On Great Roova Crags

Great Roova Crags & Great Force

Walk Summary

A superbly varied walk from Carlton in Coverdale visiting three villages, some fine waterfalls and the prominent gritstone outcrops of Great Roova Crags.

Distance: 8.5 miles
Total ascent: 1430ft
Walk Rating: *****
Parking: Roadside parking in Carlton
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

Every January I make a list of walks that I’d like to do over the course of that year. I’ve been putting a visit to Great Roova Crags on the list every year since to 2011 but for some reason I’ve never got round to doing the walk. This then was a very long overdue walk.

Unsure of how much parking there might be around West Scrafton, the natural start to the walk, I instead started the walk in Carlton, on the other side of the River Cover, where I knew there was room to park in a layby to the east of the Foresters Arms.

“Great Roova Crags is a superb spot with wonderful views up and down dale with Pen Hill across the valley dominating the villages of Carlton, Melmerby and West Scrafton.”

From Carlton I walked east back along the road, passing along the way an unusually brave pheasant who walked right in front of me. After I’d passed the second turn off to Melmerby I took a path on the right that eventually led across a large sheep pasture (lots of lambs) and to the top of Scar Wood. A good path soon dropped down through the wood which featured the first bluebells I’ve seen so far this year.

Crossing over the footbridge called St Simon’s Bridge I soon came across the scanty moss covered remains of St Simon’s Chapel. Occupying a lovely spot alongside the river the chapel was probably built in the early 14th century. By the late 16th century it had already begun to fall into ruin before briefly being turned into an ale house.

A steep climb up from the chapel and a nearby limekiln brought me to the quiet country road between Caldbergh and West Scrafton. Turning east I continued to just before Caldbergh Bridge where I took a path climbing up to the little hamlet.

At the top end of Caldbergh I took the track known as ‘The Red Way’ which climbed gradually up towards the moors above. A steeper pull as the track climbed above Ulfers Crags eventually led to a junction of paths. Taking the faintest one heading west I continued on in to the upper reaches of Ulfers Gill. Here I crossed the stream for a short boggy stretch as I made a beeline from the northern end of Great Roova Crags.

Immediately of interest was the shooting hut that had been built into the sides of the crag itself. One of the more interesting shooting huts I’ve come across it was sadly locked so I couldn’t take a nosey inside. Next I went in search of the Scrafton trig point, a small bolt rather than the pillar that is shown on the OL30 Explorer map.

Bolt or pillar, Great Roova Crags is a superb spot with wonderful views up and down dale with Pen Hill across the valley dominating the villages of Carlton, Melmerby and West Scrafton. Another feature of note was the huge gritstone pinnacle at the southern end of the crags.

Having explored Great Roova Crags I next followed a fence south to visit the more modest Little Roova Crags. Next I continued south alongside the fence, passing a long the way a couple of old boundary stones. Eventually I reached a gate where I took a stony track passing the fenced off remains of West Scrafton colliery.

I didn’t stay on the track long as I wanted to visit Great Force, one of the few named waterfalls in Coverdale. To do this I left the track to drop down steeply towards Lead Up Gill. Following the latter downstream I passed a lovely little waterfall, unmarked on the map. Unfortunately the lovely scene was slightly marred by the stench rising from a nearby sheep carcass.

The sides of the gill were too steep to make a direct descent to Great Force so I had to do a small loop to approach it from the north. Surrounded by steep rocky slopes which were decorated with patches of primroses Great Force was quite a find and deserves to be much better known. On the other hand perhaps it is better if it stays relatively unknown, indeed one of its charms was that it felt very much a secret place.

Having sat and watched the waterfall for a while I reluctantly left Great Force for a largely pathless and slightly soggy walk to finally rejoin the track I’d left earlier just as it reached West Scrafton. Passing through the village I dropped down some pastures to re-cross the Cover at Caygill Foot Bridge. A steep climb up the other side and a few more pastures led me to the enclosed Quakers Lane which brought me back to Carlton.

To top off what had been a great walk I walked up through the village to the old Wesleyan chapel to take the path to the lovely little waterfall on Mel Beck that I had first visited when I’d climbed Pen Hill from Carlton back in January.

2 thoughts on “Great Roova Crags & Great Force

  1. As a child I lived in Melmerby, and I used to do this walk many times per year with my dog in tow. Must do it again!

    1. It is a cracker isn’t it Ken? I’m looking forward to going back to Coverdale later this month when the heather will be in bloom 🙂

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