Lost paths and disappearing roads

It’s the last day of the summer holidays! Hard to believe that the week before last we were enjoying a glorious week away in the Yorkshire Dales. It was glorious not because the weather was perfect, although it was mostly fine, but because it was really relaxing (and we all got loads of sleep and sleep fixes everything!).

We were camping at the top of Nidderdale, although I use the term camping pretty loosely. We did real camping in the New Forest back in May: four in a tent, a loo block that was a good 2 minute walk away, birdsong at 4.30 am, a spontaneously deflating airbed and -1 degrees C at night. THAT was camping (there were also lots of really good bits I should add!). The spacious static caravan we were in this time with all mod cons including a cosy heater and a telly, less so. It was nevertheless ideal:  we got to open our door and be surrounded by beautiful dales scenery.

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The first days’ sunshine enabled plenty of scrambling at Brimham Rocks and exploring the atmospheric ruins of Fountains Abbey.

 

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There was also a clever nature/fairy/pixie trail in the pastures and woodland behind the campsite complete with tiny fairy houses and a chance for the boys to dress as elves. Those of you who know me personally will know already that I enjoyed this at least as much as my boys 😊

 

The finale was the entrancing “magic wood” where you follow the story on boards until reaching the place where, to enter the magic world, the little boy in the tale has to throw two stones into the river, one in each hand, and they have to hit the water at the same time. Just around the corner in real life – there is a platform by the river for each child to take two stones to perform this magic trick, then upon turning round, the fairy village appears!

 

But what of the disappearing roads and paths of the title of this post?

Although I’d spent childhood holidays in the Dales, I’d forgotten how narrow the roads are, and how steep. Out of the back of our campsite one particularly steep lane led up to the tiny hamlet of Middlesmoor with a church, a fabulous pub and a handful of houses perched on the top of a hill. As we descended, the road would seem to fall away and disappear from under us – leading to our cry of “Where’s the road?!”

One time the road was otherwise obscured…

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The lost paths led to rather more adventures. Our favourite day saw us abandoning the car and walking directly out through pasture a mile or so up the valley, passing where the river cuts deeply through the How Stean gorge and stopping for a picnic on its banks before crossing it to turn home. Only when the map showed that the footpath crossed the river, we’d rather hoped for a bridge. Instead we had… Just the river.

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“I guess it’s a kind of natural ford,” I ventured. Dom looked at my feet – he and the kids had wellies, I just had trainers. “It’s fine,” I assured him, “I’ll take them off.” So I pulled up my skinny jeans as high as they would go and we all paddled across – it was quite shallow and the water felt pleasantly cool. We took our time admiring this pretty waterfall just upstream.

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The afternoon’s walk in an adjacent valley was somewhat more adventurous. We hadn’t got far before we reached a stile by the river’s edge and, with a certain feeling of familiarity, we looked across the other side of the river and… Yep, there was another stile with the footpath continuing beyond. This time there was no natural ford, the river was deep and fast flowing. “It’s OK,” I said peering at the map, “There’s a footbridge a little way down.” The boys were tired after the morning’s expedition but we cajoled them onwards over the footbridge and back along the steep river bank path on the other side.

Then the path completely vanished in front of us – it had been swept away by a landslide. Not a massive one but too big for the boys to jump across, too steep and dangerous for Dom and I to be able to do anything other than scramble. “Um… Up and over?” I suggested tentatively peering up the bracken-covered slope above where the path had been.  Slowly each boy worked his way up and across on hands, knees and bottom with both of us precariously spanning the steep drop below to catch if they slipped. Then it was trainers off again for another small stream heading down the hillside and finally we’d made it to the stile we’d spotted from the opposite bank. We re-examined the map. We could see that between us and the Nidderdale Way that completed our walk was a very steep slope. “I want to go back to the caravan” declared the four year old. “Maybe we should just accept defeat” Dom suggested glumly. “No way!” I declared indignantly, “After all that?!” He laughed. “Let’s go” he grinned and off we set again. We made it up the slope, paused to catch our breath and admire the view, descended steeply the other side and finally made it back to the car. It wasn’t the biggest adventure but it was fun and we did learn a valuable lesson about footpaths, rivers and OS maps that day.

Already the memory of that day is starting to fade a little as we face the start of the new school term. In fact, I’m writing this instead of making sure we have everything ready for our older boy’s first day back tomorrow. I think we’re ready. The bigger deal will be next week when my youngest also starts school next week – the end of an era for our family. I have mixed feelings for much as I will miss my days off with my littlest, I will now have one day a week completely to myself… No kids, no work, no hubby, just me. And a life to sort! And perhaps, finally, a chance to write a little more regularly! I hope you’ve had a great summer and autumn has started smoothly for you. I hope to be on here again before too long.

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