BUCKDEN PIKE, UPPER WHARFEDALE

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With the glorious 12th of April fast approaching, when the next level of restrictions are eased and we’ll be allowed to travel a little further afield, and legally stay overnight in our campervan, this is another walk with a notable climb in it, designed to get us back into some degree of trimness in preparation for some slightly more challenging walking projects.

Buckden, a small village at the top end of Upper Wharfedale, is roughly a 45-minute drive from Richmond, where we live (similar, then, to our trip out to Muker).

As previously, we chose today for our walk based upon forecasts issued by the Met Office Weather app. It told us that it would be sunny all day, and that no rain was expected.

As with our climb to the top of Kisdon Hill a few days ago, what it didn’t tell us was how windy it was going to be (the app probably did tell us, but we don’t always pick up on those details).

From the National Park car park in Buckden, the route rose gently, following the curve of the valley below Rakes Wood as far as Buckden Rake, where a right-hand turn led us across uneven, rather boggy fields pottered with large numbers of shake holes (a common feature of limestone landscapes). As the gradient started to become a little steeper, it took one last push to finally reach the top of Buckden Pike.

During our ascent, we stopped often, not only to catch our breath, but also to admire the extensive views across to the North-West, where we could see all of the ‘Three Peaks’ (Pen-y-Gent, Whernside and Ingleborough) clustered closely together on the horizon. On this side of the hill, the wind was at its greatest, so we decided we would wait until getting to the other side, hoping for a reprieve, before stopping for lunch.

Apart from the impressive views, the summit of Buckden Pike at 2,302ft (702 m) isn’t a lot to shout about. There’s a trig point and a sizeable cairn, and we paused for photographs, but we didn’t hang about for too long, deciding to press on in the hope of finding shelter from the wind.

Roughly a kilometer from the summit, following the ridge on its Southern side, we paused by a Memorial Cross, erected in memory of five Polish airmen whose Wellington Bomber crashed at this location on the 30th of January 1942. The memorial was created in 1973 by the sole survivor of the crash, Jozef “Joe” Fusniak, who died in July 2017.

Just below the memorial was where we chose to stop and eat our lunch. We were partially sheltered from the wind, which was now at our back, so we were able to enjoy our sandwiches and enjoy the views in the opposite direction, over towards the back of Penn Hill and the North York Moors far beyond.

From the ridge back down to the Starbotton, in the valley, the footpath (which is a bridleway, known as Walden Road) was clear and easy to follow. We paused briefly to chat to a fellow who was in charge of a group of Duke of Edinburgh Award participants. He pointed to his group way over on the other side of the gill we were ascending. Doesn’t seems like such a tough job.

It was by sheer coincidence that, only a short time before meeting the DofE chap, further up the gill, when we finally got a phone signal back, did we learn of the sad passing of the Duke himself, at the grand old age of 99.

At Starbotton, we crossed the River Wharfe via a footbridge and followed the route of The Dales Way, for our final two miles back to Buckden. By now our feet were tired and complaining, so the low-level, flat, riverside footpath meant for a pleasant relief.

Total miles walked: 12.96 km / 8.05 Miles.

Just as a footnote to this; two days later, the whole of this area in Upper Wharfedale was under a blanket of thick snow… such is the crazy unpredictability of the weather at the moment!

Download the gpx file here

Peter Woolley

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