15 October 2010

The Buckden Bog Busters

» An ascent of Buckden Pike via the waterfalls route, before dropping down to Starbotton Out Moor and back to Buckden alongside the River Wharfe.
Distance: 7.3 Miles | Time: 4h 14m | Difficulty: Easy with Scramble

A grim and dreary looking Wednesday morning presented the opportunity for a more local walk for a change - as pretty as the Lake District is I can't have trips out there out-numbering my native Yorkshire Dales. Lesley suggested we get off the beaten path and take a little-known route to the summit of Buckden Pike, one of the taller peaks in the Dales at 702m. Better known for it's seemingly never-ending bogs, the War Memorial, old lead mines and the tale of Buckden Bill.

Kirk Gill Moor

So after convincing Terry that there's better things to do with his time than working and earning money, three Fellfallers and two four-legged companions bundled themselves into the Fellmobile and set course for the Southern Dales and the pretty village of Buckden.

Quick Links: The Map | Photos on Flickr | GPX file for your GPS device

In our ongoing quest to deprive the National Trust of income from parking meters (I have nothing against the National Trust, they do good work maintaining some of our nation's most prized landscapes, however their parking fees are tantamount to some kind of protection racket) we neatly placed the Fellmobile on the verge along Buckden Wood Lane (B6160), right outside the car park.  

From here it's a short walk back into the village, up the first road on the left and, after the right-hand bend, up the unmade road to a gate opening onto Buckden Beck.  I know I'm not usually this detailed with my directions, but unless you know where it is you'll not find it.

Buckden Waterfalls

The Beck tumbles down a steep sided valley over a series of waterfalls making for some interesting obstacles to progress. At the first major waterfall you can walk right up to it for a closer look, but you need to head up the valley side to the left to find the cleft in the rock-face that provides a fun little scramble up to the next "level" of the walk. Fortunately we had a Callum with us to show us the route - although, unlike his sister, he's rubbish at climbing and needs carrying up the rocks like an injured lamb...

As luck would have it, the further we climbed up the valley the more the sky cleared, with the grey start soon turning into a bright, yet blustery, afternoon. About a mile up the valley lies the old Lead Mine, and with the sun making an appearance an ideal opportunity to stop for a bite to eat and a chance for Terry to re-live his youth.

N.B. Terry didn't really work down the mines as a lad, he had a privileged upbringing; gettin' up out of shoebox at twelve o'clock at night and lickin' road clean wit' tongue. Havin' two bits of cold gravel, workin' twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when he got home 'is Dad would slice 'im in two wit' bread knife... Apologies to Palin et al.


The old lead mine, or Buckden Gavel Mine to give it its proper name, was part of the lifeblood of the Yorkshire Dales since the early 17th century, until the decline of the industry in the late 1800's. In 1804 a new tunnel was opened, and lead was mined for 70 years by the Lodge and Tennant families over three levels set deep in the hillside.

In the mid 1960's a group of students from the University of Birmingham were carrying out a survey of the mine when, a quarter of a mile in, they came across the remains of a body. One look at the figure was more than enough for the budding geologists and when the police arrived later on that dark, snowy, evening they could do no better than lead the officers part-way into the mine before leaving them with the instructions of "he's round there...".

The body was never properly identified and has been dubbed "Buckden Bill" ever since. Found beside him were a felt hat and cane, and an inventory of his pockets turned up a sixpenny piece dated 1872, and two shillings dated 1885. In what was left of the gentleman's wallet was a funeral card for a John Winskill, who had been buried at Settle on 29th May 1890.

Buckden Pike Summit

From the old mine workings there's a permissive path running the final three quarters of a mile up onto the top of Buckden Pike. Once at the summit there's some spectacular views to be had over the Dales; with the Three Peaks to the West and Colsterdale to the East, as long as you can stand up in the wind - the gusts that had been clearing the sky were blowing a gale at the top.

From the cairn there's a bit of back-tracking to be had to pick up the path down to Starbotton Out Moor, but it's a simple job of following the wall until it reaches the War Memorial. Erected in 1973, the cross was placed in memory of the Polish pilots and crew who crashed here in January 1942 in a Wellington Bomber from RAF Bramcote. But onwards through the bogs to Starbotton...

"It's this deep!"

As Terry's clearly demonstrating, after a few days of rain you've got to be careful picking your path through the bogs as you can easily be in it up to your eyeballs when you least expect it. If it's wet then alongside the wall is probably the worst route (unless you're as light as a feather) so it's a choice of playing at pirates and leaping from tussock to tussock, or heading further out onto the moor where it drains better and the ground is firmer.

Down to Starbotton

Be careful not to miss the gate off the top onto the old Walden Road, otherwise you'll be traipsing for miles towards Conistone Moor. The Walden Road is the old pack-horse route from Starbotton to the village of Walden on the other side of the moor. Over 2 miles it gently drops down towards the River Wharfe along the side of Cam Beck Gill, passing sink holes and old mine shafts along the way.

Starbotton is yet another picturesque Dales village, a settlement with roots dating back to the Iron Age and the property prices presently getting on for a cool half million. But if that's your kind of pocket change then it's a nicely quiet place with a pub (serving Black Sheep no-less, so that's a bonus) and good walks from your doorstep.

Starbotton Architecture

Leaving Starbotton the path continues down a walled lane to a footbridge over the River Wharfe were we picked up the Dales Way footpath back to Buckden. Being the Dales Way it's a popular route with walkers and today was no exception. I do take exception to these kinds of organised walks, particularly those people on them who think they know your best interests and let you know about it.

As we neared Buckden we encountered such a group of people approaching from the direction of Hubberholme. A party of about 40 to 50 "retirees" immaculately dressed in their Berghaus and North Face waterproofs, unsullied boots, gaiters and all sporting two trekking poles. As we reached the half way point in passing the group a distinguished-looking grey haired gent stepped out and greeted us with an "I say, there's some cattle with young calves up ahead, you really should put those dogs of yours on leads so they don't scare the livestock". Not to throw labels about wildly, but "Toff" immediately sprang to mind. A nod and "Ta" was the only recognition he received.

Personally I don't believe in putting a well-behaved dog on a lead around livestock, if the livestock takes offence in fright and charges then it's better for you and your canine pal to be able to make a run for it on your own terms. And in all honesty what's a herd of cows going to be more afraid of; two small dogs accompanied by three people, or 50 walkers marching through the middle of their field in day-glo Goretex? If I was a cow I know which one would be worse "Dude, this is bad grass man, I'm seeing all the colours of the rainbow in front of my eyes and it's freakin' me out."

But enough of the strange people thrusting their opinions on you. The path along the Wharfe is flat and easy going, sometimes following the riverbank, other times darting off through the fields, until it meets with the old road bridge at Buckden and a quick couple minutes walk back up to the car.

All in the route is 7.3 miles and slightly over 4 hours to complete. Both Buckden and Starbotton have reasonable pubs if you fancy a pint and/or a bite to eat, with the Fox & Hounds at Starbotton being pretty much two thirds of the way round the route.

The Map

OS Maps: Landranger 98 | Explorer OL30

View the trip at | See all the pictures on Flickr | Or go get the GPX file
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