Nidderdale & Washburn Walks
Colsterdale Moor & Birk Gill
Date: 16th February 2014
Distance: 10.2 miles
Ascent: 1200 feet
Time: 5 hours 20 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SE153809
A fine walk in and above Colsterdale and its side valley of Birk Gill including a visit to the impressive Lobley Crags.
Route Summary: Gollinglith Foot - Coal Road - Shooting House - Slee House Gill - House Gill - Colsterdale Moor - Slip Wath - Red Way - Caldbergh Moor Shooting House - Hanging Stones - Backstone Gill Head - Lobley Crags - Brown Beck Crags - Gollinglith Foot
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Colsterdale is a lovely and largely unfrequented valley on the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales that was ommitted from the Yorkshire Dales National Park when it was created in 1954. This oversight was partly corrected when the area was included in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty when it was formed in 1994.
My two previous trips to Colsterdale have been in late August when the heather was in full bloom so the colour purple always springs to mind when I think of the valley. However, prior to this walk, it had been almost seven years since I'd last set foot there so I thought it was high time I went back. The plan this time was to devise a route including some of the more remote features I'd not previously visited. These included the lonely trig point on Colsterdale Moor and some of the many gritstone outcrops on Colsterdale's side valley of Birk Gill.
Starting from the small parking area next to the telephone box at Gollinglith Foot I first reaquainted myself with the joys of the Coal Road, a fine track which leads deep into Colsterdale and which, as its name suggests, was once used by colliers to access some of the small coal pits on the moors above Colsterdale.
My original plan was to follow the Coal Road until I'd passed High House Farm on the opposite bank of the River Burn and then ford the river at the point the bridleway is shown as crossing. Perhaps it was due to the heavy recent rainfall but the crossing didn't look too appealing and unable to find any alternative immediately upstream I ended up working my way up to the Coal Road where it arrives at a neat looking shooting house. Here I was finally able to ford the river at a bridge.
Over the river I was able to use a broad track for the first stage of my approach to the trig point on Colsterdale Moor, however, once across House Gill it was a largely pathless trek through the heather, initially heading for a large prominent boulder before doubling back slightly north-west to reach the trig point. The Colsterdale Moor trig point is one of those trigs that isn't located near an actual summit, the view mainly consisted of the surrounding moors with the Hambleton Hills also partly in view away to the east.
The next stage meant another pathless bash through the heather to reach the Red Way, a route that crosses over into Colsterdale from Coverdale. On the map it seems to finish abruptly at some enclosures on the Colsterdale side and certainly I found it quite difficult to locate initially and it seemed to be more of a heathery ditch than an actual path. Rather bizarrely I was passed by three cyclists heading for Colsterdale, I've no idea how they were managing to cycle along it or indeed where on earth they were ultimately heading for. As I headed west the path eventually improved and by the time I arrived at the ford at Slip Wath it was almost a track. The ford itself was submerged in the waters of Barnley Beck so there was nothing for it but to wade across and get wet feet.
Upon reaching the highest point of the Red Way the views to the north suddenly opened out. Dominating the view was an impressive profile of Pen Hill with the villages of Carlton and Melmerby nestled in the valley of Coverdale below. At a crossroads I turned my back on the brief cameo from Pen Hill and followed a suiting track round to the other side of Birk Gill to a shooting house on Caldbergh Moor.
From the shooting hut to Brown Beck I took a mainly pathless route through the heather and dead bracken to visit a number of rocky outcrops, the finest of which were the Hanging Stones and Lobley Crags. Lobley Crags were particularly impressive and if access were as easier as the Slipstone Crags further down the valley I'd imagine they would be a popular venue for climbers.
I had initially planned on including Slipstone Crags towards the end of the walk but by the time I approached them I was beginning to tire from walking through the heather so instead crossed over Brown Beck where I finally picked up the route of a bridleway which contours along the northern side of Birk Gill well below the crags themselves. The bridleway itself was a fairly thin path through the heather which soon joined the popular climbers path up on to Slipstone Crags. A short final walk along the road brought me back to the parking area.
This was a hugely enjoyable, if in places rough, walk in an area largely off the beaten track. The upper most part of the Red Way and the outcrops of Lobley Crags were a revelation and it was nice to once again walk along the Coal Road. I certainly don't intend to wait so long before returning to Colsterdale again.