A fairly easy eight mile walk from Gargrave visiting Haw Crag, Coniston Cold, the banks of the River Aire and a short section of the Leeds – Liverpool Canal.
|Parking:||Car park, Gargrave|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
After a night of torrential rain and strong winds brought on by Storm Bella I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect weatherwise. What I did know is that after being in the house for three days and having eaten copious amounts of food over Christmas I was ready to get out and stretch my legs.
I didn’t entirely know where I was going to go when I set off from Harrogate. There was a lot of standing water on the A59 which didn’t bode well for trying to drive up any of the dales. I drove as far as Gargrave when, with very dark skies above and sleet coming down, I decided to leave the higher fells for another day and do a lower-level walk.
"Despite being wet underfoot I enjoyed the section between Coniston Cold and Priest Holme Bridge far more than I expected to. "
Quite handily there is a good free car park in Gargrave on the corner between North Street and West Street. From the car park I took the road crossing over the Leeds-Liverpool canal to continue up Mark House Lane, here a tarmacked road. After about ten minutes I took a stile on the right to follow the route of the Pennine Way over Harrows Hill and on towards Eshton Moor.
The ground was absolutely saturated and although the grassy slopes of Harrows Hill looked fairly benign they were in fact very muddy. Curiously for a section of the Pennine Way there is no obvious path. After slopping about in the mud I reached slightly drier ground after climbing up to the 200m contour on Eshton Moor. Rather than heading diagonally to meet a very faint crossroads I kept the wall on my left for 100m before reaching a gate. Passing through this I made a beeline for the trig point on Haw Crag.
Although it is situated at just 206m above sea level it is a very fine viewpoint. To the north there was Rye Loaf Hill and Kirkby Fell. Further to the right I could just make out the top of Malham Cove. Continuing in a clockwise direction there was also Weets Top, Cracoe Fell, Crookrise Crag and Flasby Fell. Meanwhile to the south-west was the unmistakeable profile of Pendle Hill.
From the trig point I returned to the right of way keeping the quarried slopes of the crag on my right. Turning right on the path I descended to an open gate and then passed through a gate to return to Mark House Lane. Continuing straight on I followed the enclosed lane all the way down to Bell Busk bridge. After some sunny spells the skies were darkening again and I caught half a rainbow above the River Aire as I crossed the bridge.
Without entering Bell Busk proper I turned left to follow the road to Coniston Cold. Along the way I passed under the modest little Bell Busk viaduct which carries the trainline between Skipton and Settle. Further along I then came to the attractive church of St Peter sat on the hill above Coniston Cold. A bit further on the opposite road was the Richard Tottie Memorial Hall. I’ve no idea who Richard Tottie is – if anyone knows please do leave a comment.
At the bottom of the road I carefully crossed over the A59 to take a lane directly opposite between houses. I continued following the track until it swung uphill to the right. At this point I continued straight on to take a gate into another soggy pasture. Despite being wet underfoot I enjoyed the section between Coniston Cold and Priest Holme Bridge far more than I expected to. About half way along the path dropped down to a circular pond next to the River Aire. As the path climbed up the pasture opposite there was a fine view of the river.
Crossing a brow I then walked across a large open sheep pasture which descended gently to a gate in a fence. Passing through I came to a u-shaped bend in the river before crossing a stream at a single slab bridge and then gaining the Gargrave to Bank Newton road at Priest Holme Bridge. Turning right I walked along the road a short way before gaining the towpath along the canal. A short walk along the canal brought me to the foot of Newton Locks.
At the second lock (Carpenter’s Lock) I crossed the canal at a bridge to head up an enclosed lane. At the end of this I emerged back on to open grassy pastures to continue across more drumlin country. Once again the ground was very wet underfoot. After skirting around the northern flanks of Scaleber Hill I reached a junction with the Pennine Way.
Rather than turning left for the shortest return to Gargrave I crossed over the Pennine Way to continue heading south-east. The reason for this was that I wanted to try and visit the trig point on Mickleber Hill. The trig point is about 100m off the public right of way but based on the map it looked like it was in the same pasture as the RoW.
Unfortunately, it turned out that the very top of the hill was surrounded by a barbed wire fence which was in turn protected by an electrified wire about thigh height. I only noticed this when I moved towards the barbed wire fence to get a picture of the trig point only to get zapped by the electric fence. If I’d have properly planned the walk and done my research I would have visited the Trigpointing website and known what to expect. I’ll just have to approach from the south next time and see if I can get permission from the farm to visit.
Slightly disappointed at not getting closer to the trig point I retraced my steps back to the Pennine Way. Turning right I came to a stile and on to Mosber Lane. This led me all the way back into Gargrave. Arriving on to Marton Lane I turned right to walk to the Masons Arms. After a brief detour to the right to visit St Andrew’s Church I then crossed over Gargrave Bridge and then passing the Dalesman Café walked up West Street and back to the car park.
Despite not bagging the Mickleber Hill trig point I really enjoyed this walk. It was muddy and slippery underfoot but there are not many places that aren’t at this time of year. The weather was changeable to say the least but I prefer that kind of weather to cloud free skies. Overall, I think I made a good choice. One alternative destination I’d had in mind was Wensleydale but when I got home and read that there was bad flooding in the valley overnight resulting in people needing to be rescued I was certainly glad I’d not gone there.