A Founder of British Geology and The Terrible Knitters of Dent

Leeds Station sign

“Sat 22 Mar – Dentdale Explorer – 7mi Moderate

Dent Station – Cowgill – Dales Way – Whernside Manor – Deepdale – Coventree – Dent Village. Alight (12.12) and return Dent. Connects with 10.49 train from Leeds. (JD/DW) Please ring to book your place on the return minibus from Dent Village to Dent Station. [About 5 miles]”

Ribblehead Station

That was the description of the guided walk organised by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line on Saturday. Leaving Leeds in bright sunshine and with a cloudless blue sky we arrived at Dent Station to a rain shower closely followed by a hail storm which turned into blinding snow. By the time we (five of us) reached Cowgill and the Dee valley bottom all weathers had cleared temporarily but we were beset by rain showers (some heavy) and cold winds for most of the walk.

Cowgill signpost

Signpost at Cowgill – formerly in the West Riding of Yorkshire and complete with OS Grid Reference

Much of our route followed the Dales Way long distance path that crosses the country from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness on the shores of Lake Windermere. I’m familiar with and have walked most of  it between Ilkley and Yockenthwaite so it was interesting to fill in a section with which I was not familiar. As we left Cowgill we were able to pick out across the river the 150 year old church of St John, Cowgill. My Dales Way Companion by Paul Hannon tells me that “Outside are the unmarked graves  of smallpox victims from railway construction days.”

Cowgill Church

Cowgill Church

With variations in the weather tracks took us across fields, through former pinewoods, along quiet country lanes past waterfalls at full spate, ancient farm buildings and a deserted chapel.

View from lunch spot

View from our lunch spot

Former pine woods now cleared

Former Pine Woods now cleared



The deserted chapel near Whernside Manor

Ancient building

Ancient Farm Building

Arriving Dent

First View of Dent

Finally and quite suddenly we arrived at the quiet backwater village of Dent. At some point we must have crossed the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria for, although within the boundary of The Yorkshire Dales National Park, Dent is in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria. On Saturday afternoon the village was very quiet. The cobbled streets were practically deserted. We had about an hour to explore before catching the bus back up the valley to the rather mis-named Dent station nearly 5 miles away.

Dent Village

The Main Streets in Dent

Our leader Duncan first explained some of the history of Dent. One notable son was Adam Sedgwick one of the founders of British Geology. Sedgwick was born in Dent in 1785 the son of the local vicar.

Sedgwick Birthplace

The Old Vicarage – Adam Sedgwick’s Birthplace

Memorial stone

Granite Memorial to Adam Sedgwick in Dent Main Street

He was educated at nearby Sedbergh School and went up to Cambridge University where he became a Fellow in 1810 and by 1818 he was Woodwardian Professor of Geology. Read more about Sedgwick and his geological studies here. The Cambridge University Earth Sciences Museum is called The Sedgwick Museum.

We then learnt about the Terrible Knitters of Dent and the unusual knitting method they employed. The last of the knitters, Elizabeth Hartley and Elizabeth Middleton died in 2007 aged 93 and 91 years respectively.

3 storey house

Typical 3-storey house in Dent

There are two pubs and two tea shops in Dent but before heading for one of the cosy tea shops we had a look round the church.

The church of St. Andrew is a Norman foundation, though largely rebuilt in 1417 and restored in 1590. The top storey of the 1614 three-decker Jacobean pulpit is still in use. The chancel is paved with fossil-rich marble, quarried in Dentdale. The box pews were removed in 1889, much of the wood being used to panel the walls of village cottages. On the south side of the aisle are the famous pews of the 24 sidesmen. Originally yeomen farmers, today landowners of Dent, they have shared with the Bishop (now of Bradford) the patronage of the living since 1429.” [Source]


The Remainder of the Jacobean Pulpit

Marble Floor

Fossil-Rich Marble floor

The Western Dales Bus left Dent promptly at 17.05 and brought us back along the valley to Dent Station comfortably in time to catch the 17.32 train back to Leeds where I noted it had also been raining.

Self Catering at Dent Station

You can stay at Dent Railway Station!

Come and Stay


Weekday Wanderers

Since November 2004 I have been a member a very informal, friendly, local walking group. I was reminded of this date earlier today as the beginning of the walk followed exactly the same route. We meet on Thursdays (usually the third Thursday in the month) and take ourselves off for a hike – come rain or shine. But we definitely prefer shine, of course. At 9am on the appointed day we assemble at a local church car park, decide who will drive and car share appropriately. We take it in turns to lead and plan the walk which is usually 8+ miles. Today’s walk was a little shorter as we welcomed back a leader and fellow wanderer after a third hip operation!

We certainly had shine today! A fifty minute drive from home brought us to beautiful Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales. A handy tip is that parking at all Bolton Abbey car parks is free on weekdays between 31st October and 16th March (except for during school holiday weeks). After a short bit of road walking we headed off through fields and woods and up above the Wharfe valley where the views and colours were spectacular.

Eventually our path brought us down to what is called The Strid car park. From here our path followed the River Wharfe along The Dales Way. First though we stopped for our picnic lunch. This just happened to be at a viewpoint from where J.M.W.Turner painted one of his watercolours. An information board explains the fact and shows a copy of his painting. A Turner Trail has been developed in Yorkshire by the Tourist Board and there are accompanying leaflets and a website.

The final part of our walk kept to the higher paths above the river and eventually the romantic ruins of Bolton Priory loomed into view. These were also painted by Turner and the scene has changed very little since 1816 when the artist toured the Yorkshire Dales. Read here about Turner’s Viewpoint at Bolton Abbey and click the links to the resultant pictures.

Cowside Open Day – A New Landmark Hits the Handbook!

What luck! Two invitations to visit Landmarks in one week – and I can manage both. Cowside is an extremely remote farmhouse way away in Upper Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales that even the National Trust (who are the owners) could not contemplate renovating as a holiday home. No mains electricity, no mains water supply – not even an access road or track. They passed it on to The Landmark Trust who seem to thrive on such challenges! Friday was my 4th visit. In April 2009 I first ventured off the Dales Way to have a peep at Cowside of which the Landmark Trust had only recently announced their intentions. In October 2010 when work was well underway I was invited to view progress and again in May 2011 when I could not believe the transformation that had taken place. The winters of both 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 have been the worst in decades. But now the work is complete and the property ready for its first guests – arriving on the 21st October – just one week away!

As visitors we had to park nearly two miles away but I enjoy hiking so the chance to step it out along part of the Dales Way was an additional pleasure for me.

The final uphill approach to Cowside. No vehicular access so everything must be brought from the bottom of the field via the grassy track.

A warm welcome to Cowside. Cake on the table and a log fire in the stove in the Kitchen, or Housebody, as it is to be known.

During early archaeological investigations these fantastic wall paintings were discovered. Monochrome Biblical texts in Gothic script they adorn two walls in the Parlour. “On the west wall is Whether ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do do all to the glory of God Cor[inthians] X:31 and For of him and through him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Rom[ans] XI: 36. On the east wall is Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith Pro[verbs] XV: Cha[pter] 17 ver[se].”  From the Cowside History Sheet.

One thing I particularly appreciate when staying in Landmarks is the Landmark Library. This is not shelves of old books bought by the yard but a well chosen selection of relevant titles for adults and children alike.

“There will be a bookcase containing the sort of relevant and interesting books you might expect from a well-read host, as well as those standard reference books you sometimes need to get the most out of a good walk or conversation.”

On Ilkley Moor : The Colin Speakman Way

I’ve been regularly walking/hiking in the Dales and in Yorkshire in general since 1995. In the summer this year my sister and I tackled my (she did many of the national long distance paths during the 1970s) first long distance walk in Shropshire – Wild Edric’s Way. It was pretty tough in places – those places being along Offa’s Dyke where WEW shared the path with Offa’s Dyke Path. I learnt from this recent recording of Ramblings on Radio 4 that The Dales Way is often a first-attempt at a long distance path for many people. At various times I have walked along all of that part between Ilkley and Beckermonds finding some of it a bit too low level. It’s OK as part of a walk but it’s the sense of achievement on gaining a higher level path or peak and the views that go with it that I find the most satisfying. Still that did not deter me from setting out on Sunday to my second Ilkley Literature Festival outing which was a ramble with Colin Speakman – author of Walk!, and over 50 walking and other guides to Yorkshire and the man responsible for putting the Dales Way on the walking map.

Colin Speakman meets his audience

We assembled in swirling rain by the main entrance to The Rombalds Hotel  on the doorstep of the Moor. Due to the weather our walk was to be somewhat curtailed – Colin’s ‘Plan B’. We were to take the donkey path up to White Wells and then the historic packhorse way (which links Ilkley with Bingley via the famous ‘Dick Hudson’s’ pub) through Rocky Valley and across the moor to The Cow and Calf Rocks. After a visit to the Hanging Rock quarry and the Hanging Rock itself our path would head down to the tarn and from thence back the Rombalds Hotel for tea.


Our first stop was only steps from the Rombalds – the boarding house where Charles Darwin had stayed in Ilkley on his visit to the spa for ‘the cure’ in 1859. It was then a steep climb up to White Wells built in the 1760s.

The steep path out of Ilkley to The White Wells.

The White Wells plunge pool.

Turn the tap for the curative spring water!

The Famous Cow and Calf Rocks

The Hanging Stone Rock with Early Bronze Age Carvings

Hanging Stone Quarry

The Tarn – a natural water feature which was ‘improved’ by the Victorians who created the paths for a ‘walking’ cure.

At the end of our walk – what could be better than a Rombalds tea and scones with jam and cream – yummy!