Monday 18th August: Earby (via Skipton) to Malham – 11 miles
I got some company on my walk when my brother Mark joined up with me in Skipton. He took an early train up from Nottinghamshire, changing in Leeds. I myself took a bus across from Earby: my initial thoughts were to walk from there to Skipton, but as this detour would have meant an extra five or six miles to walk I passed on the idea. I hadn’t realised the possibility that he could have continued to Gargrave on the train, and I could have walked there along the Way.
I had a feeling of guilt and regret at editing out a five mile chunk of the walk (a well regarded section of the Aire Gap too), but on the other hand I figured that we would be able to get to Gargrave from Skipton easily enough along the Leeds-Liverpool canal.
Rendezvous at Skipton
After bidding farewell to the hostel and walking through the streets of Earby to the bus station, I had a 15 minute wait for the bus amongst a group of pensioners. It took half an hour to travel over to Skipton. It corrected my geography to discover that Earby is in fact in Lancashire (the Burnley FC paraphernalia gave that away).
I met up with my brother inside one of the bus shelters at Skipton bus station. We chatted, mainly about the family back at home and his travelling practicalities, before heading into town for a couple of items: more plaster strips for my side sores; and a call in at the Tourist Information Centre to enquire if one can walk along the canal to Gargrave (you can indeed).
Where the canal passes through the centre of Skipton, we hung around for 25 minutes whilst I dressed my sores, crossed to the opposite bank to take pictures of a statue of the Yorkshire and England bowler Fred Trueman and popped into a lacy tea room (which I mistook for a coffee shop) to get some tea and cake to go.
Leeds – Liverpool Canal
We started off along the tow path, heading out of the centre of Skipton. The weather was a mixture of sun and clouds. It was a pleasant canal walk, very different from the start of the Way (Bleaklow!) four days earlier. A few day walkers were out and narrowboats passed by.
My task (of 250 miles in sixteen days) was hard enough such that it detracted a little from my immediate surroundings: in the sense that in having to push forwards (i.e. think about the future and battle the clock) I had little to give the present (and mindfully take it all in). I found myself fretting about this for most of the journey.
We got to Gargrave around 1.30, passing under its splendid canal bridges, and looked around for some lunch. There weren’t that many shops/cafes it seemed, so we bought some sandwiches from the Co-op and lunched, initially by the river then, when a heavy shower passed over, under an elaborate bus shelter. A young family joined us and we chatted for an quarter of an hour – the father was from Halifax but knew our part of Nottinghamshire.
Along the Aire to Malham
The rain had eased off and by 2.30 we moved on. After a mile of road out of Gargrave we veered right along a nice rise through grassy sheep fields, with small woods to the side – the views around were splendid. We were in the Dales at last. After this, we got to the River Aire, which we followed for the remainder of the day.
I have to admit that I missed the grandeur of the moors along this last stretch, I wasn’t in the frame of mind for riverbanks and unkempt vegetation – and my brother was already irritating me with his stupid puns and plays on words.
Detouring slightly, we climbed up into Airton (there was a Quaker house and an odd triangular green with a single cottage). Later on, just before Hanlith another downpour forced us to shelter under a large tree for 20 minutes. One more mile and we reached a wet Malham on a late summer evening and crossed over to the YHA. The hostel had been recently renovated and is full up: our dorm was rather cramped with young men.
Dinner was at the Buck Inn, an old-fashioned hotel with lots of wood and thick carpet. The burger board (3 x 3oz burgers on a wooden board) was excellent. We finished up back in the hostel lounge drinking bottled beer and watching the Old Grey Whistle Test (Lindisfarne and Roxy Music). We chatted with two chaps who were doing a cycle way on mountain bikes – they claimed to have gone swimming in Malham Tarn earlier that day, a claim which we didn’t take at face value.