St Alkelda is a local 9th or 10th century Yorkshire Dales saint who is associated with just two ancient and lovely churches with Anglo-Saxon origins, the church of St Mary and St Alkelda, at Middleham in Wensleydale, and St Alkelda, Giggleswick in Ribblesdale. We know very little about Alkelda. There are centuries old traditions, medieval and early Tudor records which tell of her baptising converts in each of the two wells named after her which were near the churches of which she is patronal saint. We learn that she was strangled for her Christian faith by two Danish women in her home area of Middleham. Tradition records that she was buried at a certain point in Middleham church. During the restoration of 1878, a stone coffin containing the bones of a woman was dug up at the very spot. The place is marked by a plaque in the church as you will see. Note also the medieval stained glass showing her martyrdom. In Giggleswick Church, which is built on the foundations of an Anglo-Saxon church you will see the mysterious, beautiful 20th century stained glass depiction of St Alkelda amongst other items. See the Lightworks web site:
In the churchyard, is a Northumbrian (Anglo-Saxon) cross shaft. Nearby, in Giggleswick Scar , Christian Anglo Saxon carved stones have been found in the caves.
The walker follows the self guided route St Alkelda must have travelled using Roman and pre-historic trackways. He/she may start to walk the St Alkelda Way from either Middleham or Giggleswick. The route may be described as a hill walk interspersed with easier and level walking stretches. Note: for the last few miles, there is a gradual uphill walk to the watershed, the source of the river Cover in Coverdale, if your starting point is Middleham, and from Giggleswick, a short, sharp uphill one out of Settle into the limestone hills of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. From Malham, the road up to Street Gate is fairly steep and twisty, but there are spectacular views for those who turn back to look, or for those who come down:
OS Maps– Landranger maps 98 and 99.
Optional – Pocket edition of a book of British Birds, and one of Wild Flowers. Plenty of online web sites to search and browse relating to different parts of the Way