It had been raining all morning, but the forecast said the sun would come out by midday.
And it did! The low miserable clouds gave way to blue sky and their fluffy relations. We decided to head to the little hamlet of Feizor, just outside Settle. We drove down a little dead end lane to the cluster of buildings which included a small tea rooms called Elaines. As it was going to be a circular walk, we promised ourselves a celebratory cuppa when we finished. Parking was a bit tight, so we parked in the tea rooms car park (basically the farmyard opposite) and asked the staff nicely if we could leave the car there. Not a problem.
We followed the path through the farmyard and into a field beyond. The ground rose upwards and it was a steady heave. The Dog was with us and was totally giddy despite her advancing years. The sun was out, the views behind us absolutely gorgeous. It was lovely to be out after days of rain and overcast skies. We climbed stiles, went through gates, pulled ourselves over ladder stiles and reached the brow of the hill.
Here was Big Country and Big Skies. We wandered downwards as the landscape opened up before us. Pen-y-Ghent, one of the Three Peaks of Yorkshire hoved into view, majestic in the distance. The Dog tried to round up sheep, thwarted by her leash, making them take flight and trotting briskly across the tufty grass. We were starting to drop into the valley and towards Stainforth.
It was stunning. The trees were starting to reveal their autumnal colours and the shadows were long. After the recent prolonged rains, the grass was vibrant. It was one of those days when you felt you could ping the sky. We found a track which dropped us to the edge of the village and after being chased by an extremely large tractor, we sauntered down to a single track lane past a caravan site and picked up the river.
We had feared that the walk would be a quagmire after days of rain, but the ground had been quite firm. There was a rather muddy bit by the river, the result of many feet traipsing along the path, but it soon petered out. People had wandered off towards the falls and today there was a cluster of people watching salmon leaping up river to the spawning grounds.
We joined the group and watched. Suddenly a large fish leapt out of the water, flying against the flow, desperately trying to reach the higher level. It seemed futile. He sploshed back into the churning water, having achieved nothing. Another appeared from the frothing maelstrom and hit the rock with a sickening slap. We gasped as he slithered back into the water. How on earth did they ever get up and this was the third tier of the waterfall. They must be exhausted. Another fish leapt up and landed high on the rock, his body writhing madly as he tried to push himself further up, but the water was too strong and he lost the battle.
We stood there for ages watching. Photographers sat there, cameras poised to catch the perfect picture. It was just fascinating. We pulled ourselves reluctantly away and continued our walk. We followed the riverside walk, past a fisherman fly fishing further downstream. The Dog was unleashed and she bounded down to the waters edge, very happy. We clambered over little streams, balancing on stones and boulders before climbing up to another stile.
We took a slightly unofficial route here and got ourselves onto the back lane and picked up another path. We walked across the fields, through a cow field where the cows lazily lifted their heads, chewing the cud. We squeezed through stiles and crossed a sheep field. They scattered as we walked past them, The Dog straining at her leash. The sheep regrouped further down and watched us warily as we continued our walk. Suddenly they started to come towards us, getting a little trot on, moving as one large group. We were a bit unnerved as usually sheep are so flighty. We stopped and they stopped. They then crept towards us, getting nearer. Then they checked themselves. They were nervous, but equally intrigued. We clambered through the wall and tried to encourage them closer, but they stood their ground. They were funny creatures.
A plane flew over our heads moments later, on a practise run through the dales. A lot of military aircraft fly across the fells and valleys of this area, flying low and noisily. We carried on and started to climb back up over the hill, back towards the car. It was a steady pull. The sun was getting lower and hazy. We came up to a field with a scattering of cows. They were large. We started walking, watching warily. A big black cow appeared and started to take an interest in us. The Dog barked madly. We shushed her as we went past the beast. The cow refused to move as we made noises and waved arms. It was then, as we carried on, she started to follow us. Our pace quickened somewhat as we tried to stay outwardly calm, but panicking inside. Cows have been known to charge and trample people so we didn’t really want to participate in a stampede. The big black cow sauntered sedately up an incline, parallel with us, watching us all the time. It didn’t help ease the rising panic – it felt that she was getting extra advantage. Was she going to charge towards us at any moment, gaining momentum from her vantage point? It would be very messy if she did.
A couple of her fellow bovines started moving too, but they soon lost interest including our big black instigator and they left us to trot across the field, glancing behind us on regular intervals, straining our ears to the noise of thundering hooves. We were soon back with the sheep and the hill sloped downwards, back to Feizor. We picked up the pace. It was now gone 4.30 and we feared our planned visit to the cafe would be thwarted.
There was a couple sitting on the outside picnic tables, but the sign told us they closed 4.30 ish and now it was a quarter to five. The door opened and we went inside. And God bless them, though they were practical finished, they made us tea, coffee and cake as long as we were prepared to sit outside to eat it. That seemed a deal. It was warm, out of the wind and we were making the most of this splendid afternoon. We sat, sipping our drinks, making lots of approving noises over the cakes and dropping titbits to The Dog, who was equally approving of the food. Happily fed and watered, we sauntered over to the car and headed home, pleased to find such a lovely, gentle walk with such spectacular views. Perfect.