Grewelthorpe is a nice village near Ripon, and near the quite gruelling but enchanting Hack Fall Woods, which were a popular and picturesque tourist attraction in the 18th and 19th centuries and apparently featured in all the best guides.

We left Grewelthorpe, its pond and numerous ducks, and took a roundabout way to the woods down a slope of small pastures and large fields, collecting views over the flatlands to the North York Moors.

This brought us out at the village of Mickley where, to quote an old Red Guide, 'the river falls over a wide weir - an attractive place for a picnic'. Actually there were two weirs - one a bit upriver is out of bounds - so we picnicked in dappled sunlight near romantic mill ruins and watched the River Ure run high and fast over any remnants of weir number two.

Then we took the Riverside Path, also the known as the Ripon Rowel, through the Hack Fall Woods.

"Stick to the muddiest bit you can find and you'll be all right," said a walker coming the other way. Actually, for most of the time the path was sound, except for spring-fed squelches.

Arthur Mee described the scene thus in 1941 - 'The River Ure flows through a valley once more charming than it is today, but still beautiful in thickly wooded dingles, water falling in cascades, scars of naked rock, and fine views'.

Hack Fall Woods have lost their Victorian fame, their landscaping gone bush with follies decayed, but they have acquired new fans. A Woodland Trust sign read 'Visitors are welcome to walk in our woods'. Pendulous sedges crowded the footpath, fungi sprouted in brown, black, orange and white. It remains nature-rich and gothic.

After a long and looping mile we left the river and took some worn steps to Fisher's Hall, the skeleton of an octagonal pavilion which is lined with tufa, a weird limestone that forms at springs and underground.

This left us essentially at the bottom of a gully and two or three hundred feet directly below Grewelthorpe. The steep climb was perked up by a sparkling stream of a hundred cascades and at the top, uplifted but muddy boot drained, we felt we had earned the signpost directing 'Way out to village'.

Fact file

Distance: More than five miles

Time: Four hours

General Location: Six miles north west of Ripon

Start: Grewelthorpe

Right of Way: This route is along public rights of way, a usage section, and permissive paths.

Date walked: Saturday, October 26, 2002

Road Route: Via Ripon

Car parking: Roadside in village

Lavatories: None

Refreshments: The Crown at Grewelthorpe, no food Mondays

Tourist and Public Transport Information: Ripon TIC 01765 604625

Map: Based on OS Explorer 298 Nidderdale

Terrain: Wooded valley

Points of interest: Buildings and dry stone walls made of naturally rounded stones

Difficulty: Physically and mentally energetic

Dogs: Suitable

Weather forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From church, left along road, pass pond, 100 yards, fieldgate on left to grassy track (signed), 100 yards, fieldgate to hedged path. Ignore left turn.

2. The following describe a gentle descent across pastures to meet road: about ten yards from gate at path end, stile on right (signed) and immediately left, 100 yards, stile, 1 o'clock, 100 yards stile, 10 o'clock, stile, 1 o'clock, stile remains, 11 o'clock, fieldgate, 10 o'clock for 50 yards, squeezer, 50 yards, right across field (barns 100 yards to right), fieldgate in bottom corner (dog on lead sign), right to track, 100 yards, gateway, left to track, 25 yards, 1 o'clock across field, right to track.

3. Stile/fieldgate and right to road, 100 yards, fieldgate on left to track (signed).

4. Fieldgate into wood. On the OS maps and waymarked on the ground, the route goes immediately left across shallow valley, but this is overgrown so go 100 yards further along track, then left to faint path through vegetation for 100 yards, loop right around tree by stepping over fence twice, rejoin path, slightly boggy area then path angles gently up wooded slope.

5. Stiles then field-edge path (hedge on left), dog-leg left and right (gap in bales, hedge to right), double fieldgates, barn, track downhill to Mickley, left to road.

6. For look at old mill and River Ure, track on right after Mill House (last house, no sign).

7. After village, road uphill to bend, path on right (signed Riverside Path), 100 yards, ignore right fork at hairpin bend. Path dips and climbs, eventually contouring after about half a mile about 100 yards below edge of wood.

8. Look out for a 'three step hollow' like a sunken path, which you cross, 25 yards then right fork to path (the other path will lead you uphill, steep, in a side valley to the fields after about 300 yards).

9. Ford stream and up stone steps to folly, 50 yards and fork left (signpost other way). Follow streamside path. At islands and 25 yards before path disintegrates, take a good path on the right, 25 yards, left to path. Left fork (signed Way Out To Village) to rejoin path near stream. Cross an incoming stream (ignore stile on right), steps on right up to path, cross stream by road, left to road back into village (no pavement).

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 10:09 Saturday, November 02, 2002