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16 August 2010

From Barons to Beavers

A gentle circular route from Swinsty reservoir to Beaver Dyke Dam.
Distance: 4.2 Miles | Time: 1h 27m | Difficulty: Easy

A full tank of petrol and warm sunshine strangely brings out an insatiable desire to get out and get my boots muddy, or dusty at the very least. Equally, temporary unemployment means there's no reason to be inside...

John O' Gaunt Reservoir

The reservoirs lying at the bottom of the Washburn valley between the villages of Timble and Fewston grow more and more popular as a place for people to get out and get some exercise. You can't blame people for making the most of them, they're within easy driving distance of Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate, there's plenty of wonderful views, relatively easy walking and good facilities. But head up the hill from Swinsty reservoir and you're into almost uncharted territory, sheep and cattle outnumber the walkers and anglers are few and far between. If you ask me, this makes the walk all the more enjoyable, the views un-spoilt, and the beer at the end (or beginning if it takes your fancy) colder and sweeter.



The Route

There's two options for the start of the walk, I tend to use the Yorkshire Water car park at Stack Point near the bottom end of Swinsty reservoir, alternatively park at the Sun Inn. Starting from the pub however knocks about 1.25 miles off the distance and misses out on the only real wooded section.

Leaving the carpark head out over the causeway and turn left along the green lane into the woods, following the path as it winds up the edge of stream-bed before depositing you into the first of two fields. Head diagonally to your left up the hill and over a stone stile into the next, then make a bee-line for the cow-shed at the other side of the wall. Pass through the gateway, along the front of the shed and you'll come out opposite the Sun Inn.

The Sun Inn, Norwood

The Sun Inn has a history going back a few hundred years as a coaching inn. Today it's one of Mr Theakston's and as such serves a good selection of real ales along with darned good food. Ever popular with bikers year-round, and well known for it's live music, it's a nice place to savor a locally produced pint.

Leaving the Sun Inn, head up the ginnel at the side passing recently renovated farm buildings and follow the marked pathway down the side of a garden to a kissing gate into the pasture beyond. There's 4 small fields to cross here, follow the way-markers and make for Bank End Farm on the hillside opposite. Pass through the gate and continue up the slope to the ancient lane at the top. Turn right and make your way along the lane, taking a brief detour around the fallen tree.

Up the Valley

Eventually the lane makes a sudden left turn, after 10m there's a Yorkshire water marker on a gatepost, head through the gateway, negotiate the kissing gate and climb up towards the crumbling stone barn and the wooden memorial benches overlooking the valley. If you've not taken advantage of the Sun Inn then here's an ideal place to stop for a sandwich and admire the view. Once you're satisfied continue on down the hill toward the dam, over the stile and make for the small black gate at the other side.

Beaver Dyke Reservoir

Now comes the history. Head up the hill (the only steep section on the walk) to the abandoned farm buildings at the top, just behind here is the site of John O' Gaunt's castle. John O Gaunt was the first Duke of Lancaster and the Lord of the Manor of Knaresborough until his death in 1399. John was the third son of King Edward III and the greatest landowner in the North of England, the remains of the castle here are one of at least thirty properties that were in his ownership. It's understood that the castle was composed of a central tower, an outer wall, gatehouse and bridged moat. Unfortunately, without the aid of Tony Robinson, there is very little to be seen today.

John O' Gaunt's Castle

Leaving the site of the castle, keep the farm buildings on your right and take the gate in the left corner of the paddock, opening into yet another green lane. 40m up the lane head into the field on your right and aim for the re-routed path that follows the treeline to the front of East End Manor.

At the entrance to the manor head diagonally across 4 pastures towards Brown Bank farm. There's no way-markers at this point but the path's relatively easy to follow. Enter the third pasture by way of a stone stile and keep the stone wall to your right as you head for the farmyard. Now for a bit of road-walking; head through the yard and follow the concrete driveway back towards Watson's Lane. Turn right and follow the lane for 0.5 mile in the direction of Swinsty reservoir.

When you reach the main road (Brame Lane) there's two options; 1) turn right, make for the Sun Inn for some liquid refreshment before heading back down the original route, or 2) turn left and then immediately right, following the sign for Fewston, 0.25 mile down the hill follow the marked footpath into the woods and then join up with the original path down to the green lane and back over the causeway to the car park.

Sometime I fancy doing an extended version of this walk, probably starting at the Stainburn Moor car park, heading along Norwood Lane to Beckwithshaw, refreshment break at The Smiths Arms, down Pot Bank to Pot Bridge Farm before heading cross-country to Long Liberty Farm and the head of Beaver Dyke, then pick up the path for a rest stop at the Sun Inn before heading back up to Stainburn Moor. A gentle 9.5 miles I reckon, but that's an amble for another day.

The Map



OS Maps: Landranger 104 | Explorer 297

View the trip at EveryTrail.com | Or go get the GPX file
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