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Walking in Cumbria and Beyond

Unfamiliar Territory

Unfamiliar Territory

After the satisfaction of identifying the South Lakes’ fells I spent the weekend in the slightly more unfamiliar landscape of Nidderdale.  Blissful weather, made the visit even better than my usual stay at Gill Beck Farm.   

Gill Beck is almost on the Nidderdale Way.  A 53 mile long round walk centred around Pateley Bridge.  Saturday was merely a ‘stroll’ from Pateley along the river Nidd to Wath and The Sportsman’s Arms pub.


Although the dales looked wonderful, somehow that leisurely lunch dulled the desire to continue by Gouthwaite Reservoir and the more challenging route on the other arm of the Nidderdale Way.  So we ‘wandered’ back by the river again.


Next morning,  with a little more determination to quell the excesses of the previous day, we headedto Lofthouse, (SE 101 734)  aiming for the beginning of the Nidderdale Way at Scar House Reservoir.  See the route below.  Parking in Lofthouse is free, though we just managed to get the last space in the car park, and could only squeeze into that with a little, hum, man handling of a parked motor bike.  Only a foot or so to once side, my parking skills are quite good, but… 


From Lofthouse hike a rolling hill to Middlesmoor village. The slopes of Lofthouse Moor appeared painted on the sky, across the invisible Nidd.


Picturesque is not too strong an adjective to use in front of Middlesmoor, the church sat ‘atop’ the hill and the cobbled streets and ally ways.  There was even a red phone box in this tiny place perched 1000ft above sea level, ‘the roof of the Pennines’, a notice declared.  Not sure that it will win ‘Best Kept Village’ this year though.  Had that ‘lived in feel. 


From Middlesmoor take Moor Lane North West ish out of the village.  Lovely old walled lane with suitably stunning vistas over to Masham Moor, down to How Stean Gorge and other tributaries, soon to join the Nidd. 


My hosts for the weekend suggested we came back via the How Stean Gorge.  So from Scar House Reservoir we retraced our steps back up on to Woodale Moss .  The Grouse Buttes making interesting rockery features in the heather garden.


Dropping down the valley sides the heather was quickly replaced by resplendent green pasture, the rain benefited something this year.  As the valley almost hit vertical, trees clung to the sides hiding the increasingly vociferous How Stean Beck.  Protesting as it deepens and narrows.


It is well worth leaving the footpath and risking the slippery rock surface to investigate the naturally sculpted valley.  Not quite the Grand Canyon, but impressive non the less.  Take time before you hit the Gorge proper as though not so dramatic, the upper reaches have a more quiet atmosphere.  I even saw a pair of dippers.  Though standing mid stream did not result in the best of photos.


We reached the commercial Gorge in time for a late feast of cheese on toasted tea cake.  A delicacy I had not experienced before.  The tea cake was quite literally the size of a dinner plate.  I was so astounded I forgot to take a picture.  Highly recommended.  The gorge offers all sorts of activities, along with camping,  ‘Proper camping in a field’, I over heard.  As well as the gorge to look at and scramble through there is canoeing, caving and more.  Several days out I would think.  Find out here.


The return to Lofthouse was another short valley stroll, with only a brief diversion to buy some ‘help yourself plants for £1’.  Urgently required to replace several waterlogged specimens which had, until recently, adorned my garden pots.  I figure if they can survive Yorkshire they must have at least a fighting chance in South Lakeland, even with my considered neglect.

Now I have had chance to look at the map a little more, there are many ways you could complete the Nidderdale Way in smaller, bite sized chunks, rather than the 53 miles in its entirety.  Especially with such an hospitable place as Gill Beck, to stay in.  Now I have a mission, be warned Chris and Steve, I shall be back!

Route maplofthouse here , more pictures here

OS explorer 298, buy here.  Cicerone on Nidderdale, and many more books here.









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