A Walk from Arncliffe to Hawkswick Walk
by Matt Callard
In the film An American Werewolf in London a pair of hapless American backpackers, in search of evening shelter on the Yorkshire Moors, stumble upon the enticingly-named Slaughtered Lamb Inn. Ignoring the classic giveaway of the pentangle on the door, they enter, whereupon they’re made to feel about as welcome as Jeremy Clarkson at a Better-Go-Green rally.
It’s that sort of extra-special Yorkshire hospitality that used to be the region’s stock-in-trade and is now, alas, a dying art. But, at least in the pretty Dales village of Arncliffe, is kept alive by the infamous patron of their Falcon Inn (although see the comments below for an important update – Ed).
Here is a man for whom customers are, at best, a mild irritation. Sure, there’s no pentangle on the door. But perhaps there should be…
“Gentle and meandering”
But more of him later… We’ve a there-and-back-again river walk to negotiate first and, oh my, spring is in the air! Has it ever been greeted by such welcoming arms before? It’s been a long, cold winter alright, underlined by the flecks of snow still showing on the highest uplands this one mid-March. But the lowlands are, of course, the very best place to sample spring’s tip-toeing emergence. The days-old gambolling lambs, the first flecks of a bolder green and the multitudes of that hardy-delicate, the snowdrop.
So park next to Arncliffe’s ample village green and head toward the pretty church of St Oswald’s. To the right, there’s a path to follow. It will lead you along the banks of the River Skirfare all the way to Hawkswick. With the vertiginous Old Cote Moor Ridge and the fairly gentle burble of the river flanking your left for the entirety of the outward journey, there’s little need here for directions.
“Stretch of rare loveliness”
Before long (20 mins) you’ll pass a large sandy bank well-known as the nesting place for flocks of summer sand martins. The walk in general is a twitcher’s dream – we spotted dippers, oyster catchers and a buzzard. Flowers too – in the summer expect yellow rock roses, bird’s-eye primroses and mountain pansies. This is a stretch of rare loveliness, indeed – simple, gentle and meandering.
After you cross a green metal bridge over the river (40 mins) you’ll enter Hawkswick. It’s suitably attractive but hardly a tourist haven, so bring your own refreshments and ready yourself for the u-turn back toward Arncliffe.
Which will, of course, when you arrive back thirsty and hungry, leave you with the dilemma of The Falcon Inn. If you dare enter you’ll be treated to beer straight from the barrel into a jug and the kind of interior charms better suited to an olde world exhibition than the vagaries of modern hospitality. The landlord is something of a Yorkshire hero and possibly the most reluctant tourist attraction in the country.
His unaffected brusqueness is legend. If you’re lucky, you might catch him emptying the back yard of customers (“You can sit out the front, it’s not a beer garden”), half-heartedly serving up food (“You’re eating my tea, you know”) and, once, my personal favourite, entirely clearing and closing a busy pub because “I’ve got some painting to do”.
For the less brave-hearted, you might want to try the nearby Tennant Arms for your refreshments. But it’s less likely you’ll have a tale to tell.
As peaceful introductions to the changing season goes, there’s little to better this simple trek between two villages. But remember: ‘Beware the moon, lads. Keep to the road’…
Arncliffe Walk: Need to Know
- DISTANCE: 5.5 miles
- DIFFICULTY: Easy
- TIME: 90 minutes
- WHERE: Arncliffe is off the B6160 Kilnsey to Kettlewell Road. Take the first left after Kilnsey Crag.
- REFRESHMENTS: The Falcon in Arncliffe will serve food although the nearby Tennant Arms Hotel specialise.
- WHAT ELSE: The Falcon was actually used for the original exterior shots for The Woolpack in Emmerdale.