The path we fancied near Grassington was still closed. So we decamped a mile or two down Wharfedale and settled on the village of Burnsall, which Wainwright described in 1991 as 'neat and compact... well endowed with nature and a lovely riverside setting supplemented by caring residents'.

The village has a green, communally owned by the freeholders and stocks in the churchyard. St Wilfred's is worth a gander, has a rare gate, and St Wilfred, a one-time bishop of York, perhaps preached from a rock above the river here.

Other writers have appreciated the place. David Leather recalls an 'arresting and picturesque scene dominated by the fine bridge of five arches'. He and others have been taken by the most delightful Elizabethan grammar (now primary) school, built and endowed in 1602 by Sir William Craven, a Lord Mayor of London.

Its manor-house style was copied up and down the dale. The village is aware of its qualities and with Grassington upstream and Bolton Abbey downstream makes a certain play for visitors.

There were walkers aplenty, though the £2.50 car parks were empty and the Red Lion Hotel has a notice requesting the removal of boots 'clean or dirty'.

There hasn't been an Evening Press walk from here for ages and we were pleased enough with our second-choice start, but as we packed our delicious sandwiches (made by George Wilkinson, who still has his uses and will probably re-emerge with the spring flowers), and pulled on waterproofs, we wondered where to from here?

Having endured a turbulent drive into the Dales, the thought of higher ground induced shivers not of longing. The ducks on the River Wharfe were managing the torrents and we thought we could manage the riverside amble on the Dales Way.

The first part is accessible to wheelchairs. There is a lot to see over the waterside mile - wooded hillsides, an 'enchanting narrow gorge', Wilfred Scar, a waterfall, and there are benches. An info board near Loup Scar tells of the18th-century murder of a Dr Petty that involved serial corpse moving.

The scars we moved past are striking, the limestone is angled at 45 degrees and popular with crows, patched with lichens and softened by mosses. The valley opens up near Hebden and we took a delicate suspension bridge.

Get Ahead Hats are advertised at Ranedale Farm; more paths were (correctly) signed closed.

Never mind. With a gaze way up the Wharfe, and a glance at gritstone walls climbing to the clouds, we strolled back to Burnsall, part on quiet and scenic road, and then by steepish single file, like a sheep track, down through old woods to a river still rising.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 08:59 Saturday, February 09, 2002