The final leg of our Nidderdale Way journey, a 14 mile walk from Pateley Bridge to Ripley via Guise Cliff, Dacre Banks, Birstwith and Hampsthwaite.
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It is remarkable what a good breakfast can do for you. Certainly the one served at Harefield Hall seemed to revive our small company of walkers enough to tackle the last leg of the Nidderdale Way. Indeed, after our epic 27 plus miles of walking in scorching temperatures the day before, I'd spent most of the night awake worrying about whether everyone would be fit enough to walk the next day.
Ironically, considering my status as the most experienced walker in the group, I was probably the worst off due to my feet. I don't blister often but when I do it tends to be fairly bad. I could feel a number of blisters developing under the skin but there was nothing for it but to strap my boots on and tackle the final 14 miles of the walk.
"Although there was little in the way of breeze we were at least able to take advantage of the shade offered by the tree-lined banks of the river."
If anything the temperatures promised to be even higher than the previous day. Once again there was little in the way of a cooling breeze but at least we had the opportunity to get the longest climb of the day, from Bewerley up to Yorke's Folly, out of the way early on in the walk. It was still hard work and before we were even half way up the hillside we were all pouring with sweat.
Upon reaching the two 'stoops' of Yorke's Folly we had a brief rest in the shade before setting off again. After the steep climb in the morning we were able to enjoy a long spell of flat walking along the top of Guise Cliff before a gradual descent to Heyshaw. It is worth noting that the path clings closer to the edge of the cliffs than is shown on the map and care does need to be taken due to precipitous crevices hidden in the heather just feet away from the path.
From Heyshaw the path swung east to drop gently down through a number of pastures and arable land, including one field where the farmers were literally making hay while the sun shined. Shortly after we reached Dacre Banks, turning left here we continued on down to Summer Bridge to reach the banks of the River Nidd.
Turning right we were to follow the River Nidd for the next two and a quarter miles. Despite my sore feet I was still able to enjoy one of the finest stretches of riverbank walking that the Nidd has to offer. Although there was little in the way of breeze we were at least able to take advantage of the shade offered by the tree-lined banks of the river.
Eventually the riverside path came to a halt at a footbridge below the eastern end of Darley. Here we climbed a couple of pastures to reach the Darley to Birstwith road. Turning left on this we soon left the road for a faint path across some scrappy pastures to reach a fine slabbed path climbing up through the woods of Hursthwaite Allotments to reach the small hamlet of Swarcliffe.
Shortly afterwards we found ourselves dropping back down into the valley, this time alongside Wilson's Plantation. After crossing the road an enclosed track led us back down to the Nidd and the magnificent New Bridge. Turning right we were back on the riverside path to the other side of Birstwith. A short spell along the road followed as we entered Hampsthwaite. Our final challenge was the steep climb up Clint Bank. That accomplished it was a 'simple' walk along Hollybank Lane through the woods back to Ripley and the finish. I say simple because by this time tiredness was beginning to set in again and my feet were now very painful.
Finally we reached the market cross in Ripley and the end of the walk. Considering we'd condensed the walk into three days and done it in very hot weather we did remarkably well. In total we raised over £1000 for the charity Place2Be which definitely made the aches and blisters worthwhile. We certainly deserved a celebratory pint in the Boar's Head before all saying our goodbyes and heading for home.
The walk as a whole was excellent, though if I was to do it again I'd probably do it in a more leisurely four days.