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  • timbarber

A walk into Coverdale from Scar House Reservoir in Nidderdale

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

After being blessed with great weather for the first couple of months of the pandemic, Wednesday saw the weather change and as we parked up near Scar House reservoir the rain was already a constant drizzle and dark clouds filled the sky.

We started by walking across the dam at Scar House Reservoir, with its Castleated wall with dramatic views down Nidderdale. This in itself is a wonderful piece of Victorian architecture. The Victorians dammed the River Nidd at a number of places to create reservoirs for the supply of clean water to Bradford at the time when it was a thriving industrial textile making city but with overcrowding, poverty and disease rife. Angram Reservoir is above Scar House and Gouthwaite below, both lovely spots and with good walking close by.

As we looked back to the car park you can see on the valley side a quarry where the stone for the dam was taken as well as the plots of a thriving village of workers long since gone.

After crossing the dam, we took a path along the side of the reservoir passing another deserted village called Lodge. A former medieval grange farm for the Cistercian Abbey of Byland. It came into private ownership and was a successful farming community with its own church until the Bradford Waterworks Corporation asked farmers to leave as a precaution against contaminating the water supply. There are a few old walls and ruined buildings which are all that are left of the village.

From here we took a path marked on the right (the Carle Fell Road) and started to climb up onto the watershed. The conditions worsened and the weather closed in.

We actually were climbing near Deadman’s Hill – quite a macabre name for a location, but where 3 headless corpses were found in 1728 – believed to be Scottish Peddlers murdered for their money. After a steep climb we started to descend into Coverdale, the scenery changing from rough moorland into wild flower meadows and grazing for sheep.

We met the River Cover at an old packhorse bridge and followed various paths which followed roughly the course of the river and passed through the small Dales villages of Horsehouse and Swineside. Horsehouse was on an old packhorse route and offered stabling for travellers and tradesmen. Interestingly a beck which runs through Horsehouse into the River Cover is called Dear Close Gill – a reminder that this part of Nidderdale was once part of the Royal Hunting Park of the Lords of Middleham.

A bridge near Swineside proved a great stop for lunch and our Weegeman’s pork pies proved a worthy energy boost. Post lunch we walked on to the typical stone village of West Scrafton where we picked up another path which was going to ascend up back onto the watershed out of Coverdale and back into Nidderdale.

After a long steady climb we ended up on Colsterdale Moor, with evidence of mine workings. Part of the moors was fenced of as an area of Special Scientific Interest so we followed a footpath which tool us along and across until we could see Niddedale. There were a number of old boundary markers along the high moors.

We passed a deserted house which we assumed was an old mine workers house as there was some poor quality coal and lead mining in the area. We have since found it was called the Sportsman’s Rest and was to do with the local grouse shooting on the Moors. Even though until today there had been no rain for weeks – the tops of the moors were very boggy under foot and this would not be a walk to do without proper waterproofed boots.

We eventually picked up the Niddedale Way which took us back to Scar House reservoir dam wall travelling back across the dam to the car. The rain had let up for an hour of so, but it was wet for most of the day. The beauty of the Yorkshire Dales shines throughs in all weathers as I hope you will see from my photos.

The walk was just over 14 miles, took about 6 and a half hours with 2 quite steep climbs and a mix of paths and rough boggy terrain. Not a bad day for the Fitbit - registering over 36,000 steps!


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