Strenuous Leader: Dag Griffiths Distance: 11.75 miles, Max Height: 485 metres, Total Ascent: 482 metres.
From the car park we head out across the grounds of Bolton Priory, cross the River Wharfe and initially follow the Dales Way before making our way into The Valley of Desolation and Laund Pasture Plantation. We continue the steady climb onto Barden Fell, finally arriving at Simons Seat (the highest part of the walk) offering spectacular views. Our path then descends gradually to Lower Fell Plantation from which we emerge to rejoin the Dales Way. Following the Wharfe on our return we pass Barden Bridge, The Strid, the Cavendish Pavilion and the ruins of the Abbey.
Moderate Leader: Philomena Walker Distance: 8 miles
Over fields, moorland paths and lanes to Barden Tower and lunch. Turning along the River Wharfe and through Strid Wood to the ‘infamous’ Strid. Crossing the wooden bridge by Cavendish Pavilion, we pick up a pleasant walk with great views to Bolton Bridge, which we cross over to walk back along the Wharfe to cafe and car park.
Leisurely Leader: Derek Lee Distance: 7 miles
We leave Bolton Abbey northwards, climbing 550 feet in the first 2.5 miles to the Hare Head “summits”. Then turning east we drop down to join the River Wharfe, which we follow back to Bolton Abbey, passing through the Strid with its dramatic water flows on the way.
Easy Leader: Margery Howe & Adelaide Houghton Distance: approx 5 miles
From the car park, down to the River Wharfe, crossing by the footbridge, then following river upstream on undulating paths through woodlands which give superb views of the valley and The Strid. After lunch by the river, we cross the Wharfe by the aqueduct bridge and then return on fairly level paths with a chance to view the Strid at close quarters. It is then a short walk back to Bolton Abbey, passing the Cavendish Pavilion Tea Rooms – anyone for tea? No stiles on this walk.
Notes On The Area
Bolton Priory was founded in 1154 by Augustinian canons (known as Black Friars because they wore black and not, as a schoolboy once wrote, because of their dirty habits!). It became a wealthy establishment which, in it’s heyday, had up to 20 canons, several lay brethren, and employed 200 people. It was suppressed in 1539, three years after the Act of Dissolution. The Priory had always been the village church which is why the King allowed a portion to remain intact – it is still a rather grand church for such a small village.
The tall structure on the roadside at the top of the entrance to the Cavendish Pavilion car park is a covered fountain erected by the electors of the West Riding as a tribute to the memory of Frederick Charles Cavendish, son of the 7th Duke of Devonshire.
The woodlands between the Cavendish Pavilion and the Strid have been made into a nature reserve, with six waymarked footpaths. The woods contain superb specimens of mature trees, including oak, ash, yew and Scots pine, and there are drifts of bluebells, wood sorrel, wood anemones, celandine and campion. Birds to be seen include dippers, wrens, finches, tits, magpies and jays, with the occasional glimpse of a heron or great spotted woodpecker. At the Strid, rocky ledges close in like pincers, forcing the River Wharfe through a channel only a few feet wide. The river has hollowed out the sandstone to create underground chambers of treacherous depth. Many have drowned attempting to leap across the swirling torrent, and the area should be approached with caution.
Barden Bridge is a fine example of a Dales humpbacked bridge dating from the late 17th century. It’s buttressed arches serve as breakwaters when the river is in flood. Barden Tower was once the home of the celebrated ‘Shepherd Lord’ Henry Clifford, who was brought up in secret exile by Cumberland shepherds during the reign of his father’s enemies, the Yorkist Kings. After the succession of Henry Tudor in 1485, Henry Clifford regained his estates but always preferred his isolated tretreat at Barden to his ancestral home at Skipton Castle. In 1643 Lady Ann Clifford inherited the estates and, after ordering considerable restoration, lived there from about 1659 until her death in 1676. The Tower became the property of the Dukes of Devonshire in 1748 and is now in the care of the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement. It has not been lived in since Lady Ann Clifford’s death and has been in ruins since the 1800’s.
Beamsley Beacon is the bold ridge that stands above the Wharfe to the south east. As it’s name suggests, it was one of the many hills in England where a warning fire was lighted in former times when there was a national emergency, and dates from the time when people lived in fear of a Napoleonic invasion. It is a particularly fine viewpoint, especially to the south and west where Ilkley Moor forms the right hand side of Wharfedale.
The Valley of Desolation acquired this name after a severe storm in 1826 which caused considerable damage. Today, however, the name is hardly appropriate, for the tree-cloaked slopes, attractive stream and the two waterfalls make it instead a place of sylvan beauty.