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Country walk along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal
GEORGE WILKINSON ambles along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Gargrave is a village in North Yorkshire. It’s just outside the southern boundary of the Dales National Park and is on the west side of the Pennines.
Confusing eh? We were here because my navigator fancied a walk along a canal.
By the canal, a cast-iron signpost read ‘Liverpool 93½ miles’ and off we headed downstream, or the canal equivalent. Narrow boats are more colourful than houses and more extravagantly named – Thelonious 2 after the jazzer; Wormcatcher, and on Gemini the residents chopped wood.
On we ambled, along the smooth towpath, past lock after lock. This part of the canal, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, was constructed by 1777 and the massive wooden lock gates don’t look that new.
A narrow-boat resident bemoaned the mountain bikers who, at the weekends, come ‘mob handed’ to ride the towpath. Nowadays all is pleasure on the canal as commercial traffic ceased in 1964, finished off by the lorry rather than the train; I say pleasure, but what’s it like in the winter living in a boat that resembles a cold steel coffin?
There are long lock-free stretches ‘ideal for cruising’ but no one moved, no boat chugged, for that matter no fish showed itself and no birds could be bothered bar a few ducks.
But there is splendid engineering, notably where in the distance of a hundred yards there is a rail bridge, a road bridge, a river bridge and best of all an aqueduct that takes the canal over the River Aire. The Aire rises seven miles away at Malham. At Bank Newton, a series of locks step up and just after that we left the water and took a lane to our turnaround point where we met the Pennine Way, another long distance walk I end up doing in bits.
This bit is over gently rolling folds of pasture well sprinkled with lambs. In the distance are the higher hills of the Dales.
We came back into Gargrave, my navigator satisfied; I’d had to talk her out of another route involving a train and then 12 miles along canal, arguing that this would result in lock fatigue.
Gargrave is nice, and a place for food. There is the Bollywood Indian Restaurant and the Dalesman’s Café, only a minute from the car parks, which doubles as a specialist sweet shop.
When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. From North Street car park near Village Hall, right to West Street, 100 yards, towpath on left by canal (signed Liverpool 93½ miles).
2. Path turns up from under bridge 168, gate and left to road and over bridge, no footpath, 200 yards, gate on left to towpath.
3. Under bridge and path up to road, over bridge, do not rejoin towpath at nearby gate. Road through houses, becomes track (fingerpost/bridleway).
4. Before bridge, wall stile near fingerpost (Pennine Way) and diagonally turn back left across field, stile/footbridge/stile (waymark) and left by stream, stile/fieldgate (waymark), across field, stile (waymark), fieldgate (waymark), across field to gate/fieldgate (waymark) near bottom corner.
5. Grass bridge, stile/fieldgate (sign) and straight on by fence uphill, stile, 11 o’clock, stile (waymark), by fence, stile (waymark), across field via four-way fingerpost, stile/fieldgate in corner and right (waymark), join track. Fieldgate/cattlegrid and bench. Track becomes concrete. Stay on track so leaving Pennine Way.
6. Right to road, left at T-junction (sign Village Centre/Canal), bridge over river, cross main road to West Street and back to car park.
Distance: Five miles.
General location: North Yorkshire.
Right of way: Public.
Date walked: March 2012.
Road route: Various.
Car parking: Two car parks.
Lavatories: Near river bridge in Gargrave.
Refreshments: Inns and cafes.
Tourist and public transport information: Skipton TIC 01756 792809.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales southern.
Terrain: Fairly flat.
Difficulty: Quite easy.
Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.