A special Sunday afternoon

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I have a book by Daniel Start called “Wild Guide to the Lakes and Dales” which I would highly recommend to anyone looking for mini adventure locations which are a bit off the beaten track. This book mentions some fabulous waterfalls on Leck Beck on the Western edge of the Dales not too far from Kirkby Lonsdale.

Last Sunday (18th Nov) I had a few hours spare because my wife was working so I fancied having a bit of an explore and after dithering between going to the Tufa pools in Cowside beck again (as mentioned in Roger Deakin’s fantastic book “Waterlog”) or venturing further afield – I decided to head off to Leck Beck.

The guide suggests two different ways of approaching the waterfalls but after studying the OS map, I chose to walk upstream towards them instead. It’s about a 45 minute drive from home over the A65 to Cowan Bridge then to the villlage of Leck, where I parked up in the big church car park and paid my voluntary donation of £1 before setting off down the road for about half a mile to pick up the path that followed the river. The path soon went into a lovely bit of woodland (Springs Wood) which straddles the beck, and which has a fantastic show of Bluebells in the spring apparently.

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Passing through the wood, it became apparent that this is pheasant shooting territory – the marker posts for the gun positions were evenly spaced every 30 yards or so. The pheasants themselves were everywhere during this walk and regularly erupted from the undergrowth nearby as I walked along… a great test of you heart’s health!! Emerging from the wood into a level pasture, Leck fell was starting to appear in the distance along with the most perfect blue sky. The warm sun and light winds made it the most wonderful day for being out in the middle of nowhere just pottering along…

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At the end of this long field a stile led out onto the Open access land and the terrain quickly changed to one of a moorland valley with the track vaguely following the beck and meandering through the dead bracken, which looked fabulous in the golden light.

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After another half mile the main footpath veered away up the hillside but I carried on alongside the stream till I came to a rather rickety suspension bridge for the keepers and shooters to use. By now I could see the area where I expected the first waterfall to be and the best route to it was over the bridge… so I teetered across without incident and made my way through the bracken on the far side towards the series of sharp bends where the falls were located. I arrived at the foot of the first one and was greeted with a spectacular pool with rock sides and a very pretty waterfall at its head.

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I was tempted to peel off and get straight in, but it was only about 1.30 and I knew from the book that there were more waterfalls and pools further upstream, so decided to see what else there was and if  could find one with a bit more sun on it. After a bit of serious faff getting across the beck without getting wet feet (the side I was on was impassable further up) I made my way gradually upstream passing more little cascades and pools, any one of which would be great for a sploosh. In places the going was a bit of a scramble but I wanted to stay close to the water to see what there was at each step. I eventually got to another series of pools culminating in a small but very pretty waterfall, and these pools looked deep and were in the sun and out of the wind – Perfect!

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This was it! I hadn’t seen another soul since leaving the village and didn’t expect to, so a skinny dip was definitely in order! I set my camera up on the bank then peeled off and wearing only sandals, specs and a smile waded in. The water was stained the colour of black tea and was chilly but not ridiculously cold, having flowed down a shallow section in the full sun further up. The first few feet was strewn with big boulders in the beck bottom so I was glad of my sandals as I scrabbled to get to the deeper part of the pool. I was soon swimming in the main pool and it was just exhilarating!

After dragging myself away from this stunning stretch of water I set off up the steep hillside to have a look further up the valley where I could see the beck making it’s way down from Ease Gill Kirk (another spot on my visit list).

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I set off to walk back down the valley, but given the glorious sunshine and inner glow from the cold water immersion was in no great hurry to get back to the car so had another wistful look at the first pool and vowed to come back for a decent dip there soon, and then a bit further down sat by a lovely bit of the beck to have a brew and a very late lunch in the lowering sun.

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I eventually retraced my steps back across the big field full of sheep (who obviously weren’t used to people and shot off up the hillside at my approach) before plodding back through the woods with the leaves crunching under my feet. I reached my car as the sun was lowering to the horizon behind the church and ending the most perfect afternoon’s mini adventure.

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This is the map showing where the falls are for anyone who fancies a trip.

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