There are many wonderful walks in Nidderdale. Our friends from the Pateley Bridge Walking Festival (24-27 Sept 2015) have put together a guide to three of the best ones that begin and end in Pateley Bridge.
Walk 1 – The Old Church and Scot Gate Ash Quarry
Distance: c. 2.5 miles; Difficulty: Easy (but with a steep climb out of Pateley); Time: 1.5-2hrs
Features: Great views, abandoned church, old quarry, social history, bird life.
Start from the High Street and go up. Follow the road past the Pateley Club on the right and continue to follow the road around to the right. Just before Pateley Bridge Methodist Church (which is on the right) you will see some steps up a path on the left, signposted ‘Panorama Walk’. Take this path and follow it until you reach the cemetery gates and Bishopdale house on the left. Continue up the hill and look out for a narrow path between walls on the left, just past Bishopdale House and at the end of a fence/railings. Take this track and follow it until you arrive at the Old Church (St. Mary’s). This is a place of great peace and tranquillity. It was abandoned in the late 19th century, due to the steepness of access – the new church (St. Cuthbert’s) was built to replace it. The churchyard at St. Mary’s contains many interesting gravestones, which show how hard life could be in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was not unusual for significant numbers of children to pre-decease their parents – find the Pawson gravestone (on the south side of the church at the east end) for an affecting example of this.
Go out of the graveyard by the top left hand corner and continue up the road (be careful – no path!). It’s steep, but about 100m further up on the left someone has thoughtfully provided a bench which gives great views of the town and surrounding area. Continue up the road and look for a rough track on the left – if you don’t find it don’t worry – just take the next turning on the left. This is the road to Scot Ash quarry (which provided a lot of the stone for the buildings in Pateley) and it contours beautifully around the hill above the town. Look out for sparrowhawks here – goldfinches are also abundant. Follow the track for about half a mile (ignore a gate and footpath on the left) until you reach some houses on the left (which you pass) and then the spoil heaps of the quarry.
The quarry is a warren of footpaths and is great fun to explore. You may see a Red Kite riding the wind in the sky above you. The way down is unmarked, but easy to find. Just beyond the houses, there is a walled allotment on the right and the remains of a derelict stone building with some metal posts on the left (the path goes between these two features and bears left for a short time). Keep going straight (as if to go over the edge) and see a telegraph pole in front and slightly to the right. Keep going to the left of this pole and you will come onto a steep path that goes straight down the side of the hill (there is a style over a fence about 50m down). This is the old rope railway that was used to take stone from the quarry down to the goods yard in Pateley (it was at the end of Millfield Street and Greenwood Avenue) for transportation by rail. As you go down, keep an eye on the woods to your right for Greater-spotted Woodpeckers.
Follow the path down and keep to the right hand side of the gully when the wall appears on your right. You will see the old railway disappear under a tunnel under the road and also, a stone stile at the right-hand corner at the end of the path. Cross this onto Top Wath Road and follow it back down to Pateley High Street.
Walk 2 – Yorke’s Folly and Guisecliffe
Distance: c. 4.5 miles; Difficulty: Moderate; Time: 2.5-3hrs
Features: Great views, 15th Century chapel, monastic fishpond, novelty bridge(!), mystery building, a hidden tarn, birdlife, river.
Starts in Pateley High Street. Go over the bridge, heading away from the main High St. Take the first left after Nidderdale Motors and walk through Bewerley. On the left, after the green, you will find Bewerley Grange Chapel – a beautiful place that is well worth a short visit. Carry on along the road for about 100m and take a path through a gate up some stone steps just before a right turn (the right turn is Peat Lane). Follow this path through the trees until you come to the pond. You are now in Fishpond Woods, where the monks of Bewerley Grange would have bred and harvested fish in medieval times (some claim the ponds were originally Roman, but I’m not aware of any hard evidence for this!). Follow the path with the pond on your right and take the left track about halfway down the pond. Follow this around to the right to a gate. Go through the gate, directly across the drive and take the narrow track that goes into the bushes. Follow this down to some steps and a gate onto the road.
Turn right and follow the road across the small bridge. This is the famous ‘False Teeth Bridge’, so called because of the pair of false teeth embedded in the concrete near the edge at the far left hand side – see if you can find them. Interestingly, the present bridge is a rebuild from around 10 years ago. The original bridge had the false teeth (put there as a joke, it is said), but the rebuild dispensed with them. Such was the outcry at the loss of such a local novelty, that special works were carried out to put them back – as near as possible to the original position!
Immediately after the bridge, take the gate on the left into Skrikes Wood and follow the track over a newer, metal bridge over a beck. Shortly after that, the track divides. Take the right hand fork, uphill into the trees and follow the track as it winds up through the woods (note the steepness of the gorge to your right that contains the beck). After a while, the track emerges onto the woodland edge, with a wall on its left. Follow the track uphill along the wall until you come to a T-junction with a gate on the left. Turn right here and follow the old cart track up the hill between the trees. This wide track soon peters out as the wood gives way to heather and bracken – follow the rocky steps up and on. Keep an eye out to the right as you go up, for a strange, earth-roofed building with a metal grille as a door. There are many theories as to what this is – perhaps an Ice House for Eagle Hall or an early prison for transit prisoners. Nobody seems too sure! Keep following the path up – through a gate and onto more open moorland, and finally through another gate and onto the road at a parking area. Here, you may want to make a detour to Crocodile Rock (especially if you are an Elton John fan…..) – a grit outcrop that resembles the head of a crocodile (if you have a vivid imagination!).
By now, you can see the twin towers of Yorke’s Folly (or ‘Two Stoops’ as the locals call it) up ahead to the left. Cross the road and follow the obvious track towards it. It was built by the Yorke family around 200 years ago using local labour, purely as a way of providing paid employment in difficult economic times. There were originally 3 towers, but one collapsed in the late 19th century. This is a good place to stop for a break after all that climbing, as it has a bench, grass and great views of Nidderdale to the north west.
Carry on past the folly and take the first gate in the wall on your right. The path goes onto open moorland and bears left. Look out for moorland birds here – if you are doing the walk late in the day, you may even see a short-eared owl. Follow the obvious path by or near the wall on your left, until you come to a wire fence and ladder stile that heads into the trees. Go over the stile, cross a small stream and continue on the level path (don’t be tempted to go left, downhill!).
You are now on Guisecliffe and need to take care – especially if you have children and/or dogs with you. The path itself is completely safe, but to your left for the next half mile or so, there are crevasses and steep drops off the cliff into the woods below. There are also some accessible viewpoints (if you don’t suffer from vertigo), but please take extreme care. After about half a mile or so, you approach Guisecliffe television mast. About 100m before it, the path forks and you take the left hand fork (it runs to the left of an old wall) which goes well below the mast and starts to bear left through open ground, heading downhill towards Guisecliffe Wood. Follow the path down and round to the left until you get to the edge of the wood. Continue into the wood on the obvious track (ignore the track through a metal gate on your right that leads into open ground) and follow it as it winds down through the beautiful ancient woodland under Guisecliffe. About half a mile on, look out for tracks to the left which lead to Guisecliffe Tarn. This amazing place is totally hidden from view – from above or below. It can be quite difficult to find, so don’t give up if you don’t manage it first time! Guisecliffe Wood is a lattice-work of footpaths, so if you do go to the tarn, try and remember where you came from. The path goes to the right of the tarn and continues downhill for another 200m or so, the turns sharp left. In another 100m or so you turn right and continue down through the trees until you reach a stone stile at the woodland edge just above some houses. Go through the stile and continue on the obvious track down past a few houses which eventually leads you Glasshouses bridge and it’s disused mill. Cross the bridge and take the first track on the left, which runs along the mill pond. There are seats along the pond side where you can sit and watch the birdlife, which may include Kingfisher and Great Crested Grebe if you are lucky. You also get a great view of the length of Guisecliffe, where you have just been!
This path now takes you all the way back to Pateley along the river Nidd, passing Castlestead Weir and Harefield Hall Hotel and delivering you at the car park. However, it’s worth taking a slight detour as you approach Pateley. A wall appears on your right. Take the first steps up on the right and see local sculptor Joseph Hayton’s fabulous stone pillars, carved into a monk, a farmer and a miner – all occupations which have been of major importance in the history of Nidderdale.
Walk 3 – Merryfield Mines
Distance: c. 6.5 miles; Difficulty: Moderate; Time: 3-3.5hrs
Features: Lead mines, mostly good underfoot, birdlife, rivers and streams.
This walk uses part of the Nidderdale Way and is primarily on roads and tracks. Start at the bridge in Pateley and cross it – heading away from the High St. Cross Low Wath Road and take the footpath on the right, just before Park View Stores bakery. Follow this up to another road – the path continues up from the other side of this road between some houses after a quick right and left wiggle. As you go up, the path goes through a gate, to be enclosed by hedge on both sides and then into fields (keep the wall on your left) as it passes the back of Eagle Hall. You will eventually come to a stone stile at the top left hand corner of a field – cross this and go through a small stand of trees to a metalled road. Turn right and follow this road – you are now on the Nidderdale Way. The road passes a few houses and farms for about another mile, then goes sharp right and sharp left uphill, near a house called Hillend. It is now a gravel track. Continue to follow it (it is amazingly straight) for another half mile or so, until it turns down right to cross a bridge. This is Brandstone Dub bridge (over Brandstone Beck) and, if the weather is good, it’s a fabulous place for a drink or picnic stop as there is good grass near the bridge next to the beck – you may see Grey Wagtails here.
Follow the track as it winds up right and left from the bridge through a gate/cattle grid and continue on. You will soon start to see evidence of spoil heaps from mining. Carry on past another track on the left (signposted Cockhill) and you will soon find yourselves overlooking the workings of Merryfield Mines. This was one of the major lead mines in the area until the late 19th century. There is lots of industrial archaeology to explore, including derelict buildings (eg. the smelt house with its long, uphill box flue that would once have been capped by a large chimney). Also, during May to August, look out for clusters of very small white flowers. These are Leadwort, a plant that only grows in ground contaminated by lead (very few other plants will grow in such ground). The lead miners used these plants as a diagnostic aid to indicate where seams of lead might be found.
There are many ways down through the mines. There is a path round the left hand perimeter, a few straight down (some quite steep) and another that goes to the right and then come back left through the heather. Take your pick and take care, but the objective is to cross the sizeable footbridge you can see below you over Ashfold Side Beck. Once over the bridge, the path goes right and uphill to gain another sizeable gravel track. Turn right onto this and follow it down. It goes downhill for around 2 miles (there are some gates/cattle grids) and becomes metalled as it enters the static caravan sites that line Foster Beck. It eventually joins another road at an angled T-junction. Turn right here and walk a short distance to another T-junction at some houses – this is Corn Close. If you are in need of refreshment at this stage, then turn right onto the main road and take the short walk to The Bridge Inn and back!
From the T-junction at Corn Close, go straight across the road and through a gate onto a signposted footpath. This heads across a field to another gate and then runs alongside Foster Beck, which it then crosses by means of a narrow footbridge. The path then passes a house and goes through another gate into a field. Head diagonally across this field (the route will be obvious) to gain the raised path that runs beside the River Nidd and takes you back to Pateley Bridge.