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Dent to Occupation Road, Deepdale & Dentdale

Dentdale is one of the westernmost of the Yorkshire Dales. This is perhaps why it is less well known than its more popular neighbours to the east. However, even though it is now part of Cumbria, its geology is that of the limestone dales and, as such, it is certainly excellent walking country.

Distance: 9 or 5 miles

Time: 5 or 3 hours

Grade: moderate

Conditions: field paths, bridleways and tracks

Refreshments: Dent

OS Landranger Map 98

Originally published: 19 August 2005

Our nine-mile route, (which can be shortened to five miles), starts in Dent village, known in the early 19th century for its "terrible knitters" when terrible meant great, and when the dale produced more than 800 pairs of stockings a week.

There is no industry in Dent today, but the parish church is medieval in origin and is worth a visit for its ancient woodwork. By the gate of the church is a huge slab of Shap granite inscribed as a memorial to Adam Sedgewick, born in Dent in 1785. He was one of the pioneers of the science of geology and became professor of the subject at Cambridge.

From his monument, and with the George and Dragon on your left, walk down the cobbled street to the post office. Then take the first right and in 200yds go left, passing the former Zion Chapel of 1855. The road soon leaves the houses behind and, as a rough track, climbs steeply up the side of Flinter Gill, a deep wooded ravine carved through limestone. This was once an important packhorse route from Dent to Kirkby Lonsdale and the south.

After almost a mile, the gradient eases and the track enters moorland. A welcome seat allows you to draw breath and admire the widespread views across the dale to Rise Hill, which separates Dentdale from Garsdale, and down the dale towards Sedbergh with the Howgills in the distance.

Just after the seat, the track divides, both sections following ancient moorland routes.

In 1859, both these were "improved" with walls to form the Occupation Road, marking the newly-enclosed common land, below, from the open moorland.

Either direction provides excellent walking, but we go left, climbing almost imperceptibly.

After just over a mile, there is the opportunity for a short cut back to Dent. If you choose this option, go left at the first junction on another green lane that drops down Nun House Outrake. Cross the tarred lane that runs up Deepdale and follow the right of way past Scow Farm to rejoin the longer route by an old lime kiln near Deepdale Beck - please note that stiles and gates are not mapped on this short cut.

At the junction, the longer walk turns right across moorland to High Pike at the head of Deepdale. It is little frequented, but exhilarating for being so. For the entire three miles I met no-one, but the security afforded by the walls - you can't lose your way - allows you to admire the great bulk of Whernside, 2,414ft, the rounded slopes of the 2,250ft Great Courn, away on your right, and finally, after some two miles, the sight of the table top of lngleborough, eight miles away to the south.

Immediately on your left, the land falls away steeply into the aptly named Deepdale. Our track, once busy with carts exploiting the stone quarries and tiny coal pits along its length, curves right round the head of the valley and past High Pike to the road that climbs out of Deepdale into Kingsdale. Go left.

In l00yds, the tranquil valley of Deepdale opens up below. Only ½m wide, it is a pattern of tiny hay meadows and pasture lands. Turn right over a stile on a path marked by posts that descends steeply from the heights to the valley floor at Deepdale Head Farm. Cross the beck.

After about l00yds, the well marked path leaves the streamside and continues past the barn called Johnston's Lathe to Mire Garth. Another four fields are then crossed to a ruined building just above the path. Go sharp left here down to Bigholme Bridge over the beck.

On the other side, follow the track uphill for about l00yds and then go right through a red gate. Two more fields are crossed to a prominent barn. Here, cross over a farm track that leads to another bridge and pass to the right of the barn down a hollow way which leads to the beckside and a footbridge which we do not cross.

If the hollow way is too overgrown then it is easy to by-pass by going to the left of the barn. For the next ½m, the path is a delight as it follows close to the bubbling beck as it ripples over its limestone bed.

It then diverges from the stream to meet the shorter route at an old lime kiln. In the 19th century, smoke from such kilns must have been a common sight in the quieter autumn burning season, when local coal was brought down from hillside pits to be used as fuel for reducing the local stone to lime. The produce was used in vast quantities to improve the rough, newly enclosed hill pastures.

Our path continues now, well away from the beck to a gate in a wall. Follow the path for some l00yds into the middle of the next field before turning right for the wooded beckside and the road which crosses Mill Bridge.

As a diversion, there is a very pretty waterfall to see if you walk a short distance upstream from the bridge.

The mill which once stood here has long gone. Tum left at the bridge and almost immediately go right on a riverside path which is also part of the Dales Way between Ilkley and Bowness, one of the finest long-distance trails. In a ¼m, the beck joins Dentdale's river, the Dee, or at least the river bed, for in dry weather it runs underground and only reappears as you approach Dent.

For much of the last half-mile stretch, the welcoming tower of Dent church is visible over the meadows. Go left when you reach the dale road at Church Bridge. The village lies 300yds away.


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