Grass Wood

Grass Wood & Ghaistrill’s Strid

Walk Summary

A pleasant little ramble from Grassington exploring the delights of Grass Wood before returning alongside the River Wharfe via Ghaistrill's Strid and Linton Falls.

Distance: 5.0 miles
Total ascent: 950ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Yorkshire Dales car park, Grassington
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

On Christmas Eve 2005 my wife and I enjoyed a lovely walk through Grass Wood before returning alongside the banks of the River Wharfe. We enjoyed it so much that we said we should come back and do the walk again every Christmas. For a number of reasons, not least of which was parenthood, this never happened. This then was belatedly the first time we had done this walk since that first time.

Starting at the Yorkshire Dales car park in Grassington we first walked through the beautiful little market town. This being a weekday outside of the holidays it was quieter than normal. Walking to the top of Main Street we turned left on to Chapel Street. A short way after Chapel Street turned left and began to drop down to Grass Wood Lane we turned right on to the enclosed Cove Lane to leave Grassington behind.

"Less well known than the famous The Strid much further downstream, Ghaistrill's Strid is a similarly narrowing of the river as it is squeezed into a rocky channel."

Winding its way through pastures Cove Lane led us to a junction with Cove Scar ahead of us. Turning left the path continued on to reach the entrance to Grass Wood. Grass Wood is one of the largest areas of broadleaved woodland in the Yorkshire Dales. Primarily ash woodland it is also notable for its exposed limestone and variety of flowers. Almost the whole of the wood is part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Grass Wood Nature Reserve.

It is a fascinating place to explore, the jumble of ash and mossy covered limestone gives Grass Wood a very distinctive feel. The wood also contains far more paths than are marked on the map. While it is easy enough to stick to the main right of way it is worth spending a bit of time exploring some of the smaller paths.

Indeed we took one path climbing up on to Gregory Scar to then take some steps leading to the site of Fort Gregory. Fort Gregory is the name given to the scanty remains of what was once thought to have been a Brigantian hill fort dating back to Roman times. As with the remains of the ancient settlement near the entrance to the wood there is little that can be seen and were it not signposted as such it would be easy to miss. For those interested in Fort Gregory more information can be found on the Out of Oblivion website.

From Fort Gregory we returned down the steps to arrive at a crossroad of paths. Turning left on the one signposted 'Grass Wood Lane' we soon turned right off the track to follow the thinner right of way. Along this stretch we saw some fine moss covered limestone pavement. There was also a small plaque in memory of a Stephen Whitfield Harland (1912-2002) with the epitaph 'Lover of Nature'.

Shortly afterwards the path dropped down to the northern edge of the wood where there was a fine view up the valley backed by Buckden Pike. A short distance further on we caught a fleeting glimpse of a couple of red deer before arriving at Grass Wood Lane. Rather than walking along the road we kept to a path in the woods that continued on above the road. This section was particularly notable for its wildflowers including, bluebells, violets, wood anemones, primroses and cowslips.

After half a mile we dropped down to an empty car park in what looked to be an abandoned quarry. It is worth noting that this car park would provide a cheaper alternative starting point to the car park in Grassington. Crossing over the road we then entered Lower Grass Wood.

Unlike Grass Wood which is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Lower Grass Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust. In essence though it is part of the same wood, merely separated by Grass Wood Lane, the minor road between Grassington and Conistone.

Again there were a lot of paths to choose from. We decided to use a path making a beeline for the River Wharfe. Having dropped right down to the river bank we then followed a thin path to the edge of the wood and back out on to open pastures. Just a short distance further on we came to the large bend in the river that contains Ghaistrill's Strid.

Less well known than the famous The Strid much further downstream, Ghaistrill's Strid is a similar narrowing of the river as it is squeezed into a rocky channel. As with its namesake Ghaistrill's Strid can also be dangerous. A sad testimony to this is the bench overlooking the river dedicated to the memory of John Michael Howard who tragically drowned trying to retrieve his canoe from the river in 1991. He was just 23 years old at the time.

Due to the unusually dry spring we've been having the river levels were very low so it was possible to explore quite a lot of the area which would normally be underwater. I found the various rock pools and formations fascinating many of which would have been formed by small whirlpools over thousands of years.

Continuing on from Ghaistrill's Strid we followed the riverbank to Grassington Bridge. Along the way we spotted three female and one male Goosander, a nice change from the ubiquitous mallard. On the other side of the bridge we carried on along the river passing two weirs to reach Linton Falls. The low river level was again in evidence hear with the second weir virtually dry and Linton Falls barely a fraction of its usual width as it thunders over the limestone ledges below Tin Bridge.

From Linton Falls we climbed up the narrow Sedber Lane back to the car park. All that was left was to dump our walking bags and head back into Grassington where we enjoyed a lovely lunch at The Devonshire, highly recommended if you are looking for a post-walk meal and a pint or two.

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