Walking: Moorland journey to a hidden gem

The moorland path from Winterburn Reservoir up to Moor Lane in the final stages.The moorland path from Winterburn Reservoir up to Moor Lane in the final stages.
The moorland path from Winterburn Reservoir up to Moor Lane in the final stages.
Hetton, famed for its popular hostelry, The Angel, is tucked away in a relatively-unknown corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, lying four miles north of Skipton and some three miles inside the park's southern boundary.

This is a sleepy backwater of green meadows, woods, becks and stout stone barns overlooked to east and west by high, rugged moorland.

After starting out in gentle fashion from Hetton, this route seeks out the wild open spaces of Calton Moor before dropping down to the hidden, secret gem of Winterburn Reservoir, which nestles invisibly in a fold in the uplands.

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Hetton is a Saxon farmstead taking its name from the Old English “haeth” (heathland) and “tun” (a farm or settlement) - the farm on the heath. It was recorded in the Domesday Book survey of 1086 as the property of Roger of Poitou, a warrior favourite of the Conqueror, whose holdings were spread through eight counties of England.

In the middle of the 12th century, far-off Furness Abbey in Cumbria acquired the adjoining estates of Hetton, Flasby and Winterburn and remained in control until the Dissolution in 1538. For centuries, a market was held on the cobbles in front of The Angel, but this ceased many years ago.

Hetton is awash with houses and cottages dating from the 17th century and one which is much older and much more important This is the former post office, situated between the Methodist church and The Angel, which dates from the 13th or 14th century, making it a remarkable survivor of a private house.

Hetton was once the site of a fever hospital which was built well away from the community half way up the walled track known as Moor Lane along which this circuit starts and finishes. The hospital closed in the 1920s.

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Note: At this time of year, the ground can be saturated – Calton Moor being a prWaime example – and nothing less than waterproof boots and gaiters will serve to see you round with dry feet.



8 miles. Allow: 3 ½ – 4 ½ hours. Map: O/S OL2 Yorks Dales Southern and Western areas

Park in the main street at Hetton in the vicinity of The Angel Inn and set out in a northerly direction - towards Rylstone - for about 100 yards and turn left along a vehicle track (fingerpost: Weets Top).

Take it easy on this gradual – but persistent – climb, pausing frequently to look back over your shoulder towards Rylstone Fell with the Cracoe War Memorial obelisk prominent. After three-quarters of a mile, turn left along another broad vehicle track (the unmade Cross Lane) with Flasby Fell to your front left.

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Now stride out on a terrific section, passing a barn (New Laithe) after about 700 yards. Go through gate ahead and onward, through another gate just before the next barn/property with chimneys (Owslin) and sweep right with the grassy walled track and follow it to its end.

Go through gate, continue by wall on your left and then turn left with wall, past another barn (Owslin Laithe), and onward by the wall. Follow it all the way to the Hetton-Winterburn road and go straight ahead along the road, walking single file and facing the traffic.

Enjoy the arm-swinging descent along Hills Lane into the hamlet of Winterburn, passing Winterburn Grange on your left.

Winterburn, like Hetton, was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the property of Roger of Poitou. The estate was granted to Furness Abbey in 1155 and the abbey built a grange – a farm with chapel – in the area, probably on the site of the present Winterburn Grange.

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Winterburn was one of the first non-conformist villages in the Dales. A house was licensed as a meeting place for Protestant dissenters in 1694 and a congregational church opened in 1704 and flourished until 1880 when it closed. It re-opened two years later as a chapel of ease of the mother church at Gargrave before becoming a private house in the second half of the 20th century.

Stay on the main road to pass through the hamlet – don’t turn right! - passing Winterburn Hall (first mentioned in Furness Abbey records of 1316) on your right.

1: After about 100 yards, turn right over the bridge spanning the Winterburn Beck for Airton and Malham and press on for a few hundred yards to a fingerpost on your right for Calton – take this path and go half left up the field in line of fingerpost.

As you climb, a stile comes into view to the right of four trees. Cross the stile and continue in same line over the brow, passing to left of a telegraph pole, on a vague path which improves and, on crossing the brow, bears right to a gate and ladder stile to the right of a farm (Cowper Cote).

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Cross the ladder stile and the next one and continue by wire fence – farm to left of fence – and then, when wire fence turns left, go half right up the field on vague, sunken green vehicle tracks.

Follow these up the field and – when things get even more vague – go straight up middle of field towards the top wall in distance, the green track becoming more pronounced as you get closer to the top wall. Now spot a squared, fenced-off area ahead – just before this, the now-obvious green track curls right to a prominent open gateway (on our visit).

Pass through the gateway and continue on a green sward up the eastern edge of Calton Moor with a pine wood (Wye Plantation) popping into view. Go through a gate and bear right on a green track with wire fence soon on your right. Follow the path all the way - in company with fence to your right - with a field barn (Windros Laithe) appearing ahead.

When the fence bears away right, keep on the grass track, which curls gently right to descend to an open gateway. Go through and straight ahead to gain fence and turn left along it, passing to right of Windros Laithe, and then turn right, round wall corner, to gain the Wye Plantation.

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Go through gated stile and descend to cross footbridge over the Moor Gill. Go up far bank and follow the wall to a gate and ladder stile on your right – don’t overshoot! Cross the ladder stile and turn left along wall on vehicle track (fingerpost pointing back the way you have come). Turn right and then left with the vehicle track, through two gates close together, and then turn left along fence on vehicle track.

Go through a gate across track and straight on past the property at Smither Gill Laithe on a tarred access lane. Go up the far slope and then turn right (fingerpost) with the access drive to arrive at a three-sided fingerpost at cattle grid and turn left for Cow House.

2: Just before the next property (Way Gill), at cattle grid, go off right, as per fingerpost, and follow wooden fence on your left to bypass the house. Go through gate with two-sided fingerpost and turn right along the wall for a few yards and then go slightly left down the field, leaving the wall, and passing to the right of a telegraph pole in mid field, to spot a gate at bottom of field and with Winterburn Reservoir to your front right.

There is a stile to left of the gate – enter a tarred track and turn left, soon crossing Way Gill, and onward to spot a low sign to right of road reading “Footpath diverted” and, here, turn right to a fingerpost and cross the stile.

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Now go straight ahead with a gill to your right and with Winterburn Reservoir opening up before you.

The reservoir is a bit different from the many others dotted about the county as it has never been a public water supply; it was built between 1885 and 1893 as a feeder reservoir to ensure a constant level of water for the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, three miles to the south at Gargrave.

At field end, descend the banking to the wire fence lining the reservoir and turn left along it, although many parties take the easy option and turn left along top of banking. Follow the fence to a walkers’ gate – if you have walked along top of banking, you will have to descend rightwards to gain this gate – pass through, go over footbridge and straight on along the reservoir shoreline on an enclosed path.

At end of this section, cross a gated stile and continue with wall on your right. Go through a gate (ladder stile), over footbridge spanning Whetstone Gill, to gain a three-sided fingerpost and turn right for Hetton over a stone bridge crossing Hetton Common Beck.

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Almost immediately, turn left over railway sleepers and then swing right and follow the stout path up the slope to arrive – have patience! - at a four-sided fingerpost at the start of the walled Moor Lane.

Saunter down Moor Lane (fingerpost: Hetton) for a mile-and-a-quarter to enter the road at Hetton. Turn right to regain your vehicle.