Nidderdale & Washburn Walks
Date: 1st September 2013
Distance: 11.3 miles
Ascent: 1633 feet
Time: 5 hours 20 minutes
Start Grid Ref: SE093734
An evening walk initially alongside the River Washburn before heading up on to Hall Moor to explore Brandrith Crags.
Route Summary: How Stean - Studfold Farm - High Blayshaw - Blayshaw Gill - Stean Moor - Meugher - Straight Stean Beck - Far Pasture - Low Riggs - How Stean
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: When I first visited the remote moorland top of Meugher back in 2005 with Matt it was almost by accident as we kept extending our walk out from Conistone in Wharfedale. For the last few years I've been meaning to tackle Meugher from the Nidderdale side but had just never got round to doing so until now. Joining me this time was my step-brother Ed who, having tackled Water Crag and Rogan's Seat earlier in the year with me, I felt confident he would be able to manage the rougher sections of walking necessary to reach Meugher.
In fact the outward leg of the walk proved to be much easier than expected. We parked at How Stean Gorge and walked back down the road a short distance before climbing up a steep lane which soon levelled off before another short climb to High Blayshaw. After a little bit of difficulty finding a suitable a place to cross Blayshaw Gill we crossed below an impressive aqueduct (a feature barely hinted at on the OS map) to join a shooting track that led almost all the way to Meugher.
The climb was steady but as we got higher the wind became increasingly strong and twice we took advantage of the shelter provided by a couple of shooting houses en-route. The lower house was built of stone, the higher one was built of timber and was plentifully stocked with cans of Fanta and Fosters. We resisted the temptation to help ourselves and it has to be said I'm not entirely sure that taking men up on to a moor with shotguns and plying them with lager is a good idea!
Not long after the track forded the head of Backstean Gill (which itself looks like it could be worth exploring on a future occasion) we left the track to strike up to the top of Meugher. From this direction there was a lot less of the thick heather and peaty dikes that make the approach from west so awkward. The only real difficulty we had was the wind which when fully exposed on the summit was really quite fierce.
Largely due to the wind we didn't stay long on the summit so made our way north to try and pick up the path that crosses over watershed between Wharfedale and Nidderdale. It was here that we finally encountered the dikes, hags, groughs and copious heather that I remember so well from my first visit. Still we managed it without too much of a problem and as we dropped down we gained a measure of shelter from the wind.
Once across Straight Stean Beck we played hide and seek with the path over the next couple of miles, eventually we gave up trying to follow it and made a beeline for the large bridge crossing Great Blowing Gill Beck. This part of the walk was quite curious due to a few diggers which, though standing silently, seem to have been used to dig up short lines of moorland so that almost resembled lines of shake holes.
Having crossed the bridge it was then an easy walk on a track as far as the farmhouse at High Riggs. The standout features of this section of the walk was the series of water works which included a number of what seemed to access shafts to an underground aqueduct. Presumably part of the same system that we'd come across at Blayshaw Gill near the start of the walk. The final part of the walk was on a pleasant enough path in the company of How Stean Beck.
This was a good walk, easier than expected in some places, rougher than expected in others. The weather wasn't great but sometimes overcast days can suit lonely moorland. In addition to Backstean Gill another feature I saw which looked worthy of future investigation was a large gritstone outcrop standing on the moor high above the confluence of Backstean Gill and Straight Stean Beck.