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24 August 2010

The Six Ales Trail - Part 1

First section of the Six Ales Trail; Otley to Blubberhouses.
Distance: 9.2 Miles | Time: 3h 41m | Difficulty: Easy

Six Pints, 6 breweries, Six Dales, 38 miles.  "I don't know what's more of a challenge" I said "Finding 6 superb real ales from 6 local breweries or the 38 miles?"  "Judging by the number of breweries round 'ere I'm pretty sure it'll be the mileage." came the reply...

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Following on from my rant the other day against the Six Dales Trail, here's the first section of the Six Ales Trail...

The first stretch of the route runs from under the clock-tower in the delightful town of Otley in Wharfedale, to the village of Blubberhouses in the Washburn valley. Partly because I was sussing out the route, and partly because I was looking for a lazy Sunday afternoon walk, I did it in reverse from the car-park at Blubberhouses to the town square at Otley - this way it's mostly downhill too ;-)

Purists would argue that to complete a route you have to walk it from one end to the other, point A to point B, B to C, C to D and so-on. B to A, on the other hand, followed by B to D (skipping C entirely) goes against their principles you see. But that's why I don't argue with purists, it's like arguing with an idiot - they just drag you down to their level and beat you with their stupidity. Anyway, quite frankly who gives a monkey's? As long as you enjoy yourself, see the sights and cover the distance then what else matters - besides the views are far more spectacular coming down that section of the Washburn than they are going up it...

There's two car parks at Blubberhouses, one at the head of the reservoir next to the crossroads and another a couple of minutes walk up the A59 in the direction of Harrogate, so no need to park right outside the entrance to the larger one to make access difficult from the main road (yes that's directed at you, twerp in the red XR3i cabriolet). 

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From the larger of the two car parks ignore the Six Dales Trail marker and head over the stile and up the hill on your right to a raised gate at the top of the field.  We're taking this route as it's makes a direct beeline for the Timble Inn and ignores the heavily congested path along the side of Fewston reservoir, It's great to see people that wouldn't normally leave the confines of their homes getting out and about in their local countryside, however Fewston on a weekend reminds me of the M25 with families, anglers, bikes and buggies all competing for a 3ft wide path...

Turn left at the top of the field and make your way through the remains of a once stout dry stone wall, heading for the gate in the right hand corner of the next field. Once through the gate follow the path as it snakes it's way along the left-hand edge of the field heading for the plantation on Beecroft moor.

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The next stile drops you unceremoniously into an open field, head for the large tree 70m in front of you then onto the wire fence another 85m behind it. Turn right at the fence and head down the hill towards the ruined buildings and sheep folds by Thackray Beck. A wooden footbridge leads over the beck and into the Beecroft Plantation.

The path up through the plantation isn't too well worn but you can get a general feel for the direction you should be heading - up into the treeline. After a few minutes fighting your way through the undergrowth you'll pop out on a forestry trail, cross straight over and pick up the path on the other side.

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Leaving the plantation it's straight over the road at Ridge Top Farm and then make a path diagonally in the direction of the telegraph poles to the stone steps on the far side of the pasture. Up the hill, through the gateway, and then aim for the left of the house at the bottom of the other side. Over the wall and you've just clocked up the first two miles of the route, so I think a pint is called for...

The sleepy village of Timble is best known for it's Inn and it's Witches. More on the pub later, but first we'll delve into the occult... In 1621 local landed-gentry, Edward Fairfax, published "Daemonologia - A Discourse on Witchcraft" a work often dismissed by modern scholars as the superstitious ramblings of a fevered mind, a fevered mind better suited to greater things in fact.  Fairfax was one of the founders of the modern school of English poetry and is famed for his translation of Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme liberata" (Jerusalem Delivered) into English in 1600.

Fairfax settled in New Hall (unfortunately now covered by Swinsty reservoir) in 1619 and during the first two years in the property he and his family were afflicted by 'strange disorders' which he blamed on the womenfolk of several local families. The charges brought against the women ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. He produced 'evidences' of their 'imps' and 'familiars' (and, yes, one of them was a black cat…), and told of how these 'witches' had bewitched his elder daughters, Helen and Elizabeth, and caused the death of his baby daughter Ann. After two years of spells and black magic he decided enough was enough and had the ‘witches’ arrested and taken to York Castle to await trial on charges of witchcraft. Which, of course, is precisely what you do when you’re an ‘enlightened scholar’ and why he is sometimes considered a bit of a crack-pot…

Timble Inn

Now, to the pub; The Timble Inn has a bit of a potted history, seeming to open and close as the wind blew. Most recently it closed in 2005, but reopened late last year having undergone extensive renovations. Only open from Thursday to Sunday the Timble Inn is now pitched as a luxury inn with 7 en-suite rooms and fine (yet reasonably priced) dining using local produce. It's also a jolly nice place to stop for a pint and rest your feet either in the the beer garden or on the benches on the opposite side of the road. A pint of Theakston's Best Bitter is just what the doctor ordered for putting a spring in your step (or maybe a wobble in your walk) for the next 4 miles...

Leaving the inn make a left and then double back on yourself at the junction to head down the back side of the pub towards the farms at Nether Timble.  Shortly after passing Book End Farm (having stopped to admire the spectacular views they have from their terrace) there's a ladder stile in the field on the right of the lane, cross the stile and make your way down the field to the new plantation at the bottom.
 
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Hack your way through the bushes (if you've not got trousers on then you might regret shorts at this point as there's a fair amount of gorse) and then keep heading downhill to the stile hidden at the bottom corner of the next field.  Head straight across the top of the slope in this next field otherwise you'll only have to come back up the hill again, then follow the fence downhill until you meet Timble Gill Beck.

Now if you're looking for a circular walk here's an ideal point to turn left and head back up the Swinsty reservoir, follow the path over the road and up the eastern shore of Fewston reservoir back to the car park at Blubberhouses.  Otherwise turn right, over the new footbridge and continue down the Washburn Valley.  Follow the path as it meanders through the next nine fields or so until you reach the old pack horse bridge and ford at Dob Park.

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Then it's up the hill towards Middle Farm and the old Dob Park hunting lodge, at 4 miles here's an ideal point for a sandwich break.  Whilst I didn't include the lodge in the route it wouldn't take much to make a little detour to it. Now classed as an ancient monument by English Heritage, Dob Park Lodge was one of a number of hunting lodges built within the boundaries of  the Forest of Knaresborough.

The forest was established as a royal hunting around 1160 and included vast swathes of moorland heath and woodland.  In the late 18th century the border's were marked out with large carved marker stones of which a number survive today - some good examples can be found on Blubberhouses Moor.  The list of lodges is questionable at best, but it's widely accepted that  along with Dob Park they were primarily John O' Gaunt's castle (as visited in From Barons to Beavers) and Bilton Hall (from sometime around 1380).

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Keep trekking up the track past Middle Farm, where it turns into a tarmac'd road, and continue up the hill.  About a hundred metres before joining the main road, take a left onto the green lane running onto Farnley Moor.  The path along Farnley Moor is easy going and offers some stunning views down towards Wharfedale and the impressive Arthington Viaduct.  Head down the hill to Crag farm at the bottom (with the incessant barking dogs) and make an immediate right through the gate and back up the hill alongside Crag plantation.  Then it's across the fields to Carr Side Farm and our rendezvous with a cold short blonde...

The Spite

The Spite is a lovely little pub just up the hill from the centre of Otley. Once renowned for it's food and beers it's quieter these days, but the selection of beers is still just as good.  Try Golden Pippin from the fantastic Copper Dragon Brewery in Skipton, a nice refreshing blonde ale with a hint of citrus.

The pub's name may seem a little strange, as ever, there's a story too it. From 1852 to 1883 the Spite was called "Roebuck Inn" and owned by publican George Spence. It did good trade with the Washburn locals but had a fair bit of competition from the "Traveller's Rest" which opened, two doors up the road, in 1853. Constant feuding between the inns led to the local's giving them the nicknames "Spite" and "Malice".  The Traveller's rest closed in the late 19th century, and unfortunately the Spite is now facing closure unless a buyer can be found.

Now we've had our second refreshment stop it's time to appease the purists and rejoin the proper line of the trail.  Leaving the pub, head along Roebuck lane and just before reaching the house at the end cut into the field on your right.  Now there's a bit of beggaring about to pick up the path which basically involves going up the hill towards Clifton Lane only to come back down it again, but then at least we've done some more of the route.

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So head across two fields until you reach the unmade road snaking up the hill. Then it's up the hill, into the lane at the top then an immediate right turn into the last 200m of Clifton lane before veering off down the hideously overgrown footpath on the left.  It's all downhill from here (literally); follow the well worn path and trail markers as the path works it's way through the fields leading up to the housing estate on the north side of the River Wharfe.  Here the trail actually worms it's way through the estate to a final section alongside the river, but rather get lost in a faceless estate I think it's easier to turn left here and join the main road for the final mile into town and our finish at the clock tower.

So there we have it, the first section of the Six Pints for Six Dales Trail.  Next weekend may bring Part 2, but as tomorrow looks like a trip up High Street via Riggindale then the next installment may have to wait...

The Map



OS Maps: Landranger 104 | Explorer 297

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