Wensleydale is perhaps one of the better-known of the Yorkshire Dales, running west-to-east towards the south of our group’s area. Although our area is large we are fortunate in including regular participants with local knowledge of many places and who are happy to facilitate walks and events to provide us with a varied programme throughout the year.
On this occasion we gathered in the centre of Leyburn, a small market town and Wensleydale’s principal settlement, and after our introductions set off, soon finding ourselves passing though green fields and on a gradual descending slope. Unlike several other of the Yorkshire Dales, Wensleydale is not named after its principal river, so we were following the valley of the river Ure. We crossed the Wensleydale Railway which is no longer part of the national railway network but still runs a train service, supported by enthusiastic local residents and visitors to the area. This must be a challenge requiring much dedication on the part of many people, we thought; and we heard of ambitious plans to extend the line westwards towards Aysgarth Falls and on perhaps to link with the famous Settle & Carlisle railway high in the Pennines.
We passed through Wensley village, prior to passing though the extensive grounds of Bolton Hall, a grand seventeenth-century country house, with an attractive gatehouse and parkland clearly in active use with grazing cattle. After passing through woodlands overlooking the river, and more fields, we reached the quiet village of Redmire. We were greeted by a roadsign warning of slow-moving military tanks; apparently the Wensleydale Railway was used for delivering armoured vehicles in connection with the nearby Catterick garrison, but we weren’t convinced we were about to witness this, at least during our walk.
Beyond Redmire we ascended through more fields and paused at a spot with a view across the valley for our lunchtime sandwiches, chatter and rest. Suitable refreshed we ascended a bit further to reach Bolton Castle, located in its village of Castle Bolton. Of fourteenth-century construction, we discovered the castle was home to Mary Queen of Scots who was held there for six months in 1568 before being moved south. Today the castle appeared to be a popular visitor attraction, run by the family of the owner of Bolton Hall seen earlier, with a teashop and gardens (we’ve had tea ourselves there on a previous visit); and it’s appeared as a location in several TV programmes and films.
We retraced our steps past Redmire station, the present terminus of the railway, and walked eastwards back towards Leyburn, this time at a higher level above the valley floor. We passed through another village Preston under Scar, and climbed to a ridge known as Leyburn Shawl. There’s been some debate about the origin of this name; some have said it’s called that because Mary Queen of Scots lost her shawl there while fleeing from the castle. Nearby we could see signs of extensive stone quarrying, although it was mostly well-hidden behind the trees.
On arrival back in Leyburn we were a little disappointed to find the tea shops already closing, but we nevertheless felt we’d had a good walk and an interesting day. We noted the dates for our future gatherings (to be posted on the website) and dispersed.
Thanks are due to Martin and David for their well-prepared walk, and to Ivor once again for the photographs.