Walden Head

Walden Head from West Burton

Walk Summary

A long walk up the length of Waldendale from West Burton to Walden Head on a wet and wild day making use of moorland shooting tracks on the return.

Distance: 14.0 miles
Total ascent: 2060ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Roadside parking in West Burton
Route: Download Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

This was the sixth in a series of walks that I was leading for a group of friends I work with as we prepared for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge walk we are going to attempt in July. Wanting to step up the distance to the 14-15 mile mark I decided to try out a route I’d long had in mind from West Burton to Buckden Pike via the valley of Waldendale and returning over the top of Naughtberry Hill.

The weather gods were not with us on this occasion and the forecast was fairly miserable. To start with though it wasn’t too bad, just overcast with the odd spot of light rain. Unfortunately, by the time we passed Walden Head and started the climb in earnest the cloud base lowered, the wind picked up, the rain got heavier and we all got a lot wetter.

“Having passed the last houses in the valley the terrain began to get a lot wilder and a lot wetter underfoot.”

In between we walked virtually the entire length of Waldendale, initially through a series of endless sheep pastures and narrow stiles. After passing a nice little spot at the crossing of Cowstone Gill we passed through about another eight or nine pastures to reach the north Walden Road leading to the tiny hamlet of Walden Head. This little stretch of road walking was made more colorful by the profusion of primroses growing on the verges.

Having passed the last houses in the valley the terrain began to get a lot wilder and a lot wetter underfoot. Following the infant Walden Beck to its source in the meeting of Deepdale Gill and Fosse Gill we were then faced with a steep climb up the faint bridleway up Walden Moor. It was what I would describe as a bit of a ‘calf stretcher’. Even as the weather closed in around us the views back up the valley were fantastic.

We didn’t quite make it to the top of Buckden Pike. The weather deteriorated quite badly at this point and the group began to struggle with the elements and it was getting difficult to keep everyone together in visibility that was dropping quickly. Looking for an escape route I noticed on my OS app that the track we’d crossed over earlier, which wasn’t marked on my paper map, contoured back around the head of the valley before dropping back down to the north Walden road near Bridge End Farm.

Deciding this was a much safer route than attempting to continue over Buckden Pike and then across several miles of pathless moorland to Naughtberry Hill we had a brief group meeting before deciding to retreat to the track and take that option. Once back on the track the rest of the walk was really straightforward. After passing the head of Willy’s Gill we even came across a shooting hut which was unlocked thus providing us with some much needed shelter while we ate some lunch. Once we’d descended to the road it was then a simple walk back to West Burton.

While we didn’t make it to Buckden Pike we still managed a good distance of 14 miles and despite being cold and wet everyone’s spirits were quite high, even more so after we’d all enjoyed a good meal at the White Swan Hotel in Middleham on the way home. I certainly saw enough of the upper reaches of Waldendale to want to go back soon.

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