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Old English Longhorn cattle & a Highland Bull by the swollen river Wharfe
Old English Longhorn cattle & a Highland bull by the swollen river Wharfe

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Route No 238 - Wednesday 27 February 2008
Pool, Almscliff Crag, Huby,
River Wharfe circuit - 14.5km
Lower Wharfedale . . .

Ordnance Survey route map on the Landranger series map base
View the route in Google Earth

Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale & Washburn Valley


Bridge over the River Wharfe at Pool
Bridge over the River Wharfe at Pool

This morning my neighbour, Jim, and I drove to Pool in Wharfedale and parked by the roadside next to the river at map ref. SE243454. We set off on our walk at about 9.45 am and crossed the road bridge on the busy A658 over the river Wharfe. Just over the river we turned left off the road on to a footpath across the fields toward Leathley.

Threatening skies as we set off across Wharfedale from Pool
Threatening skies as we set off across Wharfedale from Pool

Starting to climb the hillside to Hall Lane
Starting to climb the hillside to Hall Lane

At the lane we turned right and walked along the grassy, sometimes muddy, track to Riffa Beck at map ref. SE252471.

We followed the path across the B6161 and up the hillside to Hall Lane, an old green road, at map ref. SE240468.

Approaching the crossing of Riffa Beck
Approaching the crossing of Riffa Beck

Owl nesting boxes in an oak tree
Owl nesting boxes in an oak tree

This part of the route is an old paved pannier way or pack horse route. I think that these usually date from the mid 1700's. At the top of the wood we came out into a field and turned left to follow the path round the edge of a small round hill ahead of us. Once we were through a gate in the wall just beyond the hill we turned right at map ref. SE254475 to climb up the slope and go through a large gap in the wall at the top and into the field at the side of Bog Ridge farm.

We crossed the beck on the stones in the bed of the stream where it is quite shallow and then took the path up through Riffa Wood.

Tree roots being exposed by the stream
Tree roots being exposed by the stream

One of a pair of red kites circling over the woods
One of a pair of red kites circling over the woods

Looking up Wharfedale from Hall Lane
Looking up Wharfedale from Hall Lane

Paved way through Riffa Wood
Paved way through Riffa Wood

We followed the path around the edge of the fields until we came to the farm access road at Lower Banks Farm, map ref. SE261480. We turned left on to the farm road and followed it out to the public road at map ref. SE265482. At the road we turned left and walked along the road for about 800m to a left hand bend in the road at map ref. SE265491 where we turned right off the road to walk along the public footpath up on to Almscliff Crag.

We followed the path to a bend in the farm access road at map ref. SE257476. Here we left the farm road and continued straight on up the hill to the corner of a small wood called Bailey's Whins. As we rounded the corner of the woods to follow the path along the eastern edge of the wood we saw two red kites playing together over the trees. It looked very much like a pair getting to know each other for the nesting season. There is a red kite breeding and release project just a few kilometre down the valley at Harewood.

Getting closer to Almscliff Crag
Getting closer to Almscliff Crag

A big smokey fire
A big smoky fire - but what was burning?

After our lunch we followed the path out onto the road near North Rigton and walked back along the road to map ref. SE270487

We stopped in a sheltered corner in the rocks with a lovely view down Wharfedale for our lunch.

On top of Almscliff Crag at last
On top of Almscliff Crag at last

View down Wharfedale from our lunch stop on Almscliff Crag
View down Wharfedale from our lunch stop on Almscliff Crag

Here we took the public footpath down the slope across the fields to a large house at Holly Hill. Here the residents have devised their own permissive path through their extensive property which they must feel is less intrusive than the public footpath. I'm not sure about it really. I'm all for arrangements that ease relations between residents of the countryside and walkers, but ultimately the public right of way has to be preserved or formally diverted.

Looking back across Huby village to Almscliff Crag
Looking back across Huby village to Almscliff Crag

Looking back over Huby village
Looking back over Huby village

About 100m along the road (very busy and noisy) we turned left off the road to climb up the hill to the road at map ref. SE272468 by the farm at Wescoe Hill. We walked along the road over the railway tunnel to the bend in the road at map ref. SE275465 where we turned right off the road on to a public footpath down the hill to an access bridge under the railway at map ref. SE272461.

From map ref. SE272478 on the road in Huby village (now well heeled commuter-land rather than rural community) we continued along a public footpath (starting down the drive of a large house) down the village backlands, across another road to emerge on to the A658 at map ref. SE272473 on the edge of the village.

Footpath access bridge under the railway
Footpath access bridge under the railway

Once under the railway we continued along the path to the road at map ref. SE268459. We walked along the road for about 1.5km beside the river Wharfe to map ref. SE256458. Here we turned left off the road to follow the public footpath along the river bank for about 1.5km back to our starting point by the river Wharfe in Pool. Despite the threatening skies there had been no rain and some quite pleasant sunny spells but a sharp wind all day. The route had been 14.5km and had taken us four and a half hours to walk including a long lunch stop on Almscliff Crag.

Wharfedale railway viaduct across the river Wharfe
Wharfedale railway viaduct across the river Wharf on the opposite side of this large meander in the river

Saturday 1 March 2008
Repeat of this walk with our usual group of friends for our monthly outing.

Crossing Riffa Beck after the overnight rain
Crossing Riffa Beck after the overnight rain

Carved stone by the path in Riffa wood
Carved stone by the path in Riffa wood

The weather was much the same as we had on Wednesday. Showery with bright spells and very windy. But there had been a lot of rain overnight and Riffa Beck had risen making the stream crossing more interesting.

We were lucky enough to see several red kites along the way but I was never quick enough to get my camera organised in time! They really are spectacular birds holding their position in the high winds with subtle twitches of that forked tail and their wings.

Red kite always at the limit of my camera
Red kite always at the limit of my camera

Willow by the river Wharfe broken by the high winds last night
Willow by the river Wharfe broken by the high winds last night

The river Wharfe was much higher than it was on Wednesday and was quite impressive rushing by as we passed along the river bank for the last couple of kilometres to the bridge at Pool. The whole walk had taken us about 5 hours including two longish stops. Afterwards we called at the farm shop cafe just up the road towards Huby for our usual cup of tea and toasted teacake before heading home.

Background Notes:
This is a circular walk of 14.5km, that's about 9 miles, and it starts at the road bridge over the river at Pool in Wharfedale. The bridge was built in the 1790's at the site of an earlier ford. Our route crosses the road bridge and follows a footpath across the fields towards Leathley. Just before Leathley we reach an old green road called Hall Lane and follow this to a ford across Riffa Beck. It's a straight forward crossing when the beck is low, but a bit more awkward when it's in flood. From the beck the path climbs up through Riffa Wood where there is a boulder by the path whose natural shape has been carved into the head of a Native American, or as it's known locally "The Indian's Head". The story goes that it was carved at the end of WW2 by one of the Italian prisoners of war who worked on the local farms.The path continues to climb around the stone farmsteads with the views across Wharfedale getting better all the time. All the way from Pool there's one thing you must look out for, and that's Red Kites. These are large birds of prey about the same size as a buzzard. They have a distinctive forked tail and are extremely maneuverable even in strong winds. They tend to fly just a bit above tree top level looking for carrion to eat because even though they look like a predator they are really carrion feeders and do a similar job to vultures. These magnificent birds were almost extinct in Britain with just a few hanging on in South Wales. In1998 the Harewood Estate just a few miles from here joined the captive breeding and release programme sponsored by the RSPB and Natural England. They have been very successful despite some illegal poisoning of released birds in the wild by reactionary elements in the countryside. You'll be very unlucky not to see these amazing birds somewhere along this walk. They are native birds and there's even a Yorkshire dialect name for them, a gled or glede which may have something to do with a dialect pronunciation of glide or glider? At the top of the climb across the fields the route reaches the lane below Almscliff Crag and climbs up to the top of the crag itself. What an amazing view over Wharfedale! There's an Ordnance Survey trig point on top of the crag and the crag has been the focus of all kinds of superstitious tales from the past. This outcrop of millstone grit was a pre-christian religious site and there are numerous markings on the rocks which are thought to be symbols from that time. There's one theory that the flat rock on top of the crag was an alter to pagan gods. From Almscliff Crag we follow paths across the fields down to the village of Huby. Instead of following the roads through the village we make our way along paths and alleyways between the houses to emerge on the main road to Pool and after a short climb drop down to the riverside at the hamlet of Castley. From there our walk follows the River Wharfe, first along a narrow lane and then along a riverside path. There's a good view of the Arthington railway viaduct across the river from this path. The whole riverside here is subject to serious a fairly frequent flooding because it's part of the natural flood plain of this large river system. Huge areas of the Yorkshire Dales are drained by the Wharfe and it takes over two days for rainfall from the headwaters above Hubberholme to reach here so the floods tend to reach their height a couple of days after the rainfall over the dales begins. Provided the fields aren't flooded the riverside path brings us back to Pool Bridge and the end of our walk.

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