A Travellerspoint blog

September 2020

UK Road Trip 2020 - South to North and Back (First Leg)

Route: Sussex Coast - New Forest - Shropshire Hills - Yorkshire Dales

semi-overcast 20 °C

AUGUST - SEPTEMBER 2020

It had been almost five months since our return from Mexico and the suspension of our travels. We had been staying with a very good friend in Hove, England, waiting to see how the Covid-19 pandemic would play out. We felt confident that our travels would resume one day but when that would be was much more difficult to predict. Pre planned trips were cancelled and new ones put on hold, as we waited for things to improve.
Finally, towards the end of July, the pandemic seemed to be under control in Europe. However, the degree of optimism being experienced in Europe wasn’t echoed in other parts of the world. So if we did start travelling again it would have to be relatively local. With this in mind, we decided to restart our travels in the UK and head out on a road trip towards the end of August. The plan was to travel from the far south to the far north, namely from Hove, on the Sussex south coast, to John o’Groats, in the far north of the Scottish Mainland. To get the full enjoyment of such a trip we decided to stop regularly and allowed ourselves three months for its completion.

Sunday 23rd August we left Hove and drove west towards the town of Ringwood, on the edge of the New Forest National Park (see below). It felt so good to be travelling again.
Our home for the next five nights was one of our favourite places, the “Garden Room”, owned by our friend Alison.

Our accommodation in New Forest

Our accommodation in New Forest

The weather during our stay was variable to say the least, everything from warm bright sunshine to thundery downpours. This was fine as there was enough good weather to allow us to catch up with friends and get out for a few nice walks.

New Forest National Park

New Forest National Park

Our journey to our next location wasn’t the enjoyable drive through the beautiful English countryside we had expected. Firstly, we were battling against heavy rain showers most of the way and secondly it was the Friday of the last long bank holiday weekend before the children go back to school. It didn’t rain all the time so that wasn’t so bad, but the traffic was horrendous, making the journey almost 50% longer. However, everything improved when we arrived. Even on a damp and windy night, our new location in the Shropshire Hills looked beautiful.

The following day dawned bright and sunny and was an ideal time to get out and explore. Even from the doorstep of our cottage we could see that the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a title it truly deserves.

Our accommodation near Church Stretton

Our accommodation near Church Stretton

bird watching (blue tit) at our accommodation in Shropshire Hills

bird watching (blue tit) at our accommodation in Shropshire Hills

Our first taste of the area was a very beautiful walk up the Carding Mill Valley to Pole Bank, the highest point in Shropshire. Our route took us up through a narrow gorge to a waterfall then continued to a ridge that eventually brought us out onto the Shropshire Way. It was then a further, but a much more gentle assent to reach Pole Bank. Initially there were few other hikers and only grazing sheep and horses for company. This changed once we met the Shropshire Way, but still not busy considering it was a bank holiday weekend. Our route back took us on the other side of the valley circling back to the car park we started from.

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd walk

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd walk

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd - Long Mynd is a heath and moorland plateau

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd - Long Mynd is a heath and moorland plateau

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd

Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd

The weather on our second day was just as nice. We were up and about early to make the most of it. This time our destination was further afield, in fact we crossed the border into Wales.
Today’s visit was to a World Heritage Site, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal (see below). This time the walk was much flatter, following the towpath across the aqueduct and along the edge of the canal. Once away from the aqueduct and the crowds the walk was very peaceful. Now all you could hear was the sound of birds and the occasional narrowboat chugging by to break the silence. It was also quite amazing to think that underneath our feet was part of a 1200 year old Anglo-Saxon structure, the “Offa’s Dyke” (see below).

Narrow boat on Llangollen Canal

Narrow boat on Llangollen Canal

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Llangollen Canal

Llangollen Canal

With our canal walk complete we wanted to get a better look at this amazing feat of engineering. To do this a steep climb down the embankment was required. But once at the bottom and on the banks of the River Dee (which flows under the Aqueduct) we were able to get a much better view.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct with narrow boat going across

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct with narrow boat going across

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

We choose to leave the car at home the next day and went hiking from the cottage. Hills rose all around us and were calling out to be explored. Our hike took us around the estate we were staying on and up into the surrounding hillside. The views were spectacular and well worth the not inconsiderable effort needed to get to the top of them. Once on top we crossed between Wilstone Hill to Hope Bowdler Hill before descending down to Hope Bowdler village. From here it was just a short walk back to the cottage.

On our way to Hope Bowdler Hill

On our way to Hope Bowdler Hill

Hope Bowdler and Wilstone Hill walk

Hope Bowdler and Wilstone Hill walk

Caer Caradoc Hill hike

Caer Caradoc Hill hike

Shropshire Hills scenery with stone walls

Shropshire Hills scenery with stone walls

With the good weather continuing we were keen to see a different part of the Shropshire Hills. Our destination was the picturesque village of Clun in the west of the Shropshire Hills. Set in a valley with a river running through the middle, its dominant feature was the remains of a 11th century castle. Our hike took us out of the village, up the side of the valley and into the surrounding forest. The plan was to cross the forest and then circle back to where we had started. However, whilst engrossed in the stunning scenery we took a wrong turn which almost increased the length of the walk from 8km to 13km. On the up side our new route took us through hidden valleys we wouldn’t have otherwise seen but on the down side our legs were screaming “no more” by the time we eventually got back to Clun.

Clun Castle ruins from 13th century

Clun Castle ruins from 13th century

Forest section of the Shrophire Hills walk near Clun

Forest section of the Shrophire Hills walk near Clun

Shropshire Hills walk from Clun

Shropshire Hills walk from Clun

With the weather about to turn we decided to take a break from hiking in the hills and visit the historic town of Ludlow. Said to be one of the most beautiful towns in England we can confirm the claim is not exaggerated. Full of well maintained historic buildings, a preserved castle and walled fortifications it was very enjoyable to have a good look around. That was until the forecast rain started, this meant a quick look at the River Teme before retreating back to the car and home to our very comfortable cottage.

The Feathers Hotel, dating back to 1619 in Ludlow

The Feathers Hotel, dating back to 1619 in Ludlow

Dinham Bridge (1823) in Ludlow

Dinham Bridge (1823) in Ludlow

For our last day in Shropshire we again stayed close to home and explored the hills to the south of the property. Great views once again greeted us as we reached the top of the ridge and a pleasant walk to complete our stay in the area.

Hope Bowdler Walk from our accommodation

Hope Bowdler Walk from our accommodation

Our journey now took us further north, but not before we vowed to return to the Shropshire Hills one day to explore it further. Our destination was the Yorkshire Dales were we had a week to explore. With time on our hands before we could access our accommodation, we decided to check out the historic market town of Skipton. The check in and check out times for accommodation is governed by Covid-19 rules these days. With more time required to clean and disinfect we usually had to vacate by 09:30 and not arrive before 17:00.

Our exploration of the Dales was in the form of a daily walk. Each varied in length and difficulty and normally started from one the many attractive small villages dotted around the area. Usually the village would consist of limestone houses, a pub and a general store, with more of each for some if the larger communities.

Looking back at Kettlewell town

Looking back at Kettlewell town

Flower pots sculpture in Settle Town

Flower pots sculpture in Settle Town

Invariable the hike would start with a climb up to higher ground through sheep filled meadows, then traverse the surrounding countryside before returning to our starting point. The scenery was stunning and we couldn’t get enough of it.
Rivers flowed brown from the rich mineral soil as they cut their way through the limestone landscape. Sometimes the water would be captured in mountain lakes, or Tarns (see below), before flowing out and continuing down the hillside.
Dramatic geological “Scars” (see below) appeared around every corner and reminded us of the power of glaciers. All the while our feet were being cushioned by the boggy grass that covered the limestone escarpments.

Victoria Cave walk around Settle

Victoria Cave walk around Settle

Another type of stile, call a Ladder stile to allow right of passage for walkers

Another type of stile, call a Ladder stile to allow right of passage for walkers

Step Stiles can be found regularly to allow foot passage over walls

Step Stiles can be found regularly to allow foot passage over walls

Looking down into Arncliffe village

Looking down into Arncliffe village

Narrow road in Yorkshire Dales, hoping not to meet a tractor or a truck

Narrow road in Yorkshire Dales, hoping not to meet a tractor or a truck


Liverpool to Leeds Canal

Liverpool to Leeds Canal

Liverpool - Leeds Canal

Liverpool - Leeds Canal

Malham Tarn

Malham Tarn

Malham Cove

Malham Cove

Top view of Malham Cove

Top view of Malham Cove

Malham walk view

Malham walk view

Gordale Beck

Gordale Beck

Gordale Scar

Gordale Scar

Janet Foss

Janet Foss

Little and Big Ingleborough Peaks in the background

Little and Big Ingleborough Peaks in the background

Moorland sheep

Moorland sheep

Waterfall, Clapham Village, Yorkhire

Waterfall, Clapham Village, Yorkhire


And that wasn’t all, there were more geological wonders for us to see.
Caves were everywhere, carved out by water seeping into the porous limestone and forming a labyrinth of tunnels below our feet. One such cave was of particular interest. Known as Gaping Gill, the water from a small river leaves the surface and plunges 105 meters (the highest single drop in the UK) down a pothole where it flows through various cave chambers before it re-emerges lower down the valley. We could only see the water disappearing into the cave and not the cave itself, but photos of what lay below looked very impressive.

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

There was also the phenomenon of a limestone pavements. On the top of a limestone escarpment and where water seepage has formed cracks, a pavement is created. Although known as a pavement it is more like a cluster of stepping stones, which can be quite challenging to walk across.

Limestone pavement on top of Malham Cove

Limestone pavement on top of Malham Cove

As with the Shropshire Hills a week in the Yorkshire Dales was never going to be enough, so again, we shall return one day.
From our base in the Southern Dales our journey continued north, up into Cumbria and the North Pennines AONB. But we hadn’t yet finished with the Dales as our route would take us through the middle.
The day started in sunshine and a visit to the 12th century Bolton Abbey. Nestled in a valley on a bend of the River Wharfe the setting was very picturesque and some consolation for the life these medieval monks had to endure.

Bolton Abbey, 12th Century

Bolton Abbey, 12th Century

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

From Bolton Abbey our route cut right through the middle of the dales passing one beautiful village after another until roughly in the centre we arrived at Aysgarth Falls. Here the River Ure tumbles over three cascades and made a suitable lunch stop.

Aysgarth Falls Top one

Aysgarth Falls Top one

Aysgarth Fall middle one

Aysgarth Fall middle one

Continuing north through the dales our next stop was Pendragon Castle. With the weather deteriorating, there was only time for a quick self guided tour of the ruins, for which we were the only visitors.
Pendragon Castle is reputed to have been founded by Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur. According to legend, in the 5th century, Uther Pendragon and a hundred of his men were killed here when the Saxon invaders poisoned the well. There are also claims that the Romans built at least a temporary fort here. However, all that remains today is the ruins of a 12th century Norman castle built on top of the previous fortifications.

Pendragon castle (ruins from 12th Century) but Pendragon (father of King Arthur) is from 5th century

Pendragon castle (ruins from 12th Century) but Pendragon (father of King Arthur) is from 5th century

View from Pendragon Castle

View from Pendragon Castle

The rest of the journey was completed in the rain with only a glimpse of sunshine appearing on the arrival at our next destination of Alston in the North Pennines AONB. This was also the completion of the first leg and start of the second leg of our journey.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

New Forest National Park
The New Forest National Park is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in Southern England, covering southwest Hampshire and southeast Wiltshire. It was proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror and featured in the Domesday Book. Pre-existing rights of common pasture are still recognised today, being enforced by official verderers and agisters. In the 18th century, The New Forest became a source of timber for the Royal Navy. It remains a habitat for many rare birds and mammals.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal across the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen in northeast Wales. The 18-arched stone and cast iron structure is for use by narrowboats. It was designed by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, completed in 1805 (having taken ten years to build) and cost £38,499 (£2,500,000 today).
It is 12 ft (3.7 metres) wide and is the longest navigable aqueduct in the UK. It is also the highest canal aqueduct in the world at 126ft 8in (39 metres). The aqueduct holds 1.5 million litres of water, which is enough to fill 8,572 bathtubs.
The structure is a Grade 1 listed building and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Offa’s Dyke
Offa's Dyke (Clawdd Offa in Welsh) is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after Offa, the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia (AD 757 - 796), who is traditionally believed to have ordered its construction. Although its precise original purpose is debated, it delineated the border between Anglian Mercia and the Welsh Kingdom of Powys.
The earthwork, which was up to 65 feet (20 m) wide (including its flanking ditch) and 8 feet (2.4 m) high, traversed low ground, hills and rivers. Today it is protected as a scheduled monument. Some of its route is followed by the Offa’s Dyke Path, a 176-mile (283 km) long distance footpath that runs between Liverpool Bay in the north and the Severn Estuary in the south.
Although the Dyke has conventionally been dated to the Early Middle Ages of Anglo-Saxon England, research in recent decades – using techniques such as radioactive carbon dating – has challenged the conventional historiography and theories about the earthwork, and show that it was started in the early fifth century, during the sub-Roman period and only completed by Offa.

Vocabulary
During our travels we encountered words that we weren’t always sure we knew the correct meaning of. So as to remind ourselves we have listed their definitions below:

  • Crag: A steep rugged mass of rock projecting upward or outward, especially a cliff or vertical rock.

Crag

Crag

  • Scar: Exposed cliffs of limestone. They were created during the last ice age, when huge sheets of ice scraped away the soil-covered spurs in many valleys in the Yorkshire Dales. The exposed surface is affected by freeze-thaw action on the well-jointed limestone. Water enters the cracks, freezes, expands, then as the water expands, so do the cracks. Repeated freezing and thawing eventually breaks off rocks and forms a scree slope at the bottom of the scar.

Scar

Scar

  • Cairn: A cairn is a man-made pile of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn. Cairns have been and are used for a broad variety of purposes, from prehistoric times to the present. In modern times, cairns are often erected as landmarks, a use they have had since ancient times.

Cairn

Cairn

  • Tarn: Is a small steep-banked mountain lake or pool.

Tarn

Tarn

  • Dale: A dale is an open valley. Dale is a synonym to the word valley. The name is used when describing the physical geography of an area. It is used most frequently in the Lowlands of Scotland and in the North of England; the term "fell" commonly refers to the mountains or hills that flank the dale.
  • Fell: A fell (from Old Norse fjall, "mountain") is a high and barren landscape feature, such as a mountain range or moor-covered hills.
  • Beck: A beck is a stream or small river.

Posted by MAd4travel 09:57 Archived in England Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 1 of 1) Page [1]