The tiny valley of the River Washburn - only 12 miles long from the point where the river rises on Pock Stones Moor near Greenhow village to its confluence with the Wharfe just south of Leathley - has offered delight and wonderment to West Riding ramblers
This is since the massive outdoors movement began after the First World War when local mill and factory workers cast off the shadow of the great conflict for the joys of a Sunday stroll and a breath of fresh Dales air.
In its few short miles, the Washburn crams in more interest, scenery and variety of terrain than is to be found in many a bigger dale. And at the heart of it all is the exquisite Dob Park Bridge – visited on this circuit – which has acted as a magnet for walkers down the generations; it holds a special place in the hearts of many who greet it as an old friend every time they tread its hallowed stones.
The Washburn Valley was turned into a miniature Lake District through the necessity to provide the booming city of Leeds with water for both its soaring population and its expanding industries.
The city fathers first set their sights on the valley as a possible source of water as early as the 1850s when a number of surveys were carried out, but it wasn’t until 1875 that the first reservoir, Lindley Wood, was completed to be followed by Swinsty in 1876 and Fewston in 1879.
The demands for water continued to grow down the years until, eventually, a decision was made to build a fourth reservoir, Thruscross, much to the dismay of countryside lovers who were appalled at the prospect of the village of West End, with its lovely church, sinking beneath the rising waters. Thruscross came on tap in 1966.
In the last decade or two, Yorkshire Water has made amends for this restructuring of Washburndale by throwing open its lands to the public, building footpaths, car parks and other facilities - an enlightened approach much appreciated by today’s walkers.
This outing contains a fair amount of climbing on the outward leg as is leaves the valley floor to wind its way by field and forest to the heights around the radio mast atop Norwood Edge. The ascent is gradual for the most part, but there are one or two steep sections in the wood just before the route emerges in Top Lane – so keep something in the tank! Of course, there are compensations - an uphill first half means a mainly downhill back half.
PARKING: Park by the side of B6451 Otley-Pateley Bridge road at the foot of Norwood Edge on the northern side of the viaduct spanning Lindley Wood Reservoir. There are also tiny parking areas – hard by the wall – on either side of the viaduct. Please do not block any gates or access points.
LINDLEY WOOD RESERVOIR and NORWOOD EDGE
7 miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S 297 Lower Wharfedale
From the parking areas on the northern (Norwood Edge) side of the Lindley Wood Viaduct, cross the viaduct in a southerly direction - towards Otley - facing the traffic and walking single file and with the waters of the reservoir on either side. Immediately on crossing the viaduct, turn right, go over a stile at the side of a gate and continue on a vehicle track.
This fine track leads, in half a mile, to a vehicle bridge over the River Washburn – turn right over the bridge, cross a stile and go across the narrow field to the wall and turn left along it (ignore gate). Press on to a kissing gate to left of a wooden gate and then stride out along vehicle tracks to emerge in a dirt road with – to your front left – the iconic Dob Park Bridge, beloved of generations of West Riding ramblers.
The first crossing of the River Washburn at this point was a paved ford – still visible – which formed part of a medieval monastic trade route between Otley and Nidderdale. The present packhorse bridge was built in 1767 after an earlier structure was swept away in a great flood. On August 4, 1767, a violent thunderstorm broke out over Pock Stones Moor, where the Washburn rises near Stump Cross Caverns, and it unleashed a torrent of water that caused devastation the length of the Washburn valley, drowning scores of cows, sheep and other livestock and carrying away the bridges at Dob Park and Lindley.
Ignore the bridge! Instead, turn right up the dirt road to a road junction at Norwood Bottom Hall and turn right along a minor lane. After 200 yards, at Norwood Bottom Farm, ignore the new walkers’ gate on your left – keep going for another 50 yards or so (bins on your right) and turn left through a metal gate with yellow tape.
Now go up the field by the wall on your right. Just before end of field, go half left to enter wood over a broken wall and then turn right for 50 yards or so to enter a vehicle track (arrow) and turn left up through the wood, passing a blue feeder on your right.
1: Continue to arrive in a vehicle cross track and go straight ahead and wind up through the wood. Eventually, the path makes a sharp turn right at tree with yellow tape. It then turns sharp left to climb steeply uphill, crossing two fallen trees just before arriving on a plateau of felled trees.
Go slightly right through the tree stumps to spot a walkers gate in the top fence. Climb steeply up to this gate and then turn right along a road (Top Lane) to emerge in the B6451 at the top of Norwood Edge.
Turn right for a few yards to the brow and then, when you can see the traffic in both directions, turn left across the road to enter the Norwood Edge Plantation and take the track going half right, past a barrier with a small blue notice.
This fine track leads unerringly to a major fork – take the right branch. On arriving at a cross path, go straight ahead. At bottom of slope, on edge of wood, spot the metal gate on your left with yellow tape. Pass through and turn right towards a wind turbine to gain a wall corner.
Continue up the wall (wall on your left). When wall finishes, go slightly right towards the huge farm (Prospect House) to a gate with an obvious track behind it. Go through the gate and up the track for about 50 yards and then turn right through a gate (arrow) and go straight across the field to a gate on the far side with the farm on your left.
Go through the gate and turn left into the farm drive, cross it and take the drive opposite, turning left along the concrete drive past arrow on gate post at cattle grid. On arriving at the wall surrounding the farmhouse – still Prospect House Farm – turn right through metal gate and pass across front of farmhouse to arrive in wall corner and turn right, downhill, along wall which soon becomes a fence.
2: Cross a stile in a section of wooden fence and continue along left edge of field, soon crossing the Greystone Beck. Press on by wall on your left to a stile at end of field, cross it – awkward! - and turn left along a minor lane.
After 600/700 yards, turn right with the road, ignoring a footpath ahead. Stay with the road at all times, eventually turning left (ignore bridleway yellow disc). Go past Buttoner House Farm, through gate across the road and onward for a good half mile to pass the huge complex at Lindley Hall Farm (silos).
Sweep left with the road - Almscliff Crag ahead – and then sweep right – Lindley Hall to your right – and then drop down through an “S” bend to the tiny community of Lindley Green with an old box-top sign on your right (to right of red post box). Here, turn right along vehicle track for about 200 yards and then turn left over a stile (arrow and yellow tape). Go straight ahead by wall on your left, through a walkers’ gate (arrow) and onward by the wall to a house (on your left) and then sweep right downhill by a wall.
Follow a lovely green track down the hill and then, at bottom of hill, spot the stile to your front left. Cross it and go down the wall to emerge in a minor road, turn right for 30 yards – Lindley Bridge ahead – and turn right along a short vehicle track and then bypass a stone house to its left.
Press on through the trees for a lovely finale of a mile, soon with the outflow of Lindley Wood Reservoir on your left. Continue along the shore of the reservoir to the parking area and finish at Lindley Viaduct.