Pateley Bridge Loop (and some glorious pies)

In mid-February the Pilgrim asked me if I fancied doing a recce on a new walk that involved eating ‘the best pies in the world.’ Now that’s a bit of a claim! So we did the recce with snow on the ground and now we’re here again for a summertime treat…

Here’s a couple of snaps from the Recce in February – bit chilly

She’d identified a lovely walk and there was the combined draw of ‘half-term-holidays’ and a window in the weather that had been a bit snowy the previous few week and had left deep drifts here and there. It was a lovely walk and we’d talked about doing it again with the ‘Ramblings Team’ so now, in glorious mid-summer we’re on our way back to Pateley Bridge where we’ll meet the boys with the intention of an action replay.

The weather is unbroken sunshine as we negotiate our way from York, through Knaresbrough skirting Ripon and along beautiful Nidderdale on the road that will be easily identifiable from the top of the ridge in a couple of hours or so.

We park in Pateley Bridge near the bridge. There are two car parks either side of the river and both a very reasonable £1.80 for the day. 

A coffee has been beckoning as a precursor to the walk and the Pancake cafe is staffed by the most delightful people so a couple of americanos later we’re fully charged and raring to go.

We’ve established contact with the rest of the team; however, there is a mandatory detour to Weatherheads’ and/or Kendalls’ for some pork pies. You can ask anyone in Pateley Bridge which is the best pie shop and my experience shows that they will remain on-the-fence. “They’re both the best”, is the consensus, you may be able to get more out of them if you held a gun at their head with a prompt sheet indicating your preferred answer but all of the neutrals will recommend both. Sometime in the future, our intention is to do a randomised, blind and anonymous test but I think that’s more to do with wanting an excuse to eat more fabulous pies rather than any interest in the outcome; I’ll let you know.

Chris built the building at the left a number of years ago – still here now – excellent.

Back to the walk. We traverse the bridge and pick up the boys who are waving enthusiastically to attract our attention. The sun appears from behind a cloud and obligingly lights up Yorke’s Folly so we point it out to the others to indicate our fist way-marker; actually, the first way-marker is a farm just down the road but the moment is too good to miss.  

Looking back, Pateley is framed in blue-skies with odd fluffy cumulus; it’s easy to see why it featured in both the 2017 and 2018 Sunday Times “Best Places to Live” list. Janet Street-Porter recognised the beauty more than thirty years ago and became an honorary Yorkshire-Woman many moons back but she never mastered the accent.

Our way is up the hill and bear left at the fork through Bewerley village where we have the option of turning right on Peat Lane or take the far more scenic route through Fishpond Wood by taking the track immediately before the lane.

The wood is full of rooks, I can declare this using the following illustration:-

A crow in a crowd is a rook,
A rook on its own is a crow.

The track is well maintained although we do have to take a little care where the tree roots have created natural obstacles that can be slipped upon when wet and tripped over when dry; they vary in their moistness and manage to double the peril. We are, of course, ready with cameras should any or our little group become the cabaret and slip, trip or combine the two in a compound reversed pike with point 8 degrees of difficulty; broken bones apart, we’re ready!

The track leads us past a beautiful glade complete with pond lit up by the sun that has obligingly made an appearance at an opportune moment for the second time today and we’re less than half-an-hour into our walk. There is no wind in the wood so the pond is initially flat calm then we’re lucky enough to see a newt surface and disappear again leaving a trail of bubbles leaving the odd ripple to make the tree reflections wobble on the surface. There’s also some swifts skimming the water and feeding off the bugs and flying insects that hover in animated clouds at the periphery of the pond where the vegetation hangs and dips into the water opposite our track. There are three birds so I can officially declare a ‘swoop’ of swifts, I’m told the other collective noun is a ‘box’ but I find the former far more descriptive. 

We leave the wood to ensure we’re on Peat Lane before ‘False Teeth Bridge’, yes, I know it doesn’t scan right but that’s what the locals call it.  It’s little more than a reinforced concrete slab with a fence; however, it does have a unique feature; it has teeth, false teeth. Rumour has it that the guy that built it wanted to add a soul to it and what better way than to get it to smile. It’s certainly the happiest bridge that I’ve seen.

We turn into the Strikes Wood which gets me out of trying to explain the origin of Middle Tongue Bank. We traverse another less interesting bridge and start the ascent through the woods. There are fewer rooks here but they’re more than made up for in cooing wood pigeons. If you walk this route do look out for the huge stones that have found themselves at all kinds of angles and attitudes. How they got there and became tilted at angles that seem impossible no-one knows.

At the edge of the wood, we find ourselves looking across a meadow that sustains trees on either side and when trees, meadow and sky are viewed together then Nidderdale has a natural frame that’s breathtaking, we pause…

We ascend further and exit the trees to plunge into deep ferns and the odd piece of bracken. It’s all very beautiful but does have the effect of slowing us for a while. 

At the top we cross a minor road and join the track again still going up but we have an objective now, we can see Yorke’s Folly and it encourages a spurt of energy that sees it achieved in just a few minutes. It was originally three columns but one of them was blown down in a storm in 1893 hence the nickname of Two Stoops. The Yorke family commissioned it when there was no work which meant they could pay the locals to build it as it was frowned upon to give or expect charity.

It’s good place to stop for a snack and a drink, it also gives us the opportunity to explore it and admire the view.

Twenty minutes later and we’re on our way to rejoin the Nidderdale Way through a small gap come style in the wall. If you follow this route, now is the time to be careful as there are gaps, ravines and fissures that have been exposed by weathering and temperature. They’re covered in vegetation and all but invisible so think-on. We spot a huge rock and decide that it’s an ideal place for a photograph so after a quick risk assessment we gather on its edge for the mandatory snap. Just as we line up there’s a noise from the side and we discover a climber and engage him in conversation. 

“What’s it like climbing these rocks”, the question is delivered by one of us whilst his buddy hold him back in anticipation of a fall – the rest of the group have obviously got their cameras trained on the pair of them for the same reason. 

“Dunno, I’ve never finished one yet”, comes the response and on closer inspection there is quite a lot of padding at the bottom of the rock immediately below our rooky climber. I suppose we all have to start somewhere.

We’re back on the trail and our new objective is the repeater station about a mile or so along the ridge. We have glorious heather on our right stretching as far as we can see, it’s about a week from full flowering maturity but beautiful in its promise. To our left is a few bushes and beyond is the fabulous stretch of Nidderdale from Pateley Bridge to Glasshouses.

At the repeater station, we walk another half mile to High Hood gap then turn and start our descent through the fields eventually entering Guisecliff Wood following a surreptitious pee behind the drystone wall.

The wood is primaeval; there are stones, unbelievably huge stones the size of the proverbial double-decker and trees that have fallen across their counterparts creating bug-hotels and nesting facilities and all of this is covered in green lichen so green that it glows. We’re treated to all this as we undulate along the track. Our pee break has put us behind and we can see the boys further down the bank of the wooded valley making their way along the lower parts of the track and disappointingly missing the Guisecliff Tarn which is the next waypoint.

We bear off and visit this wonderful little lake. It’s as still as can be with no wind, no birds, no newts to see and only a lucky few bugs hanging in small clouds but not being picked off by bird or any other predator, they’ll never know their luck! We stop for a couple of minutes to take it in and breath the smell, it’s definitely worth the tiny detour, please do it if you pass this way.

We emerge from the wood towards the base of the valley passing yet another meadow complete with Lady’s mantle, common knapweed, eyebright, devil’s-bit scabious, oxeye daisy, rough hawkbit, water avens, meadowsweet, wood cranesbill, cat’s-ear, melancholy thistle and sneezewort. I take no credit for the list, it was a notice clipped to a fence pole and I offer it as is.

We cross the Nidd at Glassehouses Bridge and join the Six Dales Trail hugging the Nidd with its mill race and weir reentering Pateley Bridge and, without exception, ready for a coffee.

This walk is just over six miles (short of 10km). It’ll get you out of breath, especially at the start but not difficult; however, do be careful at the top with the mini-ravines, they’re well hidden and could be dangerous. 

Feel free to share for less able friends. 

Enjoy the snaps…G..x

Thanks George Renwick, Chris Richardson, Peter Hymer, Dave Bowman, George Preston and the Pilgrim. 

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