We had enough items to get to warrant a trip to Settle and so we got ourselves organised and set off.
The weather apps said it would rain in the afternoon but as we drove over, large rain spots hit the windscreen. This wasn’t suppose to happen.
The Dog and I parked near Booths supermarket and sauntered up into town, the big plan being to walk the dog before the worst of the weather. It had sort of brightened up, with the sun feebly poking through the clouds, but in the distance it looked wet.
We crossed the market place, full of parked cars and headed up into the corner, up a very steep hill. An utility company was busy digging up the road in various places and had it cordoned off for vehicles. There were workmen around too (usually it seems they dig up streets just for the fun of it and then lose interest – roadworks seem to last weeks). I peered into the holes, full of wet mud and dirt. Lovely work in the summer, but in these conditions, another story. I gave them admiring looks and making a mental note to cross that one off my career choices.
The hill bent left and flattened out. It was a narrow back road but with it blocked off I unleashed the hound. It was a pleasant stroll, high up enough with a good view of Settle, Giggleswick and surrounding countryside. A freight train rattled along the Settle Carlisle line, tugging a string of cement containers. The sky looked broody and threatening – there was a drizzle in the air and a chill. I put my hood up.
A lot of people hate the month of January for various reasons, but I quite like it. The days are getting quietly longer and at 5pm it’s usually only just getting truly dark. Also the daffodils are poking through the soil, waiting for that last push to finally bloom and there’s, of course, the numerous patches of snowdrops along the grass verges which just uplift your heart, knowing that Spring is coming and it’s all going to get better (okay we might get a dumping of snow for the next few weeks but hey – just love the unpredictability of British weather). It’s just seeing the new life in mid winter that makes you feel so much better and that’s why I like January.
We approached the main B6479 road leading to Horton in Ribblesdale and wandered on the pavement past the little hamlet of Langcliffe. A little further along, a wooden pedestrian footbridge took us over the railway line and opposite our road to the river. We were in the valley, the fells rising all around us, limestone crags and quarried hillsides peering down. The hills were a mixture of browns and greens in the intermittent sunlight. Above us were the Attimires, crags and walls of rock with caves burrowed into them.
We dropped down the steady incline, to a huddle of cottages and a weir. The River Ribble was high, full of energy. It tumbled down the man made weir with its little runways for the salmon to leap up when spawning. We paused to admire the river, the fields full of ewes ready to lamb and a better view of the fells all around.
We continued along the footpath up towards another little community Stackhouses. We now were heading back to Settle. We walked along the little road together until we reached a fingerpost and a gated stile. Pushing through, we strolled across a wide field. I kept The Dog on lead. There were sheep in the field, albeit down the very far end and down a dip, out of sight, but farmers can still get cross. We soon came to another gate and on the other side the footpath was fenced off from the rest of the field, so The Dog got unleashed again. We were again high up overlooking the river and a large factory opposite. Think it’s some sort of aggregate place and it jarred against the scenery it stood in.
We went passed a farmhouse and up to a stile. There was an opening built into the fencing for dogs who were too wimpy to jump stiles, but there was a length of wood that owners had to lift to let the hound through. The Dog had it figured and waited for me to plod up to lift the barrier. I was scanning the next field for livestock and wanted to make sure before I let The Dog through. I clambered over the stile first and as I landed and went to open the dog barrier, my impatient mutt decided to follow me and leapt effortlessly over the stile. Sometimes I do despair of her, but admire her ability to negotiate such obstacles with more grace and ease that I’ll ever muster.
It was a vast field. As we started to cross, I realised that a large black menacing rain cloud was approaching. Oh great, just at the most exposed bit – typical! We quickened our pace. It started to rain, but it was heavy drizzle than a lashing downpour. We had the wind in our faces and the predicted 5 degrees bit at my cheeks, making them tingle. Another stile and gate were successfully negotiated and we found ourselves on the edge of a large school field.
The pupils were playing football – I ushered The Dog along as the teams were heading our way as the goal was only a few metres away from the path. I had images of the lads shooting wide and me getting a hefty thud on the side of the head. The path turned and we walked up the side of the pitch, still following the river. I looked at the scene and it reminded me of my schooldays long ago, when seemingly sadistic and enthusiastic PE teachers took pleasure of dragging you out to the furthest reaches of the playing field on the most horrible days of the year and making you do sports. These people were obviously still alive and kicking . I seem to remember that I was always a wretched fielder when playing rounders, posted far out in case one of the more competitive kids decided to thwack the ball into the next county, but in reality never did much apart from shiver. I looked at the boys. A couple wore just shorts and a short sleeved top, oblivious to the rain and piercing cold. I looked like Michelin Man and was still cold. Other lads had jumpers or light coats on, but they were all running around being competitive and dreaming about playing for a top club. One particular lad stood to one side, armless – he had retracted his limbs under his inadequate clothing and obviously had his hands under his armpits in a vain attempt to get some warmth. I looked at him – you could tell he hated football and was wishing for lunchtime to arrive and get back inside or just to his Xbox. I didn’t help his cause by telling him he looked frozen and he nodded in reply, his face pleading me to rescue him. I smiled back and carried on, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to hardened him up a bit.
The big black cloud had swamped Settle with a big grey blanket – it was drizzling now. The path veered from the river and towards the main road into Settle. We crossed over and rejoined the river. We walked along the riverside path where the River Ribble splits Settle from Giggleswick. It’s a functional path, lined with houses, flats, a school and further down, light industry. The Dog stuck her paws in the water because she could and the drizzle got heavier.
We walked through a little housing estate and a path between the houses, onto another road and back towards urban life. We turned left to head back into town and the car. Over the river, past the Land Rover showroom and industrial estate and up toward the station. We did a little shopping. The town was quiet, though full of parked cars. Perhaps everybody was cowering in the numerous cafes. Our business done, we sauntered back to the car and headed home. The timing was perfect. It seriously started raining and you could tell it was in for the rest of the day. The wind was getting up too. Time to hunker down.