16-Apr-2012 -- As I was in the Manchester area for the annual conference of the Geographical Association conference, and as my focus there was geography and geotechnologies, a confluence visit was quite appropriate. My meetings with the Digital Earth EU project ended a bit early, affording an opportunity to attempt this confluence, and practice what I am always preaching about getting out into the field, before heading to the airport the following day.
At 5:20am, I walked to the bus station, taking the 5:45am bus from Manchester to Burnley, then transferred to another. The bus from Burnley to Skipton seemed to take quite awhile. It was only 15 miles, but took nearly an hour to reach its destination. But it was a pleasant trip through beautiful hills and villages, and the cultural geographer in me was pleased to able to see numerous students, looking sharp in their uniforms. I gathered from the conversations that it was the first day after Easter break. We reached Skipton, and as I walked out of the bus shelter, I noted by the town clock that it was 8;42am.
Now I stepped up my pace, knowing I had a lot of ground to cover. While walking north, up Keighley Street, on to High Street, I noticed a street fair being set up with vendors. I bought a coffee for one pound, a Nescafe, which left a bit to be desired but help me power up the slope past the Skipton Castle on a road called The Bailey. At Skipton Road, I turned due north and was pleased to find some pigs, which I spoke to as I filmed. The road dipped down a slope to Cross Bank, under the A65 motorway, and up into the pleasant town of Embsay. I turned left on West Lane, which was very peaceful, and then left again (east) onto Pasture Road back into the countryside.
I had long been eyeing this confluence, and I kept gazing to the north, knowing that the confluence was on top of the high ground of the Yorkshire Dales to the north. The day had been bright but now I saw some low clouds building to the west. I was tracking my progress with both my smartphone and my GPS receiver, but as I had a teleconference later that day and had no way of charging the phone out here, I now turned the phone off. I continued upslope, passing wonderful meadows bordered by stone fences and grazed by sheep to the Embsay Moor Reservoir. After following the southwest shore, now I was faced with a dilemma. Should I cut cross country to the confluence or continue on a known trail directly in front of me? What would my colleague Gordon Spence, who has visited this point several times, do?
I decided to follow the trail, which was steep but aimed for the stand of evergreens on the craggy ridge directly to the northwest. Soon my efforts were rewarded with magnificent views of the entire valley to the south and southwest. I was high above the reservoir and at the top of the ridge, turned directly to the confluence, with about 1000 meters to go. Things got rather interesting. I aimed for one of what appeared to be stone windbreaks for the sheep ranchers straight ahead and uphill, after which, I descended into a broad valley with an excellent view to the east.
I could no longer see the reservoir or Skipton and I truly felt wonderfully alone. Some of these calcareous grasslands were relatively easy to walk on, such as where it appeared the heath had dried up, but other plants were like walking on marshmallows; very spongy earth. Actually, "earth" was not the right term here. Not long after I started thinking about the poor fellow sinking to his doom on moors like this in the Sherlock Holmes story "Hound of the Baskervilles", and less than 100 meters from the confluence, I suddenly sunk up to my knees in water. I let out a small cry of surprise, but fortunately, still held onto camera and GPS receiver.
The confluence, I could now see, was in an area where footing is extremely difficult, but I was determined to zero out the unit after coming all this way. After 15 minutes, I did so, perilously balanced on the side of a tuft of grass. The temperature was about 55 F (13 C) under partly cloudy skies with a moderate wind. This was my northernmost confluence in the world. I now had a nice tidy number, about 7, in England, spanning nearly 10 years. It began to sleet and the sky became noticeably darker. I suddenly decided I had better exit the scene, and quickly. But surely Gordon would someday find my body here if I couldn't make it out!
As I exited the confluence site, I noticed a small box filled with a sort of gravel, about 100 meters away. I needed to investigate further to determine what it was. I do love circular routes, and I couldn't help but indulge in a bit of a circle here, hiking south this time, and to one of the stone windbreaks, where I filmed a movie about following your heart. I was concerned that the slope directly down to the reservoir without a trail would be too steep, but it was fine, a bit of care required, and I arrived unscathed at the north shore. I then skirted the reservoir to the west, so I could say that I circled the whole reservoir, filming the water treatment plant for my water engineer friend in Texas.
I walked back to Embsay, filming some ducks and sheep as I went, and this time walked through the center of the town, instead of down West Lane, and in the town centre I bought a most welcome drink. Given the length of my walk, I was getting a bit weary as neared Skipton, declining a tour through the castle but stopping at the historic church there. Walking into the middle of town, I bought two wonderful "pasties" from a shop which up to that point were the best things I had eaten on my trip to England, surpassed only by that evening's fish and chips.
The total round trip hiking time came in at exactly four hours, covering 8.2 miles (13.2 km). I admit that my feet were quite sore. I had a nice chat with a local man who verified that I was waiting for the correct bus. I arrived at the bus stop at 12:45pm and caught the 1:05pm bus to Nelson and then another bus back to Manchester, which was wonderful because I sat on the upper level and in the front which afforded views of the cultural and physical geography passing by. In Manchester, I took my conference call with our education team and did a few hours of work. The trek was indeed a wonderful way to end my trip to England, and I hope to return one day!