There is water everywhere in the Dales. Tumbling over rocks in rivers and streams that run alongside the road, flowing serenely into Tarns, ready to be enjoyed in reservoirs and thundering down falls or over escarpments.
However you experience it it’s awesome beauty cannot be ignored 🙂
We have made it our business to visit 3 areas of falls; Aysgarth, Hardraw Force and the Cauldron Falls at West Burton (not even mentioned in guidebooks!) I think we actually enjoyed the Cauldron Falls most as we were able to explore them more fully – we were almost able to walk behind them 🙂
Note: I will pop most of the photos at the end on a slideshow 🙂
So first up Aysgarth Falls. We walked from the campsite with no idea of where the footpaths were really, so we headed back up towards the garage via Thoralby following the road all the way. It was much further than we remembered. And steeper! Although I was very pleased that it was Calv that mentioned it first – on rounding a bend at the top of yet another rise to see yet more to come he exclaimed ‘I thought we must be at the top by now!’ I’m getting much better at just plodding on up these hills now 🙂
Thoralby is a lovely village with a pub (of course), a shop/post office (open Monday, Tuesday and Friday), many lovely houses (and a hall on the hill, visible for miles) and lots of farms! And also this ‘pinfold’ or rather animal pound, where the livestock was rounded up and kept safe.
We eventually came out by the garage and went in in search of a map. We found a really good little walking map for £1.50 by Bradwell. There is a whole series for localised areas in the Dales – very useful and easy to use.
We then took the road to the right towards the falls where we very quickly came across the campsite that we had originally tried to get into (Town Ends – it was full), so we went to have a look. We ended up having a lovely chat with the owner who gave us lots of useful information on the area. We were able to continue our walk to the falls via the path at the back of the site, which also took us through the campsite at the rear of the Aysgarth Falls Hotel (a bit grassy and hilly, and definitely not suitable for us!)
We came out opposite the church. I have been to this church before, 28 years ago for my cousin’s wedding. I didn’t recognise it though as the church is in a dip and the wedding was held in December at 4pm, and it was foggy…
Aysgarth Falls are divided between the upper, middle and lower falls, with the lower being the most impressive. Between the upper and middle falls a National Park Centre is located, together with a car park and public toilets (and, of course, a café).
We started with the upper falls. There is a short walk to these from the centre and, although access is open, there is an honesty box asking for a payment of £1 per adult and 50p per child to enter… The falls were pleasant enough up here, very pretty but not overly dramatic! Be careful when walking around on the rocks as they are wet and slippery!
From here we crossed the road after the centre and headed through pretty Freeholders Wood to visit the middle and lower falls. There are viewing platforms provided for both, but at the lower falls if you retrace your steps and turn left after you’ve been to the viewing platform, you can scramble down to the rocks and walk back along towards the viewing platform, which gives a much better experience.
Having a cuppa in the centre before heading back we sat watching the wildlife including blue tits, a European nuthatch (we think), a baby bullfinch (??) and a hazel dormouse 🙂 If I’ve got any of these wrong please feel free to put me right 🙂
Using our new map we took some footpaths home across the fields, after visiting the church. On this route I spotted the B&B that we stayed in when attending my cousin’s wedding – it’s now called Stow House (it might have been called that when we stayed – I really can’t remember!)
The footpaths took us through fields of sheep and cattle (and lots of poo…!) and over/through many stiles – the stiles can be simply a spring-loaded gate, a gap in the wall with 2 large stones narrowing it to stop the livestock getting through, a step over with stone steps (not always even!) or a mix of all 3 styles 🙂
Our route brought us out by the old mill in Thoralby, now a holiday let. We then went back off road for a short while, but long enough for me to manage to get stung by nettles twice (the 1st time I’ve been stung all year!) After a total walk of 8 1/2 miles it was a relief to get back to the van 🙂
2 days later we headed out to visit another waterfall, at Hardraw Force, this one a little different in that it is the largest single drop fall in England. We remain convinced that it is the waterfall used in the Cravendale adverts currently being shown!
So we headed back towards Hawes and then took the road to Hardraw where the waterfall is accessed via The Green Dragon Inn (incidentally there was a Brass Band festival held there the weekend we visited).
There is a small charge to access the falls as they are situated on private land, and a short walk beyond. There is much evidence of tourism in days gone by; we saw what looked like terraces, built into the walls of the gorge for seating, and old steps and pathways. The only information I could find though concerned the fact that there used to be more paths up to the top of the fall, that are, apparently being restored by the current owner.
You can approach on either side of the river, and there are 2 bridges (plus the remains of an older one; all that now remains of this are a couple of iron girders spanning the river.)
There are signs up warning you not to go behind the falls, but it is possible to do so. It’s quite a narrow path though and very wet, of course. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it!
There was a lot of spray here and we did get a little wet 🙂 The power of the water and the noise as it falls are difficult to tear yourself away from. Well worth a visit at just £2.50 each.
Finally, today, Sunday, we headed out on foot again to visit the Cauldron Falls at West Burton – just down the road. Using our new map we headed down the road opposite the School Bunkhouse to Newbiggin – I say down, it was actually up, up, up! Newbiggin is a charming small village, but we didn’t see a lot of it as we turned left and took the lane towards West Burton.
On the way we watched a rainbow forming (the 1st of many on our walk!); eventually, after a scramble up yet another steep hillside, we found our way into the lovely village of West Burton – described at various times as the loveliest village in Wensleydale 🙂 I can see why!
After a pitstop in the Tearoom cum Village shop, and a chat with the owner we headed off to the falls, a couple of minutes away. We were able to actually go almost behind these (carefully, of course), but we couldn’t find a way to the top to look from there.
This is such a lovely spot, but is clearly overshadowed by it’s larger, far more popular neighbour at Aysgarth. Some maps don’t even show that there are falls here! We loved it – the opportunity to properly explore and the fact that we were the only people doing so! We only actually saw about half a dozen other people visiting the village and the falls.