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Looking up the valley of Hall Beck from the lane near Blubberhouses
Looking up the valley of Hall Beck from the lane near Blubberhouses

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Route No. 430 - Tuesday 9 August 2011
Blubberhouses, Round Hill,
Gawk Hill Gate circuit - 12km
Washburn Valley, Lower Wharfedale . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale & Washburn Valley @ 1:25000


Blubberhouses church from the car park
Blubberhouses church from the car park

A dales farm yard off the lane at Blubberhouses
A dales farm yard off the lane at Blubberhouses

An old stone barn at Blubberhouses
An old stone barn at Blubberhouses

From the car park we crossed the main road (A59) and took the lane opposite past Blubberhouses Hall.

The weather forecast for today was good, fine and dry with a cool breeze. My neighbour, Jim, and I drove to Blubberhouses on the A59 and parked in the public car park at the head of Fewston reservoir in the Washburn Valley at map ref. SE168553. (There are no public toilets on this route, but there are toilets for customers at the cafe & delicatessen about 1.4km north of Blubberhouses at map ref. SE169566).

Heading for the lane end opposite the car park
Heading for the lane end opposite the car park

An old oak, about 350 years old
An old oak, about 350 years old:
noted on the Ancient Tree Hunt

Hazel nuts by the side of the lane
Hazel nuts by the side of the lane

Leaving the lane for the track up to the moor
Leaving the lane for the track up to the moor

Looking across the valley of Hall Beck
Looking across the valley of Hall Beck

We were climbing up the moor with the A59 following the same valley below well us. We walked along this track for about 1.8km to a road at map ref. SE143556.

After about 700m the lane turned sharp right at map ref. SE160555 and we continued straight on, to walk along a track following the valley of Hall Beck.

Leaving the lane for the track up to the moor
Leaving the lane for the track up to the moor

Track climbing up to the moor
Track climbing up to the moor

Heather by the track climbing up to the moor
Heather by the track climbing up to the moor

Leaving the road past the quarry
Leaving the road past the quarry

Approaching the A59
Approaching the A59

We followed this track for almost another kilometer to the A59 at map ref. SE125550. We crossed the busy main road dodging the fast moving traffic and took the bridleway opposite.

We continued along the road in the same direction for another kilometer past a quarry hidden behind a bank on our left to map ref. SE133554. Here the road turns sharp left and we continued straight on along a gated track that used to be part of the road.

Waiting to cross the A59
Waiting to cross the A59

Looking into Wharfedale from the path up Round Hill
Looking into Wharfedale from the path up Round Hill

An oak egar moth caterpillar
An oak egar moth caterpillar

The bridleway up Round Hill
The bridleway up Round Hill

By the time we had reached this point we had climbed 250m. rising steadily from the start of the walk.

We followed the bridleway climbing up the moor for about 1.5km to a pedestrian gate in a dry stone wall near the summit of Round Hill at map ref. SE121535.

The bridleway up Round Hill
The bridleway up Round Hill

Looking back to the A59 from Round Hill
Looking back to the A59 from Round Hill

Pedestrian gate near the top of Round Hill
Pedestrian gate near the top of Round Hill

Looking along the ridge to Beamsley Becon from Round Hill
Looking along the ridge to Beamsley Becon from Round Hill

Boundary post, MM on this side & TF on the back
Boundary post, MM on this side & TF on the back

Descending to Gawk Hill Gate
Descending to Gawk Hill Gate

Descending to Gawk Hill Gate
Descending to Gawk Hill Gate

At Gawk Hill Gate we sat on the grass by the gate for our lunch. The air was full of slow lumbering large black flies that emanated from the marshy ground. There was a pleasant cool breeze and the flies seemed only to be interested in mating and did not bother us at all.

We went through the gate and turned left to follow a path initially along the wall and, over the summit of Round Hill, dropping down for about 1.3km to Gawk Hill Gate at map ref. SE133530. As we descended we could see to our right, across Ilkley in Wharfedale, to Ilkley Moor, part of Rombalds Moor, above the town.

Boundary post dated 1734
Boundary post dated 1734

Mile post at Gawk Hill Gate
Mile post at Gawk Hill Gate
It reads: 12m to Rippon & Ilkley 3m

Arriving at Gawk Hill Gate
Arriving at Gawk Hill Gate
Looking northeast from Gawk Hill Gate
Looking northeast from Gawk Hill Gate along the old Roman road

Leaving Gawk Hill Gate for the Roman road
Leaving Gawk Hill Gate for the Roman road

Sextant beetles at work on the path
Sextant beetles at work on the path

Following the route of the Roman road
Following the route of the Roman road

We followed the Roman road across the moor for about 2.5km to map ref. SE163545.

After our break we did not go through the gate, but instead turned left to follow a path heading northeast to turn along the line of the old Roman road.

Sextant beetles at work on the path
Sextant beetles at work on the path

Following the route of the Roman road
Following the route of the Roman road across Sun Bank Gill

Heading down from the Roman road to Blubberhouses
Heading down from the Roman road to Blubberhouses

Following the route of the Roman road
Following the route of the Roman road across Blubberhouses Moor

The by-way to Blubberhouses
The by-way to Blubberhouses

Following the by-way to Blubberhouses
Following the byway to Blubberhouses

The byway then turns along the front of a row of stone houses and leads out to the road at map ref. SE167551.

At this point the path bends left away from the Roman road and drops down the hillside. The path leads to an old byway to a stone house and down the side of the house.

Following the by-way to Blubberhouses
Following the byway to Blubberhouses

Following the by-way to Blubberhouses
Following the byway to Blubberhouses

Sheep pasture seen from the by-way to Blubberhouses
Sheep pasture seen from the byway to Blubberhouses

Looking across the valley of Hall Beck
Looking across the valley of Hall Beck

We drove to a the cafe and delicatessen about 1.4kn north of Blubberhouses for our usual coffee and toasted teacake before heading for home after a very pleasant day on the hills.

At the road we turned left to walk down the road, past the church and back to the car park at the bottom of the hill where we had started. The whole walk had been about 12km and it had taken us almost four and a quarter hours to walk including our stops.

Returning to Blubberhouses past the church
Returning to Blubberhouses past the church

Back at the car park at the end of the walk
Back at the car park at the end of the walk

Background Notes:
This is a circular walk of almost 8 miles starting from Blubberhouses on the A59 between Harrogate and Skipton. There are all sorts of fanciful tales about the origin of the name but the most likely explaination is that it comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "bluberhhus" that means houses by the bubbling stream, a fair description of the little River Washburn there. St. Andrews Church is a prominent feature at Blubberhouses on the hillside above the car park at the end of Fewston Reservoir. The church dates from the 1850's and was financed by Lady Frankland Russel , and designed by Edward Buckton Lamb, who was famous for his Gothic style. During the Industrial Revolution there was a flax mill at Blubberhouses powered by what was then the largest water wheel in Europe. From the car park we cross the A59 and head out of Blubberhouses across Hall Beck and along the lane, past Blubberhouses Hall, formerly the home of the Frankland family. We follow a track climbing up the moor above Hall Beck with quite pleasant views across the valley of the beck. We pass a quarry at the top of the hill and come out onto the A59 at the top of the long descent down to Bolton Abbey, but having just walked up the hill we simply cross the road, you need to be quite nimble to avoid the fast traffic, and we continue up the hillside opposite to the wall across the top of Round Hill. This part of the walk is over the open high moorland with fine views down into Wharfedale to the west, but you do need to be a competent navigator on these high moors. There is a pedestrian gate through the wall and there we turn left to follow the wall over Round Hill. Away to the right is Beamsley Beacon overlooking Wharfedale. Near the top of Round Hill there is a stone boundary marker post next to the wall with the initials MM on the south side and TF on the north side.and the post is dated 1734. The initials are those of the adjoining land owners at that time, who were Admiral Sir Thomas Frankland of Blubberhouses Hall and Marmaduke Middleton of Ilkley whose family seat was at Stockeld Hall near Spofforth. From Round Hill the path follows the ridge down to Gawk Hill Gate with views to the south towards Ilkley over Wharfedale. There's another old marker post, just before you reach Gawk Hill Gate and this one is on an ancient packhorse route from Ilkley to Ripon. From Gawk Hill Gate we follow a path across a marshy area to join the route of a Roman Road that linked the Roman forts at Knarseborough and Skipton. There's not much to be seen of it now and care is needed with the map reading over this wild stretch of moor. When I did this walk last August we spotted three Sexton Beetles on the path and watched then for quite some time. They are large black beetles about 25 mm long with four large bright orange patches on their wing cases. Quite striking to see. But their activities are even more bizzare. They find a small piece of carrion, a dead bird or mouse, then they secrete a substance over it that kills the scent so that other carrion feeders can't find it; then they set to work removing the soil from underneath the body. It takes them about a full day to bury the body and once they have achieved that, they lay their eggs in it so the lavae have a safe food store until the next generation of beetles is ready to emerge form the soil. They're facinating and we watched them for quite a while. The path leaves the route of the Roman Road near Blubberhouses and drops down the hillside into the village and back to the car park at the end of the walk. And finally the weather this weekend may not be suitable for the high moors, but you can do a pleasant low level walk from the same car park following the water company's permissive path all around Fewston & Swinsty reservoirs.

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