MASTILES LANE england
MASTILES Lane was a key part of a drovers’ super-highway in the eighteenth century, the M6 of its time. Before then it was in use by monks from Fountains Abbey more than 20 miles away, linking the grange at Kilnsey with sheep pastures on Malham Moor. Earlier still, the Romans pounded the path in their war against the Celtic Brigantes of northern England, leaving behind remains of one of their marching camps as a relic of their conquest.
On our 21st century journey, we left the climbers on Kilnsey Crag behind and set off past the enormous lunar chasm left by Cool Scar, a former limestone quarry. Mastiles Lane stretched out before us and over the moor in bleak splendour, a single man-made feature in a flawlessly lonely landscape. The track is a wide, rutted path with walls on either side that won’t endear itself to the sort of walker who likes to feel sparsely trodden ground beneath their feet. Trailblazing, however, is not the point. It’s an exercise in historical imagination to picture what this place must have been like in its heyday, not a sparse relic of a road sitting in solemn isolation on the windswept moors, but a hustling, bustling thoroughfare, in use by monks, drovers, and migrants of every age.
As we walked, the shifting clouds sent shadows whirling across the moor. Occasionally an icy rain shower would whip across the tops, prompting us to rummage hurriedly for our extra layers, before the sun returned, forcing us to remove them just as quickly. Exposed Mastiles Moor takes the full brunt of the elements, hot or cold.
The lane led naturally on to Malham Tarn. We stopped for a while by its marshy edges, absorbing the sun’s dazzling reflection in the wide, still expanse of water. There is something forlorn about this place, but the window of rain-free brightness was a welcome respite, and the atmosphere by the lapping banks was quietly comforting.
The return journey first took us past Great Close Scar and Lee Gate High Mark. We crested the fell and began walking down the other side. The long scar of Cote Gill stretched down into Littondale, while Great Whernside basked beyond the snow-plough head of Hawkswick Moor.
Just as the sun began turning orange and opaque on the hills around us, a double rainbow appeared, seeming to grow right out of the hamlet of Hawkswick Cote before stretching upwards and bridging half the heavens in a perfect, unbroken arch – the sort of sight that travellers of the past would take as a good omen.
Distance: 13.5 miles/22km
Time: 5-6 hours
Start/finish: Kilnsey, Upper Wharfedale (GR: SD 974678)
Maps: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 0L2 (Yorkshire Dales – Southern & Western areas); OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 98 (Wensleydale & Upper Wharfedale)
Information: Grassington, 01756 751600
Travel: Bus service 72 from Skipton, 74 from Ilkley via Grassington. See www.dalesbus.org
Route: From Kilnsey take the wide track of Mastiles Lane SW onto Kilnsey Moor. Follow the lane for 5 miles until a wall with a crossroads beyond. Take the road leading NW to Malham Tarn and follow until just before the copse surrounding Malham Tarn Field Centre. Branch off on a footpath R leading upwards and turn R at the top of the ridge. Take a brief left as if to enter Middle House Farm then take the footpath on the R heading south. Meet the track leading NE over the hill to Cote Moor and down into Hawkswick Cote. Follow the road along Littondale back to Kilnsey.
This walk has been written by TGO’s Carey Davies. To upload your own walk, click here: http://www.tgomagazine.co.uk/walks/upload-walk/