Sunday 9 April 2022
We four set off on a glorious sunny Saturday morning, stopping briefly in Oxford before heading along the Lees Valley road, the long, winding and scenic route to the beginning of the Townshend Track. There we found our first challenge – the stile into the paddock where the track began was guarded by a large, black bull, and the whole paddock looked to be full of bulls. Two of us us chose to use said stile, under the bull’s watchful (or was it baleful?) gaze, and the other two chose to climb the fence into the adjoining paddock and thereby risk electrocution instead. Happily, we all got over the fence and through the paddock unscathed.
After an hour or so of walking on a flat and fairly straight four wheel drive track in open county, we stopped beside the river for morning tea. The local sandfly population, along with residents of some nearby beehives helped ensure that it wasn’t too long a stop. Before crossing the river to continue the track, we noticed a sign marked ‘Emergency Route’, and gathered that the route so indicated was intended for when the river was impassable.
Across the river, the track became more undulating and winding and eventually, after another river crossing, headed from the open country into beech forest. On reaching a bridge about 1.5km from the Wharfedale Hut, we elected to lunch there by the river, rather than carrying on to the hut itself. It was a pleasant spot, but once again we were encouraged by the sandflies not to consider an extended siesta-time there.
On the return journey, when we reached the ‘Emergency Route’ sign, we decided to head up there for a change of scene. Admittedly, we were not facing an emergency but we had after-all, warded off a few potential emergencies (such as being gored by bulls, fried on electric fences, attacked by killer wasps etc) The sign enjoined us to ‘stick to the marked route’ but after we had negotiated the swing bridge across the river, we had some difficulty locating a marked route, and so regretfully, but in the interests of avoiding a genuine emergency, we headed back across the bridge and onto the original track.
It was a pleasant walk back to the start of the track, still under a cloudless sky. The paddock that lay between us and the car remained well-populated by “bulls” when we reached it, but we feigned nonchalance as we made our way among them (the writer at least feigned nonchalance – my companions may have been genuinely nonchalant) before wending our way back along the winding Lees Valley road and then home. It was a very enjoyable day and we are grateful to Graeme for his leadership of the expedition, his excellent driving and for organising such beautiful weather.
We were: Graeme Nicholas (leader), Mary McKeown, Rhonda Trounson and Joanna Frampton [JF]