George Wilkinson heads to Wharfedale

I had to laugh as I drove into Grassington; some wag had put up a sign that read 'Twinned with Dodge City'. However, seven miles further up Wharfedale, at the village of Starbotton, Dodge City had a certain resonance. For, as I explored the nooky back lanes, admiring the tough seventeenth century houses (built after a catastrophic flood) with their small recessed windows and heavy stone roofs; as I took in the gardens and their moss-softened and lichen-splattered dry stone walls; as I salivated at the menu in the Fox and Hounds, and watched a woodpecker spend ten minutes methodically feasting from every crack in a telegraph pole; as I did my high noon tour of Starbotton, I came to conclude that I had never seen a place so defended against the stranger - the visiting walker.

Rather than six guns, the residents favour stones placed on almost every verge parking place or space by wall. This is improper, and I have notified the Highways Department at Northallerton.

I cannot advise you to move a rock to park in case you hurt your back and sue me! And, as the man from Highways pointed out, one can be done for churning up a verge, say in wet weather.

Incidentally, I note I have said residents, but Alfred Wainwright wrote in 1991 that Starbotton had 'fallen prey to seekers of weekend and holiday homes'.

For the walk, we set off up the eastern flank of the steep-sided and narrow valley, not an arduous climb and you can see well down Wharfedale. Just as eye-catching is the view of the valley of Cam Gill Beck. We encircle this and a long proud wall on its top edge is clear to see as our route. The wall defines the two-tone landscape separating pasture from rough wet and peaty gully-grooved terrain. Three raptors bossed the skies, until the lightning-sudden thunder of a military jet. There are remnants of lead mining including a chimney and shafts, so stick to the path.

I had intended giving you a slightly longer climb to the moor and a line along a higher wall, a route in many books that brings views east as far as the Hambleton Hills and Teesside, and west to high peaks, but I understand the landowner does not want walkers up there. If anyone claims this as a route ('usage' over the years perhaps) there would be an inquiry on its status.

Look out for a good outcrop of large ooliths. They resemble a scattering of white clock faces, the size of peas, three or four to the square inch in the limestone. They are calcium carbonate that deposited aeons ago around a nucleus of, perhaps, sand.

A fine walk concludes with a long easy stroll of a descent and views north to the head of Wharfedale.


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

1. From phone box, immediately right after Fox & Hounds pub, right-hand bend beside bridge, immediately left after 1633 house on left to fieldgate and track (signed) - a walled track uphill which widens, walls on left fall into disrepair. Stile/fieldgate.

2. At 25 yards ahead of gate/fieldgate, grassy track on left uphill, 200 yards.

3. Gateway and immediately left on path which roughly contours around head of valley, above last pastures. Stay beside wall till after stepping through ruined wall, then gate, then path angles gently, roughly 1 o'clock uphill to leadmine tip. Wet in places. Step-over streams. Gated squeezer/fieldgate.

4. Gateway, 200 yards, left to stony path/track downhill, large cairn then green metal gate within 100 yards.

5. Stay on track, usually grassy, downhill to Starbotton (gateways, stile) on northern ridge above valley. Please note, last few hundred yards to Starbotton - stony/gravely surface is slippy.

Fact File:

Distance: Four miles.

Time: Three hours.

General location: Upper Wharfedale.

Start: Village of Starbotton.

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

Date walked: Thursday, September 5, 2001.

Road Route: Via Grassington and Kettlewell.

Car Parking: Verge in village, see text.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: The Fox and Hounds, Starbotton.

Tourist & public transport information: Grassington TIC 01756 752774.

Map: Based on OS OL 30 Yorkshire Dales Central.

Terrain: Valley side, and side valley.

Points of interest: Around old mining valley. Nearby big hills like Buckden Pike.

Difficulty: Moderate in fine weather, but note, nearby mine shafts. One thousand foot climb.

Dogs: Suitable.

Weather forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418

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

Click here to view a map of the walk