Sunday, 23 September 2018

Addingham to Harrogate 22/09/18

17.5 miles, via West Hall, Low Moor, Langbar Moor, Middleton Moor Enclosure, 
 Gawk Hall Gate, Blubberhouses Moor, Gill Becks plantation, Beecroft Moor plantation, 
  Fewston Dam, Wydra, Penny Pot Lane, Knabs Ridge, Uniacke & Hildebrand Barracks, 
   Oakdale, and Low Harrogate. 

Now that Summer 2018 is consigned to history, and Autumn is underway, it's time to get back on the trail as I've got five walks that I definitely want to get done before this year's walking season runs out, and getting them fitted into eight weekends could be a challenge if the weather persists with its run of mediocrity and my wavering will to walk continues. I'd brought two walks to this weekend's plan, either traversing or transiting the Washburn Valley, and I'm going with the latter of those as the traverse requires a Sunday trip and the meteorological projection gave us a severe weather warning for it (which definitively hasn't come to pass, I might add), and thus we set course for the transit, as I'd noted a blank spot that ought to have been covered in my Wharfe to Nidd trips, and needs to be done this year as I'm not planning to walk again in this Lower Wharfedale company again for a while. So the X84 bus is ridden out to the top left corner of West Yorkshire for a not too early start from Addingham, disembarking at the Memorial Hall at 10.15am, hopeful that a later jump off might give the clouds a chance to dispiate to give us the sunny spells sort of day that we'd been promised, but all looks grey as we trace steps among the suburbia that has grown and blended in one of the county's most desireable dormitories, soon passing off Main Street and away from the shadow of Rombald's Moor, and joining Church Street and Bark Lane to pass through the oldest and prettiest corner of the village. Soon find the steep and angled path that leads down the wooded riverbank to pass over the suspension bridge over the Wharfe, and then head northwards across the riverside meadow under the shade of trees and beside the channel of the descending beck as we roll up on the complex of farm buildings and cottages at West Hall, finally breaking off from the path we've previously walked up to Beamsley Beacon when we meet the road, hitting an angled rise across the fields at the start of a 150m ascent up to the moorlands. The cows in the lower fields keep their distance but the sheep in the plots beyond get overly startled as I seek the path through the wooded cleft that contains the suggestion of another descending beck, and then it's on, uphill though the tree cover and into the rough pasture beyond, aiming uphill to a field corner to meet the enclosed green track that rises up from Nesfield, a path that's harder to find than you'd expect, despite its prominence on the map. We can look back to see Addingham spread out below at Wharfedale's angle, and up to the Beacon as it looms over the valley as we rise on, but the route to the moor is well concealed as we go, only becoming apparent as we enter the open fields of livestock below Moorcroft Farm, home to a lot more sheep that we will have to shoo away as we join the track and driveway around it to meet the lowest portion of the Low Moor.

Church Street, Addingham.

West Hall.

The Green Lane out of Wharfedale.

Beamsley Beacon from Moorcroft Farm.

The first ascent done, we meet the road that we could follow for another trip towards Langbar, but we'll be peeling off right to start our moorland passage proper when we meet Moor End farm, starting our rise on a faint and grassy track that rises onto the Long Ridge that stretches across Middleton Moor, running roughly parallel to the Beamsley Beacon - Round Hill upland, which has created a sheltered and relatively verdant pocket of pasture that lies below on the lea before Blackhill House farm. The wind from the south-west gnaws hard as we rise to the top of the ridge at over 280m up, and despite expecting to have the moors to myself today, we meet a running party coming the other way, who all look as surprised as I am to find other people up here, and route finding beyond the crest proves easier than anticipated as the path is well cut in, and a view comes up towards March Ghyll reservoir to the south-east, and we also pass another  milepost that lies about the distances to Otley and Knaresborough. The view south to Wharfedale is mostly concealed by the rolls of Delves Ridge, so we can feel remote for a while as the path descends off the ridge we are traversing, passing among the shooting shelters as we come down to meet the long track that rises all the way up to the top of Round Hill, which we paced down in 2013, and despite its 400+m elevation, the summit above does not show itself distinctively like the Beacon, which recedes behind us. We continue eastwards an a decently built up track that wanders across the lowest portion of Middleton Moor Enclosure, crossing the various streams and gills that flow down into March Ghyll reservoir below us via fords and wooden sleeper bridges, all the while drawing ourselves towards the Lower Dearncomb plantation and taking looks back to see the hidden ridge that we passed over, plainly invisible from outside of the moorlands. Run up close to the eastern edge of the moor enclosure before we shift north, on a track that seems to have been worked by heavy machinery in the not too distant past, which will take us the 100m to the top of Gawk Hall ridge, running up to the western wall of Denton Moor, which we can barely see over, and rising us up above the passage of Wharfedale, with Ilkley clearly behind us with the going mostly good until we meet a boggy transition area about half way up. The ground firms up over 300m as the heather takes hold and the path settles into some clear grooves that lead uphill, some of which seem to double as drainage streams for the seasonal water runoff, and the wall continues to direct us uphill as we approach the crest of the ascent, as Lippersley Ridge appears to the east, as does the tall milestone at Gawk Hall gate, along with the reveal of RAF Menwith Hill beyond.

Long Ridge, Langbar Moor.

The way to Middleton Moor Enclosure, with March Ghyll Reservoir.

The way to the ascent, with Low Dearncomb Plantation.

Middleton Moor Enclosure and Langbar Moor.

The Moorland crest at Gawk Hall Ridge.

Summit the day at 340m up and less than two hours into the day it already feels like lunchtime, so take a sheltered spot to eat and focus my attention to Blubberhouses Moor, which still looks pretty trackless from here, though the E297 advertises a number of potential routes across it, and so we head on north, descending off the high central ridge that crests very nicely as we drop down to pass over the headwaters of Gawk Hall Gill, before they run off the moor into Timble Ings plantation. The woods to the east at least give you a feel for which way you are headed, and once the stickier grounds of the gill have been left behind, the way forwards becomes obvious as a number of tall and white-topped way-marker stones are in situ across the moor to guide you on, dated to the 18th and 19th centuries to suggest a route that goes back a long way, and these indicators would prove essential if taking this route to the south. Going north and east, we have an extra element of guidance as the path lines up exactly with the A59 rising above the distant rise on the other side of the Washburn, which makes me a believer that that this was once a Roman route that passed over these moors from York and Boroughbridge down to the fort at Olicana, and the mind can turn the trod below our feet into a clearly ancient remnant of road foundations under the moorland grasses. We descend to meet the passage over Sun Bank Gill, looking north to the moorland portion that won't get explored for a while now, meeting a firmly constructed access track that will carry us on as we start to tack around the north-western side of the plantations that have nibbled into the moorland up here. It's a long stretch to get off the moors, still on the course of the Roman road as we press north-eastwards, feeling slightly conned that the day hasn't brightened up and glad that I chose to bring gloves on this distinctly cool and breezy day, judging our progress towards the slowly revealing Washburn as the plantation perimeter changes shape and familiar features arrive on the eastern horizon from Norwood Edge mast to Knabs Ridge windfarm. We'll be passing the latter of these, eventually, but it seems a long way off as we await the shift of the track from the ancient alignment down towards the company of conifers, grabbing a few views to the fringes of Nidderdale, with the distant Heyshaw Moor mast and the closer radomes of RAF Menwith Hill making an appearance ahead of seeing the upper portion of the Washburn valley, which we will hopefully be up close to next weekend, before finally shifting off the moor, over the moorland wall via a purposeful stile and across the open field beyond before we disappear into the trees, feeling certain that route-finding ahead shouldn't pose any problems at all.

The Blubberhouses Moor - Denton Moor ridge, from Gawk Hall gate.

Following the Waymarkers over Blubberhouse Moor.

The Roman Road, Blubberhouses Moor.

The track above Timble Ings Plantation.

The way off the moor to Gill Becks Plantation. 

There's a nicely wide open track to pass along to meet the long east-west access road that runs through the heart of Gill Becks planation, but the way forward offered by my map seems harder to come by, as the first route option soon degenerates into a sticky mess below the fir trees, and the second sends me into a sea of tall bracken that conceals some ruined buildings that ought to be a useful navigational aid, but suggest no way forward to the path I think ought to exist. I've no idea just how hard I'm trespassing here, but figure that if I can find Gill Beck, I should be alright, but it takes a lot of poking around to find anything that resembles an eastbound path, which leads us down to the beck side, where the stream must be forded as trying to jump over a sluiced weir feels like it might be beyond my capabilities. Safely land on the south bank and find a path that doesn't show up on my map, but follow it up into the fields beyond the woods, meeting a turn that feels like it ought to be the way that I was planning to come up, but don't trace that path too far back as I've wasted too much time feeling lost already, and feel like I ought to get back on track by tracing the field path over to Grange house. This doesn't work out either, as the wall has been raised to prevent access over the stile into the house's garden, and thus we can't make our passage this way, despite no indication of the right of way having been moved, unless that new path that I met in the woods has been installed in the last few years (?), so we take the route out to Rues Lane past Cherry Tree house, our first touch of civilisation in 2+ hours, along with the reminder that the passage indicated on the map is much more notional than real, and thus should not be retraced in anyone's future. At Rue's farm, we cross our first proper road since Langbar, and head off down the green track that leads us into Beecroft Moor plantation, to find some much clearer route beneath the deciduous trees, and even a choice of surfces to walk upon through the rising woods, though the firmer one of them seems to be a mountain biking track as it creates some rather steep undulations that are no fun at all to walk over before we take the footpath only route out of the woods and onto the lane by Ridge Top farm. It would be easy to bail from the trip right now for a bevvy in the Timble Inn, not too far from here, but my walking focus needs to stay on as we follow the lane down past White Crag farm and meet the passage that I'd meant to follow, as giving up now would leave me a long way away from any viable transport options, and the best way to put the frustrating last hour behind us is to press on, as the transit of the Washburn is imminent as Fewston Reservoir arrives in the landscape ahead of us, at the valley bottom beyond its enclosing banks of trees.

No obvious passage through Gill Becks plantation.

Gill Beck, itself.

Finally not lost at Rues Lane.

Beecroft Moor Plantation.

Finally we can transit the Washburn!

Pass the Millennium Stone and the Swinsty Moor plantation car park as we descend to cross Fewston Embankment, the third such crossing made in our walking career, which has us feeling that we are close to home again, despite the finish line being three hours distant, and the waters of the reservoir above are looking a lot lower than they did on the previous two passages over the dam, as all the inclemency that's come on over the last couple of months hasn't done much to get the water levels up after our hot, hot July. Photograph the resting cormorants as we go, noting that the sunshine is finally making an effort to break through the clouds before we pass the reservoir house and make our way up through the trees as the road grazes the very edge of Fewston village, taking us past the impressive treehouse in one garden corner and up to the junction with the extravagant fingerpost before we rise away up Back Lane, because we've got a completely fresh route to take from here to Harrogate. Sharply we rise, up through more tree cover and up to get views over to Norwood edge and Stainburn forest to the south, and back over the river valley as it quickly retreats from view, before crossing Cobby Syke Road and dropping down through the loose association of farmsteads and cottages that the map calls the hamlet of Wydra, following the lane downhill to cross Spinksburn Beck, the only notable tributary of the Washburn. It's another steep pull uphill from there, a common theme in this area and already noted when walking alongside the A59, dragging us up to the junction of the B6451 Brame Lane, where a corner could easily have been cut off if it hadn't been for a plot full of shoulder height bracken, still going strong when it ought to be dying back with the encroaching Autumn. Pace the main road north of a short while before we take another decisive turn east by joining Penny Pot lane, which sits high and straight on the passage between the A59 to the north and the valley of Oak Beck and Haverah Park to the south, already feeling certain that its 3+ miles might prove a very dull walk, but it's crossing a big gap on the map, which must be crossed as my mind needs to know what it all looks like. At a constant 210+m elevation, we soon get sightlines south to Norwood edge mast and to Little Alms Cliff, but have little suggestion of the proximity of the Beaver Dyke reservoirs and John O'Gaunt's castle, hiding away somewhere below Willow house and Park Top farms, and thus attention settles forward for a solid mile as we approach Knabs Ridge windfarm, its turbine showing up their real hugeness as we approach, their 93m height and 70m span dominating the horizon to the north-east, despite the thickness of the tree cover at the roadside, still a remarkable thing of beauty to my eyes.

Over the Washburn via Fewston Embankment.

Back Lane and the dynamic Fingerpost, Fewston.

Wydra hamlet, if we can call it that.

The beginning of the long drag on Penny Pot Lane.

Knabs Ridge windfarm arrives.

It's a pretty large site too, surely a solid mile from end to end if the spaces between he turbines match my calculated guesses, and they really are the only thing to look at up here as the roadside gets crowded with thick foliage and bushes that cut off all the views to the south, and there's hints of autumnal fruitfulness here with the crops of apples and berries growing, while the shades of green are still pervasive. Reaching the far end of the windfarm site we can look north and west to see those radomes making their final appearance of the year, while also looking back to that flank of moors at the side of Wharfedale and Nidderdale that provided so many of the highlights of this season's trekking, the last looks at which are take before we press on with the primordial encroachment of trees and shrubs at the roadside continuing for a while more as we move on to meet the golf course that surrounds High Moor farm, and the transport distribution depot hidden away at the eastern edge of the ridge. A coming kink in the road provides a sudden moment of interest and as the road starts to decline from above 200m elevation we get the view to the north opening out, across the wide expanse of the Vale of York to the North York Moors, arriving just as the sunshine makes its final breakthrough on the day, meaning the last hour or so towards Harrogate will be a lot warmer than the ones that preceded it, and the proximity to the town is finally felt as we find the Household Recycling centre out here among the fields, which surely must draw most of the traffic out here to use this long road to nowhere in particular. Last looks are taken back towards Stainburn Forest and across Haverah Park before we meet the perimeter fence of Uniacke Barracks, which houses the Army Foundation College, and does its best to look forbidding as it conceals itself with barbed wire and a lot of trees, but marking the return of civilization, we can get a footway to take us to our finish line as we make our way on, reflecting on the military's use of these high fields, as we have the Army here, the RAF at Menwith Hill and even once had a Royal Navy radio station up here at Delves Ridge too (no, really). Cross the lane to pass alongside Hildebrand Barracks, the much more residential of the pair, which has extensive playing fields on this side, as well as a well-regarded nursery, as we move up to the cluster of houses that sit by Jubilee Roundabout, where we could split northwards to head for the Nidd one last time at Killinghall or Ripley, if it wasn't for the fact that we've already paced the side of the B6161, so we shall instead set course for Harrogate, still an hour on the slate to its centre, but still expanding out here as King Edwin's Park burgeons new build houses about as inconveniently for from the town as possible.

Thick forestry on Penny Pot Lane.

Knabs Ridge windfarm, with the Wharfe-Nidd moors beyond.

The view to the Vale of York and the Moorland beyond.

Uniacke Barracks.

Hildebrand Barracks.

I've done multiple years of blathering about how much I dislike suburbia, so I'll be brief as I complain about this development and its neighbour Queen Ethelburga's Park, as these are the sort of new estates that can only be useful to motorists as there's no viable public transport option to bring out here, as Penny Pot Lane is unsuited to buses, while my mind looks to a future of increased urban living, rather than to continuing to spread on into the countryside. My thinking doesn't fit with the modern world, mind you, so those grumbles are left in my wake as the road shifts of its long straight path to descend down twistedly to make a passage over Oak Beck at the bottom of Oakdale, where an appealing sort of country cottages can be found around a farmstead in a lightly wooded idyll, crossing over the weak bridge and starting uphill as we have to enter the town via the slope of the ridge that is home to Birk Crags. An ascent which I should have seen coming as the Harrogate Ringway path is met half way up here, a quite unwelcome to pull to have in the closing stretches of a 17+ mile day, though things level out again as we join Cornwall Road and the proper edge of the town's suburban fringe, as we'll carry on down this lane with it's many large scaled houses for most of the way into the town, marvelling that a new build of large contemporary houses has gone up on the site of the former waterworks, when many of the older houses seem to be beyond their uses as dwelling and have been converted to nurseries or residential care homes. There's probably a fascinating history to be written about the changing dynamic of this town, as former hotels and hydros of the town's boom period have shifted to modern uses over the last century, significant evidence of which can bee seen as we pass along the top edge of the Valley Gardens, with the Sun Pavilion providing its prominent Art Deco feature, before we run into the town centre, where the Georgian and early Victorian terraces cluster around the green across from the Royal Pump Rooms. Meet Crescent Road, which takes us past the Mercer Art Gellery and the Cresecent Gardens, as well as the extensively redeveloped Turkish Baths (the vintage spa for the Hoi Polloi, if you're taking notes), and from there we can cross the Ripon Road by the Royal Hall theatre and the back end of the Harrogate Convention centre, joining King's Road before taking up along Cheltenham Parade, with its clusters of bars and restaurants that have always been a fascination to me as I've passed them at the end of trips down from Nidderdale on the #24 bus. Final footfalls take us past the Grand Theatre and Opera House and up to meet the Bus Station at a whisker after 5.30pm, just late enough to have missed the last train to Leeds by the width of getting lost in the woods, but I can just as easily board the #36 bus, as everyone else in town heads home from their days out too, seeing the daylight fade as I go, definitively marking Summer's final passage out of 2018.

Suburbian spill at Harrogate's outer edge.

Cornwall Road and finally our arrival in Harrogate proper.

The Sun Pavilion, Valley Gardens.

The Royal (Turkish) Baths, Crescent Road.

The Grand Theatre and Opera House, Cheltenham Parade.

5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3547.8
2018 Total: 454.4 miles
Up Country Total: 3169.8 miles
Solo Total: ????.? miles

Next Up: Absolutely the last chance for a Traverse of The Washburn Valley.

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