The route wends around fields, moorland, river valleys, ruined abbeys and countless "squeeze bellies" (ancient stiles that are just wide enough for a walker but not for itchy-footed sheep).It is an ideal trail for walkers with short attention spans: just when you've got to grips with one valley you're up, over a watershed, and into a new one.How should the UK's long-distance footpath be launched? That is the initiation ceremony planned for the 38-mile Six Dales Trail across Yorkshire, which officially opens today.Handily, the new route begins in Otley, a small market town where there just so happens to be a Walking Festival taking place this weekend.Now, 18 months on, the resulting long-distance footpath is agreed, the waymarking is nearly complete and a guide to the trail has been published – complete with a foreword by Nidderdale's best-known resident hiker, Janet Street-Porter."I deliberately took the trail off the beaten track and tried to incorporate a variety of terrain," John explained.By lunchtime we were at the next watershed, looking down into Nidderdale and a landscape dusted with pockets of conifers, pale stone villages and fields, barns and walls."We're sleeping by that reservoir tonight," said John, pointing to a glimmer of water on the horizon, around 12 miles from where we'd started out that morning.
Under heavy grey skies was a classic Dales scene of stone barns, dry stone walls, rolling fields and some of Scaife's chickens ranging free below the farmhouse.
Suddenly we swapped surbubia's lawnmower buzz and herds of parked cars for open countryside, birdsong, bees and curlews.
A little further on the first of many views opened out: Wharfedale in one direction and Washburndale (or the Washburn Valley as it's more commonly known) in the other, easily identifiable from its reservoirs.
It was a grey day and, despite an umbrella of feathery beech trees, only the hardiest locals were out walking their dogs.
From Swinsty we picked a path through anemones, primroses and bluebells, before crossing the busy A59 at the village of Blubberhouses and continuing along a gentle riverside path to Scaife Hall Farm – a working sheep farm around 10 miles from Otley that would be our stop for the night.
As we walked John pointed out the remains of the area's industrial history – mossy goits (small canals that were dug to power mills) which have long since become foliage-tangled ruins.