Michael Hallam visits the oldest National Trail, the Pennine Way, and discovers what makes this route so special...
Going out on walks is one of the best things about owning a dog. Taking in stunning landscapes and stretching the legs is great for you and your canine friend. The Pennine Way is one of 15 trails spread across England and Wales so you’re never too far from one of these routes.
Your Dog Magazine took in part of the Pennine Way at Gargrave in Yorkshire, accompanied by Tom Barnes and his Jack Russell, Treacle, who travelled from Walcot, Lincolnshire.
The National Trail
The Pennine Way is Britain’s oldest National Trail and runs for 268 miles from the Peak District in Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders. The trail was the vision of Thomas Stephenson, a journalist and keen rambler, who argued that the country needed such a walking route in an article in the ‘Daily Herald’ in 1935. Thirty years later, after years of hard work, the Pennine Way was designated as the first National Trail. Often referred to as the backbone of England, taking in Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviot hills, and coming down the Pennine hills through the Yorkshire Dales into the Peak District, the walk is one of the most popular in the UK.
We walked a circular route on the Pennine Way, from Gargrave to East Marton, including a stretch along the towpath of the Leeds to Liverpool canal. This is a suggested route on the National Trails website called the Gargrave Ramble; you can print out a map of the walk from the website.
National Trail officer Steve Eastwood recommended the route and said the Pennine Way has a lot to offer dog walkers. “The Gargrave Ramble is an unusual section as most of it is high moorland,” he said. “My favourite part is where you join the canal and walk back up the towpath with the tall trees along the side of the canal. Gargrave is a lovely little village. We get a lot of people walking the Pennine Way with their dogs. As long as owners keep their pets under control, particularly around livestock, it is quiet and enjoyable for dog walkers. Some people even walk the whole thing with their dogs. The most difficult part of that is carrying 16 days’ worth of dog food. ”
For more information on National Trails, including the Pennine Way, visit www.nationaltrail.co.uk
1. Begin the walk in the centre of Gargrave, just off High Street by the public toilets and bus stop. Cross the stone bridge over the River Aire. Take the chance to look downstream and if the river is low you’ll see the Roman ford.
Do not follow the first sign for the Pennine Way at the Mason Arms pub, but continue past the church and tur right at the signpost marked Pennine Way, Trenet Bridge.
2. Follow the signpost and use the stone stile on your left to cross into the field. Walk through three fields following the directional markers as the route gradually bears to the left.
There was cattle in the field when we walked it so Treacle stayed on lead, which also kept her out of the muddy spots. There is a bit of an incline as you make your way towards the railway line.
3. Turn left as you exit the field on to the track, and cross the bridge over the railway line.
4. Continue up the track until you reach a cattle grid. Leave the track by heading over the stile. Walk diagonally across the field towards the fingerpost on the horizon. Reaching the fingerpost makes the climb worthwhile as you can see for miles in all directions. The wonderful views of the countryside give a perfect excuse to pause for a quick break and enjoy the tranquillity of walking in the hills.
Keep following the small arrows on the gates and stiles, of which there are several, passing Newton Grange Farm until you reach a small wooden footbridge. Once you’ve crossed the footbridge, immediately walk diagonally to the left towards the building and exit the field on to the track by a stone bridge.
5. Cross the bridge and follow the track until you reach a stile on your left signposted Pennine Way, East Marton.
6. Go over the stile and take the path into the woodland and through a field, until you emerge on to a minor road opposite a farm. Turn left and follow the road until you reach the canal.
7. Reach the banks of the canal via the towpath. This is a delightful little spot with a variety of barges moored up. You can cross the road bridge and head into the village of East Marton, where there is a café and a pub, both dog friendly. Just below the bridge there is a tourist sign giving information about the canal.
8. Walk down the towpath for about 200m and you’ll see one of the most famous bridges on the route, the double-arched bridge. The bridge which carries the A59 was built on top of an older bridge, giving the impressive view of two arches stacked on top of each other.
9. Retrace your steps back up the canal to where you joined the path. This time walk under the bridge and carry on along the towpath. Here the tall trees arch over the canal giving a closed-in effect. It is easy to see why Steve, the National Trail officer, likes this spot. It was Tom’s favourite spot too. “I enjoyed the variety of walking in the hills and alongside the canal, but this was my favourite part,” he said. “With the trees over the water it has a dreamy quality.”
Proceed along the towpath towards Gargrave. As the canal twists and turns you’ll pass the Langber TV station and also get more brilliant views over the hills. Treacle was allowed off the lead while Tom kept a close eye on her, putting her lead on if needed.
At Bank Newton there are a series of locks. We timed it perfectly to see a barge using the first lock. Tom stopped to watch the skilled bargemen in action and even Treacle was captivated by the action on the water. Seeing the barge being lifted up by the water was a magnificent sight. Walking on, we encountered five more locks and found many more barges on the water and using the locks. It seems you can’t even escape rush hour on Britain’s canals!
10. As you walk on, the towpath stops briefly so you need to walk up the road before rejoining the path. Almost immediately the towpath crosses the River Aire before you head under the railway bridge. Continue to follow the path for quite a way, heading towards Gargrave.
11. When you reach the A65 bridge, take the tunnel under the road.
12. You’ll start to notice the village building up. Reaching the lock, you’ll see a sign for Gargrave. You can enjoy one last look down the waterway before turning right and heading back into the village.
Gargrave and the local area
Gargrave is a charming village situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. With coffee shops, delightful architecture, and the River Aire running through its heart, the village is full of character.
The stepping stones across the river are a lovely feature, which visitors can use to cross the river when it is low. There are two sets of stones which help to connect three village greens. The Old Swan and Mason Arms are dog-friendly pubs. Both also offer dog-friendly accommodation. While Gargrave is a quiet village surrounded by countryside the fact it lies on the A65 makes it a good base to explore further afi eld.
At East Marton there is the Abbots Harbour café and also The Cross Keys pub. Both are dog friendly and make a good stop-off at the halfway point of the walk.
How to get there: Gargrave is situated on the A65, near Skipton, Yorkshire.
Terrain: Hilly to begin with, with several stiles, before it flattens along the canal towpath.
Distance: 6½ miles.
Time: Three hours.
Off-lead opportunities: Many along the towpath, but keep dogs on leads in fields as there is livestock.
Parking: There are several car parks in Gargrave which are free to use.
Toilets: Public toilets at the beginning of the walk. Pub and café in East Marton.
Suitable for: The towpath is an easy walk but the hills might be a little challenging so owners and dogs need to be reasonably fit and able to get over stiles.