Nidderdale has something for every walker whether it is expanses of heather moorland, tracts of sandstone outcrops, the gentler contours of the valley itself, the tranquillity of the riverside or picturesque historic settlements. This nine-mile route has something of each of these.
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 5 hours
Grade: one steep climb
Refreshments: Pateley Bridge, Dacre Banks
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: 29 September 2006
We start from the car park by the bridge in Pateley Bridge, the "capital" of the dale. Cross the bridge and, in about 200yds, take the first left off the B6265. This leads almost
immediately into Bewerley, a pretty village of stone houses which was once home to lead
miners and quarrymen, two of the main industries of the dale in the 19th century. Evidence of earlier times can be seen in the chapel and priest's house, built by Marmaduke Huby, Abbot of Fountains, 1494-1526. His initials are prominent on three of the exterior walls.
Our route continues through the village to cross Skrikes Beck at Turner Bridge. Tum right here on the tarred lane and then in 200yds take the first path on the right. It follows the peat coloured beck upstream into the private nature reserve of Skrikes Wood. In about 50yds from the entrance into the trees tum left uphill through a landscape of moss covered sandstone boulders. The path then bears right over a paved causeway to reach the former Skrikes quarry, once worked by the Yorke family of the now-demolished Bewerley Hall.
Keep well to the left of a gate which seems set into the hillside and is the entrance to an ice house, built into the quarry side to preserve ice from the winter for summer use by the family. Beyond this unusual structure the path enters Nought Moor and rejoins our tarred road. Cross straight over.
Ahead is Yorke's Folly, known locally as Two Stoops, built to provide employment in the 19th century. A third pillar was blown down in a gale in 1893. From this excellent vantage point look back, left to the instantly recognisable Crocodile Rock, perched on the edge of crags some 300yds away.
Our walk continues along the edge of Guise Cliff with wonderful views into Nidderdale and across to Brimham Rocks. Like Brimham, the cliff is formed of gritstone and has its own weather eroded rocks. Look out for the Giant's Chair and the Pulpit Rock immediately after a ladder stile. The path next passes through a section of woodland and follows the fence around a prominent television mast at the end of the cliff.
The route from here on the mast's access track goes along the edge of Heyshaw Moor past High Hood Gap to Hill Top and Heyshaw. For most of the way you will enjoy panoramic vistas ahead across the Vale of York to the North York Moors.
Go left when you reach the tarred lane in the hamlet of Heyshaw and then, with Woodlands Farm on your right, take a field path signed as the route of the Nidderdale Way. Across the next three fields we follow a partly covered stone causeway which was once part of the network of packhorse tracks of the area. Sadly, recent drainage works have destroyed a section of the pavement which, being at least 250 years old and possibly even of medieval origin, was part of the dale's heritage and deserved a better fate.
Our walk next passes Lanesfoot Barn and continues along the access track to Monk Ing Road. Go left here downhill. At a cattle grid follow the Nidderdale Way sign, half right, across a field and through a large gap in the wall ahead. The path then veers to the left to a stile and continues across two fields before descending to the hamlet of Hill Top. Head to the right of a large circular slurry container at the first farm.
Once through the buildings follow the access track for a few yards before taking a path on the left down to a second farm in Dacre Banks. Beyond this farm continue down a tarred lane and, where it goes sharp left, go ahead on a path between houses and then left on a residential road which drops to the B 6451. Tum left. In the 19th century, Dacre Banks was noted for its flax spinning industry.
It was here that tow, the coarse parts of flax and hemp, was for the first time spun by machinery. Follow the main street for a few yards to Cabin Lane where go left and then immediately right on to Harewell Lane. On his map of Yorkshire of 1771, Thomas Jefferys still marks this as the way up the dale on the south side although the main valley road had already been constructed in 1753. In its leisurely course through rich meadow land, our lane is a good example of an unimproved pre-turnpike route.
We follow it for about a mile to the house at the entrance to Lead Wath Wood. Just beyond the buildings, go half-right in the trees and across the line of the former Nidd Valley railway, opened in 1862 to serve the dale's mills, stone quarries and lead mines. It was closed in 1964.
Our path now descends via steps to the banks of the Nidd next to a large weir which dammed the waters to power the mills downstream. We walk upstream, at first through the trees and then across open fields. The mile from here to Glasshouses is a delight with views over left to the brooding heights of Guise Cliff and the river a constant companion, dark and mysterious in the deeper reaches beneath its tree lined banks yet sparkling and chattering noisily as it flows over its many rocky sectors. Very aptly does Nidd mean "shining water". There's bird life too; I saw herons, wagtails and a pair of bobbing dippers.
The approach to Glasshouses is dominated by its huge mill. Although there is some written evidence of medieval glass-making, no industrial site has ever been found. The building was once a com mill but in 1812 was taken over for flax spinning, and later much extended as the industry prospered. In the 20th century it produced ropes and string and only closed in 1970 with the development of man-made fibres.
Cross the bridge here and then go left, upstream, past the large reservoir which holds some 10m gallons and was built in 1850 to provide power for the mill. Pateley Bridge is reached by a pleasant riverside path in just over a mile.