Heathfield Moor

Heathfield Moor & Mark Hill

Walk Summary

A long walk from the Bridge Inn near Pateley Bridge to the remote trig point on Mark Hill with other features of interest including Burn Gill, Raygill Wig Stones, and a number of old lead mines.

Distance: 13.5 miles
Total ascent: 2850ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Car Park, Bridge Inn
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

Standing at 458m above sea level on the moors on the western side of Nidderdale is the Ordnance Survey trig point on Mark Hill. A glance at the map shows the trig point on access land but miles from any public rights of way. Being a trig point enthusiast this has long been on my to-do list to visit but exactly how I was going to manage that has for a long time flummoxed me.

In the end I came up with a route from the Bridge Inn utilising a couple of tracks which lead from rights of way on to access land though the tracks themselves aren’t rights of way. As we shall see my plan didn’t quite work.

“To finally get to the trig point after all this time gave me a real sense of pleasure. Even better the weather was really quite lovely and visibilty was great.”

The first thing to note is that the huge car park at the Bridge Inn is supposed to be for patrons only. I arrived before the pub opened and to assuage my conscience I planned to pop into the pub for a drink when I’d finished the walk. Turning left on the road I crossed the bridge and soon after turned left up Grange Lane, signposted for Heathfield.

Ignoring the access road to the series of caravan parks up the side valley I continued up Grange Lane. There were already good views across to the other side of Nidderdale with the rocks of Cow Close Crags visible on the skyline. Nearer to hand there were regular clumps of snowdrops growing on the roadside verge.

Arriving at the small hilltop village of Heathfield I passed a curious chapel made from corrugated iron. I’d have liked to have taken a look inside but it didn’t look like it was still used and could now be someone’s personal property. Continuing up past the houses I then planned to take the lane at SE136675 which would lead me on to access land at SE124674. However, a local on a quad bike was coming down the lane. Not knowing if he would be going back up there I flagged him down when he reached the road and asked if I was allowed to take the track. I got a firm no and was told that the gamekeepers and landowners wouldn’t like it. He also mentioned a ‘No Public Access’ sign as well.

Having been told no I couldn’t very well carry on and then plead ignorance if he saw me again so there was nothing to do but find another way. Therefore I moved on to plan B which was to head for what I’d planned as my return route. To do this I returned back to Heathfield and took the dead end road to the right. After passing a Boys Brigade hut I then took a path climbing some steps to reach a pasture.

Soon arriving at the farm at Highfield I dropped down through a couple of pastures to reach another farm at Westfield House. The route of the path as shown on the map does not match the reality of the ground. The path drops down into the large farmyard straight away. After that it is almost impossible to follow so there was nothing I could do but drop down the farm drive to reach the bridleway passing through the caravan park. So far the walk wasn’t going particularly well.

However, once on the bridleway heading up Ashfold Side things started to improve. I followed the bridleway all the way until SE118661. Here I continued up on the track. I soon passed a ‘No Public Access’ sign but this time I continued on. I was feeling fairly bullish having been disappointed earlier. Besides I’d been on this section of track before on my way back from Merryfield Hole Mine when I did a super walk around the Greenhow Mines at the end of 2017.

The track soon brought me up on to the open access land of Heathfield Moor. After visiting the small mine pool and passing some spoil heaps I arrived at a junction. Here I took the option heading north across the open expanse of Heathfield Moor. After a while I came to another junction, here I turned left. Almost immediately I was greeted with a superb view of the valley of Burn Gill down on to the right. Indeed the next stretch of walking west along the track was absolutely superb.

Continuing on I passed a shooting hut which had a grouse weather vane. I’d be returning to this spot later on in the walk. In the meantime I continued west until the track ended. Here I descended to a nearby stream, crossed over and then began to follow the upper reaches of Burn Gill until I reached the 450m contour line. Turning north I then made a beeline for the trig point on Mark Hill. This was finally reached after a detour around an area of marshy reeds.

To finally get to the trig point after all this time gave me a real sense of pleasure. Even better the weather was really quite lovely and visibilty was great. Clockwise from the north-west I could see nearly all the hills of upper Nidderdale including Great Whernside, Little Whernside, Dead Man’s Hill, Great Haw, Ouster Bank, Kettlestang Hill, Guise Cliff, Cold Stones and Greenhow Hill. I could even make out my home town of Harrogate almost 16 miles away.

The trig point was supposed to be the furthest point of the walk but I could clearly see the Raygill House Wig Stones to the north-east. Being so close I decided to press on to visit them. Just six minutes across the boggy moor I reached what proved to be quite an impressive collection of rocks. Whilst not quite as dramatic as the other Wig Stones several miles to the south-west there was one particularly fine specimen balanced on a gritstone plinth.

Now that I’d walked down to look at the rocks I decideed to descend a bit further north to get a glimpse of the valley of Ramsgill Beck. Arriving at another shooters track I got a good view down to a shooting hut at the head of the valley. Turning left along the track I followed it until its demise before heading back across the moor to the trig point.

I slightly altered my return route to the head of Burn Gill by staying a bit further east. Once I’d negotiated the pathless moor and various small streams I finally got back to the end of the track above Burn Gill. Turning left I returned back to the shooting hut from where I took a track heading south. This soon deteriorate into a peaty track as it passed over Flout Hill.

At this point I decided to head all the way down to the Merryfield Hole mine in Ashfold Side Beck. Not only did I want to revisit the mine but I wanted to see if I could find a return route to the bridleway by sticking to access land. Leaving the faint track I took a line basically aiming for the small mine reservoir on the opposite of Ashfold Side. Descending to the stream I turned left to reach the superb but little known site of Merryfield Hole Lead Mine.

After taking a few photos I crossed the stream and turned left along the track. I followed this all the way down this lovely side valley until reaching SE114659. Here I took a track continuing through the wall until reaching a gate marked private. Working my way down to the left and then around to the right staying well above the beck I came to a broken wall. Passing through I was now amongst the extensive spoil heaps of the Providence and Prosperous lead mines below Nabs.

Dropping down through the spoil heaps I visited the winding shafts and ruined buildings down by the stream. Whilst taking pictures a curious sheep came out from behind one of the buildings to watch me take my photos. Next after crossing over the nearby footbridge I walked back up to the main track. Turning right it was then a simple walk of a couple of miles or so back through the caravan parks to the start of the walk. Just after passing the main office for the Heathfield caravan park I came across a couple of modest waterfalls. One of these was on Foster Beck and the other just downstream dropping down a bank into the beck. Finally, arriving back at the car park I made sure I went into the pub to buy myself a pint of coke and a packet of crisps.

This is a long route with some access issues and several miles of pathless moorland. Whilst only keen trig point baggers are likely to want to go to Mark Hill there was enough other features of interest to make this a good walk in its own right. It would have been even better had I been able to take the track from near Heathfield. It is worth noting that after I posted some photos on Facebook another walker got in touch to say they had managed to get to Mark Hill via a much shorter route using a track climbing up from the car park at Colt House Bridge. I enjoyed the views from Mark Hill enough to want to revisit it so maybe next time I’ll try that route instead.

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