I had errands lined up over Clapham way today, so grabbed The Dog for a morning stretch of the legs and headed to the little village of Austwick, just off the A65.
It was an overcast day, but with no rain forecast. We parked up on the road by the bridge, opposite the Traddock Hotel and sauntered over the aforementioned bridge to the bridleway marked Feizor.
I had walked this path before and knew that The Dog could be let off lead. It’s a farmer’s track with sturdy dry stone wall on either side with sheep, lazily munching grass beyond. There were a few dog walkers out and we nodded and said hi to each other as we passed. We came to a point where the path split into several different directions – we turned sharp right and wander up towards a farmhouse up a narrow path. The farmhouse sometimes has produce out by the gate and an honesty box – last time I picked up potatoes and eggs, but today alas, there was nothing. The Dog was happily sniffing and trotting beside me as we passed a field of sheep which wasn’t particularly interesting except for one sheep who stood out as it was nearly completely covered in a deep hue of dark blue. It looked like someone had thrown a bucket of paint in its face. Okay it’s that time of year when the rams service the ewes, a pouch of coloured paint attached to their undersides so the farmer can tell when the ram has done his business, but this was the completely wrong end (unless the ram needs to go to Specsavers). Well, the sheeps fleece would be useless for wool, but it would make any sheep rustlers think twice about pinching him.
We carried on between the walls, passing derelict stone barns, their roofs missing and the stone starting to fall. It seemed a shame to see such buildings fall into disrepair. We walked over a tiny little bridge across a ford and approached the tiny hamlet of Feizor, a clutch of houses and farms. Usually we bear left here and head up towards “Elaine’s”, a lovely little tearoom for a coffee and cake, but with the current lockdown in England, I knew it would be shut and have to forgo my latte and scone today. Instead we bore right, pass barns full of cows lazily chewing their pellets. They watched us with interest, something different to see and we stopped to watch them back. The others poked their heads through too and joined in the quiet musing of each other. The Dog and I were getting quite an audience. We bade them goodbye and walked up the lane, out towards the A65. We were looking for a path on the right. We had great views of the limestone crags hanging over Feizor and Austwick – we were on the edge of the Norber Erractics that overlook this area and are worth exploring.
We found our little track and wandered down between the fields, wishing it was sunny. We could see Austwick in the distance snuggling in the hills – we were technically within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The path joined our original path not far from the little ford and we retraced our steps. We were just approaching the farmhouse again, when I saw farmer on a quadbike herding sheep – at first I thought it was along the bridleway and quickly latched The Dog back on her lead (she is part collie) as I thought they were heading towards us, but they were all safely in the field. The farmer was manhandling a couple of the beasts into a small trailer as I peered over the wall. The sheep had all gathered together and I desperately wanted to take a photograph of them – they were each completely daubed in various colours! There were reds, blues and yellows slapdashed across their fleeces. I looked at the farmer to give him a friendly nod and maybe engage him in some light conversation, like why are your sheep so colourful, but he looked quite stern and didn’t look the type to want to talk to anyone except his sheepdog. I dithered about taking my photo, but decided to carry on my walk, wishing I was like my English sister in law who has an American accent after many years of US living, and who would of got away with taking a photo. The farmer would of scowled at her and thought her bonkers, but she would of got her picture and probably got a few words out of him too.
We got back to where the paths branched and much to The Dog’s delight, turned right and extended our walk. This was perfect. A low level, flat walk with no worries about the hound. We followed the path, me looking out for more multicoloured sheep to photograph, but alas they were all very clean. We picked up the road that goes towards Wharfe, a tiny gathering of houses up in the low hills. I wondered about wandering up there, but decided against it and turned to take the road back to Austwick.
We wandered into the village with its little primary school, village hall and little shop. It’s got another wonderful little shop that sells all things eco-friendly and where you can take containers and refill them. I’ve got my laundry liquid from here a couple of times – it’s quite tiny, but seems to do a trade and I like supporting small enterprises like these. It seems so unexpected in this small off-the-beaten track village. I just love finding places like these. Opposite, in the pub car park, there was gazebo where they were selling artisan breads and cakes – I looked around me, I was the only person in the street and I wondered who would be buying it. Maybe its a regular thing and the locals buy throughout the day (catches the mums getting their kids from school) or just word of mouth. Again, it was just so quirky and wonderful – someone setting up a bread stall in front of a closed pub in a small village on a Friday. Very British!
We found a small ginnel (alleyway to the rest of you) and followed it down where it popped us out right next door to the car. That wasn’t planned, honest. We had done 4.7 miles on a sort of a figure of 8 route and I was getting hungry for lunch. We jumped in the car to do some shopping at the local organic shop and head home for something to eat.