Washburn Valley Walk - Lindley Wood Reservoir
Where there is a stretch of water there is often an ideal place to walk and this is no exception. Terry Fletcher is your guide
The delightful Washburn Valley is Yorkshire’s very own mini-Lake District, an often overlooked gem bequeathed to us by generations of water engineers who created a string of reservoirs stretching from the high moors above Nidderdale almost to the doorsteps of Leeds and Bradford.
This walk takes in the lowest of the quartet - Thruscross, Fewston, Swinsty and Lindley Wood - before climbing to a high ridge with glorious panoramic views and some modern additions which may strike a more jarring note.
It starts from the viaduct that carries the B6451 Otley to Menwith Hill road across Lindley Wood Reservoir, where there is parking for a few cars on either side of the bridge. From the parking area at the southerly end of the bridge climb a stone stile and take a signposted path upstream, walking initially alongside the reservoir and then the narrow Washburn.
Eventually the path crosses the somewhat grandiosely-titled river by a broad stone bridge and then continues upstream on the opposite bank. Cross a field and then a more enclosed section to a dirt road and the gracefully-arched Dob Park packhorse bridge, which is thought to date from the early 17th century when it served a local mill.
After admiring the tree-shrouded bridge do not cross it but instead take the dirt road uphill. Where it meets a metalled lane, turn left for 100 yards before taking a signposted bridleway which goes straight ahead at the next bend. Follow this across fields, crossing to walk below the drystone wall to reach the impressive Folly Hall.
Pass below the farmhouse and then take a track which curls round behind it and through the farmyard before snaking away uphill. At the top of the slope ignore the footpath sign to the left but carry on along the access road with the valley spread out below to the right.
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Where the track emerges onto a narrow lane, turn leftwards uphill. At the bend the second of the Washburn reservoirs, Swinsty, comes into view with the white ‘golf balls’ of the American spy station at Menwith Hill beyond. Closer to hand is the sign for Bury-em-wick, a curiously-named 18th century house.
Continue up Jack Hill Lane for about 25 yards to where a shy footpath and stile hide in the banking. Go through this and follow the narrow, overgrown path into the trees. When it emerges from the undergrowth it climbs a stone stile and crosses two fields to Top Lane.
Turn right and follow this to a T-junction with sweeping views to either side. Whether you welcome the vision of Menwith Hill, the adjoining Harrogate windfarm and the now largely redundant skeleton of Hunter’s Stones communication tower is a matter of personal taste.
At the T-junction turn right and almost immediately take a forestry road on the left into the woods. The adjoining car park would make an alternative start to the walk if the spaces at the viaduct are all taken.
Where the forestry road forks, bear right and follow it down a slope to where the path makes a sharp right turn. Here bear left through a metal gate and head across the fields towards the buildings of Prospect House Farm. Go through a metal gate but after 50 yards take a signposted path through another metal gate on the right and head half left towards a gate in the opposite wall.
Go through the gate to reach the farm access track which is followed rightwards to a lane. Turn left ignoring the first footpath sign at Wood Top Farm but continue along the road to a metal gate. Go through this and then turn immediately right along a footpath, Cross a stream and climb 100 yards to a wall to turn left to follow it and a subsequent fence, guided by occasional yellow marker tape on the posts.
Cross a tumble-down wall and stream and another field to reach another dilapidated wall. Take a stone stile in the corner and continue in the same direction making for a green way between yet more derelict walls which contour round the valley, passing ruined barns. Stay on this well-made path as it drops to cross a stream and pastures fringed by woodland. All too soon the path curls past the neat buildings of Lindley Wood Farm, whose access track is followed leftwards. Where it begins to climb, take a stile on the right and follow the path beside the wall with views of Lindley Wood dam below.
Go through a metal pedestrian gate and walk to the field corner before heading downhill on a track which leads over a stile and through a small wood to reach a lane at Lindley Bridge. The car park here would make another alternative starting point. Turn right for a few steps to take a track on the right signposted to Norwood Bottom which leads beside the reservoir to the viaduct from which we started.
Start/Finish: Viaduct that carries the B6451 Otley to Menwith Hill road across Lindley Wood Reservoir. Alternative parking at Norwood Edge and Lindley Bridge.
Length: 8 miles/13 km
Height gain: 1,000ft/300m
Time: 4 hours
Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale and Washburn Valley
Terrain: Mostly good tracks and field paths. Can be muddy.
Refreshments: None on route. Pub on B6451 at Norwood, caf�s and pubs in Otley.