Early morning heavy rain had cleared by the time our walkers met in Ilkley, and the prospects of a brightening day were ahead of us. The river Wharfe was swollen and rushing frothily downstream as we followed our leaders Lynda and Kay across the bridge and headed gently uphill towards the woodland of Owler park, and Low Austby beyond. Progressively upwards we crossed open meadowland and becks, through Nesfield and on towards Langbar. A buzzard circled above some nearby trees, distinguished by its broad wings and spread tail.
The magnificent landscape of these Dales were never lost to us. Near and far fells and hilltops were identified, and we appreciated the clusters of little communities, and apparently tidy and organised farms within areas of well-managed fields and woodlands. We reached Badgers Gate and turned eastwards to pass the interesting and enigmatic Beacon Hill House, to access the path leading up to Beamley’s beacon.
For some of us the increased climb up the rocky path was slow progress, while others appeared to sprint up, but perhaps they did not stop and admire the glorious expanse of purple heather and imagine shapes in areas of plantation below……
Although the Beacon’s historic cairns and remains of the guard hut from Napoleonic War times are further along at The Old Pike, we settled for the beacon and the Canadian Royal Air Force Memorial to a WWII crashed Lancaster bomber, before we descended to a lunch spot further down. Returning past Beacon Hill House again we took some time absorbing its interest, particularly an area of very thick stonework/bank by a little gate. This was realised later to have once been the servants and trade entrance to the house in the 19th century. Further along Badgers Gate, originally an established packhorse route, we veered off onto rough track,
crossed a busy stream, onto Long Ridge and eventually reached Hardings Lane. This led us gradually downhill, past an area of ancient features such as cup-marked rocks and a tumulus, and at Primrose Hill we turned onto a bridleway heading for Myddleton, almost missing an off-wayside plaque drawing attention to the value of the historic stone walls so prevalent in the Pennines. A red kite flew in watchful circles above us, appearing many times as we progressed.
Myddleton Lodge and estate, built on the site of a medieval hamlet, have been of much interest for almost 500 years, when the Myddlyton family held the manor of Ilkley and other manors in the area. This family’s almost unbroken association with the Catholic religion and its occupancy of the hunting Lodge through the centuries has provided a colourful history. Many interesting associated structural features are visible en route………….and we were anxious to encourage a grasshopper across the road.
Back in Ilkley, we decided to enjoy some refreshments beside the fast and turbulent river before our farewells, having shared an interesting and very enjoyable day.