There are some places that you have to just keep revisiting to remind yourself of just how beautiful they are. Upper Wharfedale does it for me – whatever the weather and in all seasons it is a landscape that pleases me. It lies at the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – a steep sided limestone valley settled by a chain of small villages. From south to north they are Kettlewell, Starbotton, Buckden and Hubberholme.  It must have been a landscape that pleased the writer J.B.Priestley for his ashes are interred in the churchyard at Hubberholme. Born on Bradford in 1894 Priestley was a prolific novelist and dramatist and while it can be said that much of his output no longer has the readership it once had his play “An Inspector Calls” remains firmly fixed in the canon of English Literature. During the last national emergency – the 2nd World War – Priestley rose to prominence as a broadcaster when over a period of 4 months between June and October 1940 – through the darkest days of the war he gave a series of talks after the 9 o’clock news on Sunday.


These “Postscript” programmes were almost as popular as Churchill’s speeches and attracted huge audiences. As much as commenting on aspects of the war itself Priestley looked ahead to what would happen afterwards. He recognised that things would have to change. In pointing out the inequalities of British society of the time one end characterised by “pleasant, able-bodied persons who, because of some system of private incomes or pensions and all kinds of snobbish nonsense, are condemned to yawn away their lives, forever wondering what to do between meals” Priestley looked forward to a fairer society in which “each [person] gives according to his ability and receives according to his need”. Such views paraphrasing Karl Marx led to the BBC cancelling the talks in the autumn of 1940. But the seeds had been sown.  In the election after VE day in 1945 a Labour government was elected with a radical agenda including the creation of a National Health Service which was established in 1948. The present coronavirus emergency has made us wake up to just how much the nation relies on this sector of the welfare state. When it is over it may make us re-order our values – perhaps rewarding doctors, nurses and hospital cleaners (indeed all cleaners) a great deal more (and bankers, CEOs and premiership footballers a great deal less.) 

The walk described was the last one I did before the necessary restrictions were announced by the Prime Minister on 23rd March. For readers with a spirit of adventure make it the first you do when things return to…normal?

Start: Buckden BD23 5JA the village car park is immediately north of the village on the B6160

Fact file

Distance: 8 miles - 4 ½ - 6 hours
Grade: The first section of the walk up Buckden Gill is strenuous. The rest of the walk - length aside is easy.
Map: OS OL30 Yorkshire Dales Northern & Central areas.


 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press

Directions: On the north side of the car park go through a wooden gate


and then turn almost immediately right climbing uphill to a wooden gate between a fence and a wall. Through this continue to a small utility building and then turn left. Now in the steep sided valley of Buckden Gill


the idea is to follow it up to the old workings of Buckden Lead Mine. Stay alert for the path is not always easy to follow as it negotiates a number of waterfalls on the ascent .


At the lower level it sticks to the left of the stream as it tracks towards the first cascade. As you close in on this the route switches back climbing a short rocky scramble


onto the next limestone shelf on a level with the waterfall. Cross a stile and then go through a gate




the next waterfall.


When a definite path develops on the right of the beck find a safe place to cross and join it. Negotiating the next two falls necessitates climbing up grassy slopes bearing right away from the stream.


By this stage you ought to be exhilarated especially by the views back down the gill to Wharfedale. As you near the remains of the Buckden Lead Mine re-cross the stream and aim to the left of an old spoil heap.


Now the walking becomes a little more pedestrian!

After the tip and a complete change of scene a clear path


leads across moorland towards the summit ridge of Buckden Pike. After joining a wall on the left keep left when the path divides and keep climbing to the ridge reached at a wall corner and a ladder stile.


Across the stile a short stride of 100yds will take you to the trig point and nearby summit cairn which presumably is the "pike".


On a clear day this is a place to savour. In all directions the high fells stretch away giving the impression of emptiness. On our crowded isle how can such seemingly remote places exist "far from the madding crowd" - but they do and when you next get the chance do not hesitate to seek them out.

The rest of the walk is easy.


Return to the ladder stile and continue along the ridge for ½ mile


to where another ladder stile crosses a wall corner. Here there is a sad memorial dedicated to the Polish crew of a Wellington bomber that crashed here in 1942.


There is quite a story to this accident which can be read on http://www.buckdenpike.co.uk/mainstory.html . From the cross a wide, worn and sometimes very boggy path leads downhill


with the wall on the right. In a 1/4 mile just before the next corner turn right through a gate on what is a bridleway. Follow this down






to Starbotton - easy stated than done since Starbotton is over two miles away a good hour's walk. At Starbotton on reaching the main road close to the Fox and Hounds pub go left.


Just outside the village turn right onto a path that leads down to the River Wharfe. After crossing the footbridge


turn right to follow the Dales Way


upstream for another 2 miles


to arrive at the road bridge between Buckden and Hubberholme.


Cross it for the village.