Walking along a river bank is invariably a delight with the changes in the landscape enhanced by the constant activity and noise of the accompanying waters. For half of this 10 mile walk in mid Wensleydale we follow the River Ure. The other half is across the rich farmland and woodland between North Stainley and Grewelthorpe. The highlight is undoubtedly the section through the woods of Hack Fall.
Distance: 10 miles (6 if Hack Fall is missed out)
Time: 6 or 4 hours
Conditions: well signed, level route
Refreshments: West Tanfield, North Stainley
OS Explorer Map 26
Originally published: 18 September 2009
We start from the free car park at the village hall by the crossroads in West Tanfield, (GR 269788), on the A 6108 between Ripon and Masham.
A preliminary stroll past the nearby Bull Inn takes you to the Marmion Tower, once part of a mid 14th century manor house. Its oriel window was added a century later. In the church are the fine alabaster tombs of Sir John, d. 1387 and Lady Elizabeth Marmion, d. 1400, who lived in the tower.
Our walk crosses the 18th century bridge and turns left, following the river downstream. In half a mile we reach the venerable Sleningford Water Mill. The path continues through the surrounding caravan site, returning briefly to the river at The Terrace where there are high cliffs and a view of distant hills. The way is then well fenced as it skirts a field before climbing to Spring Cottage and the A 6108. Turn left into North Stainley.
In 400 yards, and just after passing two little pools, turn right on to Cockpit Close. As you do look ahead down the main road to a curious little tower with a conical cap, formerly the village lock-up. From the end of the Close take a bridleway across one field. It then continues as a quiet green lane for a mile to a tarred road.
Turn left and follow the road past the large farm of Musterfield. Go straight ahead at a junction where an old stone marks the farm's boundary and then ahead at the next junction where there is an imposing view of Newfield at the end of its avenue of trees.
In another quarter of a mile, where the road bends to the left, go right on a bridleway. Although little used, the way is easy to follow, across one large field and then through Coal Bank Wood where 6' high stands of Indian balsam retard progress in the summer.
After about a mile turn right on another tarred lane. (You could reduce the walk by some 4 miles here by continuing into Mickley to rejoin the main walk.) The main walk, however, follows the lane for only 200 yards before turning left, over a stile.
In another 200 yards, and just before passing under a power line, go left across the field to a gate. From here the path winds up to another gate giving access to a large rough field outside Bush Farm. Head straight across the field to a gate, keeping the nearest building 150 yards away on the left.
The right of way beyond, is well signed for half a mile over a succession of stiles to a green track where go left, emerging in 400 yards on Grewelthorpe's village street. Turn right.
After several miles of open countryside it's a pleasure to walk the length of the village with its duckpond, (there were two a century ago) two greens and handsome houses of millstone grit. Continue past the Crown and then the second green. In another 100 yards, and on the road to Masham, look out for a path on the right signed to Hack Fall.
Created by William Aislabie from 1750 onwards, Hack Fall is one of the first 'romantick' gardens in England and was a sequel to the great water garden his father John had created at Studley and Fountains Abbey. At Hack Fall nature reigned supreme with a busy beck tumbling down a deep gorge past rocky cliffs to meet the turbulent Ure. All this wild scene was covered in dense hanging woods. Aislabie devised a network of paths to thread the wilderness which was 'improved' with a scattering of follies to enhance the visitors' enjoyment. It worked for the 18th and 19th century public who flocked to see nature tamed. It was only in the last century that decay set in.
In the last few years, however, the Woodland, Landmark and Hack Fall Trusts have made much progress in saving Aislabie's grand concept and the public is encouraged to explore on the paths already restored.
I've mapped two routes, both highly recommended. They each pass the large pool near the entrance which feeds the beck at the head of the gorge. From it we cross a wooden footbridge over the beck and turn left into the woods. At a junction in some 250 yards our routes divide. A left turn takes you down to stepping stones over the beck to an area called the grotto where there's an attractive circular seat. From here follow the steep new path parallel to the beck down to Fisher's Hall, a tufa clad pavilion close to the rushing Ure. Go right here on a public footpath down river.
Our alternative continues ahead from the junction above to Mowbray Castle, a sham ruined tower with views across the woods to distant hills. The path continues above the gorge for a short distance before dropping steeply to our riverside right of way where turn right. There's still another half mile of pretty woodland walking close to the river before reaching the lane into Mickley where go left.
The last two miles of the walk uses the Ripon Rowel long distance route, parallel to the Ure. Walk down Mickley's street of limestone cottages and, at the end, where the road goes right, turn left by a quaint finger post pointing to West Tanfield. The path crosses directly over one field before entering woodland. There are two short stretches where it accompanies the river.
Where the path emerges from the trees leave the river and head across the field well to the right of Quarry House. We then join the farm track and enjoy a good view of Marmion Tower on the far bank.