Just over a mile west of Hawes the tiny village of Appersett makes a good base for three walks in upper Wensleydale. The longest follows the Ure west to where it is joined by the Mossdale Beck.It then strikes north east over Cotter Low Rigg into remote Cotterdale. The return is made by Hardraw and Hawes. The mileage is reduced by two if the return is made direct from the Pennine Way into Appersett. The shortest route climbs to the Pennine Way on Bluebell Hill before following the Way into Hardraw and on to Hawes. Whichever walk you choose you can be assured of outstanding scenery.
Distance: 9.5, 7.5 or 4.5 miles
Time: 5, 4 or 3 hours
Conditions: well signed, well used paths and bridleways, some mud at Mid Mossdale, 1 climb from A684
Refreshments: Hardraw, Hawes
OS Map: OL19 and OL30
Originally published: 14 October 2016
9 and a half mile walk: Appersett, meaning 'shieling by the apple tree' clusters by the Widdale Beck close to its junction with the Ure (GR 858907). Cross the bridge over the beck, pass a large circular limekiln on the left and in another 20 paces take the second path to the left, signed to Mossdale Head. The right of way runs parallel to the road for 100 yards before bearing left and following the Ure upstream at first across meadows and then through attractive woodland. There are 2 ladder stiles to negotiate before the path crosses a final field and joins the access track to Birkrigg Farm.
Go left along it and just before the farm bear left on the track to Mid Mossdale (MM on the gate). In about half a mile the right of way leaves the track, right, behind a line of cliffs and continues over a short stretch of boggy land before emerging in riverside meadows. Well signed, it then bears left to Mossdale Head Farm.
Beyond the buildings we join the access track which crosses Mossdale Gill where there is a fine view of the spectacular Lower Mossdale Falls framed in the viaduct of the former railway between Hawes and Garsdale. On the far side of the bridge go through two gates before bearing right down the spur between Mossdale Gill and the Ure, to emerge on the A684 at Thwaite Bridge, built in the late 18th century when the turnpike was opened between Sedbergh and Askrigg.
Cross the main road and the river bridge and, leaving Bridge Cottage on the left, take the path ahead, signed to Cotterdale Road. This climbs at first through a fine stand of beeches before emerging on to open moorland. The path is well used and in half a mile crosses a green bridleway. Views open up down, right, into Wensleydale with Wether Fell and Addlebrough prominent. To the north are Great Shunner Fell and Lovely Seat.
Known as the High Way this bridleway connected Wensleydale up the steep gradient to the left to the moors of Cotter End before descending into the upper Eden valley, Countless travellers must have used it including William Camden in the 16th century. Lady Anne Clifford journeyed on it several times with her horse litter, carriage and large retinue of servants en route between her Wharfedale and Westmorland estates. "I think coach never went before" she wrote in her diary on the first occasion. In the next century the High Way became a notable drove road.
After crossing the bridleway our path goes downhill into Cotterdale's narrow valley. When you reach the lane up the dale cross straight over and head for a prominent wooden footbridge over West Gill.The path then follows East Gill into the hamlet of Cotterdale Town. Most of the cottages are now holiday lets but once housed farmers and coal miners. Many are harmoniously roofed with local Hardraw flagstones so that they seem to merge into the landscape. Johnny Kirk's Cottage of about 1700 with pigeonholes in the gable of the porch is a good example as is Shepherd's Cottage, dated 1616 to the right at the end of the houses.
Go right along the street for about 100 yards before turning right across a footbridge over East Gill.The path beyond crosses a series of meadows before climbing gently on to the flanks of Little Fell. It's easy to follow to the sheep folds at Kempera where there are distant views of Cotterdale Beck below roaring over a series of falls. The path then crosses open moorland before, nearly two miles from Cotterdale, it joins the Pennine Way.
Bear right down the Way, here a cart track which was used to carry coal from the pits above Cotterdale. A similar track to the left in 100 yards is still called the Hearne Coal Road. After a gate the track passes over Bluebell Hill before dropping into Hardraw. Hardraw Force, a spectacular 80ft drop, especially after rain, is the village's most famous attraction, approached, for a small charge, through the Green Dragon Inn along a 300 yard path.
Opposite the inn the Pennine Way continues through pastureland. In half a mile turn right along a lane which crosses the Ure at Haylands Bridge. In 100 yards look out for a short cut paved path on the right. It rejoins the lane on the outskirts of Hawes.
With all its shops, pubs and cafes Hawes is always worth a saunter. The stone houses reflect its growth in the 18th century as the market town for upper Wensleydale. Look out especially for the pious statement of 1688 on a house on the right in the market place. "God being with us who can be against".
Our walk continues along the A 684 towards Appersett. About 300 yards from the market place and opposite the large house called Ashes go left on a track signed to Thorney Mire House. Beyond a large barn the right of way continues as a path. After crossing three fields turn right between two smaller barns. The well used path crosses two fields to Widdale Beck. Turn right under Appersett Viaduct, probably the finest of the structures on the Hawes-Garsdale line which opened in 1878 and closed in 1959.
7.5 mile walk: Take the above long walk into Cotterdale and on to the Pennine Way. Soon after passing the Hearne Coal Road go right, downhill, signed to New Bridge, built over the Ure in 1825 to link Hawes to the turnpike.
4.5 mile walk: Walk to New Bridge and go ahead at the road junction on the path signed to Bluebell Hill. Turn right on the Pennine Way and continue down to Hardraw and on to Hawes.