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Nidderdale & Washburn Walks

Swarcliffe Top

Date: 21st Dec 2014
Distance: 6.0 miles
Ascent: 500 feet
Time: 2 hours 45 mins
With: Paul
Start Grid Ref: SE259587

Walk Summary:
A pleasant low level walk on the edge of the Nidderdale AONB from Hampsthwaite to the scattered houses at Swarcliffe Top then returning via the River Nidd.

Route Summary: Hampsthwaite - Tang Beck - Stock Stile Lane - Swarcliffe Top - Nidderdale Way - Ross Bridge - New Bridge - Birstwith - Nidderdale Way - Hampsthwaite

Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.

The war memorial in Hampsthwaite
Church of St. Thomas a Beckett in Hampsthwaite
Tang Beck
The 'Ducks Crossing' sign on Reynard Crag Lane
And the duck ornaments in the garden opposite
Paul looking out over a murky Nidderdale
Looking towards Birstwith
The Nidderdale Way descending alongside Wilson's Plantation
Do you think the villagers of Birstwith are fans of Judge Dredd?
The charges for the toll road via Hartwith Mill
The toll road crossing the Nidd via Ross Bridge
The River Nidd from Ross Bridge
The thin path along the old railway line
New Bridge, a superb example of a packhorse bridge
The River Nidd between Birstwith and Hampsthwaite

Walk Detail: After enjoying two consecutive days of sunny, if windy weather, for walks in the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales the forecast the weather was always unlikely to hold for a third consecutive walking day. Indeed with weather warnings out for storm force winds and heavy rain I figured it was time to pay the piper and for the first time I actually put my waterproof trousers on before leaving the house.

Mainly due to the forecast I'd abandoned my initial hopes to go exploring the moors around Washburn Head and instead settle for a lower level walk in lower Nidderdale not far from Harrogate. Paul was similarly togged up for a battle with the elements but as we set off from Hampsthwaite it didn't take us long to wonder what had happened to the wind. It was murky and there was a bit of drizzle but there was barely a breeze. On the one hand this undoubtedly made the walk more enjoyable as a result but there was a small part of me that actually felt rather cheated!

This was a simple little walk, after leaving Hampsthwaite from the back of the churchyard we then took a path through a number of pastures following the course of Tang Beck - an attractive little stream. After passing the driveway to Birstwith Hall we then followed a mixture of minor roads and field paths to the scattered houses of Swarcliffe Top. At one farm, on Reynard Crag Lane, there were some small statues of some ducks on the front lawn, an amusing counterpart to the 'Beware Ducks Crossing' sign on the roadside.

Below Reynard Crag Farm we joined the Nidderdale Way, dropping down alongside Wilson's Plantation to reach Darley Road. Turning west briefly we then crossed the River Nidd at Ross Bridge, part of a small toll road that charges 35p for cars. As pedestrians we could cross free of charge and I did wonder if anyone ever bothers using it as a road. After following the mill stream we then avoided a pasture containing some horses by taking a stile on to the old Harrogate to Pateley Bridge railway. As far as I'm aware this short stretch is not a public right of way but there was a well trodden path and we followed this to reach a very muddy pasture and then New Bridge.

New Bridge is a fabulous example of a packhorse bridge, along with Dobpark Bridge in the Washburn Valley it is one of the finest in the Nidderdale AONB. Crossing over New Bridge we followed the riverside footpath into Birstwith, walked around the side of the large flour mill and continued along the Nidderdale Way to reach the road which we followed back to Hampsthwaite.

This was a pleasant little ramble in an area that has particular meaning for me. Many of my ancestors, on the maternal side, came from Hampsthwaite and when in the area I often go and visit the war memorial which contains the names of two of my great-great uncles. It was nice to meet up again for a walk with Paul, hopefully next time though the weather will be better and we can go and do something a bit more adventurous.

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