Another fine and sunny day for packing up and moving to a location at Harmby and after an uneventful drive, we arrived at a lovely campsite set in a disused quarry now completely transformed by nature. The sides of the quarry had trees and bushes hiding the rocks, hardstanding pitches with mown grass between and plenty of room for everyone to have space to themselves. Within half an hour we were having lunch in the sunshine when the resident peacock made his appearance. He was a vision in his iridescent blue and green feathers in the sunlight, his tail a little short and without many of the spectacular ‘eyes’, his blue and white crest twitching while he walked around us. As we continued our lunch he suddenly lay down on the grass beside us and spread out his chestnut wings, stayed for 20 minutes and continued on his way. What a lovely welcome.
Walking into Leyburn village later on it was noticeable how Autumn is taking hold, the leaves are turning gold and some had red tinges, the ragwort still glows yellow but most of the knapweed has finished flowering and is turning black. The village itself was quite sizeable and attractive with no high street chain shops but several individual shops. There was a good display of hanging baskets and planters outside the Black Swan pub, and the village also had several hotels and tea rooms. The walk was only about a mile but it was quite warm, we stopped outside the Golden Lion Hotel so could enjoy a beer from the Wensleydale Brewery called Semer Water, made with a citra type blend of hops.
It was grey but dry next day so we walked over fields and footpaths, past cattle and alongside the river on our way to Middleham village.
From the beginning we could see the ruined castle on the skyline and as we finally reached the village it seemed to have disappeared altogether. There was a pretty village church and at the entrance to a large house I was amused to see a tree with a bike displayed on its truck.
The square was unfortunately dominated by cars, parked in haphazard fashion filling the central space. Arranged around the periphery were several hotels, guest houses, pubs and tearooms, obviously a tourist honey pot.
Walking around the back streets we found the castle and crossed the bridge over the dry moat through to the ruin of stone walls inside. The castle is not huge but many of the walls are still in fair condition and still standing tall. The outer walls had towers at the corners and surrounded the inner keep giving an idea of the layout of the castle from long ago. Against the outer walls were were broken and crumbled walls showing that there were many rooms of varying sizes and blackened stone could be seen where fireplaces had been. The keep originally had two rooms on the ground floor and two large upper halls above, each with massive stone fireplaces, arched windows and staircases at the corner. Its claim to fame is that Richard III lived at the castle when he married, however he did not spend much time there during his reign.
As we were staying in Wensleydale, we decided to visit Wensley village and set off the following day on a long walk over fields and through woods with the aid of a map from the campsite. Taking a different route out along the back lane we climbed in height, gaining lovely views over dry stone walls across the valleys stretching out to the horizon. Green fields dominated the area with grazing sheep and cattle, there were a few fields of harvested corn leaving scratchy stubble to walk over, the fields were all surrounded grey stone walls creating a lovely patchwork below us.
We followed along a limestone escarpment known as Leyburn Shawl, steep slopes of rock falling away to our left with trees along the way.
The pathway from the fields with wide open views, now led into mature, deciduous woodland with benches positioned for weary walkers who could only stare into the branches now blotting out any view. Falling leaves, fungi and the smell of damp decay under the canopy eventually gave way as we came out of a small gate into a long, gently sloping field of grass.
Sonetime later, following a stoned track we passed by Keld Heads Smelt Mill with an impressively tall but disused chimney. Finally reaching Wensley with tired legs and very hungry, we stopped at The Three Horseshoes for a lovely cooked lunch with a cider and beer. Having relaxed for around an hour we continued our walk through many more fields, some with horses, some with cattle and sheep, eventually coming back into Leyburn and taking the shorter, roadway back to the campsite. After a total of 8 miles I needed to sit down. Memories of those stunning views will last a long time!