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The weather forecast promised us sunshine and clear skies all day today, so – perfect conditions for a walk out. It being Easter Sunday, I would have expected there to be a lot of people out and about, yet we saw a surprisingly small number of fellow walkers.

Our target today was a 6-mile circular walk starting and finishing in Muker, via Kisdon Hill and Catrake Force, in Upper Swaledale.

At 499m (1637ft) Kisdon isn’t a massive hill, but it does provide some spectacular views East, down the length of Swaledale, in one direction, and up to Great Shunner Fell (hidden in the only low cloud around) and the moors beyond, in the other.

We parked in the visitors pay-and-display car park by the bridge, although it is worth noting that free, roadside parking is available on the other side of the village. Choosing what to wear for a walk in the UK at this time of year can be a bit of a problem, but it’s particularly challenging at the moment with conditions so unpredictable and wide-ranging, and changing from day to day. The sun was shining, and chances of rain were very low (according to the Met Office). Knowing that we would be climbing a steep hill meant that we would expect to be stripping layers off long before we got to the top, so both Tracey and I opted for a light fleece, leaving our heavier fleece jackets in the boot of the car. We hadn’t got very far, however, before realising the cold, biting wind might turn out to be a problem, which had me promptly heading back to the car to retrieve our wintery layers and woolly hats.

Soon after leaving the village in a Northerly direction, our footpath was crossed by The Pennine Way, which comes up from Thwaite and stays at a relatively low level as it skirts around the hill below North Gang Scar. Our route, however, carried on straight ahead… and upwards, to the top of Kisdon Hill.

We paused a few times as we climbed the hill, to photograph barns and to take in the extensive views down the dale, which really were fantastic. Clear conditions meant good, sharp photographs; what they don’t convey was just how perishingly cold the wind was.

It was nice to finally reach the top of the hill, where huge numbers of sheep were huddled together. A good, easy-to-follow footpath led us to Kisdon’s Western slopes, where we started to gradually descend. From this side, the views are even more extensive, with Nine Standards Rigg and Mallerstang clearly visible in the distance. Below us, we marvelled at the myriad of dry stone walls and seemingly endless barns that really help to characterise the upper reaches of Swaledale. How they were built, and who must have built them is, frankly, mind-boggling.

We paused only to eat our lunch as we enjoyed the view. Finding somewhere reasonably sheltered, though, was easier said than done, since the wind seemed to be blowing directly at us, and we were rather exposed. Come to think of it, it seemed to be coming at us from all directions. There’s really nothing quite like eating sandwiches and drinking a steaming flask of hot tea on top of an exposed moor, in bitingly cold conditions.

Eventually, as we rounded the hill on our descent, we arrived at Catrake Force, a short distance from the village of Keld, where we briefly met up again with The Pennine Way before it departs North, towards Tan Hill. The waterfall was in full spate, so we enjoyed watching it for a while before continuing on our way, following the track around the outside of Kisdon Hill, towards Crackpot Hall, and Swinner Gill.

Again, we were treated to classic views as we walked, eventually descending Bracken Hill back down to ground level, following the line of the River Swale as it curved round, back towards Muker.

Muker is only a 45-minute journey from home for us, but it was still nice to get a little further afield than just staying ‘local’. In just over a week’s time (April 12th), restrictions will be lifted even further and we’ll be allowed to legally stay out in our campervan… we’re counting the days…

Download the gpx file here

Peter Woolley

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