|Statistics and Files
|Grid Ref: SE 08163 54309
|Distance: 11.1 miles (17.9 km)
|Time: 5-6 hours
|Climbing: 550 metres
|GPX Route File
|Google Earth File
|About Simon's Seat
|Grid Ref: SE 08163 54309
|Distance: 11.1 miles (17.9 km)
|Time: 5-6 hours
|Climbing: 550 metres
|GPX Route File
|Google Earth File
Summary: When doing a walk of Barden Fell from the Bolton Abbey Estate to Simon's Seat most people, me included, contrive a circular walk to return by the River Wharfe and the Strid. Quite understandable as it is and a classic walk which I have done many times. This time I purposefully decided to concentrate on the high moor as much as possible and in the course of doing so visit Simon's Seats siblings, Lord's Seat and Little Simon's Seat. Looking at options on the map I noticed another trig point on adjoining Hazlewood Moor at Hammerthorn Hill so I included that too. I was so lucky to enjoy a warm and sunny mid September day doing the walk which proved to be excellent with many points of interest along the way.
I could not have wished for a better day. Though summer was at an end, now into the second half of September, it did not feel like it as I strolled down the road from Storiths to the ford of Pickles Gill which would lead me into the Bolton Abbey Estate. It felt very good to be alone in the warm fresh air of morning, first bathed in the shine of the rising sun though at just 8.15am I soon descended into shade. The autumnal sun had yet to rise above the neighbouring tree line of the Wharfe edge and Pickles Gill woods. Quickly wading across the road and beck ford I emerged into sunshine again beside the River Wharfe, following it upstream and past the footbridge to Cavendish Pavilion before continuing north to climb Lud Stream Brow, cross the Storiths to Appletreewick road, and begin my way along the Posforth Gill path.
It was a brilliant feeling to be following Posforth Gill path towards Valley of Desolation once more. Thirty years on from the first time, the sense of excitement never wanes. And to add to the thrill I had the path to myself. For now at least, except for a herd of Herefords who watched me closely as I walked on by. They were not for playing, simply letting me pass by without a move. I appreciated that. Then I walked past one of my favourite tree lined avenues, one of magnificent Oak, while steadily climbing to where I temporarily dropped down from the main path to visit one of my all time favourite waterfalls. Posforth Gill Waterfall is a spectacle to behold, the waters of Posforth Gill cascading the falls not in one single curtain but in a series of pretty drapes. On the left side one minor fall of water drops onto a tray half way down to the catchment pool. Altogether the cascade is a very pretty sight.
Next, the Valley of Desolation led me from the waterfall to the open spaces of Barden Fell. The valley was so named after a great storm occurred in 1836. Strong winds, thunder and lightning and torrential rain resulted in flash floods crashing down into the valley from Barden Fell and caused great damage, leaving many of the valley's original trees uprooted. Over the past 164 years, the signs of damage have disappeared as natural recovery of the native flora has taken place. Thus the Valley of Desolation which once supported Oak, Rowan, Birch, Hawthorn, Hazel and Alder in abundance now has examples of all these natural stalwarts back in place.
As much as I like being in Valley of Desolation I am always in conflict whether to stay in the valley longer and explore it further or whether to carry on with the enticing and exciting next stage of the walk onto the wide open spaces of Barden Fell. Of course there is the path through Sheepshaw Plantation between the two which is nice in itself but the draw looking up along the plantation track and through to the light of open spaces is too much. The need to reach the gate at the north edge of Sheepshaw Plantation and start walking the track leading to the high plateau of Barden Fell is an urgent one. Every time I hasten my steps through the trees and only when I am north-side of the gate do I stop myself and gawp in awe.
It is not long after starting the moorland track, which generally follows the line of Great Agill Beck, that I am forced to stop and stand still. Next I am forced to spin around 360 degrees and look at the remarkable Yorkshire scenery so close to my home. I am at 300 metres height now, just north of Great Agill Bottom and high enough to see due south over the treetops of Sheepshaw Plantation. The view south, to the Wharfe Valley gap where the village of Addingham sits, scales beyond to the rising south slopes of Ilkley Moor. Just seven miles due south I would be stood by the Doubler Stones on Addingham High Moor and a little further and east I would be stood in the centre of the Twelve Apostles stone ring on Ilkley Moor. Nearer still, and also in view south-east I could see another familiar walking ground; Blubberhouses Moor and Beamsley Moor which I have walked to from today's starting point at Storiths before. Carncliffe Top blocked off the west and Barden Fell the north. But I am coming to that.
The climb along the track from Great Agill Bottom to Great Agill Head, 150 metres gain in just less than two kilometres of walking, is the time to get the head down and work for the benefits to be revealed ahead. The track is at most cut into the moor and thus any views to north, east and west are blocked by the rising ground. The sumptuous view south is still there to look on when hands on knees taking a breather. Eventually though, at the moonscape of Truckle Crags, 440 metres high, the plateau of the fell top is revealed. Simon's Seat is now in sight and an enticing draw. Truckle Crags, Simon's Seat and all the other outcrops on Barden Fell are an erratic jumble of millstone grit, a place of exciting opportunities.
Of course most fell walkers head for Simon's Seat, the highest of all and the one with the trig point. The trig is on the right hand of two sibling outcrops of rocks, the left side outcrop being the most shapely and most exciting to climb. I have spent many occasions clambering on both. After touching base with the left hand outcrop I rose to the right hand outcrop and stood by the trig point. Now was the time for the view north to inspire. And it does not fail, Embsay Moor, Appletreewick and Burnsall all remarkable sights. Beyond the villages in the Wharfe valley and further north were the south outliers of the Yorkshire Dales. Also, looking south-west across the waters of Lower Barden Reservoir on Embsay Moor I could see another old friend of mine. Pendle Hill looked great, all of 21 miles way, on this super day of visibility.
Turning my attention to the next task in hand, I spun on the spot next to the trig point on Simon's Seat to cast an eye on two prominent millstone grit outcrops across the fell to my east. Just a short half mile away Little Simon's Seat and Lord's Seat were waiting for me. It was now ten to eleven in the morning and more walkers were drawing towards Simon's Seat anyway. Time to go. A good path was laid across the moor between the outcrops. Part flagstone, part wooden boards across streams and at one point a single handrail footbridge, the path was a doddle to follow. It had been a relatively dry summer anyway; the fell top was parched dry anyway. No chance of getting wet even if I had to cross this part of the fell on untrodden ground. I approached my enigmatic new outcrops excitedly. Lord's Seat was largest. And nearest. But I made for Little Simon's Seat first.
Little Simon's Seat is protected by gate and drystone wall, a gorgeous assembly of silvery gritstone, typical of the stone on Barden Fell. Having found a suitable foothold climb over the wall I then made an easy, akin to a set of stairs, climb to the top. With observation I found there was a way up the short climb without needing to use my hands. Once stood on top of Little Simon's Seat I took breath and a rest to look westward and back to Simon's Seat. It was a fulfilling moment of achievement. As it was ten minutes later after I had made an easy climb from the east side of Lord's Seat by way of a grassy access to the rock top. By the way, Lord's Seat is the biggest of all. It may not be as high in altitude as Simon's Seat but the outcrop is biggest in scale. The top rock, when seen on the approach from Simon's Seat just begs the climb. It is too enticing to ignore. After the fun of rock climbing on not one, not two, not three, but four outcrops.. remember Simon's Seat has two, I was suitably thrilled and thus the long direct line path from Barden Fell towards Hazlewood Moor was a really enjoyable and calming passage.
The dead straight line path of two miles, which any Roman road engineer would be proud of, is for the first half a long 120 metre descent to the crossing of White Wham Beck. At White Wham there is a sheep shelter which is incredibly well maintained with mortared stone walls and a properly turfed roof. It is a beautiful structure. Even better, the person responsible for its upkeep is the best of sorts, providing a well kept wooden bench for walkers to sit upon at rest. Often used as a respite shelter in the worse of weather today it was providing a picnic seat for a couple I happened across when passing. On chatting with them we all agreed it was a special place. Waving them farewell I continued, now on a slight incline, toward Rom Shaw Head where a track would lead me across Hazlewood Moor. But on getting there I decided to stay a little while longer on the dead straight line, climbing just 20 metres more to Gledstones. The reason? To investigate a strange looking contraption on Hazlewood Moor.
The strange looking contraption had a solar panel powering it. I presumed it to be a weather station of sorts but I could not find anything out about it. Or who put it there. There was no identification attached to it. Found on Hazlewood Moor, grid reference SE 10123 57386. Anyway, after looking at it with bafflement for some while I left to resume the walk across Hazlewood Moor by following a path running south-west and parallel to Long Ridge. The views north across the head of Hudson Gill to Barden Fell revealed the extensive impact of controlled moorland heather burning. There were rectangular blisters of burnt heather all over the ground. Afterwards, at the point the path turned from heading south-west to south-east I took a spur path leading due west to Hammerthorn Gate.
From Hammerthorn Gate which was indeed a gate I left the track to find may way up un-pathed Hammerthorn Hill. At the top was my second trig pillar of the walk, this one standing at 319 metres altitude, 166 metres lower than the one on Simon's Seat but in direct line of sight to it, such was the positioning of trig pillars by the Ordnance Survey. All trig pillars have sight of at least one other. Perhaps I could have sight of more than just the one on Simon's Seat from here but I was not in the frame of mind for finding out. Too good were the views to be had in my immediate range of vision anyway. As well as Barden Fell being prominent to the north, the rolling pastures of the expansive Bolton Abbey Estate impressed to the west.
From the trig pillar on Hammerthorn Hill I made a circuitous course back to Hammerthorn Gate and from there I retraced my steps to the point on the track where I had exited from Hazlewood Moor, now following the course of the main track south-east on the breast of Cowmes Hill, leading down to Pickles Gill Beck. Here I found another impressive sheep shelter, this one secured by a stock gate. Solely intended for the sheep this one though I would bet a walker or two have sought shelter within it when passing during atrocious weather.
The final part of the walk from Pickles Gill Beck led to a projecting spur of the moorland mass, slowly descending by way of Gill Bank to a road which terminates at Town End Farm. The last but of the moor track afforded more close up views of the glorious lands within Bolton Country Park which sits on a bank west of the River Wharfe and beyond the crowds which were assembled at Cavendish Pavilion. I could see all the people, like Lowry figures, milling down well below my elevated position.
A brief walk on tarmac road from Town End Farm brought me to Storiths, also by way of a little path around a small round hill, leading to pretty Crag Cottage. The walk was over and what a thrill it was. All the way. The first third from Storiths, past Posforth Gill, through Valley of Desolation and up on to Barden Fell, leading to Simon's Seat was very familiar. A dear friend. There on it was an adventure. The gritstone outcrop climbs of Little Simon's Seat and Lord's Seat. The long straight line path to White Wham. The wonderful exploration of lonely Hazlewood Moor. Quiet and all the better for it. The sumptuous views it provided me with and the fantastic tracks across it. My, this walk was good. There was just enough time for me to enjoy a cuppa and a bit of cake in Back o' th' Hill cafe to compliment the walk in the proper manner. Cheers.