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Walk 2572 - printer friendly version

West Scrafton & Middlesmoor from Lofthouse Walk

Author - Chris Gill

Length - 18.0 miles / 29.3 km

Ascent - 3100 feet / 939 metres

Grade - mod/hard

Start - OS grid reference SE099735
Lat 54.15722 + Long -1.8498981
Postcode HG3 5RZ (approx. location only)

This is a medium to high-level Yorkshire Dales walk on open moors and requires a compass for parts of the route. There are some good views and a wonderful sense of open space on tracks that are not often used. Nidderdale is not within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park but the walk does including sections within the Park. The start is the village of Lofthouse, near Pateley Bridge (Grid ref SE099735).

Parking - my preferred parking place is a lay-by on a bend in the road just after Lofthouse. If this is occupied there is another lay-by down the road to How Stean Gorge, just before crossing the river. A third option is a small car park up the hill just beyond Middlesmoor. I shall describe the route from the first one.

From the first lay-by a track heads roughly southeast across fields past a barn and Lofthouse cricket field. Opposite the gate, across the road, is a footbridge. Turn right after the bridge to emerge in Lofthouse. Turn left along the road, passing the post office on the right and leave the village heading uphill. There is a footpath along the wall on the right but I find it easier to keep to the road at this point.

After about 1.3 km of steep hill there is a gate on the left where the bridleway heads northwest across two fields. Turn right after the third gate heading north and through two more gates. Turn left then right after the second, continuing the northerly route. The views along here can be really good, especially on a sunny winters' day when Great Whernside is capped in snow.

Three kilometres after leaving the road the path turns onto a westerly course and runs gently downhill. Start counting gates. About 250m past the fourth gate you cross a small stream and a bridleway turns right after another 100m. I mention these distances because the path is almost impossible to see and a compass bearing is probably worthwhile. As the path rises across the moor you should be able to see a small hill, Little Haw, ahead of you. Head for the left hand end of the hill and then to the right-most gate at the bottom of the slope. The left gate offers an alternative, though less interesting, route.

At this point the path is obvious and heads northeast following a stream. Unfortunately the path soon disappears again and it is worth correlating the streams with the map. You should be able to see a track on the north side of the largest stream. Cross the stream and turn right, still heading northeast, and cross a tributary stream.

Approximately 100m further on a bridleway heads north but to date I have not found any sign of it (it's not the obvious track a little further along). You will need to use map and compass here to find the route. Incidentally, the next tributary (a little further down the hill) is worth seeing. The bridleway crosses two streams and then changes direction. You will need a new bearing here but luckily the footing is quite good and the heather quite short. If all is well, you should find the first of a set of blue-topped marker posts. These will take you through deeper heather to a more visible path and then a stile (Grid ref 079812).

Turn right after the stile, gradually swinging away from the fence and onto a diagonal route down the slope towards the corner of a field. Turn left, continuing downhill, with the fence on your right until you reach the quiet village of West Scrafton. The path meets the road at a bridge. Under this bridge is the entrance to Scrafton Pot, which has an overall depth of around 44m. It is a complex cave in a bedding plane, but beware - there is a 20 metre drop just inside the entrance and the whole system floods to the roof when the stream level rises above the entrance.

Turn left through the village and follow the road signposted Swineside, heading southwest. When the road peters out the bridleway continues across the moors once more, dropping into a remarkable little valley at one point. The path crosses three fields and meets a larger track at a stream crossing. Turn left here and continue to a Y-junction a little way ahead.

The maps have changed here. Older maps show the left-hand path being the only right of way but then show it ending at the wall on the ridgeline. Later maps show the path turning right immediately over the wall but they also show the right-hand route as a permitted path and this is, perhaps, the easier of the two. On this path you are initially heading southwest towards Little Whernside but you gradually swing away and over the saddle.

Over the hill the path drops towards Scar House Reservoir. Turn left at the track crossing near the derelict lodge and head east along the north side of the reservoir. As you stand on the dam consider the work that went into building it many years ago, it is the largest of its type in Europe and collects over 2 billion gallons of water. The river that flows down from the dam is also interesting in that it sinks below ground downstream near Manchester Pot. For much of the year the whole flow is up to 100 ft (30 m) below the riverbed and passes through Goyden Pot and New Goyden Pot.

Cross the dam, turn right then left climbing towards Middlesmoor on the Nidderdale Way. An alternative would be to follow the northern loop of the Nidderdale Way, although this would be a longer walk. The most direct route back is down across fields from behind the church but it is more interesting to follow the road out of the village and turn right across fields to How Stean Gorge (and the café). Turn left and follow the narrow road then left over the bridge back to the car (depending where you left it).

Note - the book "Nidderdale Way" by J.K.E. Piggin describes the whole of the 53-mile walk in some detail. It is, or was, published by Dalesman Books (www.dalesman.co.uk) but doesn't appear on the website.

Walk 2572 Route Map

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