Sunday, 28 May 2017

Nidderdale Way #4 - Bewerley to Ripley 26/05/17

13.4 miles, via Nought Moor, Guise Cliff, Heyshaw, Dacre Banks, Darley (station),
 The Holme, Swarcliff, Birstwith, Hampsthwaite, and Clint.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#4 at Turner Bridge, Bewerley.
There's not going to be a third rest day on this trail, as four days of walking doesn't fit well into seven when two are needed for travelling, and it would be impolite to leave my parents at a loose end so I could finish this on my preferred day of Saturday, and so leg #4 follows immediately and despite plotting so the two shortest days come at the end, I'm still going to nab a lift in the Parental Taxi to the Turner Bridge junction, as I'm in no mood to do an extra half mile on a day that promises to be even hotter than the one that preceded it. So off we go, from south of Bewerley to start the concluding stretch of the Nidderdale Way at 9:05am, so early that the morning haze hangs heavily over the valley, and the opening footfalls have us starting out up Nought Bank Road, soon avoiding its sharp twists and ascents by heading into the fields for a more direct route uphill that soon gets the knees and lungs feeling that this final day isn't going to be much easier that others. Pass into the woods that fringe this high hillside, still panting and straining, up to the rough field above, with the path passing an ice house that seems too far removed from anywhere to be useful, crossing the bank road to meet the rise up onto the high moor, with the route guide telling us to look out for the local rock formations as we go, but none would get close to rivalling Brimham Rocks for detail, despite the Crocodile Rock having an accurate name and the Pulpit and Giant's Chair having hugeness. The focal point interest has to be Yorke's Folly, a pair of columns suggestive of ruined abbey, built during an agricultural depression in the late 18th century as a method of keeping local workers employed, now sitting high and sentinel-like above Pateley Bridge to give anyone ascending the hillside an obvious destination on the edge of  Nought Moor, interestingly the exact same upland that has Simon's Seat and Barden Fell at its opposite side above Wharfedale, a splendid and desolate space that brings peace and remoteness to this transition away from Upper Nidderdale.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Nidderdale Way #3 - Middlesmoor to Bewerley 25/05/17

11.7 miles, via How Stean Gorge, Studfold, West House, Ramsgill, Gouthwaite Reservoir,
 Heathfield, Ashfold Side Beck, Prosperous Mill, Brandstone Beck, and Ladies Riggs.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#3 at Middlesmoor.
Second rest day is used for that expressed purpose, rest, doing nothing more strenuous than taking a drive out to Brimham Rocks, and to get in ice cream at Birchfield Farm, plus there's also laundry to do, by hand, as we may live in an age of free Wi-Fi but we're not going to pay £6 per load to get our clothes refreshed, so as leg #3 comes around, we're ready as the hot days start to pile up in a way that seem most unseasonal. The Parental Taxi is booked for an early start to drop us in Middlesmoor, the remotest parish in Nidderdale, resuming The Way from the car park above the village, at 9.40am, having encouraged My Mum to get out of the car to photograph the view to the south that she wouldn't have seen otherwise, and thus we resume wandering down though a village that seems far bigger than it needs to be at this remove from civilisation. Maybe all these cottages and farmsteads clustered together so that the citizens of Stonebeck Up parish could gather for solidarity and security in a blasted landscape, having a pub, the Crown, and a church, St Chad's, that seem outsized for a corner so remote, a fine place to visit or to summer in, but not a place to dwell in the rotten quarter of the year when the ridiculously steep road needs to be traversed for access. Onwards then, as the day's peak temperature seems to already be coming on with hours of the morning still to come, enjoying the cooling breeze as a field walk takes us away from the high moors and down in the direction of the hamlet of Stean, not quite getting there as our walk is set to pass over and largely alongside the cleft of How Stean Gorge, where the beck has gouged through the surface gritstone to the limestone below to shape a sculpted channel in the fashion of The Strid, albeit much longer. It's not easy to photograph from the lane, as Spring foliage keeps it well covered, and the visitor centre is closed for repairs that involve a very large crane that must have required fun and games to get it here, passing on the meet Studfold Farm, which has been made over as a campsite and activity centre styled to educate and entertain young kids about the realities of country life.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Nidderdale Way #2 - Pateley Bridge to Middlesmoor 23/05/17

14.9 miles, via Wath, Gouthwaite reservoir, Bouthwaite, Lofthouse, Limley, The Edge,
 Woo Gill, Scar House reservoir, and In Moor.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#2 at Pateley Bridge.
First rest day of our jollies is used for just that, rest, with no more strenuous activities going on than getting supplies in from the Dales Market store at Bridgehouse Gate, or getting an afternoon brew in the Pancake House in Pateley Bridge, so when the big day on the trail, comes up I feel about as fully charged up as possible, and apt to get some of this slightly excessive holiday diet burned off, and there isn't even great need to hurry as the start line is only a five minute drive distant. So onwards on a northward track for the day, departing from the Nidderdale Way sign at the bottom of Pateley Bridge's High Street at 9.25am, and approaching the River Nidd up close for the first time, and finding that Pateley's bridge is impossible to photograph satisfactorily from either side, turning to Mill Lane and wander past the flood walls (thinking that you rarely hear about this river inundating anywhere), passing behind the gardens of The Sidings and finally making our acquaintance with the riverbank, already looking idyllic in the sunshine. To mix in with our river walking, we also get some railway walking to do, as our path follow the low embankment of the Nidd Valley Light Railway, built in 1903 as a narrow gauge line to facilitate the construction of the reservoirs up the valley by the Bradford Corporation Waterworks, and converted to standard gauge in 1907, transporting men and machinery until closure in 1936 with the completion of the works, having never made as a viable regular line. It gives us a good firm path to follow away from Pateley Bridge, soon retreating into the landscape, with no good sight of the Scott Gate Ash quarries or their incline up the hillside gained as we push on following the riverbank and the river's quiet murmuring, getting very few looks to beyond the south bank, shrouded in trees and continuing on the railway alignment as it drifts from the riverside to offer a substantial retaining wall in the woods between Low Green house, pressing on through the fields of pasture and sheep, far below the high north side of the dale.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Nidderdale Way #1 - Ripley to Pateley Bridge 21/05/17

14.2 miles, via Cayton, Shaw Mills, Woodfield Mill, Brimham Lodge, Brimham Moor,
 Smelthouses, White Houses, Blazefield, and Knott.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#1 at The Market Cross, Ripley.
'One does not simply walk into Nidderdale.' I remarked a few years back, rather dryly, and that still seems to be the case in 2017, as Spring Jollies roll around again, and I have to rely on the Parental taxi to drive me out to this most hidden of Yorkshire's dales, not much above an hour's ride away from home but a real challenge to access on foot or by public transport. So here we set ourselves up at Bewerley Hall farm, in Barn Owl Cottage, just across the river Nidd from Pateley Bridge, a nicely spacious let that might be comfortable for us all, especially for My Dad as his mobility issues have not improved over the last year, with the next Long Distance Trail on the slate, selected as it is the closest available path to home, straightforwardly do-able without requiring My Mum to put in hours of driving on my behalf. After bedding in on Saturday, our trail can get going from Ripley, at the easternmost extremity of the trail, and only a few miles distant from Harrogate to remind us that we really aren't all that far from home, getting dropped off among a tonne of visitors arriving for an equestrian event in the castle grounds, at a rather early hour on a Sunday Morning. Pick up the path at 9.55am by the Medieval cross in the village square, which with the castle and church, is one of the few ancient survivals in a village that was completely rebuilt in the early 19th century by the Lords of the Manor, the Ingilbys, after the fashion of an Alsatian village, apparently, complete with an Hotel de Ville, and thus looking like a slightly more Gothic variant on Harewood to my eyes. Main Street leads us to the B6165, telling us that its less than 10 miles to Pateley Bridge from the A61 roundabout, but naturally this trail will be finding us more miles to do as we soon head off into a bucolic landscape along Birthwaite Lane, rising past the farm and barn that share its name, before moving onto a rougher track that follows the field edge and offers faint glimpses across the Vale of York before slipping in to the woods above Cayton Gill.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Rumination: Fatigue is the Worst.

Please Indulge Me, as I am going to Moan for a While.

Am I getting too Old for all This?
As you'll be aware, I get frustrated and miserable every time I have to drop days from my walking schedule, for my good mental health frequently depends on the ability to get out onto the trail and let the stresses of my mind, and our world, take a back seat as I exercise the limbs, work off the calories and oxygenate the blood as I pound out a trail around another part of West Yorkshire that I haven't seen before. Unfavourable changes in the weather are frustrating, but ultimately forgivable as the seasons in the North Country are rarely predictably consistent (or consistently predictable), and even then cold spells like the unseasonal Arctic blast we've just had coming on over the last two weekends can easily be walked around, and an unseasonal Barbeque Spring like we'd had in preceding weeks can be a source of great joy as we move out of the dark season. However, the other reason to stop is always fatigue and fatigue is just the worst, it's not just feeling tired or lacking the will to force yourself out of a comfortable bed, it's a deep and soul destroying feeling that makes you unable to focus on doing much of anything at all, it knocks you out and your body and brain just have to be left to their own devices, hopefully tuning themselves back into some feeling of normality within usually hours but sometimes days.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Low Moor to Burley in Wharfedale 06/05/17

14.3 miles, via Odsal, Staygate, West Bowling, Bradford city centre, Valley Parade,
 Frizinghall, Shipley, Baildon (& the Moor), Hawksworth, and Burley Woodhead.

Dropping the May Day Bank Holiday from the walking schedule, as a long weekend of rest feels like in its in order, proves to have been a good decision to make before one of the most testing four day weeks I've ever worked, after which I'm still forcing myself out of the house despite the fact that I'm still tired and we are still in the grip of a cold spell that continues thanks to the persistent north-easterly wind that is now working into its second week. Anyway, an early conclusion to draw for this year is that Low Moor station has been the true gift to the 2017 walking season, as we arrive here for the fourth time this year, with another course across the city of Bradford in mind, our last for the Spring before the high season draws us into rather more remote territories, and despite alighting the train at 10.05am it takes several minutes to get going, having to exit via the footbridge and car park because there is no direct access from the southbound platform to Cleckheaton Road. Our way forwards is immediately obvious, across the main road and between the pubs, the George, and the Black Horse and straight forwards to Railway Terrace, a long parade of houses built to service the old L&YR station, engine shed and goods yard, the latter pair of which dwelt on the site now covered by a nature garden and woodland reserve, through which our path travels, once located. We rise to the other extant end of the Low Moor Junction footbridge and cleave close to the railway as the path undulates through the woods alongside, the tracks eventually dropping away below as we move along the perimeter of the South Bradford golf course, but before we hit the westward turn, we do need to drop downhill, to meet the other local footbridge to get a clear sight of the south portal of Low Moor tunnel, passed through many times but never seen in person, as it were. Get back on track as the fuzzy right of way crosses the golf course, following a local dog walker as he knows where we are supposed to be going, and it's always good to annoy some golfers by crossing their fairways. Drop out on the access lane, passing the local cricket field, but all interest drifts to the site on the other side of the fields and the impromptu fairground, to Odsal stadium, home of four times Super League champions Bradford Bulls, seemingly hiding from view but actually located below ground in a bowl, and it draws most of my attention as we meet it along the A6036 footway.