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Yorkshire Dales Walks

Cover Banks & Witton Fell

Date: 26th Feb 2015
Distance: 9.5 miles
Ascent: 1324 feet
Time: 4 hours 25 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SE143859

Walk Summary:
A walk in Coverdale featuring riverside rambling along Cover Banks and rougher walking on Braithwaite Moor and Witton Fell.

Route Summary: East Witton - Cover Bridge - Cover Banks - Hullo Bridge - Braithwaite Lane - Hanghow Pastures - Flamstone Pin - Strut Stear - Braithwaite Moor - Witton Fell - Sowden Beck Road - East Witton

Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.

The 1882 Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in East Witton
The large village green in East Witton
Cover Bridge
The confluence of the Cover and Ure just downstream from Cover Bridge
Snowdrops by the River Cover
A lovely wooded section of path alongside the River Cover
After heavy rainfall overnight the Cover was in full flow
A mossy log in Cover Banks
The River Cover and Cover Scar
Looking across the Cover towards Braithwaite Moor
Hullo Bridge
Braithwaite Hall
An old barn on Hanghow Pastures
Looking down on the faint outline of the Castle Steads fort
The Flamstone Pin cairn looking towards Pen Hill
Middleham from Flamstone Pin
The view south-west towards Great Roova Crag and upper reaches of Coverdale
Looking towards Witton Fell from Strut Stear
Another view of the gritstone boulder called Strut Stear
Pinker's Pond, Middleham Low Moor and Leyburn from Braithwaite Moor
Witton Fell
A close up of Middleham Castle from Braithwaite Moor
One of the disused pits I passed as I crossed Braithwaite Moor
The track leading on to Witton Fell
The trig point on Witton Fell
The crag just north of the trig point
Looking down to the River Ure and the village of Thornton Steward
Descending along Sowden Beck Road
Looking down on East Witton
Back in East Witton

Walk Detail: Coverdale is a valley often overlooked by walkers. I am as guilty as anyone, out of almost 150 walks in the Yorkshire Dales I had only ever set foot in Coverdale twice prior to this walk. My plan for this outing was to explore the eastern end of Coverdale, including a visit to the place where the River Cover flows into the Ure.

The starting point for the walk was East Witton, a village I have driven through many times on the way to Wensleydale but which I'd never previously stopped in. There was ample roadside parking on the main street on the south side of the large village green. After a quick look at a couple of old water pumps on the green and the Methodist chapel from 1882 I left the village heading north to drop down to the Cover just short of Cover Bridge.

Crossing over the road at the bridge I continued along the south bank of the river to reach its confluence with the Ure. This was the second major waters meet on the Ure that I'd recently visited, the other occasion being a couple of weeks before when I'd been to the point where the Swale meets the Ure much further downstream while doing the Myton Loops walk.

Retracing my steps to Cover Bridge I crossed over to access a path heading upstream on the north bank of the river. The next couple of miles along Cover Banks were very pleasant. In the early stages there were snowdrops in abundance and throughout there were nice stretches of woodland. After heavy rain overnight the river was in full flow, especially where it narrowed due to the limestone cliffs on the opposite bank.

Upon reaching Hullo Bridge I stopped for my lunch (I hadn't set off until 11am) before leaving the river behind on a bridleway climbing up to the minor road below Braithwaite Hall. After a short stretch along the road I then took a path gradually climbing across Hanghow Pastures. Eventually I accessed a track climbing up to the moor above Castle Stead, the site of an Iron Age fort.

I didn't stay on the track for long as I wanted to visit the cairn marked on the map as 'Flamstone Pin'. Despite the name this proved to be a fairly flat pile of rocks, but while the cairn itself disappointed the view most certainly did not. Dominating the scene across the valley was the profile of Pen Hill. To the south-west, beyond the outline of Great Roova Crag, I could see all the way to the head of Coverdale and the Wharfedale giants of Great Whernside and Buckden Pike.

Leaving the cairn the next feature of interest was a large gritstone boulder which, due to its location, must be the curiously named 'Strut Stear' that is marked on the map. The next couple of miles across Braithwaite Moor were largely pathless. Fortunately the heather was not too thick and, after a line of disused colliery pits, I eventually came across a thin path leading on to a wider track and thence on to the plantation edge on Witton Fell.

Witton Fell is not on access land and nor are there any public rights of way to the top of it. There are however some wide, if muddy, tracks. Judging by the number of tyre marks, foot prints and horseshoe prints it there is a certain amount of traffic along them. Indeed after visiting the trig point someone passed me on a quad bike. Half expecting to be told off he merely smiled and said good afternoon as he drove past.

The trig point itself was easily accessible from the track. Immediately to the east of the trig point was a plantation of fairly short and rather windblown trees. A view of sorts could still be had to the west but in time this will become obscured by the growing saplings that have been planted nearby. Just to the north of the trig point I visited a small gritstone crag above a much more substantial plantation.

Returning to the track I continued east until I reached Sowden Beck Road which is a right of way. I then followed this minor road all the way back down to East Witton. Highlights of this final section were the views across lower Wensleydale and the moment when a patch of sunlight lit up East Witton Church. This was an enjoyable ramble with plenty of contrasts. It has certainly whetted my appetite to explore more of Coverdale.

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