Starting from the picturesque village of Kettlewell, this moderate hill walk follows former packhorse and drovers’ routes. There are excellent views of the valley on both outward and return journeys.
Kettlewell is situated at the foot of Great Whernside which, at 2310 feet (704m), is Wharfedale’s highest mountain. According to some authorities the scenery and contour of the mountains around Kettlewell are a near facsimile of the Valley of Jehoshaphat in Palestine. The village was granted a market charter in 1320 and became a thriving centre for the upper dale, attracting traders from great distances. At one time it had five inns, a beerhouse, a cotton mill, three schools, three blacksmiths and a surgeon.
The manor of Kettlewell was once owned by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as ‘the Kingmaker’. After his death at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, his estates were confiscated by the Crown for supporting the enemies of Edward IV. In 1656, the manor was bought by eight trustees for the freeholders of Kettlewell who came to be known as the ‘Trust Lords’. Successive lords have since played a major role in the social and economic life of the village, specifically through controlling and managing common grazing and mineral rights.
In recent years Kettlewell has been inundated by the arrival of some very strange residents! During the first few weeks of August the village holds its annual scarecrow festival, with almost every household in the community taking part. Hundreds of ‘scarecrow residents’ are dotted about the village in a wide variety of poses and disguises including burglars, musicians, fishermen and joggers. A few years ago, some visitors were shocked when one scarecrow, with a ‘real life resident’ hiding inside, spoke to them!
From the village we follow a former packhorse route, the Top Mere Road, climbing steeply to Cam Head. During our ascent there are wonderful views of the valley, including Kilnsey Crag with its dramatic overhang.
This ancient track passes the site of the chimney and flue which served the Kettlewell Smelt Mill. The mill started work towards the end of the seventeenth century. It was rebuilt in 1868 when a long flue was constructed to a high chimney on the side of Cam Pasture. The mill closed in 1887 and was in good condition until it was demolished by the army in 1942 to test a new type of explosive. However, the chimney had blown down during a gale in 1893.
At Cam Head we join the Starbotton Road, an ancient drovers’ track which linked Coverdale and Malhamdale. Above the hill to the right of the track are the remains of a medieval boundary marker called the Shorn Cross. This is sited on the top of a Bronze Age round barrow and may have once marked a point on the boundary of the Coverham Abbey estate at Kettlewell. It consists of the base of a stone cross with the broken shaft lying nearby.
During our descent to Starbotton there are sweeping views across the valley to Old Cote Moor and Moor End Fell. Despite being sited on a busy main road, Starbotton has managed to retain a peaceful outlook. Much of the village was rebuilt after the disastrous flood of 1686. Its name is of Norse origin meaning ‘the valley where the stakes were cut’. The Fox and Hounds Inn, dating from the seventeenth century, remains a welcome oasis for weary travellers.
After crossing the river Wharfe we climb steeply through a wood and emerge onto the shoulder of Moor End Fell. From here the steep sides and U-shaped valley floor, which are typical of glacial action, can be seen to best advantage.
Moor End Farm, now used as an Outward Bound Centre, was built for the manager of the nearby leadmines in the early eighteenth century. The Moor End mines were heavily worked between 1731 and 1879. A shaft was sunk to a depth of 210 feet (64m) and one level was worked horizontally for 2000 feet (610m). Most of the ore was sent to the Cupola Smelt Mill at Starbotton.
From Moor End our path descends gently and returns us to Kettlewell. Across the river, on the lower slopes, strip-lynchets are visible when the sun is low.