Bob’s tales from the banks of the River Nidd

A scene from Bob’s journey along the River Nidd

A scene from Bob’s journey along the River Nidd

A scene from Bob’s journey along the River Nidd

A scene from Bob’s journey along the River Nidd

A scene from Bob’s journey along the River Nidd

A scene from Bob’s journey along the River Nidd

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First published in Features
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BOB ADAMS has a long held fascination with the River Nidd, but he’s only just got round to exploring it. Last time we caught up with Bob he had reached Knaresborough. Now he heads to Ripley and then on into the Dales and some very different scenery.

Day three: Knaresborough to Ripley, approximately seven miles

IN CONTRAST to day two, this was a walk dedicated to nature and a bit of railway history. I was accompanied by Gus, who knows a lot about birds and brought along his dysfunctional binoculars (only one less focuses properly).

Despite this he was able to identify a number of birds. We passed through the Nidd Gorge proper through what remains of the medieval Royal Forest that originally stretched for more than 20 miles from east to west and was a favoured hunting place of King John, previously mentioned in relation to his trip to Saint Robert. He owned Knaresborough Castle so didn’t have far to go.

We caught the 8.01am train from Poppleton and soon after were walking down Water Bag Bank. We crossed the Nidd at the road bridge passing the Black and White House. Knaresborough is such a beautiful town with its castle, river and crags. It was misty but there was hope of some sun later.

We ascended the hill on a marked path called the Harrogate Ringway. Ideally we should have carried on, but were tempted by a path to the river bank which soon petered out into mud and impassable vegetation so we had to go up the hill again.

Near some houses was a curious field filled with old car tires in columns surrounding small trees, holes dug in the ground and posts. All a bit sinister. It took us some time to find our way back to the Nidd gorge path. Moral; keep to the path.

The route then followed the gorge and was delightful. Much has been written on this walk so I will refrain from saying much more apart from suggesting you try it. It is a haven for ancient trees and birds.

I can reliably inform you that Gus identified loads including, in no particular order: wrens, a tree creeper, a heron (I knew that one), a marsh tit (lots of other more common tits), a dipper, bullfinches, chiffchaff, a blackcap and a pied and a grey wagtail. We heard and caught a glimpse of a greater spotted woodpecker. On occasion we were able to walk on duck boards to avoid mud.

The Nidd gorge supported a number of water mills in the 18th century and we passed two weirs. The largest of these provided water for the Scotton Flax Mill and Bilton Mill. As we lingered at the weir the sun came out which enhanced the views and the volume of birdsong.

Words cannot describe the beauty of this place so I will just provide a few more photos. The yellow plant on the opposite bank is apparently called a ‘stink’. The white flowers are from the wild garlic plant (also known as ramsons) and apparently the leaves are great with a cheese sandwich.

Day four: Ripley to Pateley Bridge, 13 Miles..

THIS was a long walk following the Nidd valley travelling west past Hampsthwaite, Birstwith and Darley, then north passing Summerbridge, Glasshouses and eventually Pateley Bridge.

As I walked, the countryside became more typical of the Yorkshire Dales with rolling hills and dry stone walls.

Notable for today was the number of mills I passed; all with their weirs and mill runs. Keeping with the industrial theme a disused railway followed most of this route, the Nidd Valley Railway, which opened in 1861 and closed in 1964.

At this point I should also mention the Synod of Nidd, which took place in the year 706 and was one of the meetings which secured the authority of the Roman church over the Celtic. It is unclear where this meeting took place but one of my sources mentions the east bank of the Nidd, probably near to Ripon.

I parked the car at the old bridge at Ripley. The river was fast flowing and full, after a day of rain, but the weather was promising with that beautiful clear light you get after a shower.

Leaving at 11.30am, I had to get to Pateley Bridge by 5.30pm to catch the last bus back.

Going up Crag Hill I could see Ripley Castle across the valley. I passed through Hampsthwaite while on the phone; a problem to solve that was resolved as I left the village. I did manage to spot an attractive village green and a crowd of walkers about to follow me as I had joined a section of the Nidderdale Way.

This is a long established 53 mile walk that straddles the Nidd valley from Ripley up to the moors around Lofthouse.

Onwards to Birstwith and my first mill of the day. Walking along the mill race I spotted the bobbing tail of a rabbit ahead and noticed that lovely earthy smell you get near rivers when they are still. In the background was the machinery hum of Birstwith Mill which is now a food factory.

Birstwith church poked its spire up through the trees as I continued across playing fields and passed the weir.

Next stop was what the OS map described as ‘New’ Bridge. This was an ancient one-arched pack horse bridge, probably rebuilt in 1822 (British Listed Buildings).

Later I passed another example near Darley which had clearly been rebuilt with an iron girder under which you could still see the original steps. While taking the previous photo my lens cap dropped off into the river. Luckily it sank and I was able to reach in and get it back.

Just after the New Bridge, I stopped for lunch sitting on the stone copings of the Nidd Valley Railway. Soon after that I came across a railway cottage surrounded by a small holding. A sign said: "No F....... Way Through". The occupant was friendly though and directed me to the right of his property and up the hillside to the north of the river with a beautiful view of the valley sweeping to the north towards Summerbridge.

I passed through flower meadows radiant with buttercups edged with fox gloves. I descended through Willie’s Wood and continued along the south bank.

There were two highlights of the next section of the walk, cows on the railway and stepping stones. It is amazing how nature soon reasserts itself and cows chewing up grass where steam trains used to thunder through seems perfectly natural. Needless to say I didn’t cross the river at the stepping stones.

I had to keep up my walking pace to reach Pateley Bridge in time for the bus. Fortunately the weather was perfect. I had to play some music on my phone to get away from that well known song going round and around in my head: "Summerbridge, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind."

It didn’t work and I resolved to find another song after the village. I passed its immaculate bowls green and mill which is now a saw mill. Back along the line of the railway I passed woods to my left overhung by Abraham Crags.

Then Glasshouses came in sight on my right and I descended down to the edge of a lake and saw the most beautiful site of the day; a sign saying there was only one and a quarter miles to go. You would understand it if you had my aching legs.

Not long to go now. I walked between the lake and yet another mill race, this one blooming with purple rhododendrons, and some interesting tree roots. Then it was an easy stroll along a gravel path beside the now still Nidd to my destination.

It was not yet five o’clock, so I just had time for a pint of Timothy Taylors before catching the bus back in the direction I had come.

As it pulled away there was a thunder storm. Talk about nick of time.

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