Walking the Occupation Road

A few weeks ago we walked the westernmost section of the “Occy” as the locals call it – the Occupation Road contouring the fells above Dent.

The Flinter Gill Track meets the Occy (c) John Bainbridge 2015

The Flinter Gill Track meets the Occy (c) John Bainbridge 2015

It whetted my appetite to see a longer stretch of this ancient track. And ancient it is, for at one time this was an old droving route along which men would have driven their cattle to market.

In about the 1850s the fells above Dent were enclosed by local landowners, though they retained their moorland character. But the importance of the Occy was clearly recognised, for the track survived and as a public right of way. Guaranteed legal access – as opposed to de facto access to the fells around only came along with the CRoW Act a few years ago.

On the Occy. (C) John Bainbridge 2015

On the Occy. (C) John Bainbridge 2015

The last time we walked the Occy was in a thick wet mist. This time the weather was kinder. There was a playful dry mist, as we ascended the steep and rocky FlinterGill path, but this had cleared by the time we reached the Occy, giving us some wonderful cloud inversions to see.

Fells and Barbed Wire by the Occy (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Fells and Barbed Wire by the Occy (c) John Bainbridge 2015

The Occy eastwards is not the easy walking that we’d experienced on the previous section. There has been a great deal of erosion, with ruts and pits in the surface of the path, which made for rather tough going.

But this was more than compensated for by the superb views over Dentdale and Deepdale, across to the mighty heights of Whernside and, glowering out the clouds, distant Ingleborough.

Deepdale (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Deepdale (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Given that this is designated access land, actual access to some of the surrounding fells isn’t easy. There are a great many locked gates and walls topped with unsightly barbed wire. Where are the access points?

Distant Views from the Occy. (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Distant Views from the Occy. (c) John Bainbridge 2015

We reached the head of Deepdale and followed the steep and winding lane back to Dent. I’m not the world’s greatest fan of lane walking but Deepdale is delightful. Superb views, charming waterfalls adjacent to the route, farmhouses that seem unchanged from centuries ago. A real snapshot of the past – and views towards the Howgills as the two dales meet.

A waterfall in Deepdale. (c) John Bainbridge

A waterfall in Deepdale. (c) John Bainbridge

Worth walking this to see the Occy, an important path of considerable antiquity. And Deepdale is a delight.

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