Fountains Abbey,

Studley Park &

The Nidderdale Way,

North Yorkshire

16th - 18th September 2011




It was with great anticipation that the hiking weekend with Studley Royal Park in North Yorkshire as our location approached. The 800 acre park, run by the National Trust and declared a World Heritage Site in 1986, encompasses Fountains Abbey, a ruined Cistercian monastery, founded in 1132, enhance by the extensive Georgian water gardens. Our base was Whitefields Cottage, located on the edge of the park, a first first for the hiking club however as the weekend approached, the weather outlook seemed grim. Having been asked by Martin Lighten to pick up the provisions from John Adams, away at this time. Over several e-mails and telephone discussions, Martin, myself and Gordon eventually met up at Tim Porter's house in Welwyn Garden City at eight on Friday morning, before all driving up in Martin's car. The route takes one north along the A1(M) towards North Yorkshire before leaving the highway near the town of Ripon, with Fountains Abbey and Studley Park just beyond, along the B6265, also known as Studley Roger. The usefulness of a Satnav in establishing the precise location of the cottages ceases entirely as one reaches the main entrance, as the address provided on the National Trust website, given as Whitefields Cottage, Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Estate, Ripon, HG4 3DY, serves as the address for the entire gardens! Nonetheless, the Satnav had served its purpose just a short while earlier, when one or two "bright sparks" in the car, who thought they knew better, had suggested taking an earlier exit off the highway with some conviction, thus overriding the route proposed by the electronic navigation system, which ended up in us going in the wrong direction entirely. Needless to say, Tom Tom saved the day. Needless to say, the roads and exits along the highway had been altered recently and the device showed us veering off into the wilderness before suddenly rejoining the road. No wonder I suffer the same fate whenever I fetch someone at Luton Airport. Clearly, my Tom Tom is in serious need of a map upgrade.


Stables, Studley Royal Park, North Yorkshire.


Autumn beckons on Studley Royal Park.


Stags roam Studley Royal Park, North Yorkshire.


The National Trust tea-room and entrance to Studley Water Royal Gardens, adjacent to the lake.

Arriving around one in the afternoon, we picked up the key to the cottage at the main gate, grabbing a quick lunch at the National Trust restaurant and visitor's centre, a rather untidy, noisy bit of architecture that serves to bewilder rather than please, before heading off to the accommodation to drop off our gear and provisions. After a cup of tea and extended chat in the kitchen with the healthy state of the hiking club's finances being the main topic of conversation, the time idled on by and we headed off across the park towards the entrance of Studley Water Royal Gardens and Fountains Abbey, fenced off and subject to an entrance fee. Deciding to reserve exploration of the inner sanctuary for a later visit over the weekend, we wandered back past St Mary's church. The church stands in a medieval deer park, home to a collection of 500 Red, Fallow and Sika deer and a wealth of flora and fauna. The Deer Park once enclosed Studley Royal House, but this was largely destroyed by fire in December 1716 and had to be almost entirely rebuilt. The replacement building, was, in turn, extensively damaged by fire in 1946 and was demolished soon afterwards. Only the large stable block, built between 1728 and 1732, has survived. The church, designed by architect William Burgess, was commissioned in 1870. Work began in 1871 and the late-Victorian church was consecrated in 1878. Arriving at the church just as it was being locked up for the day, the caretaker emerged by then generously invited us in for a quick view. The interior is beautiful and light streamed in from the west through the stained glass windows, which are located at both ends as well as down the sides.

A number of the weekend hiking crowd had arrived back at the cottage but the time we had returned. The rain began to set in and it rained heavily overnight. Dinner saw us heading to the Grantley Arms, a fine old inn dating back to the late 1600's and set in the picturesque village of High Grantley on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, 3 miles from Fountains Abbey. It took us a while to find the place as Tim and Gordon, who had been map reading, managed to get us lost. A little on the pricey side in terms of what we are usually accustomed to on weekend trips  as regards pub food, a two-course meal was on offer at 16 a head. It has to be said that the service was excellent and the group of eight were attended to by an efficient if aloof waitress whom I learnt later over the weekend was of Latvian origin. The living quarters of the double-storey cottage occupies the entire upper level. Martin and I shared a room, with two bunks spare for late arrivals. Linen was not supplied so sleeping bags were required. One of the adjacent rooms had been allocated to the kids, two of them of Philippe Halsall, of French origin, whom I had not met before and whose mother was once employed at Xerox. Cameron and Jasmine Halsall shared a room with little Mathew, son of Chris and Angelica Platten.



Late-Victorian St Mary's Church, Studley Royal Park. To the left, the Obelisk.


Interior of St Mary's Church, Studley Royal Park.


Chorister's House and St Mary's Church, Studley Royal Park.


Chorister's House, Studley Royal Park.


View towards the main entrance to Studley Royal Park.


The following morning, miraculously, we were greeted with clear, blue skies as we set off for the day's walking. Absconding from my traditional role in helping to prepare breakfast, I sneaked off to the lounge to watch the 7 a.m. broadcast of the South Africa versus Fiji rugby World Cup match. The countryside around Studley Park being somewhat flat by our hiking standards, given our proximity to the Yorkshire Dales, true hiker's territory, we headed off by car to the town of Lofthouse on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, after driving the length of Gouthwaite Reservoir. From here we set off on our walk for the day. The Nidderdale Way is 53 miles long and runs along the entire length of Nidderdale in the Yorkshire Dales, from Ripley (not far from Harrogate) to Scar House Reservoir at the head of the dale and back along the opposite bank of the River Nidd to Ripley. We were thus attempting the top section to Scar House Reservoir, though, in truth, the return crosses over into the valley down which How Stean Beck courses its way until it meets the River Nidd.

The path follows Thrope Lane up the hill leading out of the village but leaves the tarred road as it Hill bends to the the right as Trapping Hill, with the River Nidd to the left. It reaches Thrope Farm and after crossing the river, continues up to Limley Farm, passing through the latter. The path leaves the river an zig-zags through a field of ferns up the hillside away from the river, passing by Thwaite House and continuing on the right-hand side of the valley along the Nidderdale Way. From a higher vantage point, the walls of Scar House Reservoir could be seen further up the valley in the mist, lying over to the west. The path picks up a gravel track which swings west just below a pine forest. The track continues past numerous farms and homesteads, some of them up for sale. Just beyond New Houses Edge Farm, a path leaves the dirt track and by implication, the Nidderdale Way, instead crossing farmland as it heads down into the valley. Having taken this course, we ended up at Low Woodale. Despite the existence of a path through Middle Woodale leading up to the edge of the valley, thus rejoining Nidderdale Way, which would have taken us to the north edge of the reservoir, sadly, the decision was taken to walk up a dirt track that reached the tarred road leading to parking area on the southern side of Scar House Reservoir. Walking on ahead of the rest of the gang as it began to rain, I reached the reservoir wall. After taking a few photographs, I realised that the others must have stopped somewhere further back, so I returned back up the road and found them all sheltering and seated within a cave-like stone enclosure which could quite easily have been mistaken for a bus-stop. It was a lunch stop. Maeve passed around a container containing her much-loved fruit cake, now a regular treat on our walks and in the bunkhouse.  

Saturday's walk along a section of the Nidderdale way from Lofthouse to Scar House Reservoir, returning via Middlesmoor and How Stean Beck.


Walking a section of forest just above the River Nidd.


The tree-line follows the River Nidd, Nidderdale Valley, North Yorkshire.


Steve, Tim and Martin strolling ahead along the Nidderdale Way path, North Yorkshire.


View north up the Nidderdale Valley, near Thrope and Limley Farms.



View down the valley along the River Nidd, between Thorpe and Limley Farms.


Limley Farm, Nidderdale Valley.



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