A long walk up to the lonely summit of Meugher utilising good tracks and paths before a more adventurous return over the open moor via Sandstones, Flaystones and Whey Crags.
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It has been over five years since my last visit to Meugher, the lonely moorland top situated in the Nidderdale AONB a few miles to the south-east of Great Whernside. I'd been planning to go back for a while, ostensibly to visit some gritstone outcrops high above How Stean Beck. With a promising looking forecast for sunny spells I decided this was as good a time as any.
The outward route to Meugher was very much like the one I'd used five years previously, utilising the long shooters track climbing Stean Moor from upper Nidderdale. The ideal starting place for the walk would be the car park marked on the map near Studfold Farm. Unfortunately this car park is now claimed for customers of Studfold Farm only. This is a shame and rather annoyingly I've not seen any cars parked there any of the times I would have used it.
"Very soon I reached the southern end of a large area of gristone marked on the map as Sandstones. Following the rocky edge north I then swung around to a splendid jumble of rock."
As an alternative starting point I parked on the roadside in Lofthouse just near the southern end of the village. The one advantage of this starting point was that it was a short detour from the main route to visit Nidd Falls, a lovely waterfall which for some reason the Ordnance Survey have chosen to omit from the map.
After the detour I continued along the road before taking the drive into Studfold Farm. Passing the various buildings I then took a partly cobbled lane climbing steeply uphill to some more houses. At a junction I then turned left along Blayshaw Lane. There were already some nice views looking back over at Lofthouse. As you walk along this track do keep an eye out for the little fairy houses in the wall.
After crossing Blayshaw Gill I then followed a track up to High Blayshaw. The farmer passed me with his wife and dogs and assumed I was looking for the Nidderdale Way. I explained I was taking the right of way up towards the aqueduct. Satisfied I seemed to know where I was going he asked that I made sure I 'shut the top gate so that puppy don't get out'.
Having made sure I did indeed close the top gate I continued on a path just outside the woodland in Blayshaw Gill. Just near the corner of the woodland I caught site of an impressive looking waterfall. Unfortunately there was no public access. This does not always deter me but on this occasion I had quite a long walk for the time of year so didn't want to get too side-tracked.
Shortly after the path dropped down to cross the gill in a colorful area of scattered trees and russet bracken. I crossed the stream via a couple of small footbridges which I can't remember being there on my previous visit. A steep climb up the other bank before a tussle with the bracken brought me to the impressive aqueduct. Looking like a viaduct for a railway line it is in fact part of the impressive engineering works that transports water from Scar House Reservoir to Bradford.
On the other side of the viaduct I walked to an open gate at SE088721. Just on the other side of this I gained a shooters track. This was to be my route for the next three and a quarter miles. Firm underfoot and with a gentle gradient it is without doubt the easiest approach to Meugher. The main features along the way are two shooting huts (or shooting boxes as they are marked on the map). The first is made of stone and the second of wood. As with my previous visits both huts were unlocked and so are handy shelters if the weather is inclement.
Meugher didn't come into view until just before reaching the wooden hut. After crossing Meugher Dike I finally left the track to climb directly up to the summit. This proved to be easier than last time thanks to some green matting that had been laid on the moor. I'd come across similar matting whilst visiting Shacklesbrough in the North Pennines earlier in the year. It didn't quite get me all the way to the summit but near enough.
Just short of the trig point I came across a weather station. I'm sure this wasn't there in 2013 so must be a fairly recent addition. Despite the promising forecast it had remained stubbornly cloudy for most of the morning. Despite this I was still able to see a long way with Simon's Seat and Cracoe Fell to the south the two stand out long distance features.
I'd planned on having my lunch by the trig point but it was cold and dreary so I retraced my steps to the second (wooden hut). Typically just as I neared the hut the sun finally made a belated appearance. Having taken advantage of the shelter it afforded to have my lunch it was now time to go looking for those gritstone features I'd previously only seen from a distance.
To do this I almost immediately left the track to follow a fence on my left heading across the area marked on the map as Little Stangate. Although moist in a few places the going underfoot was easier than expected. Very soon I reached the southern end of a large area of gristone marked on the map as Sandstones. Following the rocky edge north I then swung around to a splendid jumble of rock. This was the outcrop I'd seen from the valley below on my last walk. Atop of the rocks was a small cairn and a splendid view of the upper reaches of the Stean valley.
From Sandstones I continued along the same gradient to visit the smaller and more scattered Flaystones. At Flaystones I turned east to cross over the upper reaches of Wising Gill to reach Whey Crags. From Whey Crags I started to make a beeline towards the top of Hard Gap Lane. However, the wind was carrying towards me the unmistakeable sound of a waterfall. Veering off to the right I soon found it looking down into Stean Beck. The grassy flanks of the gill were too steep to descend safely for a closer look. Therefore, having taken a few photos from above, I turned left to descend towards the sheepfolds at the top of Hard Gap Lane.
Heading along the enclosed Hard Gap Lane I passed another aqueduct. Shortly after I turned left down Stean Lane, a scenic if slightly muddy track descending to the quiet hamlet of Stean. From there it was a simple walk back down the road, passing How Stean Gorge, and back to Lofthouse. If time or energy permits then a visit to How Stean Gorge is definitely recommended.
Disappointing as the overall lack of sunshine was this was still an enjoyable walk. There were numerous features of interest and the long section of moorland track was conducive to getting a good stride in. It is very lonely country though so probably best not done on your own if you are not comfortable at navigating open moor.