19th May – Dunbeath to Whaligoe

20190519 0842 Dunbeath harbour
Dunbeath Harbour

Today was another long day as I combined two sections of the path.  The cliff scenery was magnificent, but you earned the right to enjoy it due to the nature of the trail.  In the past two days I have not seen anyone else on the path.

Rather than give a description of the route, I am going to let the pictures give an impression of the day and just make a couple of comments.

20190519 0851 Dunbeath Castle
Dunbeath Castle
20190519 0915 Sea stack near Dunbeath
Sea stack near Dunbeath
20190519 1120 Typical section of the path
Typical section of the “path”

The trail is new as a through route, but it is obvious that hardly anyone walks it.  Most of today was spent outside or inside the cliff boundary fence.  Outside, you are very near sheer drops at times and you definitely don’t want to slip or trip.  Inside, cattle have reduced many of the fields to a rutted uneven horror which is unpleasant to walk on.  Many of the stiles, where they exist, are topped with barbed wire, and the Trail signage is at best sketchy.  It will definitely improve over the years as more people walk it, but the walking conditions are much tougher than the South-west Coastal Footpath, which is probably a good comparison.

20190519 1132 First we go down and then we go up
First we go down, then we go up
20190519 1218 Looking back at Forse Castle
Looking back at Forse Castle
20190519 1227 Looking down at the old herring processing station at Burn of Ashsinegar
The old herring processing station at Burn of Ashsinegar
20190519 1258 Lybster Harbour
Lybster Harbour
20190519 1342 Spectacular sea cliffs north of Lybster
Spectacular sea cliffs north of Lybster
20190519 1356 The old house at the Clash of Mavesey
The old house at the Clash of Mavesey
20190519 1415 Sea stack from Roy geo
Sea stack from Roy Geo
20190519 1416 Not a great advert for the John O’Groats Trail
Not a great advert for the John O’Groats Trail

Right, now for an angry old man rant.  Many of the geos (zawns) I passed today were unofficial rubbish dumps.  These places are very beautiful and isolated, so it’s not being done by fly-tippers.  I am afraid that the culprits are the local farmers who seem happy to dump any old thing down the cliffs.  It is not a great advert for the country, and I will only say that it doesn’t seem to happen in Devon, Cornwall or Wales.  Rant over.

20190519 1426 The upper waterfalls at Burn Mouth
The upper waterfalls at Burn Mouth
20190519 1438 The Stack of Mid Clyth
The Stack of Clyth
20190519 1446 Clyth harbour
Clyth harbour
20190519 1502 Spectacular cliffs and Clythness Lighthouse
Spectacular sea cliffs and Clythness lighthouse

Today was the last of the long days, and I am looking forward to more fantastic scenery and views in the next parts of the journey.

20190519 1549 The Stack of Mid Clyth
The stack of Clyth

8th April – Marsden to Heptonstall

20190408 Wyn unsuccessfully trying to hitch a ride over Slaithwaite Moor
Wyn unsuccessfully trying to hitch a lift across Slaithwaite Moor

After a comfortable stay at Huddersfield and a taxi back to Marsden, Wyn and I set off at 8.10.  A steep climb led up to Slaithwaite Moor and the first reservoir of the day.  From the Moor we descended to Dearhead Reservoir and crossed the M62.

20190408 Looking down on the M62
Looking down on the M62

Passing another reservoir, we ascended over Blackwood Common, before dropping again and then climbing up and over to Baitings Reservoir.  We were beginning to feel like men employed by The Grand Old Duke of York.

20190408 Baitings Reservoir
Baitings Reservoir

Now we had the big climb over Manshead End.  This passed quickly and we stopped for a quick sandwich on the summit.  Crossing Great Manshead Hill we suffered from the low temperatures and high wind and were glad to walk down to Crag Vale.

20190408 Elevenses
A welcome break

At this point the day went downhill fast – both literally and metaphorically.  The pull up to Old Crag Hall was tough.  Beyond the Hall the guide book description no longer matched the routes of the paths on the ground.  Unfortunately although the paths had been changed, they were not adequately signed.  We became “temporarily misplaced”.

While I was trying to sort out exactly where we were, the farmer’s wife and son arrived. They were able to get us back on track.  I am afraid that they were a bit annoyed when I suggested if they were going to change the paths, they might like to have them signed, and also repair their appalling stiles!  It was the end of a long day and we had spent valuable time faffing about quite unnecessarily.

20190408 Wyn climbing the hill at Heptonstall
Wyn climbing the final hill at Heptonstall

Now back on route we climbed up onto Erringdon Moor.  Still annoyed at losing time, I made the elementary mistake of following a good path at a junction, and not following a bearing.  Luckily this did not take long to resolve.

Hebden Bridge eventually appeared in the Calder Valley.  Dropping down steeply on an awful path we Googled our accommodation.  This was in Heptonstall so we had a final 150m climb before arriving at 6.30.

It has been a long day but the pub is very comfortable and we rapidly felt much better after a quick shower, beer and meal (although not necessarily in that order).

The Problem with Farmers

I should state initially that I quite like farmers and think that they mainly do a good job managing the countryside.  However some are not so good.  Today I was trying to use footpaths, ie public rights of way, to get to Port Isaac only to find huge cereal fields crossed by a public right of way which the farmer had totally ignored.  I was left with a choice of extending my walk or ploughing through his wheat.  I am a country boy so I walked round.  The next field was the same except that the headland was head height in weeds, which incidentally covered a lot of his crop.  I had no chance of finding the stile and footbridge.  Eventually I fought my way through and decided it was too much of an effort so I walked up the roads.  This is obviously what the farmer wants. “Don’t want no people on Moy Land!”

On another farm the path was perfect.

017 That's the way to do it
That’s the way to do it!

Later, coming along the Coastal Path, one of the most popular walking routes in the country, I and all the other walkers were faced with cows and calves accompanied by two bulls.  The farmer may know that old Billy is a real softy but personally I would prefer him not to be standing on my path.  Surely we could at least be told “Bull in Field”. Several walkers had dogs and were quite concerned.

Farmers have rights but so do we the public.