’s told. You know who else said that? Everybody whose dog has ever worried a sheep.
There are significant outcrops of limestone pavement around us. They’re grazed to the living end so even in the summer there’s little of the woodland flora you should expect. We stop at one of the outcrops for lunch as lapwings tilt and shudder in the air above us.
As we continue, the track rises and then starts to drop away. Beyond Kilnsey, Great Whernside squats on the horizon. We descend, on sheep-cropped, springy turf, toward the cows we first encountered. There’s some wriggling (metaphorically speaking) through some farm infrastructure that (I think) manages and channels cattle. We have another cautious circumnavigation of the non-threatening cows and then we simply retrace out route back to the car.
In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Paramo Torres belay jacket, OL Sheet 2, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, coffee, a litre of water. I wore Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock, Paramo Velez Adventure trousers, Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck hoodie, Scarpa Rebel lite Gtx, Paramo Mountain gaiters, Rab Latok gloves (they were too hot. I am a fool).