‘Turn left at the last stile’

The walk begins as we leave Carlton.
The walk begins as we leave Carlton.

It was my turn to lead a walk on Tuesday.  I chose Coverdale. Here’s why.

The River Cover, which gives the dale its name, wanders through an isolated corner of Wensleydale. Here you’ll find hamlets with intriguing names like Swineside, Horsehouse and Gammersgill, a few abandoned leadworkings, a great many sheep, and not much else.  The principal settlement, Carlton, has 230 inhabitants and the main – the only – road to it is mainly single track.  This is where we began our walk.

Here were hillsides, close-cropped by sheep.  Here were ancient terraced field patterns showing that the area, even if lightly-populated now, has long been settled by farming communities.  Here were narrow steep-sided gills sheltered by glades of trees.  It offered a walk full of variety.

Sheep with her lambs.
Sheep with her lambs.

We yomped up and across meadows populated by those sheep and their curious, always hungry lambs, enjoying long-distance view across the fells. Curlews called above us.

Curlew - Wikimedia Commons
Curlew – Wikimedia Commons

We climbed over wooden stiles, stone stiles, ladder stiles and through narrow-gap-in-the -stones-stiles.  As we passed though woodland we sniffed the slightly acrid but appetising tang of early wild garlic.

Our coffee-stop view across the valley. Those stone barns are typical of Wensleydale and Coverdale.
Our coffee-stop view across the valley. Those stone barns are typical of Wensleydale and Coverdale.

Soon we could see our half-way point on the other side of the valley.  Horsehouse these days is a tiny collection of isolated homes.  But it gets its name from the days when it was a really important staging post for those making the long journey from the north (even as far away as Edinburgh)  to the south (London?).

And once we’d crossed the River Cover, we were in woodland again.  We found a grassy bank, complete with bluebells, tree trunks to sit on, fat white pebbles for the waters to tumble over: perfect comfort, perfect peace.

We had a young German guest, Felicia, with us for the day. You can see she's 40 years younger than the rest of us. She's climbing trees after the picnic.
We had a young German guest, Felicia, with us for the day. You can see she’s 40 years younger than the rest of us. She’s climbing trees after the picnic.

After lunch, curlews gave place to oystercatchers, with their smart black and white plumage and vivid orange beaks.

Oystercatcher - Wikimedia Commons.
Oystercatcher – Wikimedia Commons.

And then we came to the point in the walk where the instructions read ‘Turn left at the last stile’.  How mystifying.  How can you possibly know which the last stile is till you’ve passed way beyond it and not found another?  Ever-resourceful we found our way anyway, strode through Gammersgill, across a few final fields, and got to journey’s end not long before the day’s sunny warmth gave way to wind and showers.

Slipping through a narrow stile.
Slipping through a narrow stile.

A pretty perfect day really.

CarltontoHorsehouseRound 033

18 thoughts on “‘Turn left at the last stile’”

  1. Takes me back to the hikes we did as a family and with school in the Fells on t’other side o’ Pennines! It always seemed to be sunny but we never got burnt. Sounds like a lovley day out. ☺️

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  2. I love that first photo that really shows how the land was terraced! I spent quite a long day meandering around Cornwall once, as a result of directions based on stiles! I never really thought we were lost, because we were on the coast so we always knew what direction we were headed, but we got into some odd, path-free spots!

    Liked by 1 person

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