Walking in Yorkshire
The proud inhabitants of Yorkshire once defended their beloved county from their arch enemies the Lancastrians, during the Wars of the Roses. Its borders finally succumbed to the vagaries of modern bureaucracy, having been dissected in the name of progress. A sizable part, North Yorkshire, remains a county of that name; the rest has become either Unitary or Metropolitan Authorities. In the interests of common sense we will consider here the historic Ridings of Yorkshire. None of this, of course, affects the reality of Yorkshire's magnificent natural landscape, or its unquestionable claim to contain some of the finest walking countryside in England. We have yet to meet the rambler who has tired of walking in Yorkshire.
The gems of the region are the National Parks, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, with their very different but equally beautiful scenery; but Yorkshire's abundant beauty has plenty more to offer in the lovely peaceful Wolds north of the Humber and in the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale, two additional Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Even all these fabulous areas do not exhaust the possibilities of great walks. For example, the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast offers breathtaking walks along high cliffs cut by bays and wooded 'wykes' and crowned by dramatic headlands. Yorkshire is also home to four of Britain’s National Trails, The Cleveland Way, a roller coaster around the North York Moors from Helmsley to the coast; The Yorkshire Wolds Way through peaceful fields and over gentle chalk hills; part of the mighty Pennine Way making its way from the Peak District to Scotland, and the Pennine Bridleway.
North York Moors
The North York Moors National Park contains the largest continuous expanse of open heather moorland in England. These wild and remote moors have a wild drama of their own and are home to precious wildlife such as curlew and merlin. The Park comes to an abrupt end at high cliffs on the east coast, interspersed with wide sweeping bays and with attractive fishing villages such as Robin Hood's Bay and Staithes huddled against the cliffs. Two long distance paths immerse the walker in the glories of the Moors. The Cleveland Way National Trail follows the northern perimeter across heather moorland and continues down the Heritage coast; the Lyke Wake Walk defiantly crosses the highest open moorland from Osmotherley to Ravenscar. but there are numerous circular day walks in which you can explore and savour the moors.
The delightful, rolling Hambleton Hills, on the edge of the North York Moors, provide excellent walking country and hold many surprises: the imposing medieval remains of Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle; picturesque villages like Coxwold and Kilburn; landmarks such as the White Horse of Kilburn, Sutton Bank and Lake Gormire; and surrounding all are miles of open moorland just waiting to be explored. The Cleveland Hills, with their rugged, swarthy appearance, stretch from Teeside in the north, through the Guisborough Moors, to the imposing Cleveland Escarpment, and beyond to the foot of the Hambletons. The area includes the picturesque villages of Great Ayton and Osmotherley; hidden valleys like Bilsdale and Scugdale; and landmarks such as Roseberry Topping.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park covers a unique area of limestone which features dramatic cliffs and gorges, the famous limestone pavements and a landscape of pastoral valleys patterned with dry-stone walls, barns and stone built villages. There are numerous attractive streams and waterfalls and, typical of limestone hills, the streams often vanish into labyrinths of caves, channels and shafts that honeycomb the rock. Walks to Aysgarth Falls make wonderful family outings with breath-taking waterfalls and a walk from Askrigg taking in Mill Gill Force and Whitfield Gill Force is well worth while.
On the fells, millstone grit often overlies the limestone, giving a bleaker, heather-covered aspect to the Park. In late spring and autumn the fells are a blaze of colour with curlew, snipe, redshank and buzzards soaring overhead. A walk up onto Great Shunner Fell, one of the few summits traversed by the Pennine Way, provides fine views from the top.
The lush green meadows of the dales, with their wild flowers and the clear bright water of the quieter rivers, provide an inviting contrast to the drama of the fells. Nidderdale is the smallest of the Yorkshire Dales, between Grassington in the west and Ripon to the east; Harrogate is at its south-west corner and Middleham is the northerly point. Within this compact area there are 55 glorious miles of unspoilt paradise. Lying just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale is a peaceful place to visit, and the upper Dale is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Six Dales Trail starts in Otley and winds across the entire length of the superb Nidderdale AONB to end at Middleham in Wensleydale. Along its 38 mile length is everything from steep pastures to high heather moorland and stretches along fast flowing rivers to paths through 18th century parkland.
Wath in Nidderdale
Tucked beneath a fold in the surrounding hills Wath is a small hamlet in Upper Nidderdale, just north of Pateley Bridge and almost at the foot of the Gouthwaite Reservoir dam. This is a Conservation village located in a quiet less commercialised area of the Yorkshire Dales, although Upper Nidderdale is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
A Walk from Wath [SE 145678] OS Maps: Explorer™ 298
This walk leaves Wath heading south along the lane out of the village and then takes Wath Lane on the left at Windy Nook Cottage. The route begins climbing steeply up the valley side and there are stunning views back from here north-west looking over Gouthwaite Reservoir. Continue past a lane on the right then leave Wath Lane, taking a path on the right near a small conifer plantation. The route descends through the massive abandoned Scot Gate quarry. Shortly after passing Scot Gate Cottage turn right along a dismantled railway bed following a sign to Pateley Bridge. Pass through the town heading for the River Nidd and then follow the Nidderdale Way northwards along a lovely riverside path back to Wath. About 3.5 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
Sportsman's Arms, Wath Tel: 01423 711306 (Good Pub Guide)
This 17th century mellow sandstone building next to a river dimpled with trout is immensely inviting like a favourite grandfather clock. Buffed and burnished with the smell of beeswax, it ticks on in that slow and incomparably English way, marvellously archaic wintertime coal and log fires and candlelight adding to a timeless sense of hospitality. The food is excellent and they use the best local produce; game from the moors, fish delivered daily from Whitby, and Nidderdale lamb, pork and beef. There are seats outside in the pretty garden. Accommodation is available.
The Wolds, sweeping in an arc from the Humber Bridge to Bridlington on the coast, provide a scaled down landscape full of beauty and with a peaceful backwater atmosphere. There are no towns of any real size within the Wolds and walking here can be a relaxing tranquil experience in good weather. The strength of the Wolds lies in the underlying chalk, for from this bedrock stems its gentleness and boundless charm. Severe contrasts are rare in this peaceful landscape, where the great appeal is the subtleness of the harmonies.
Between the Wolds and the North York Moors lie the Vale of Pickering and the market towns of Malton, Helmsley and Pickering. Just north west of Helmsley in the wooded Rye Valley stand the splendid ruins of Rievaulx Abbey; the setting and graceful architecture give a sense of grandeur to this religious site and it provides the focus for a number of enjoyable walks including a route from Helmsley.
Redcar and Cleveland
Redcar is very much the holiday resort of Cleveland. The town has three beaches and several long rocky reefs jutting out to sea creating a breakwater which is notoriously dangerous for shipping. Quieter and more attractive locations for walking in the area are around the small town of Guisborough with a wide main street with mellow stone buildings and a market cross; or the fishing village of Staithes with its quaint steep alleyways and fishermen's cottages. Captain James Cook lived here in a cottage near the harbour which unfortunately no longer exists. From Staithes, Cowber Lane leads to Boulby Cliff, two miles west along the coast, and which at 700ft., is the highest perpendicular cliff in England.
South west of Redcar lies the pretty village of Great Ayton, nestling at the foot of the northern ridge of the moors. From the village of Newton, two miles back towards Redcar you can climb the distinctive Roseberry Topping. This local landmark, at 1057ft., offers wonderful views of the North Sea, the valleys and the moorlands and is well worth the climb. Captain James Cook also lived at Great Ayton, where he went to school. The monument to Captain Cook on Easby Moor nearby is another landmark which cannot be missed.
The Cleveland Street Walk covers a distance of approximately 11 miles between the towns of Guisborough and Loftus. Much of the footpath is across rolling countryside following an ancient track used for centuries as a right of way. You can begin the walk at either end as there is a frequent bus service between the two. Known at times as 'via de Witbei', 'Back Street' and 'Cleveland Street', history tells us this route was once a major pedestrian highway, probably linking the priories of Guisborough and Whitby. Its a changed landscape since the founding of Guisborough Priory in 1119AD; however, with a little imagination you can picture the monks tending their crops and fishing the medieval carp ponds to the rear of the priory. At Slapewath a number of railway branch lines crossed and went to various mines; the most impressive reminder of this period is the fine eleven arch Waterfall viaduct, visible through the trees by Spa Wood. Beyond Slapewath the path rises to give views across to Margrove Park and Charltons. These villages were of a particularly high quality and housed miners who worked nearby. You can email us for a free pdf copy of this leaflet.
Ripon and the Vale of York
North of York the river system of the Wiske, Swale and Ure flow southwards across a broad expansive valley between the North York Moors in the east and the Yorkshire Dales in the west. Not far north of York the Nidd also joins this great river system which then becomes the Ouse flowing through York. This is a rich fertile region with rolling farmlands and a pleasant perspective, the hills providing a protective backdrop to east and west. The width, flatness and consequent ease of travel have made the Vale of York a major thoroughfare since prehistoric times; there are a number of standing stones and curious ceremonial circles which bear witness to this fact. The Roman's too, took advantage of the geography and drove Dere Street, straight as an arrow, up the middle of the Vale. They built a town here called Isurium, near Aldborough.
Ripon, a small market town, which nevertheless has a splendid cathedral, is situated at the western side of the Vale of York, beneath the limestone hills of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The rectangular market place in the centre of the town is dominated by a large obelisk and is the focal point for a number of narrow winding streets. There are a couple of shops in the square from which you can purchase delicious sandwiches for a picnic.
Fountains Abbey: Just four miles west of Ripon is one of the most remarkable places in Europe and a World Heritage Site; Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. A visit to the abbey can be combined with a wonderful and fascinating walk around Studley Deer Park. Benedictine monks founded the abbey, one of the most beautiful in England, in 1133 and it developed into one of the most prosperous in England due to its connection with the wool trade. Today the majestic medieval ruin is amongst the best preserved in the country. The setting is superb, with the Georgian water garden's elegant ornamental lakes, canals, temples and cascades providing a succession of dramatic eye-catching vistas. The site also includes an Elizabethan mansion and St. Mary's Church which provides a majestic focus to the medieval deer park, home to 500 deer and a wealth of flora and fauna. The site is jointly managed by the National Trust and English Heritage and walking maps can be obtained from the visitor centre near the main car park at the western entrance off the road from Ripon. There are a number of lovely views along the walk including a dramatic view of the Abbey. From Plumpton Hall, a restored medieval farmhouse, there is a good view of Ripon and the cathedral. In the steep rocky gorge of the River Skell, known as the Valley of the Seven Bridges, the path goes over a series of packhorse bridges.
Map: OS Explorer 299 Ripon and Boroughbridge, Easingwold.
Yorkshire Walking Routes
North Yorkshire County Council have prepared a range of local walks covering much of their region including the North York Moors National Park. These routes are available to download as pdf files. The website link is www.northyorks.gov.uk/article/24051/Local-circular-walks
Penistone Hill Geology Trail, Haworth
This walking route combines sculptures and geology to create a fascinating trail through a long forgotten chapter of the South Pennines industrial heritage. The Penistone Hill Geology Trail, a short circular walk from Haworth Parish Church, tells the story of the heritage of the area through its rocks, from their formation millions of years ago to the men who quarried and mined the land to further man’s development.
A 20 page booklet written by Alison Tymon, chairman of the West Yorkshire Geology Trust and Steve Wood, a local historian, guides walkers around the two and a half mile trail taking in two quarries and various geological features as well as four sculptures by Stevan Tica. “The sculptures have been carved from Yorkshire stone and are used as markers along the trail,” explained Stevan, a self taught sculptor of stone and wood.
“Two of the works illustrate the origins of the landscape; the first is of a fossilised tree stump, with a few leaves and a dragonfly to represent the material that decomposed to form coal over millions of years, and the second a river channel, which shows how water carved out the landscape. The more recent history can be seen in a relief carving of a horse gin, a mechanical device used by miners to bring buckets up the mine shaft to the surface. This is the biggest sculpture weighing about a ton. And also a depiction of two quarrymen splitting a rock using the plug and feather technique,” Stevan added.
Alison explained the importance of the quarries to the area. “There’s lots of evidence of mining and quarrying, which links us to our industrial heritage. But it’s more than that; these quarries provided all the stone for the mills and dwellings in the Upper Worth valleys; most of the buildings we see here today have been built of stone from these hills.
“People have always been interested in the heritage of the mills but not so much the mines and quarries that helped to build them. Now that is changing.”
The 20-page booklet, which brings all this knowledge together, is available from visitor centres in Haworth and Hebden Bridge and costs £2.
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