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Jenny Twigg and her Daughter Tib - a circular walk from Ramsgill

Walk Summary
Distance:About nine miles  (14k)
Difficulty: Moderate - a little rough going over open moorland
Start: Ramsgill (SE 118 712)
Time: 5 hours
Dogs: Mainly on public rights of way, but dogs aren't allowed on the access land, so the part of the walk visiting Jenny Twigg will have to be missed out.

Jenny Twigg Upper Nidderdale offers a fantastic network of green lanes, open to walkers, riders, cyclists and off-road vehicles - this walk takes it one of the finest. And contrary to the doom-mongering from narrow minded self-interest groups like the Ramblers Association, there's plenty of room for everyone to enjoy them. In fact, I'm a damn sight happier to see a couple of motorbikes being skilfully ridden down a track, than I am to see some endlessly gabbling multi-coloured horde of ramblers heading towards me. And do these chelping nits ever shut up? I don't think so. What's the point in going for a peaceful walk if you're surrounded by people continually nattering about nothing. It's like an open-air version of Big Brother for wrinklies. Give me trail riders any day.

I started this walk by parking in Ramsgill alongside the little green at the northen end. There's parking there for half a dozen cars, but if that's full go over the bridge and turn right down the road to Bouthwaite and there's room to park on the right.  And conveniently enough that's the first part of the walk, over the bridge and down the road to Bouthwaite, one of those incredibly pretty little hamlets that Nidderdale does so well. It has a delightful Bethel Wesleyan Chapel dating from 1880 which is now, as so many are, a private home. I don't know if it's because I was brought up as a methodist, but whenever I come across one of these little chapels it feels uplifting. Strange or what?

From Bouthwaite the road becomes unmetalled, and carries on straight up the hill onto Covill House Moor. It's a bit of a climb, but worth it, because the upland scenery here is just fantastic. Typical dales moorland, but criss-crossed with good wide tracks, so really easy to walk over. After a few hundred yards, just before the very top of the hill, there's a left turn onto another good track that heads North(ish) running parallel to Nidderdale. It's hard to miss as it's clearly marked "unsuitable for motors". I've often wondered who puts these pointless signs up. It's not "motors not allowed" because they are, and it's not "suitable for off-road vehicles only" which would be more accurate. I suppose it's just a typical British fudge of; well cars are allowed, but we don't really want them, so let's just try and put them off shall we. I mean if anybody's got to this junction in a car, then by definition they must have a suitable car to tackle this road. Still, I suppose putting these silly signs up keeps some faceless planner gorging from the public purse until they reach middle-age and can retire, whilst wealth creators like myself have to struggle on working into old-age to pay for it all.

A view towards Gouthwaite Reservoir The road/track heading North is another great piece of easy walking with fantastic views. It continues along past the corner of Helks Wood, down a little dip and over a very impressive stone bridge. Once over the bridge, you can see the rocks of Sypeland Crags dominating the skyline to the right. That's the next port of call on the walk, and is the start of the only part of the walk over open moorland. As you get parallel with the crags, go through one of the gates in the wall, and clamber up through the moorland to the rocks. This part of the walk is access land and dogs aren't allowed, so dog owners will have to carry on along the track to rejoin the walk near the Lofthouse to Leighton road. Open moorland like this can be heavy going, and quite unpleasant when it's rained a lot, but in Summer it's OK, and it's only a few hundred yards anyway. This area is also managed for shooting with lots of nesting Grouse, so don't be surprised to put a few up as you walk.

Reaching the crags is quite an achievement, and it was here on a blisteringly hot Summer's day that I stopped for a good long break. The views are mind-blowing and you probably won't see another human being for miles. I was also cursing at this point, because the BBC had forecast "overcast with sunny intervals and some showers" and it turned out to be the hottest day of the year. So there I was with a rucksack full of waterproofs, no suntan lotion, and very little water. If I hadn't had a hat I could have been in real trouble. Thank you the BBC.

From the rocks you can't see Jenny Twigg, so I decided to have a little practice and make sure I could still take and follow a compass bearing, so off I set off on round about 345 degrees and started steadfastly marching over the moor. But after fifty yards I crested the ridge and could see Jenny Twigg anyway, and it was another moorland scramble the few hundred yards to get there.  Nobody seems to know how the rocks got their name, but they are very dramatic landscape features - though quite bleak and foreboding so nothing like as good a picnic site as Sypeland Crags. Just dwelling on the name, I always thought Twigg was a Sheffield/Derbyshire name, which makes this an even stranger name to come across in the Dales.

To the North-West of Jenny Twigg is a line of Grouse Butts, which very usefully head due North to the track which goes back to the Lofthouse to Leighton road, the next landmark on the walk. So follow the grouse butts to the stone built shooting hut and turn left down the track all the way downhill to the road. Bizarrely enough, when I was there, there were four blokes in shell suits in one of the grouse butts. Now't stranger than folk as they say.

View from Sypeland Crags Because this area is managed for shooting, it may be a good idea to check for restrictions in advance. But if you insist on walking while a shoot is in progress, try to co-operate with the shooters as they do tend to be very nice people and they put a lot of effor into managing the moor in return for a few days of sport.  You only have to look at the shocking state of Ilkley Moor to see what happens when local councillors decide they can manage moorland better than shooters. And please don't get paranoid, if you do blunder into a shoot remember that the effective range of a 12 bore with shot is well under 300m. 

From the road, turn left and take the bridleway about two hundred yards downhill on the right. This continues along the escarpment along the edge of the valley, giving marvellous views along the valley up to Scar House Reservoir. Once again it's great walking. I continued for about a mile and a half along here until the escarpment started to trend Westwards and then took the footpath down to Thwaite House. Alternatively, you can cut a couple of miles off the walk by descending from the shooting house (a few hundred yards from the road) down to Thrope Farm. The shooting house is hard to miss as it's stone built with a tower.

A view towards Scar House Reservoir Whichever way you come down from the escarpment, you end up on the Nidderdale Way, a lovely footpath along the valley bottom, which leads back first to Lofthouse and then on to Ramsgill. Delighful easy walking and signposted all the way. I'm not going to bother describing it as you can't go wrong following a marked long-distance footpath along the bottom of a valley.

If you do feel the need to stop for refreshments on the way, Lofthouse is a good choice as there's a farm shop selling home made Ice Cream, and The Crown serves a fine pint of Black Sheep with a lovely beer garden to sit out in. The war memorial fountain is well worth a look too; I wish I'd made a note of the inscriptions as they're really quite lovely.

Finally, an apology for the quality of photographs. When my ancient Canon Powershot died in 2007 I replaced it with a Nikon Coolpix P4. This piece of rubbish has produced photos of total blandness for a year now,  so lacking in definition they're about on a par with a Kodak Instamatic.  I have now binned the wretched thing and replaced it with another Canon Powershot (a G9 this time) which straight out of the box has produced photos incomparably better than the Nikon.

Comments (3)
lovely walk - found it hard going over the moors though
posted by Dave Walmington 05/08/2008 13:42:39
I agree with all Your well written comments. Especially the herds of "TWITTERING HIKERS" = it is a shame that they never see what the have set out to see !!! Other walkers however do - so all is not lost = I once lived near Ramsgill and have travelled (on foot)up and down "Bouthwaite lane" many times (Countless) in the past. A truly stunning and beautiful area. I have a Newspaper clipping of a Motorbike and side car going up the very steep and unmetaled road that leads very steeply out of Bouthwaite. Relatives used to stay at a property " Mount Pleasant" that used to stand near the top of this hill. They came into the Dale via "Kirkby Malzead" via the "Unsuitable road that You mention. The motorbike image is from the immediate post-war period and the particular section of "Bouthwaite" was part of a "Trials Run" from London to Edinburgh.
posted by Nidderdale Fan 14/11/2010 13:40:17
Ramblers work very hard to preserve the very footpaths you are enjoying. Think about for a while before criticisng.
posted by Gill 31/07/2011 19:29:35
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