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Buckden to Starbotton - a circular walk

Route Summary
Distance:About eight miles
Difficulty: moderate - one big climb up, and a steep downhill
Start: Buckden
Finish: Buckden
Time: about 4 hours
Dogs: lots of sheep - no dogs on the access land

Buckden This being a circular walk, it's possible to start from either Buckden or Starbotton. I've chosen Buckden because it has a big car park, but there is a little parking on the verge just as you enter Starbotton.

From Buckden, walk across the green and down the road leading to Hubberholme. Cross the Wharfe, and just as the road reaches the far side of the valley, there's a well sign-posted bridleway to Litton. This starts off as the farm track to "Redmire", but as that swings left the bridleway very clearly continues straight up the hill. This is the start of a very long clicmb, that leads right to the summit of "Out Moor". Fortunately it's the only climb on the walk, and it's a gentle stroll compared to the ascent of Buckden Pike.

Path up the hill Going up the hill the treeline is soon reached at a sheep dip. Walk straight through the sheep dip, and the terrain changes to open moorland. At this point the bridleway goes straight up, but there is a track leading to the left and following the escarpment all the way to Firth Gill. That looks like it would make a great walk, but it's not on access land so can't be used.

Anyway, continuing up the hill the track is broad and easy to follow, and as you get nearer the summit it's been paved with great slabs of stone. That's great for walkers, but I wouldn't fancy descending it on a mountain bike in anything other than the driest of conditions. There's even steps in it! I guess whoever decided that a  pavement was the solution here wasn't into biking, or horse riding. And stone does provide a somewhat harder landing than moorland, so doubly not a place to come off a mountain bike.    

It was round about here that the weather started to deteriorate on me and the wind picked-up. Stopping to take a photo, I took my glasses off and used a convenient stone to rest the camera on. When I turned round my glasses were gone and I never did find them again.  Anyway I carried on to the top which is suitably marked with a couple of cairns.

Dry stone wall along the ridge There's a dry stone wall running the entire length of the ridge, so turn left and start following it. Generally speaking it's easier going on the Wharfedale side, but depending on the weather you might prefer to walk on the Littondale side.

Walking along the wall you quickly come to a trig point, and from there simply continue along the ridge for about two miles until you meet the Arncliffe to Starbotton footpath. About halfway along the ridge the wall turns at right angles, and then turns again and  there's a ladder stile. This is not the footpath. Cross the ladder stile and then start following the wall back in the direction you just came from. It feels wrong, but a compass will confirm it's the right way to go.

Carry on along the wall until you come to a small wooden gate with a well defined track leading down on either side. This really is the Arncliffe to Litton footpath, and turning left brings you all the way back down to the tree line.

Now I never actually walked this part of the route, because just after the ladder stile the weather really started to turn and I just got off the tops as quickly as I could heading straight down into Wharfedale. That was an interesting journey in itself with lots of shake holes and rabbits about. But I didn't appreciate it because the wind and rain were pretty chilling and I hate walking in waterproofs.

The river Wharfe at Starbotton However you come down the hill, you hit a broad track and a dry stone wall at the tree line. This isn't a footpath as it's outside the access area, but nobody's going to object to it being used as an escape route if the weather turns. On the far side of the wall is Fosse Wood, one of those beautiful scraps of ancient woodland that still exist in Wharfedale. And it's steep, so be sure to find the official path down, because any other route is just asking for trouble. It's a broad clear path through the woods, going down the hillside at an angle before finally emerging at the ford at Starbotton. Unfortunately some miserable sod has built a footbridge here so it's not half as much fun as it could be.

In typical Dales fashion the weather had turned back to sunshine by this point, so I decided to repair to the Fox & Hounds at Starbotton for a well deserved pint. And I was really looking forward to it, because someone had left me some very complimentary comments about it  on my pubs of wharfedale page.

Walking back to Buckden But I was gutted, absolutely gutted to find that the pub was closed at ten past three on a Saturday afternoon. This was late May, on a bank holiday weekend, so why on earth was it closed - surely Summer is the time to maximise revenue? I mean, a walk just isn't the same if you can't finish with a pint. So, deeply despondent I retraced my steps back to the bridge, crossed over and trudged disconsolately along the river bank to Buckden.

It's a lovely walk along the river bank and the dale is surprisingly wide at this point, and I met an incredible number of families with little kids. I suppose this is holiday cottage country so only to be expected.

And that's it, a gentle stroll back to Buckden where I picked up the car and drove just up the road to the White Lion at Cray for that desperately needed pint.

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