Harrogate & District Walks
Date: 23rd July 2015
Distance: 4.5 miles
Time: 2 hours 30 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SE349569
A walk from Knaresborough to visit a lake on the site of an old gravel pit. Lots of cows!
Route Summary: Knaresborough Castle - Market Place - Raw Gap - Halfpenny Lane - Half Crown Way - - Water Lane - Knaresborough Lake - Hazelheads Lane - Hay-a-Park - Hay-a-Park Lane - Knaresborough Lake - Halfpenny Lane - Stockwell Lane - Park Row - Knaresborough Castle
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Situated between the north-east of Knaresborough and the village of Farnham, a few miles to the north, are four former gravel pits that in the 1980's were flooded to create four artifical lakes. The northernmost of these, Farnham North Lake, is today used by the Ripon Sailing Club but generally speaking public access to them is limited. On this walk I set out to visit the southernmost of the four lakes which is situated just outside Knaresborough.
Arriving in the evening after work I parked at the small car park next to the ruins of Knaresborough Castle. This was a deliberate starting point as the view from the castle grounds down to the river and the viaduct is one of my favourites. After taking the obligatory picture of the viaduct and a few of the castle I then set off on the walk proper by crossing the market square to the High Street.
Heading north a short way I left the High Street by a narrow little road called 'Raw Gap' which soon turned into a broad path between the railway line on my left and the back of houses on my right. Crossing over a railway bridge I continued on a footpath, lined with bindweed, this time with the railway line on my right and first an allotment and then a park on my left.
So far so easy. The walk then took a dramatic turn when I finally left the town behind by entering a large field of cows. Regular readers of my walk reports will know that I do not like cows, but as these particular ones seemed to be well scattered, and as a woman with a couple of dogs had just walked through the field, I thought they would be fine. I was wrong.
As I got a quarter of the way across the field the cows, first singly and then in a group, began to converge on me. Several began to run towards me. Fighting a rising panic I looked for an escape route. The only nearby exit was a nearby fence made up of three lines of barbed wire. Unable to cross this I carried on trying to remain as calm as possible. I then spotted a gate a bit further on and thought salvation was at hand. Unfortunately the gate was open and there were more cows on the other side.
Next to the gate though was a small triangular section of wooden fence so I climbed over in to this dubious shelter. Within a minute I was surrounded on two sides by appoximately thirty cows (I say cows but they were actually bullocks). They were pushed right up against the fence on either side all staring expectantly at me. It was a bovine nightmare!!
It turned into a long stand off which only ended when I managed to get the attention of someone in their back garden across one of the fields. His attempts to gain the attention of the cows by rattling a gate in turn alerted the farmer who came up the field to rescue me. The cows scattered on his arrival and he very kindly and good naturedly escorted me in the direction I wanted to go. After being surrounded by the cows for almost half an hour I was now able to continue on my way.
It was not long before I came to another field full of cows, this time alongside my objective the lake. After my previous experience there was no way I was going in that field so I retraced my steps to Water Lane resigning myself to an alternative route following country lanes. As it happened the farmer came to my rescue again by allowing me to cross his land to reach the lake shore and follow that instead. What a refreshing change to meet someone like that.
Ironically my cow encounter had thus turned into something of a blessing as I had far better views of the lake than if I had stuck to the right of way. What a lovely lake it was too (pylons notwithstanding). Especially considering its origins as a gravel pit it now looks very natural and was home to numerous birds including a large colony of mute swans.
After walking along the lakeshore from Sweet Bits Farm to the northern end of the lake I left the lakeshore behind to join a path through trees to arrive on Hazelheads Lane. This soon turned into a nice tree fringed track which I then left to take the bridleway leading to Hopewell House, one of a number of farms that make up the small community called Hay-a-Park. For most of the next stage of the route along Hay-a-Park Lane I was walking alongside fields of wheat which looked even more golden in the evening sunshine.
Leaving Hay-a-Park Lane I had some brief navigational problems as I followed a clear track which took me further north than the very overgrown fieldside right of way. Getting back to the path, and almost back to the lakeside, I came across yet more cows. Again I wasn't ready to face more of them so I retraced my steps back to Hay-a-Park Lane and followed that until I'd passed Knaresborough Rugby Club. I then took a path on my right back to the lake. This second delay again worked in my favour as I arrived just in time to catch a lovely sunset over the waters of the lake.
Finally, after retracing my steps back to the road, it was then an easy walk back in to Knaresborough via a path running below the southern end of the lake and then via Halfpenny Lane, Stockwell Lane and Park Row. If it had not been for the cows this would have been a lovely countryside walk. On the other hand my travails with the cows had resulted in me getting better views of the lake and a lovely sunset photo.