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The marina at Ripon Race Course next to the canal
The marina at Ripon Race Course next to the canal

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Route No. 387 - Wednesday 26 January 2011
Ripon Canal, Littlethorpe,
Oxclose Lock circuit - 6km
Ripon . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer 299 Ripon & Boroughbridge at 1:25000


Setting off along the tow path
Setting off along the tow path

Ripon marina between the canal & racecourse
Ripon marina between the canal & racecourse

One of two hides to view wildfowl
One of two hides to view wildfowl

After a few hundred metres we crossed a bridge over the inlet to the Ripon racecourse marina where there were many canal narrowboats moored. A few metres further on we came to a wooden shed next to the path. It's a hide to view the waterfowl on the lake next to the racecourse. After a few minutes viewing the scene we continued along the towpath to Nicholson's Bridge at map ref. SE327694. Here we turned right off the tow path to cross the bridge next to the Ripon Motor Boat Club marina.

The weather today was dull and drizzley but the forecast promised more broken cloud later in the day. My regular Wednesday walking companion, Jim, drove us to a little car park by the Ripon canal next to the B6265 at map ref. SE323704 close to the Ripon racecourse. It's not far from home and we were there before 9.30am. From the car park we set off in a southerly direction along the canal towpath.

Looking back along the canal at the start of our walk
Looking back along the canal at the start of our walk

Looking back along the canal past the marina entrance
Looking back along the canal past the marina entrance

Approaching Nicholson's bridge along the tow path
Approaching Nicholson's bridge along the tow path

Ripon Motor Boat Club marina at Nicholson's bridge
Ripon Motor Boat Club marina at Nicholson's bridge

The lane from Nicholson's bridge
The lane from Nicholson's bridge

Stone marker at the site of the village pinfold
Stone marker at the site of the village pinfold

Path through the wood to Green Lane
Path through the wood to Green Lane

In times gone by every village had a pinfold to hold stray livestock until it was reclaimed by its owner on payment of a fee for the care of the animal. A few metres beyond the pinfold marker we turned left off the road to cross a stile into a patch of woodland. The path simply cut off a corner of road and we emerged after about 100m onto a road called Green Lane.

From the bridge we followed the track out to the road at the edge of Littlethorpe. We followed the road through the village to the church of St. Michael and all Angels. Here we turned left to follow the road in front of the church and continued our way through the village. On the edge of the village we passed a stone marker on the right hand side of the road which recorded the site of the village "pinfold" at the corner of a small wood.

The road into Littlethorpe near the church
The road into Littlethorpe near the church

Stile opposite the pinfold
Stile opposite the pinfold

Emerging from the wood on to Green Lane
Emerging from the wood on to Green Lane

Green Lane crosses the canal over Renton's bridge
Green Lane crosses the canal over Renton's bridge

Approaching Renton's bridge along Green Lane
Approaching Renton's bridge along Green Lane

Oxclose Lock
Oxclose Lock

A power line crosses the canal near Oxclose Lock
A power line crosses the canal near Oxclose Lock

This is the first lock on the canal about 100m after it leaves the River Ure. The river system is navigable downstream from here through York and all the way to the Humber and the North Sea. We crossed the canal on the footway across the lock gates and set off back along the canal towpath towards our start point.

We walked along Green lane for almost 1km to Renton's Bridge over the canal. We did not cross the bridge but continued along the lane beside the canal for another 200m beyond the bridge. Here the lane turned right away from the canal and we continued straight on along a footpath on the canal bank. After about 700m we reached Oxclose lock on the canal.

Start of the path to Oxclose Lock along the canal bank
Start of the path to Oxclose Lock along the canal bank

Crossing the canal at Oxclose Lock
Crossing the canal at Oxclose Lock

Looking down the canal to the River Ure from Oxclose Lock
Looking down the canal to the River Ure from Oxclose Lock

Heading back along the tow path
Heading back along the tow path

A swan in the canal
A swan in the canal

We continued along the tow path and soon came to the first of the two hides to view the wildfowl on the racecourse lake.

We passed Renton's bridge and continued on the towpath for another kilometer to Nicholson's bridge at the Ripon Motor Boat Club marina.

Heading back along the tow path
Heading back along the tow path

Heading back along the tow path
Heading back along the tow path

Cormorants on the small islands in the lake
Cormorants on the small islands in the lake

Two male goosanders on the lake
Two male goosanders on the lake

Two swans landing on the lake
Two swans landing on the lake

We searched through the bird book but could find nothing that matched. It was a mystery. Eventually the penny dropped. The large black and white ducks joined several other similar ducks and this group joined a group of grebe-like ducks with brown heads. They were of course goosanders, a fish eating duck with a long slender serrated beak. The males are described in the book as having a dark green head and pink plumage on the sides and breast, but in the gloomy winter light they were definitely black and white.

As we looked out over the lake a kestrel came and hovered just outside the hide. I moved too quickly in my rush to photograph it and it was off before I had a chance to click the camera. Out on the lake there were the ubiquitous mallard, coots and moorhens. There were also a good many tufted ducks and several mute swans. Opposite the hide were two small islands and sitting on these were around a dozen cormorants with a couple in that classic pose with wings outspread to dry. We were intrigued by what seemed to be a pair of large black and white ducks that we could not identify.

Swans in flight over the lake
Swans in flight over the lake

A swan about to touch down on the lake
A swan about to touch down on the lake

Heading back to the car park  along the tow path
Heading back to the car park along the tow path

The whole 6km walk including our time in the hides had taken us about two and a half hours. On the way home we stopped for a coffee and a bacon sandwich for lunch to complete a very pleasant morning stroll despite the gloomy weather.

After about 20 minutes we left the hide and resumed our walk along the tow path we stopped briefly at the second hide and then headed back to the car park along the tow path.

Heading back to the car park  along the tow path
Heading back to the car park along the tow path

Approaching the canal lock near the car park at the end of our walk
Approaching the canal lock near the car park at the end of our walk