Day one of our Nidderdale Way walk, a pleasant 14 mile walk from Ripley to Pateley Bridge via Shaw Mills, Brimham Lodge, Fell Beck and Blazefield.
|Parking:||Car park, Ripley|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
For sometime now I've fancied doing one of the waymarked long distance walks in the Dales. Indeed I've had my eye on doing the Nidderdale Way for a few years. The opportunity to finally do it when my friends from work were looking to top last year's Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Walk, for our charity walk this year. The charity we were raising money for was Place2Be, a mental health charity that provides support for children in schools.
The Nidderdale Way is a 53-mile circular walk that is usually split into four stages over the same number of days. For logistical reasons we (or rather I) decided we would do the walk over three days. This meant a long second day but also that we could spend two nights in Pateley Bridge meaning we could leave our bags and spare clothes at the same location.
"It was a path that was new to me and I loved the dark atmospheric woods climbing up either side of the attractive stream."
Despite the recent unveiling of a sign claiming Pateley Bridge as the start and finish the guidebook I had, 'The Nidderdale Way' by the ever reliable Paul Hannon, started from Ripley. This is a much more natural starting point as it means walking up to head of the valley and then back down the other side. I can only assume that the recent elevation of Pateley as the start and finish is due to local tourism efforts - that and the fact that Clare Balding started from there!
Anyway we assembled in Ripley on a bright sunny morning and, after posing in our Place2Be t-shirts, we set off on the first leg of the walk - 14 miles from Ripley to Pateley Bridge. Interestingly little was seen of Nidderdale itself during the first half of the walk. Instead the route did a loop up around the shallow valley of Cayton Gill before a more extended ramble up the side valley of Thornton Beck.
With the exception of Cayton Gill much of this initial section was new to me. It was all quite pleasant, a mixture of woodland, pastures and farm tracks. I was worried there would be a surfeit of cows but in fact there was only one field of them and as I was part of a group I felt braver than usual. The highlight of this part of the walk was the pretty village of Shaw Mills where I had the added bonus of spotting an OS benchmark on the stone stile we crossed into the village.
Eventually we left the valley of Thornton Beck behind to climb up to the impressive looking Brimham Lodge which dates back to 1661. Unfortunately the immediate surrounds were slightly ruined by what can only be described as an array of masts almost directly in front of the house. To make matters worse it seemed that a ewe had managed to get herself caught in the ropes and wires at the foot of one of the masts.
The poor thing looked like it was slowly strangling. Our attempts to alert someone in the house or nearby farm buildings came to nought as no one was home. Instead one of our party, David, who had been brought up on a farm, entered the field and carefully extricated the ewe whilst managing to avoid giving himself an electric shock. It was to be the first of two sheep that he was to rescue that day.
Beyond Brimham Lodge we took an enclosed path which on the map is shown as coinciding with the course of the 'Monk Wall', presumably a former boundary wall for the Fountains Abbey estate. Shortly after we passed around Riva Hill, where we saw a couple of pigs, and then crossed a section of Brimham Moor. Sadly the route does not visit Brimham Rocks which could be seen on the skyline to our right. For those with the time, energy and inclination it would not take too much of a detour to visit the rocks but to be honest they deserve more than a passing exploration.
After a short section of road walking we stopped for lunch at the top of High Wood where we had our first real views of Nidderdale itself. Following lunch we enjoyed a leisurely descent down through High Wood which eventually led us to the small village of Smelthouses. Here we turned right to follow Fell Beck upstream.
This was probably my favourite section of this first day's walk. Again it was a path that was new to me and I loved the dark atmospheric woods climbing up either side of the attractive stream. Definitely a place I'd like to go back and visit in the autumn!
Leaving Fell Beck at Mill House we climbed up to White Houses to gain paths that were more familiar to me. This final section leading into Pateley Bridge passed Nidderdale Llamas (where you can go trekking with llamas!), the row of houses at Blazefield and then joined the route of the Panorama Walk. It was on this latter part that David rescued a second sheep of the day, one that had gots its horns stuck in a wire fence.
After a sunny start the skies had clouded over during the latter half of the walk so it was with perfect timing that the sun came out again just as we reached the large churchyard of St Mary's which features a classic view over Pateley Bridge and up the dale.
Having successfully concluded this first leg we treated ourselves to some sweet treats at the Pancake House. Having refreshed ourselves we then made our way to our accommodation for the night, the bunkhouse at Harefield Hall and to prepare ourselves for the next day's challenge of over 25 miles.