Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

A first visit to Nidderdale

19th December 2016

The first week of July in 2014 saw a frenzy about Yorkshire when it hosted two stages of Le Tour de France, the first following its Le Grand D├ępart. Since then, the Tour de Yorkshire continues to rekindle the enthusiasm as does the Tour de Britain and that visited Cheshire in 2016. There seems to be no stopping the rise of road cycling as you will find on so many British roads.

The weekend before that Tour de France excitement, I travelled to Harrogate to spend a night there. Near the start of my working life, a work Christmas do brought me there for a weekend in December. Lack of satisfaction with photos that I took with a compact camera was but one experience that led me to buy an SLR the following summer. It also led to a subsequent day trip that yielded enough satisfaction for an album to be added to my online photo gallery.

Those photos date from my pre-digital photography days so I fancied a return to see if I could follow up my efforts on film with digital counterparts. Unfortunately, the weather failed to play ball so there is scope for a return. However, I had another reason for going to Yorkshire so I was not left empty handed after the weekend up there.

While I have visited many of Yorkshire’s dales, I never had got as far as Nidderdale. For some reason, it is not included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and has its own Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. My guess is that it might have something to do with geology since limestone pervades much of the National Park while Nidderdale is mainly a gritstone area not unlike the Dark Peak that is shared between Cheshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire.

It was sunny when I reached Pateley Bridge but my luck was not to hold even if it stayed dry all day. Many road cyclists were out on the hilly roads but that did little to delay my arrival. Still, one could wonder if anyone was living out a sort of Tour de France fantasy though Nidderdale is missed by the race itself. Given all the ups and downs, it seemed unfair to leave out Nidderdale and there was one cyclist who was getting so much of them that they asked me if there was any respite from the ascent at all.

The omission from Le Tour did nothing to stop folk decorating everywhere and anywhere with fully painted bikes and that included their tyres. Seeing this, you have to ask if these ever are to be used as bikes again. It is a curiosity that has proved not to be a one off since I know it happened for the Tour of Britain in 2016.

Under clouding skies, I followed the course of the River Nidd as far as Glasshouses before crossing the B6165 as if to make for the Nidderdale Way. Now that I survey the map, I have fallen into a little quandary as to whether I followed the long distance trail or merely shadowed it. There may have been a bit of both knowing how navigation can go but I was headed for Brimham Rocks and certainly left the trail to cross Fell Beck to get to them.

Skies were well overcast as I surveyed a way to gain the last bit of height to get among them. It may have been that my navigation was freer in its style than the following of public rights of way for I seem to remember that it involved a bit of clambering. Upon doing so, I got to glimpse the weird and wonderful forms that various outcrops take. To make photos of them like others have done, a return may be needed despite the sun gamely striving to break through the cloud cover while I was up there.

This not only is access land but also is owned by the National Trust so I got to dawdle as I explored what there was to be seen around Brimham Moor. There were others doing the same but I suspect that they had arrived by car. My next move was to walk the same road that they would have used and in the direction of Summerbridge.

Soon enough, I found the Nidderdale Way again and followed it as far as Smelthouses this time. From there, I headed for the River Nidd, whose banks I followed back to Pateley Bridge again. Beyond Glasshouses, I rejoined the Six Dales Trail for the final stretch. Aside from Pateley Bridge and Brimham Moor, much of my time was uninterrupted by the assembly of humanity so I was gifted the quiet time that my spirit so needed.

There was some time before the next bus back to Harrogate so I treated myself to an ice cream and found a perch next to the bowling green. Some were playing that gentle game and their exploits reflected the gentle atmosphere of the evening and reminded me how peaceful country evenings are in the countryside. But for my need to get back home for work next day, I might have been tempted by an extra overnight stay if a place had been available.

The peaceful ambience left me with good memories that easily compensated for any lack of sunshine. They may draw me back again for seeing Brimham Rocks in good light would be a bonus and there are Dalesbus services that go further up the dale if I ever fancy being more adventurous.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Harrogate with changes in Manchester and Leeds. Bus service 24 took me between Harroagate and Pateley Bridge.

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