You may think that travelling to Hawes deep into Wensleydale for a three-mile toddle is a long way to drive for a short walk. We had our reasons. One, we wanted a look at the Dales Countryside Museum which is showing an exhibition called Tracks In Time and this eats into the limited winter daylight. Two, we had decided that George Wilkinson was ready (after all his training walks to the pub) for a gentle test run.

So there we were in the museum car park, a happy troupe; Lesley Hughes with her camera, me with my notebook, and George unencumbered mentally and physically. He gets his notebook back when he can carry his rucksack (which is now!), and when he stops making jokes about his 'Sherpas', a joke which is inappropriate not least because we tackled nothing approximating a mountain.

Instead, we admired the town's waterfalls, took a cobbled ramp up past the Herriot Hotel, slipped between church and church hall, and the clock showed noon. The graveyard snowdrops were the last flowers we saw, the River Ure curved in lower fields and we crossed the first of many stone-walled pasture fields, George making reasonable speed on the firm ground, and positively balletic through the squeezers.

Within half an hour, we were in lovely and quiet countryside, golden patches of sunlight hurried over the rush-spiked grass, warming away the chill February wind.

To the south, the fells remained dark and rain threatened all day, but to the north, an area of high ground junctions was continuously brightly lit in a microclimate effect.

The landscape was empty but for barns and some fine trees. The only birds were a flickering flock of lapwings a mile away and a raptor of the more common mosaic-in-a-wall variety. As we dropped into a shallow, wide valley, the walls lost their splashes of lichens to a thick coat of moss and we reached Thorney Mire House.

From a length of back road we could see tributaries splashing down through woods. These join Widdale Beck that then joins the Ure. We got a view down to a sombre viaduct over the beck and then took a newish route over some more pleasant pasture back to Hawes, touching tangentially an interesting and large circle of broken walls, hearing but not seeing a waterfall and spying the slinky Ure again.

Now for the Dales Countryside Museum. This is splendid. First the airy glass and steel foyer. Then a tour through caverns memorable for Romans and 'Ruffians', Norman chain mail and the arguable comment that 'feudalism finally collapsed in the 16th century'. Then a static ride on a black steam train and four maroon and cream carriages. This was memorable for the photos of locals playing 'Wallops', a fine sledge called 'Akela', and a non-derogatory photo of hunt saboteurs.

George gazed at a North Eastern Railways of York poster showing nymphs dancing around Brimham Rocks and doubtless thought they knew how to get people out of the city in those days.

Then there is more, much more, models and artefacts concerning quarry men to clock makers, and the Tracks In Time exhibition, which includes tales from the 1930s when our rights of way had to be literally fought for.

I read a comment here that there are "three main groups of walkers... strollers, professionals and real walkers, who are interested respectively in the countryside, mileage and rhythm and lyric joy". Cannot quite pigeonhole George, but he had scored well for effort and attitude.

Fact file:

Distance: Three and a half miles.

Time: Two hours. Allow another hour for museum.

General location: Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Start: Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way.

Date walked: February 16, 2002.

Road route: A1, A684 via Leyburn.

Car parking: £2 for more than one hour.

Lavatories: Car park.

Refreshments: Cafs and pubs.

Tourist and public transport information: Dales Countryside Museum/TIC 01969 667450.

Map: Based on OS Outdoor Leisure 30.

Terrain: Pasture.

Points of interest: Museum - Adults £3; children £2 ('probably' free from Easter); senior citizens; students and claimants £2; family ticket £8. Last entry 4pm. Information centre and exhibition free. Disabled access at museum.

Difficulty: Moderate/easy, but climb-and-squeeze stiles.

Dogs: Suitable.

Weather forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. Left from car park at Dales Countryside Museum, cross road, right (A684), steps on left by Herriot Hotel to cobbled path, left and pass church.

2. Squeezer, immediately right to squeezer then immediately left to paved path by churchyard, squeezer, squeezer, pass churchyard on left, 11 o'clock, squeezer, 11 o'clock. Gate. Wensleydale Creamery Visitors Centre here.

3. Cross road, squeezer, uphill to squeezer near barn, and over hill via squeezer, ruined squeezer, squeezer, squeezer.

4. Cross road, squeezer, one o'clock, squeezer, squeezer near ruined barn, one o'clock, squeezer.

5. Left to road, 50 yards, fieldgate on right and path through 'L' shaped field (signed Thorney Mire House).

6. Gate and right to road.

7. Fieldgate on right to cross-field path (signed Ashes 3/4 mile, head for northern edge of copse). Fieldgate and pass copse (follow wall to right). Squeezer.

8. Squeezer on right just before stream, ten o'clock across field, gateway to track (by wall to left), fieldgate and right to road.

u For more Country Walks, visit the Evening Press website -

u Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.

Updated: 12:15 Saturday, February 23, 2002

Click here to view a map of the walk