Yorkshire Dales Walks
Date: 9th November 2013
Distance: 7.5 miles
Ascent: 1226 feet
Time: 3 hours 45 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NZ169011
A fabulous walk from Richmond along Whitcliffe Scar enjoying great views of Swaledale before returning by banks of the River Swale.
Route Summary: Richmond - Westfields - Whitcliffe Farm - Whitcliffe Scar - Deepdale - Low Applegarth - Whitecliffe Wood - Reeth Road - Hudswell Woods - Richmond Bridge - Richmond
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: In my first few years of hillwalking in the Yorkshire Dales I very much had the aim of summit bagging, first the Nuttalls and Hewitts, and then later on the Deweys. During that period somewhere like Whitcliffe Scar wouldn't have really registered on my radar. These days having a summit to bag is not the be all and end all of a walk which is just as well as otherwise I'd miss out on wonderful walks like this one.
The forecast for the day was for heavy showers and some sunshine. Luckily I didn't catch a shower until close to the end of the walk and for the first half at least I enjoyed some glorious weather. Starting from the large car park on Victoria Road I set off up Westfields. Whilst the map suggests the right of way continues along this back road part way up a stile gives access to the fields alongside which certainly provide a more scenic walk than carrying on up the lane.
Eventually the track had to be rejoined, but only for a short while, and at High Leases there was a short climb up to a corner of Whitecliff Wood. After following the top edge of the wood for a while the views up Swaledale opened up wonderfully. The path for the next couple of miles, until I dropped down into Deepdale, proved to be a quite super promenade above this part of Swaledale.
Apart from the glorious views there are two noticeable features along Whitcliffe Scar. The first is Willance's Leap, the site of Robert Willance's lucky escape when, in November 1606, whilst riding in mist, he and his horse plunged almost 200ft off the edge. The poor horse died but Willance, despite two broken legs, survived through the night to be found the next day. To commemorate his lucky escape, and his unfortunate horse, Willance erected a stone at the site of his leap. Subsequent memorials to his adventure have been added including an obelisk that was built in 1906 to mark the tercentenary of Willance's Leap.
The other feature, not directly on the path, is a nice little outcrop of rock just as the edge curves round into Deep Dale. It is worth the fairly steep but short descent to reach the rocks which include the flat-topped specimen that local walker and photographer Colin Gregory has christened the 'Dinner Stone'. It certainly made a good place to stop for my lunch and I spent sometime there enjoying the view both up and down the dale.
After the lovely views of the first half of the walk the return to Richmond was via field paths, woodland and alongside the River Swale itself. Being in November the woodland stretches, first in Whitecliffe Wood, and then in Hudswell Woods, were particularly colorful. Although the forecast rain showers finally caught up with me towards the end of the walk I was largely kept dry by the trees and the final part of the walk on rocky slabs right next to the river was particularly enjoyable.
This was a great walk and considering the excellence of the scenery it is somewhat surprising to add that at no point did I actually set foot in the national park itself. The nearest I got was Deepdale which is right on the edge of the park boundary.