Packhorse Bridge, Thornthwaite

Around Thornthwaite

Walk Summary

A short but lovely little walk exploring the countryside around Thornthwaite, a scattered village in its own valley, near Darley in Nidderdale.

Distance: 3.8 miles
Total ascent: 600ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Layby near Darley Mill
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

Thornthwaite is a well scattered community in its own secluded side valley to the west of Darley in Nidderdale. I’ve had a walk around the area on my to-do list for about five or six years now but always put it off in favour of something else. Finally, rather than doing the seven mile walk I had originally planned, I came up with this much shorter route for a Sunday afternoon walk with the family.

The walk starts from a layby just below and on the opposite side of the road from Darley Mill. Darley Mill was, until fairly recently, a thriving shop and tea room so I was surprised and a bit disappointed to see that it had closed and was boarded up. I hope the building is protected and looked after as my great-great grandmother worked there when it was still an actual mill.

“Just down the narrow road from the church we crossed a stile for the briefest of detours to a tiny but beautiful medieval packhorse bridge over Padside Beck.”

At a footpath sign for Dairy Lane we left the road and crossed what was the first of what must have been at least twenty stiles that we encountered on this walk. Crossing a few muddy fields we didn’t cross over Darley Beck but instead carried on up alongside for a short way before crossing a couple more fields to reach Low Lane.

Turning right we followed the road, passing a couple of farms, before taking a signpost on the right for Folly Gill Bridge. In its latter stages this turned into a lovely causeyed path above the stream. To see Folly Gill Bridge itself required a short detour from the right of way before we crossed Dairy Lane and passed alongside the old Thornthwaite Mill.

Following a track alongside the beck we passed a weir before the track became enclosed and wound up past the sizeable Folly Gill Mill and on to the foot of Leeming Lane. Heading up the lane a short way we left it to climb a scrappy pasture before entering Pike Crag Wood, a lovely woodland of birch, bracken and mossy boulders. If I’d been on my own I’d almost certainly have spent more time exploring and photographing the woods.

Leaving the wood we then crossed a number of fields via several more stiles including easily the finest of the day – a staircase stile rather than the usual step stiles. A hard to locate and ultimately messy path alongside a stream led us down to Church Lane and the hidden away Saint Saviour’s Church, Thornthwaite. Of interest inside the church is a stained glass featuring Jesus, St George, Florence Nightingale and Grace Darling – an interesting mix!

Just down the narrow road from the church we crossed a stile for the briefest of detours to a tiny but beautiful medieval packhorse bridge over Padside Beck. Back on the road we climbed up the hill to reach the drive to Thornthwaite Scout Camp. One of the reasons I’d had this walk on my to-do list was because in my youth I’d stayed several times at this campsite whilst a sixer for 16th Harrogate Cubs.

We only passed through the northern perimeter of the campsite, on a little wooded ridge called Cat Crag Ridge. Before we did so however we had a nice encounter with three donkeys who wandered up their field to greet us at a gate. After having a stroke we moved on only to turn around and see one still trying to look over the wall towards us – it was like it was playing peek-a-boo!

Emerging from the woods of Cat Crag Ridge we were suddenly greeted by an extensive view of Nidderdale between Brimham Rocks on our left down towards Birtswith. From here the route back was simple, following a long straight path down to Dairy Lane and then, across the road, another few pastures to reach a footbridge on Darley Beck. Before crossing the bridge I headed downstream a short way to get a picture of a small waterfall that I could hear. Once back at the bridge it was then a simple case of retracing our earlier muddy steps.

The muddy fields at the beginning and end of the walk were the only real downside to what proved to be a gem of an outing. Having taken so long to finally get round to doing this walk I expect I’ll be going back sooner rather than later. Autumn in particular would be an excellent time to go back.

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