Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Bainbridge, Stalling Busk & Semerwater (Yorkshire Dales) - April 2015

In April (2015) we drove out to the Yorkshire Dales with the intention of undertaking our first "serious" hill walking trip of the year.  Over the winter months our walks tend to be limited to the North York Moors and Yorkshire Wolds, so come the spring I'm usually itching to strike out a bit further afield.  This year, what with one thing or another, we'd left it a bit later than usual and I was itching to get out there and onto higher ground.

Our base for the weekend was Hawes and my plan was to complete a circular walk to Hardraw, up Great Shunner Fell, across to Lovely Seat and then back into Hawes via Sedbusk.  But first, on our drive out to Hawes, we stopped at the little village of Bainbridge from where we completed a thoroughly enjoyable circular walk of just over nine miles.

From our parking place by the village green we walked along a quiet road for a short distance as it climbed out of the village in the direction of  Countersett.  The morning was bright and crisp and a blustery wind was doing a good job of keeping the clouds at bay.

The road out of Bainbridge

At the top of the hill I spotted a public footpath sign, directing us into a field, and not being entirely sure of our route at this point I suggested that we should follow it.  As it turned out, this route took us away from where we actually wanted to be, but the views over Bainbridge and to the distant fells beyond Askrigg more than made up for the unplanned extra distance.

View over Wensleydale

At the end of our short diversion we met up with the road again and doubled back in the direction of the Cam High Road.  This former Roman road originally ran from the Roman fort of Virosidum (Bainbridge) across the fells to Ingleton.  The section we were about to walk along stretched out in an almost straight line as far as the distant horizon, in true Roman road fashion. 

The Cam High Road

We continued along the Cam High Road for a couple of miles or so, all the while being buffeted by the wind which increased in strength the higher we climbed.  The going underfoot was very easy though and it was a genuine pleasure to be tramping along in the footsteps of the Roman legions.  It was so pleasant I could happily have continued following the Cam High Road for as long as possible, but eventually I spotted a sign directing us to a path off to our left which led us through a gap by a limestone escarpment.  From here we were to head downhill to the hamlet of Marsett.

Heading towards Raydale

As we emerged through the gap the valley of Raydale opened up before us, providing us with our first glimpse of Semerwater, where small waves of white water were rippling the surface and catching the occasional beam of sunlight.  It was quite cold at the top of the hill, but even so we stood there for a while, just taking in the magnificent view.

First glimpse of Semerwater

Now our route led us steeply downhill along an obvious grassy path which headed directly into Raydale and towards Marsett.

Heading down to Raydale

As I descended towards Marsett I periodically stopped to take in the view and to get my bearings.  Looking at my OS map I realised that if I was to continue in a straight line from this point, across the valley floor, up through the woodlands and over the hill, I would find myself on the Dales Way in Deepdale.  At this point though our Dales Way walk was a full two months away and I would just have to be patient.


Once we had reached the valley bottom of Raydale we passed through the little settlement of Marsett and turned to follow a stony lane which ran alongside Bardale Beck.  The sun continued to shine and we were pleasantly sheltered from the blustery wind we'd experienced  on the higher ground.

Bardale Beck

After a short walk the lane led us away from Bardale Beck and along to a bridge over Raydale Beck which a little further along joined up with Bardale Beck where the two become jointly known as Crooks Beck which in turn feeds into Semerwater. 

Bridge over Raydale Beck

For a while our path became indistinct as it crossed a section of marshy ground.  At this point I found myself regularly checking my GPS which confirmed we were on the right course, although as we squelched along it certainly didn't feel as if we were.  

Marshy ground

Eventually the marshy ground gave way to firmer terrain as we climbed out of the valley in the direction of the curiously named Stalling Busk (meaning "clearing in the forest for stallions") which, along with Marsett and Countersett is one of the three settlements to be found in Raydale. 

Looking back down Raydale

Bypassing the main settlement of Stalling Busk, we headed towards Semerwater, stopping for a break by the old ruined village church.  Originally built as a chapel in 1603, this tiny building became the main parish church in 1860 and was used until 1909 when the new, larger church of St. Matthew was built.  Today the church is a ruin, although preservation work is occasionally carried out, the most recent being in 2000. 

Ruined church, Stalling Busk

The graveyard attached to the ruined church is very well kept and, sitting as it does above the shores of Semerwater, it's very picturesque.

Churchyard with a view

Leaving the ruined church behind us we continued along the path towards Semerwater, the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire (the largest being Malham Tarn).   It's a place rich in folklore, the legend being told that where Semerwater now lies a proud city once stood. One evening the city was visited by an old man, poor and hungry, and begging food from door to door.  At every house he was turned away.  Close by lived a lonely shepherd and his wife, and it was in their cottage that the wanderer at last found food and rest.  In the morning he rose and, facing the town with arms uplifted, the beggar pronounced this curse: "Semerwater rise!  Semerwater sink!  And swallow the town, all save this house, Where they gave me meat and drink."  Immediately, the waters rose, drowning everyone in the town except the shepherd and his wife. 

Legendary Semerwater

The legend also has it that on a fine day it's possible to see the remains of the city beneath the water.   As we walked along the lakeside path though, imagining a city in this beautiful place was just too big a stretch of the imagination.    In actual fact the lake is glacial and was formed at the end of the last Ice Age when the outflow was blocked by a vast quantity of glacial till.

Path alongside Semerwater

Today Semerwater is a nature reserve maintained by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and is home to many species of water birds.   It is also popular for fishing, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing.


Leaving Semerwater behind us we climbed out of Raydale and found our way onto a footpath by the side of the River Bain.  Officially designated as a "main river" (that is, a watercourse named as a river on a "main river map"), at just two and a half miles long the Bain is reputed to be the shortest river in England.

River Bain

We followed just a short section of the shortest river before climbing steeply uphill and once again to look down on Wensleydale.

Above Wensleydale again

The wind had eased a little as the day had progressed and the sun continued to shine as we approached Bainbridge.  From this high vantage point the village looked especially picturesque, nestling below the fells with the River Bain tumbling over its rocky bed.


Back in the village we paused for a while on the bridge to watch the Archimedes screw in action.  Installed in 2011, the River Bain hydro plant provides heat, light and power to over 40 homes in the village of Bainbridge.  There was something rather beautiful and mesmerising about it, I thought, as we stood for a good long while on the bridge, just watching it churn the water.

Bainbridge Archimedes Screw

On the way back to the car we called in at the Corn Mill Tea Rooms where we enjoyed a welcome mug of coffee accompanied by some delicious homemade cake - an enjoyable change to our usual finishing reward of a pint of beer.  The beer, of course, would come later, once we had arrived at our base for the weekend in the nearby village of Hawes.   

The Corn Mill Tea Room

Coming soon...Unfortunately, the second day of our Dales weekend didn't result in a walk, due to high winds and a torrential downpour.  Therefore my next blog will see us returning to the North York Moors where we tracked down a landmark rock formation.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Photo Review of the Year 2015

All too quickly 2015 is drawing to a close.  It has been a very busy and eventful year and, when it has come to writing about walks for my blog, time has got the better of me.  I'm way behind!  But I will eventually catch up and, in the meantime, I'd like to share with everyone a brief review of my walking year in pictures.


We started our walking year in early January with a cold and windy walk alongside the Pocklington Canal.

Pocklington Canal

In spite of icy blasts of wind and flurries of sleet, along the way we were surprised to see a batch of newborn lambs.

Very early lambs


In February we took a snowy Yorkshire Wolds circular walk, starting out with a climb out of the village of Thixendale.

Snowy Thixendale

The walk took a little longer than we'd anticipated and the sun had set long before we got back to our car, making us thankful that we'd had the sense to pack our head torches.

Sunset over the Yorkshire Wolds


Early in March we set out from Goathland on a bright and sunny but very windy day for a circular walk over the moors.

Route of the Lyke Wake Walk above Goathland

Towards the end of the walk the clouds suddenly gathered and before we had got back to our car the ground was already thickly carpeted with snow, leaving us with something of a slippery drive out of the village and back to the clearer main road.

Snow settles on Goathland

A week later and we were back in the North York Moors National Park, starting out from Ravenscar with a lovely view over to Robin Hood's Bay.

Robin Hood's Bay from Ravenscar

The route took us through woodlands and along the edge of Jugger Howe.  We didn't pass another person for the entirety of this walk and it was very peaceful.

Boardwalks below Jugger Howe

Towards the end of the month we visited Robin Hood's Bay and walked along the clifftop route of the Cleveland Way to Whitby.
On the Cleveland Way between Robin Hoods' Bay and Whitby

The day had been cloudy to begin with but had brightened by the time we reached Whitby, which was crowded with visitors.  Our return route was via the "Cinder Track", the cycle track which was once the route of the old Scarborough to Whitby railway line.

Whitby's 199 Steps

In early April we visited the moorland village of Egton Bridge from where we struck out on a circular walk, starting by the side of the River Esk where daffodils gave us the first signs of Spring.

Spring by the River Esk

We then continued to the higher moors, walking along Glaisdale Rigg before returning to Egton Bridge via Egton High Moor.

On Glaisdale Rigg

The following week we enjoyed a short break in the Yorkshire Dales and a walk from the Wensleydale village of Bainbridge

Bainbridge in Wensleydale

This route took us along a former Roman road before returning to Bainbridge via the shorts of Semerwater.


In mid April we returned to the North York Moors for a walk from the National Park Centre at Danby in search of the Hanging Stone which can be found on the moors above the village of Botton.

The Hanging Stone

We concluded April with a visit to the Derbyshire Peak District where we spent a couple of nights in the village of Castleton.  On the first day we set out from Castleton and walked through the very picturesque Cave Dale.

Cave Dale

We then climbed Mam Tor and walked along the Great Ridge before returning to Castleton via Hope.

Along the Great Ridge from Mam Tor

 On the second day we walked from Castleton to the start of Pennine Way in the village of Edale from where we enjoyed a rocky ascent of Kinder Scout.

Climbing Kinder Scout

On the top of Kinder Downfall there were magnificent views.

On top of Kinder Downfall

And our return route to Castleton was via Rushup Edge.

Rushup Edge


We began May by completing our first long distance walk of the year - the 20 mile long Headland Way which follows the coast between Bridlington in East Yorkshire and Filey in North Yorkshire.

Flamborough Head

In mid May we visited the little market town of Helmsley where we parked by the castle.

Helmsley Castle

And from where we set off to follow a section of the Cleveland Way before turning into Bilsdale.


June was all about the Dales Way.  We set out on the 13th and spent a full week covering the 80 or so miles of this long distance path from Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere.

The Dales Way

Along the way we enjoyed some spectacular Dales scenery.


And, on the whole, the weather was very kind to us.



In July we returned to the North York Moors.  The heather was just beginning to flower as we set off on a circular walk from the Hole of Horcum on the Pickering to Whitby road.

The Hole of Horcum

Along the way we visited Mauley Cross, one of several stone crosses to be found around the moors.

Mauley Cross

In July I celebrated my birthday with a short break on the North York Moors, beginning with a stay at Cropton and a visit to the nearby site of Cawthorn Roman Camps.

Cawthorn Roman Camps

From here we were treated to wonderful views across the forest and the moorland beyond.

Cropton Forest

The next day we stayed in Bilsdale and enjoyed a couple of days walking, starting out with a visit to the Wainstones.

The Wainstones

And the following day completing a long circular walk from Bilsdale and along a section of the Cleveland Way.

On the Cleveland Way


The highlight of August was our completion of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge with our nephew Cameron.  But first we had to do a spot of training and, for the second time in the year, we completed the Headland Way from Filey to Bridlington.

Back on the Headland Way

The day we chose to complete the Y3P was hot and sunny.

Peak No. 1 - Pen-y-Ghent

It was tough going at times, but 11 year old Cameron completed it with ease and we all thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

Descending Peak No.3 - Ingleborough


In early September we enjoyed a fantastic week's holiday in the Lake District, staying in Keswick, from where we started the week by completing a 16 mile circular walk taking in Causey Pike, Sail, Crag Hill and Grasmoor.

Causey Pike

The next day we ascended Blencathra via Scales Fell and descending via Blease Fell before walking back to Keswick.

Approaching Sharp Edge, Blencathra

On the third day we took a short trip by launch across Derwentwater to Brandelhow from where we walked to Grange and onwards for an ascent of Castle Crag.  On the way up we had a wonderful view of Borrowdale.

Borrowdale viewed from Castle Crag

From Castle Crag we walked back to Keswick along the shores of Derwentwater, all the while enjoying beautiful views of Skiddaw.

Skiddaw from the shores of Derwentwater

Our fourth day should have been a rest day, but the glorious weather was set to continue and the mountains were calling.  Setting out at 5 a.m. we climbed Skiddaw, in darkness by the light of headtorches to begin with.  The cloud cover was low and as we reached the summit we walked out of the clouds to be greeted with a magnificent cloud inversion.

Cloud inversion from the summit of Skiddaw

And, for the first time in my life, I saw a Brocken Spectre - my shadow surrounded by a rainbow halo.  It was truly magical.

My Brocken Spectre

For our final day of walking we took a bus from Keswick to Buttermere and then walked back, along the way climbing Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head, High Spy and Maiden Moor. 

The magnificent cairn on the summit of Dale Head

It was an epic week of walking made all the more memorable by the fantastic weather.

Wonderful weather - Happy me!

At the end of September, as the nights began to draw in, we completed a circular walk of 20 miles starting out from Blakey Ridge and walking to Bloworth Crossing before turning to walk through Baysdale.


By the time we got back to Blakey Ridge the sun had set and a harvest moon was shining over Rosedale.

Harvest moon over Rosedale


October began with a trip to West Yorkshire where we enjoyed a short break at Haworth.  On the first day we walked alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal from Bingley to Saltaire and back.

Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath

The next day we walked from Haworth to visit the Bronte Waterfalls and Top Withins, the ruined farmhouse which is supposed to have provided the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.  It was a very bleak and drab day with the worst kind of lighting for photos.

Quite possibly the worst photo of Top Withins...ever!


Our walking year ended in November this year as work and family commitments prevented us from venturing far from home.  Therefore our final walk of the year was in mid November when we paid our second visit of the year to Bilsdale.  When we set off from Chop Gate to climb up to Barkers Crags the valley bottoms were filled with mist.

Mist in the valley

The day soon warmed up though and by the time we had reached the Lordstones we were wearing t-shirts and recorded a temperature of 21 degrees.

The Lordstones


And so another year draws to a close.  Although I didn't complete any lengthy walks this month I continued to walk around four miles every day and by the middle of the month I had completed my goal to walk 1,500 miles in the year.  I hope to repeat this goal in 2016 and also to complete at least one long distance route in the year ahead. 

All that remains is for me to wish all my readers and Facebook followers a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2016.  
Happy New Year!