Hawes, North Yorkshire Sunday 26th July 2015

Today’s Walk

Strenuous Leader: Andrew Mayer   Distance: approx. 12.5 miles

Leaving the car park from the centre of Hawes, we turn left up a slight hill past the Wensleydale Creamery, into Gayle. We head from Gayle towards Burtersett, following the footpath heading out over farm fields. Then start the climb towards Wether Fell summit, a climb of approx. 2000 feet. We then head along the old Roman road until it joins a minor B road. From there we head down towards the river, and then follow it towards Marsett Bridge. From Marsett we follow another pathway, back up towards Wether Fell summit, and then head back down towards Hawes.

Moderate Leader: Peter Denton   Distance : 8.0 miles

We start the walk from the countryside museum and head out of Hawes, to Sedbusk village where we take the bridleway. We follow this up onto North Rakes Hill which gives superb views down into the Dale. We cross Stags Fell on the bridleway to where it joins the Buttertubs road. We turn left, following the road downhill. We then take the footpath on the right 200m below the cattle grid dropping down into Shaw Ghyll. When we come out on the narrow lane at High Shaw, we turn right for 100m then take the path off to the left. This drops down through Shaw Ghyll Wood, where you should look out for red squirrels. We briefly rejoin the road for another 100m, then turn right on the footpath to Simonstone Hall. We drop down to Hardraw and follow the footpath back into Hawes.

Leisurely Leaders: Margaret Black & Steve Balenski   Distance : 6.5 miles

We walk into the centre of Hawes to turn uphill for a short and perhaps the steepest climb of the walk, to take us through the residential area. It is then out across farm fields and meadowland towards Apperset stopping by the river for lunch. Then it is again across farm fields and meadow, with a pleasant stretch of woodland to pass through before turning downhill back into Hawes. Any hill climbs tended to be quite gradual, and there are some stretches of road walking. To compensate for the lack of stiles – only two or three – there are quite a few stonewall gaps to pass through, some with a high step up or down to contend with.

Easy Leaders: Ruth Melling & Hazel Anderton   Distance : 5.0 miles

This is a sort of figure of eight walk. After leaving town we make our way up gradually rising fields eastwards towards the hamlet of Burtersett, then turn west and walk on an elevated footpath along fields, towards the village of Gayle. We go through the village, make our way along the side of Gayle Beck valley before dropping down and turning back to walk along the beck, going past Aysgill Force Waterfall (not to be confused with the much better known Aysgarth), and the little gorge. We walk along the beck as far as we can, then go back up onto fields, go through a different part of Gayle and return to Hawes. Most of the walk is along flower filled fields with good views, is mainly flat, and has few wooden stiles although there are plenty of skinny stone stiles.

Notes On The Area

Hawes lies on the south bank of the River Ure as it meanders across the alluvial flats of Wensleydale valley which is named after the village of Wensley, and is the only major Dale not to be named after the river that runs through it. The river Ure is wide and beautiful, with many tributary streams, and the most famous waterfalls of Yorkshire at Aysgarth. Hawes is Yorkshire’s highest market town and one of the highest in England. There was no mention of Hawes in the Doomsday Book. It was first mentioned in the fifteenth century, and its name comes from Old Norse meaning ‘Mountain Pass’ or ‘Neck’. The village, with a population at present of around 1100, is in the heart of the agricultural community in the upper Dale. The wide and fertile fields of the valley make it particularly suitable for dairy farming, far more so than in many of the other Dales. It was granted its market charter in 1699, and in1887 an auction mart opened in Hawes to deal with the buying and selling of livestock which, until then, had taken place in the main street. Nowadays there is a market day every Tuesday, cattle sales once a fortnight, and during the year there are 5 cattle fairs, 3 sheep fairs, and these days 4 cheese fairs.

Not far from Hawes is a smaller village, Gayle, and the two almost blend together. At Gayle the river races through a gorge, and so there was once a woollen mill here, although now Gayle Mill is a craft centre.

To the north lie Hardraw and Sedbusk, the latter perched on the side of rising ground and seems to deliberately want to distance itself from everything that’s going on down below. Hardraw, by comparison, can hardly avoid the attention because here you will find Hardraw Force, a quite stunning spectacle, especially after prolonged rain. It is unquestionably one of Yorkshire’s most impressive waterfalls. There are others in the area, Aysgarth, a stepped waterfall, and the little vertical Aysgill.

There was once a railway here but it was closed by British Railways in 1959. It was used to transport the lead, stone and coal which were mined in the area. Volunteers are planning to reopen the line. Some has been done but it has not yet been completed all the way to the Hawes area.

Hawes is a lovely area for walking with the Pennine Way passing through. One of the main attractions is the Wensleydale Creamery right in the village centre producing the famous cheese. Last year the Tour de France came through.