Slackpacking Nidderdale

by backpackingbongos

For some reason Nidderdale was not included in the Yorkshire Dales National park. It is a fine Dale and I have no idea why it was left out. I could do some research and use this blog as a vehicle to inform and educate but I can’t really be bothered to do that. Go and look it up on the internet yourself dear readers, if you find out please let me know.

The cynic in me tells me it is because the surrounding moors are prime grouse shooting territory, the landowners probably did not want oiks crashing across their land. Unfortunately due to these grouse moors dogs are banned from the CROW land so Reuben had to be left at home. That was a shame really because the route was short (25 kilometres split over 3 days) and there was no wind, rain, heat or severe cold, all of which he is not a fan these days.

The car was left in the small car park at Lofthouse where after a bit of a picnic I set off into the hills with my friend Rae. It is probably a year since we had backpacked together so it was good to catch up.

The tarmac lane led up past How Stean Gorge where the owners charge you to look at the scenery, we gave it a miss and carried on. We were soon following a beautiful river path along How Stean Beck. The wild garlic was just beginning to come out. A month later and the whole place would have been a riot of green.

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We were soon climbing and once past the abandoned High Riggs farm we took a landrover track onto the moor.

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Landrover tracks are an eyesore but this one was a few years old and had blended well into the scenery. It ended at a shooting hut, one side of which was unlocked and would provide good shelter if the weather was bad. The nice section was locked so we pushed our noses against the glass to have a peer inside and imagine the lunch time feasts that take place during shooting season.

I had expected the walk across the moor and down to the Angram reservoir to be a bit of a rough and boggy slog. We were pleasantly surprised when we found a good path linking together the shooting butts. It made the walking a pleasure as it wound its way around the bogs.

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We soon arrived at a flat grassy area sandwiched between the soggy moorland and where the hill drops steeply into the valley below. It was breezy and exposed and there was rain forecast later that night. However it was a lovely spot, close to water and we were not sure that we would find anything decent lower down. The ground below us looked rather tussocky from a distance.

Tents were soon pitched and water the colour of tea was collected.

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I have recently swapped over from using gas to a lightweight alcohol stove for cooking. I have to admit that I am enjoying using it even though it is not as convenient as the Jetboil. If it was lashing it down with rain and the wind was strong I would want the Jetboil for speed, however for a relaxed camp you can’t beat cooking with alcohol.

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I am also trying not to rely on freeze-dried meals so much as I feel they are overpriced, especially if you are out backpacking every other weekend. My current cheap meal of choice is an ugly mixture of instant Smash, some Babybel cheese and a couple of veggie wieners. Very satisfying when eaten on a hillside.

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The breeze died down during the evening and when the rain arrived it was not too bad. The weather system totally cleaned the sky and we woke to warming rays of sunshine.

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Upon descending to Angram Reservoir it turned out there were plenty of decent spots to pitch a tent but I was glad we had chosen our lofty perch.

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The soggy path around the reservoir was reached and we squelched our way through the tussocks towards the footbridge that took us to the north shore.

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It’s a pleasant stroll along the path that would eventually lead to the car park below Scar House Reservoir. Once past the Angram dam we took the track that heads north over the moors and into Coverdale. There we got mobbed by a flock of sheep who thought we were providing them with dinner. The noise as they all ran over was deafening and it is a little unnerving to be followed by so many beasts.

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Sadly the track is a right old mess on the steeper sections, heavy use by vehicles has removed the top soil and the weather has done the rest, tearing deep channels which are difficult to cross. It was all left behind though on a trudge across pathless moorland to reach the unmarked and insignificant summit of Dead man’s Hill. The only reward you get for climbing it is a tick in a book and a boot full of heather.

Descending towards the reservoir we spotted a large flat area above some extensive quarry workings and pitched the tents. Water was provided from the tiniest of trickles off of the moor, it took an age to fill each bottle but there was no alternative.

It was an evening of threatening clouds building up from the west and we could see rain tracking across the hills on the horizon. It avoided us for a while but eventually the rain closed in and we retired to our tents.

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Soon after dark the sound of the rain changed. The usual sound of rain pinging of a taught fly sheet became muffled. I popped my head out into a white world, snow being driven in as soon as I unzipped the tent. As I went to sleep I hoped that we would wake to a white winter wonderland.

In the morning it was not the snow that was impressive (just a mere dusting) but the colour of the sky. It was of the deepest purest shade of blue. The sun however gave no warmth and the cold nipped my fingers when taking down the tent. The higher Great Whernside however had attracted much more snow and I imagine it would have been a splendid place to be that morning.

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The track down through the quarry took an indirect route, good for warming up the legs rather than plunging straight down steep slopes. The view up both reservoirs is pretty good as well.

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Whilst descending we were watching a group of walkers on the other side of the valley. We could not figure what was going on as they were really taking their time. An hour later we finally caught them up to discover they were a group of men engaging in what could only be described as a ‘niche’ hobby. They were each controlling a remote control car, slowly making their way up the track. They looked to be taking proceedings very seriously.

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The track took us across the moor to the village of Middlesmoor which is perched on a hill above Nidderdale. It’s a picture perfect place and we sat on a bench near the church to eat our lunch whilst enjoying the view in the sun. That just then left a short walk back to Lofthouse down through the fields and past a one eyed and very sad-looking dog tied to a gate.

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17 Comments to “Slackpacking Nidderdale”

  1. I am having time away from freeze dried meals – you ever tried a dehydrator? Great to get out and do stuff – and your blog helps.

    • Hey Warren. Yes I have got a dehydrator, go through phases of using it but sometimes get lazy!

      • I looked at them – how easy are they?

      • Hi Warren. They are pretty easy to use but can be time consuming. I usually leave mine running a couple of days to make sure completely dry, I have to rotate the trays as the warm air is blown from below on mine.

  2. I’ve always liked that area and have occasionally pondered walking the Nidderdale Way….

  3. Looks a great trip James, your usual excellent photos, cracking stuff.

  4. I suspect that the catchment areas for the reservoirs had a lot to do with keeping Nidderdale outside YDNP. The shooting estates wouldn’t have liked it either but there’s plenty of shooting estates within YDNP, so I doubt if they were major blockers, unlike Bradford City Council who originally built the reservoirs. Having said that, I surprised you didn’t get bothered by the local keepers.

    • Luckily the local keepers did not make an appearance Mike and we had a couple of good wild camps without any bother.

  5. Looks like a great trip through the area I’m pleased to say is my backyard. The reason Nidderdale and Washburn Valley were left out of the National Park isn’t related to grouse shooting. At the time the YDNP was planned the network of reservoirs were all owned by Bradford Corporation and they wanted to discourage walkers from ‘polluting’ their gathering grounds. They had influence and good connections. AONB status gives it best of both worlds – environmental protection without being overwhelmed like Malham, Grassington and the Three Peaks. Thankfully Yorkshire Water take a more enlightened view and welcome sensible tourists.
    Whatever people’s views on shooting, it is possibly the largest employer in the Dale and a major contributor to the visitor economy here.

    • Hey Stan. You really do have a nice backyard 🙂 Thanks for the info on the AONB, great that Yorkshire Water is much more hiker friendly that the Bradford Corporation!

  6. I’ve wandered those moors a couple of times and found it rather pleasant and quiet. One of those places no one seems to know exists. For alcohol stoves try bio-ethanol. Cheaper, more efficient and no nasty smell. Not tried it in really cold weather though when meths can be a bit of a bugger to light

    • It’s nice to have some places that not many people know exist 🙂 The stove in our van runs on bio-ethanol, its hard to get hold of but as you say it does not have that nasty smell. Not tried it in the backpacking stove yet though.

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