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Looking across the Washburn Valley from the path approaching Lindley
Looking across the Washburn Valley from the path approaching Lindley

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Route No. 481 - Saturday 4 August 2012
Leathley, Stainburn, Braythorn, Lindley,
River Washburn circuit - 10km
Lower Wharfedale . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale & Washburn Valley


Setting off from Leathley along the lane to Leathley Hall
Setting off from Leathley along the lane to Leathley Hall

The church at Leathley
The church at Leathley

From the car park we set off along the lane on the southern edge of the car park heading east along the drive to Leathley Hall. We continued past the entrance to the hall and along a grassy track.

At the beginning of each month I usually have a walk with a group of friends and today we all met at the village hall car park opposite the church in Leathley at map ref. SE232470. One of our group who lives in Wetherby was leading today's walk.

The lane to Leathley Hall
The lane to Leathley Hall

The lane to Leathley Hall
The lane to Leathley Hall

Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood
Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood

Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood
Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood

Heading for Riffa Wood across a field
Heading for Riffa Wood across a field

From the fork we followed the track for about 1.5km to a ford across Riffa Beck at map ref. SE252471.

About 150m beyond the hall the track forked and we took the left hand fork.

Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood
Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood

Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood
Ancient by-way heading for Riffa Wood

Dropping down to the ford over Riffa Beck
Dropping down to the ford over Riffa Beck

The ford over Riffa Beck
The ford over Riffa Beck

Entering Riffa Wood
Entering Riffa Wood

Old paved track way through Riffa Wood
Old paved track way through Riffa Wood

Many Italian prisoners worked on farms at this time as manpower was in short supply. As a youngster in the late 1940's I can remember seeing a long crocodile of such prisoners along the path by the Leeds ring road at Lower Wortley (it was quite rural there then).

We crossed the ford and followed the path up through the woods. Here the path was paved with worn stone blocks. About halfway up the hill through the wood was a boulder by the path that had been carved into the shape of an indian's head (that's native american to be politically correct). I understand that it was carved around the end of the war in the mid 1940's by an Italian prisoner of war who was working on a local farm.

Path through Riffa Wood
Path through Riffa Wood

The "Indian's Head" carved boulder by the path
The "Indian's Head" carved boulder by the path

Following the path along the top edge of Riffa Wood
Following the path along the top edge of Riffa Wood

Cattle by the path heading for Stainburn
Cattle by the path heading for Stainburn

The path heading for Stainburn
The path heading for Stainburn

Big-bale silage store approaching Stainburn
Big-bale silage store approaching Stainburn

Path out of Stainburn to the church
Path out of Stainburn to the church

At the next bend, a left hander, we continued straight on over a stile (I'm told that the stile has now been replaced by a kissing gate) to climb up across a field to Stainburn Church at map ref. SE247485.

At the top of the wood we turned left and followed the path across the fields for about 1.3km to the village of Stainburn. At the road we turned left to follow the road round a right hand bend.

A farmer with a sense of humour has fixed an old phone handset to the gate post
A farmer with a sense of humour has fixed
an old phone handset to the gate post

The road at Stainburn
The road at Stainburn

Stack of railway tub wheels in a garden at Stainburn
Stack of railway tub wheels in a garden at Stainburn

Looking across the Washburn Valley from the path to Stainburn church
Looking across the Washburn Valley from the path to Stainburn church

Stainburn church
Stainburn church

Lunch stop at Stainburn church
Lunch stop at Stainburn church

Red Kite over Stainburn church yard
Red Kite over Stainburn church yard

Leaving Stainburn church
Leaving Stainburn church

After our break we followed the road from the church for about 400m to Braythorn at map ref. SE245489. Here we turned left off the road in front of a building that used to be a methodist chapel but is now a private house.

We sat in the churchyard for our lunch, a very pleasant spot for our break. As we sat there a red kite appeared circling overhead. It wasn't too high and I managed to get a photo of it, and several pictures of empty sky!

Hazel nuts in Stainburn church yard
Hazel nuts in Stainburn church yard

Stainburn church yard
Stainburn church yard

Turning off the road in Braythorn in front of the old Methodist chapel
Turning off the road in Braythorn in front of the old Methodist chapel

Track down to the West Beck
Track down to the West Beck

Path across the fields from the West Beck
Path across the fields from the West Beck

Stone step stile over a wall . . .
Stone step stile over a wall . . .

It looked like a normal stile as we approached but there was a drop of almost 3m on the far side down to a small stream on a series of stone footholds sticking out from the wall. It had started to rain quite heavily as we got to the wall so we sheltered under the trees by the stream for a while.

We followed the track down the overgrown hillside to cross the little valley of West Beck. We followed the path up the other side of the valley to a road (B6161) at map ref. SE235488. We crossed the road and followed the path opposite, across the fields for about 300m to a wall with a stone step-stile.

Climbing up from the West Beck
Climbing up from the West Beck

Crossing the B6161
Crossing the B6161

. . . with a 3m drop on the other side
. . . with a 3m drop on the other side

Looking up the Washburn Valleyfrom the path approaching Lindley
Looking up the Washburn Valley from the path approaching Lindley

Path through the wheat heading for Lindley
Path through the wheat heading for Lindley

The road to Lindley
The road to Lindley

Entrance to an old ice house in Lindley
Entrance to an old ice house in Lindley

We stopped here briefly for a drink and we noticed a couple of arched structures in the fields that had probably been ice houses that were packed with clean snow in the winter to make ice for preserving food. There was another of these structures as we returned through Leathley village. We continued along the farm access track after our break.

It was only a shower and when the rain eased we continued across the field to a lane at map ref. SE229489. We walked along the lane for about 500m to a sharp right hand bend. Here a farm access track continued straight on and there was an information board about walks in the Washburn Valley.

Foxglove, ragwort & grasses by the path
Foxglove, ragwort & grasses by the path

The road through Lindley
The road through Lindley

Entrance to an old ice house in Lindley
Entrance to an old ice house in Lindley

Farm track out of Lindley
Farm track out of Lindley

Cinabar moth caterpillar on ragwort, its major food supply
Cinnabar moth caterpillar on ragwort, its major food supply

Their black and yellow stripes warn potential predators of the danger of eating them. Just a few metres further on I turned left over a stile but the rest of the group continued along the farm track to do a longer walk and return alongside Lindley Wood Reservoir and the River Washburn to Leathley.

There was a good deal of ragwort by the track and Peter noticed that there were some yellow and black striped caterpillars on one of the plants. These are the caterpillars of the black and red Cinnabar moth. They seem to be immune to the poisons in the ragwort but they absorb the poisons into their own bodies.

Cinabar moth caterpillar on ragwort, its major food supply
Cinnabar moth caterpillar on ragwort, its major food supply

The stile where I left the rest of the group
The stile where I left the rest of the group

A glimps of Lindley Wood Reservoir in the Washburn Valley
A glimpse of Lindley Wood Reservoir in the Washburn Valley

Sheep grazing by the path down the valley side
Sheep grazing by the path down the valley side

Young sheep trapped between the wire and the wall
Young sheep trapped between the wire and the wall

Thistles do have such lovely flowers
Thistles do have such lovely flowers

The path approaching the road to Lindley Bridge
The path approaching the road to Lindley Bridge

Stone steps down from Lindley Bridge
Stone steps down from Lindley Bridge

I continued down the hillside to Lindley Bridge over the River Washburn just below Lindley Wood Reservoir. On the bridge there is a very narrow stone entrance to a stone flight of stairs down to the river bank. I learned later that one of my friends had fallen on these stairs but got away with a few scrapes and bruises.

I followed the path on the left down the hillside with a very pleasant view across the Washburn Valley and up to Lindley Wood Reservoir. Part way down the slope a young sheep had slipped down between a stone wall and the wire fence tight up to the wall. Its mother and sibling were near by bleating but it was stuck fast. I took my rucksack off and took hold of the sheep under its chin to push it up until I could get hold under its chest. I could then lift it up to get its front feet on to the wall and lift up its hindquarters to let it bound off to its mother. Within seconds they were all grazing quietly just a few yards away.

A lovely oak tree by the path
A lovely oak tree by the path

Path between the wall end & the stone bollard
Path goes between the wall end & the stone bollard

Lindley Bridge seen from the steps
Lindley Bridge seen from the steps

Path by the old water channel
Path by the old water channel

Dry section of the old water channel
Dry section of the old water channel

End of the old water channel where the water would have flowed from the square openings back to the river
End of the old water channel where the water would have
flowed from the square openings back to the river

This is where the channel terminated and the flow would have returned to the river. It was a pleasant path through the trees and lush foliage by the river.

The path at the bottom of the stairs is between a man made water channel, possibly an old mill race, and the river. I walked along this path for about 500m to an odd stone structure.

The old water channel next to the river but higher
The old water channel next to the river but higher

Path by the old water channel
Path by the old water channel

I don't know what this dated stone was for
I don't know what this dated stone was for

The River Washburn by the path
The River Washburn by the path

Path by the R. Washburn back to Leathley
Path by the R. Washburn back to Leathley

Path to the road in Leathley
Path to the road in Leathley

Path to the road in Leathley
Path to the road in Leathley

Old mile post by the road in Leathley
Old mile post by the road in Leathley

In front of the church are the old stocks and a stone mounting block which provided a comfortable seat to wait for the rest of the group who turned up in less than half an hour having done over 3km more than me. One of our group had a birthday yesterday so he treated us all to a coffee and cake to round off our walk at a nearby farm shop and cafe.

After about another 500m The path turned left at a stile. It looked as though the route went over a slate roof but no, there was a narrow path down the side of a building and out to the road on the edge of Leathley at map ref. SE231478. I followed the road for about 800m back to the car park and the end of the walk.

Path by the R. Washburn back to Leathley
Path by the R. Washburn back to Leathley

Path by the R. Washburn back to Leathley
Path by the R. Washburn back to Leathley

Path to the road in Leathley
Path to the road in Leathley

The stocks by the church in Leathley
The stocks by the church in Leathley

Car park by the village hall in Leathley
Car park by the village hall in Leathley

Our coffe & cake stop at a farm shop & cafe near Leathley
Our coffee & cake stop at a farm shop & cafe near Leathley

Background Notes:
This walk is a circular route of 10km, that's 6 miles, from Leathley in lower Wharfedale not far from Pool. Leathley has Saxon origins and the name comes from Saxon words meaning tilled land in the forest. The church too has Saxon associations. It's dedicated to St Oswald, the Christian Saxon king who united the kingdom of Northumbria in the mid 600's The present church is Norman and probably replaced an earlier Saxon church. In front of the church are the old stocks and a stone horse-mounting block. We start from the village hall car park and at the car park entrance is an American red oak I would guess about 150 years old. They were fasionable trees to plant in Victorian times. We set off along the lane in front of the old Almshouses and go past Leathley Hall. Just a few kilometers along the valley from here is Harewood House where the captive breeding and release program for red kites is based. Along the whole of this walk we're likely to see red kites. They are spectacular birds about the same size as a buzzard but with a distinctive forked tail. They are scavengers, not true preditors like the buzzard and the red kites are usually seen manoevering around tree top height. You're almost certain to see them. Just past Leathley Hall the tarmac lane becomes a green track, it's an old by-way route that we follow between the fields to Riffa Wood. The track up through the woods is an old paved pannierway where strings of pack horses have worn the centre of the stone slabs that paved the track. About halfway up the woodland track there is a carved boulder called the 'Indian's Head'. These days we'd be talking about 'Native Americans' but this was carved in the 1940's by an Italian prisoner of war who was working locally as a farm laborourer. At the top of the woods we follow a track across the fields to the village of Stainburn. A few hundred metres before we reach the road there is a wooden farm gate where the farmer, with a nice sense of humour, has fixed an old telephone handset and rest. It doesn't work of course but it's fun to pick up just to check. We follow the road through the village and then follow a path across a field to reach St Mary's church Stainburn. This Norman church was officially declared redundant in 1975 and is now maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust. It's a very pleasant spot and the seat in the churchyard makes a good place for a lunch stop. From here we follow the road to Braythorne where we turn off the road in front of the old methodist chapel that's now a private house. The path leads us along a wooded gulley and across the fields to a lane at the hamlet of Lindley. A couple of fields here have small ruined stone structures that look to me like ice houses, and there's another one in a field in Leathley village near the end of the walk. The idea was that these underground rooms were packed full with clean snow in the winter and it remained frozen for the rest of the year to be used to help preserve food. We follow a farm access track out of Lindley and beside the track there is quite a lot of ragwort, a tall plant with clusters of yellow daisy-like flowers. It's poisonous to livestock but its the main food plant for the caterpillars of the black and red cinnabar day-flying moth and there were some of them here when I walked this route last week. They absorb the poisons from the plant into their own bodies and they have black and yellow or orange hooped stripes as a warning coloration to birds that otherwise would eat them. Here we turn off the farm track and follow a path down the steep hillside to Lindley Bridge over the River Washburn. There's a narrow access through the bridge parapet to some stone steps down to the riverside path. We follow this path between a man-made channel and the river all the way back to the road into Leathley. Here there was a water powered corn mill and I believe the channel was part of the system bringing water to the mill. The buildings are still there but they're now a private house. We follow the road back through Leathley to the village hall car park and the end of our walk for this week.

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