The seeds of the idea for this venture were planted in my mind a number of years ago but have only recently begun to germinate. Primarily I wished to find somewhere different, a walk apart from the familiar and often used routes of many past rambles. Familiar with the South Pennines and much of the limestone uplands of Craven, my mind was drawn towards what has always been for me a relatively unexplored area - the rolling uplands around the Aire Gap. In my book 'The Watersheds Walk' my favourite part was the promenade along Earl Crag, with its two monuments which dominate the hillside above the village of Sutton. I was fascinated with the place as a child and even as an adult with children of my own I can still find time to scramble around those rock outcrops. Yet for me, this place has always been the 'outer limit' of my perambulations, the 'last gasp' of the gritstone South Pennines before they give way to the velvety green uplands of Craven. Yet this is not strictly so. The 'last gasp' is actually further northwards at Pinhaw Beacon, set in a landscape which, although retaining much of the character of the South Pennine moorlands also contains characteristics more evocative of Craven, being in fact 'neither one ner t'other'! Undramatic, softer, a landscape of winding country lanes and restricted moorland accesses, this geological 'no-mans-land' has always occupied something of a grey area in my mind. Yet, sitting on the crags above Sutton, looking along them towards the distant 'whaleback' of Pendle Beacon and the much nearer lead mine chimney on the summit of Cononley Gib, (the only area of lead mines south of Skipton), my mind has often been tempted to turn my feet in that direction. How, though, could I hope to incorporate this area into an overall idea???
Having decided where I wanted to go, the next stage was to seek out some interlinking themes. Pendle's main claim to fame is of course, its 'witches' and it was while I was reading up on this subject that I came across a remarkable account concerning a group of Yorkshire witches who met in Timble Gill in the Washburn Valley near Otley. The Pendle and Timble witches seemed interconnected in various odd ways, and, I reasoned, perhaps it would be possible to devise a walk, a long distance route which would explore these themes and offer a degree of physical challenge also. Having written at great length in the past about the Industrial Revolution, here was perhaps an opportunity to explore some different themes- myths, legends, folklore, antiquities and of course, witchcraft.
Further research suggested a linear walk from 'Pendle Hill' to 'Timble Gill' with logical terminii at Whalley and Otley respectively. This route would take me through the heart of that Aire Gap countryside I so dearly wished to explore with the added bonus of rather more familiar territory at either end of the route. The walk would have to be a long distance route - rather too challenging for a marathon, but heighly enjoyable if taken in sections at a leisurely pace. Also the walk might be envisaged as a link in a chain of long distance walks. Joining with the Ebor Way at Otley the 'Beacons Way' (As I came to call it) might perhaps one day form a valuable link in a walk connecting York to Lancaster, via the Bowland Fells! A 'Roses Way'!
Considering all these things, the idea grew in fascination and I resolved that, given the time and the opportunity, I would undertake this journey. I did - and the result is here to see.......
Thanks to Mr. Jim Sibson for helping me out with transport, to Mr. Brian Krengel Deputy Area Manager – YHA; Bradford Central Library, Mr. Keith Hannam and last, but by no means least, My wife Trish, Who stayed at home!
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