Stocks Reservoir

Stocks reservoir was a walk picked by Sam during our recent trip to Austwick. Part of a large outdoor adventure destination alongside Gisburn Forest, Stocks reservoir is apparently one of the more popular walks in this part of Lancashire. I say apparently because we really didn’t see that many people! Sited at the head of the Hodder Valley, a circular walk around the reservoir offers the opportunity for a relaxing half day walk, without any strenuous ascents or descents.

The route we found to follow was in our Cicerone guide to the Forest of Bowland and Pendle, however, this is very similar to the way marked reservoir circular trail. The only difference is that the Cicerone guide includes a slight detour up a hill to get views over the Hodder Valley – we actually skipped this part as it required us to walk through a field of cows who were obviously feeling quite energetic!

We parked in the School Lane car park which is normally pay and display, but luckily for us it was free due to the machine being out of order, hurray! To get to the car park follow signs for Gisburn Forest – our Sat Nav tried to send us down someone’s drive about five miles away, so the postcode will only get you so far!

You can pick up the reservoir trail directly from the car park and follow it on footpaths all the way around, which means no road walking (although I think if we’d followed the Cicerone route through the cow field there would’ve been a short section along the road). The paths are clearly defined and well surfaced for nearly all of the walk, and where they aren’t, way markers make it fairly obvious which direction you need to walk in. The walk is very gentle in terms of ascent and descent, although at around six miles it will take you a good few hours to get around. My feet were actually pretty achey by the time we got back to the car, possibly because I’m not used to walking on flat paths for so long!

The views, particularly on the first half of the walk, reinforced my belief that Lancashire is a chronically underrated place to explore the great outdoors. Rolling hills, huge leafy trees and drystone walls abound as the trail takes you away from the reservoir – and returning to the reservoir to complete the circuit is actually pretty boring in comparison!

We hardly saw any people for the first few hours we were walking, just the odd person every now and again. This did change as we got closer to the car park at the end and we started crossing over with the other walking trails which start from the same place – but it was still very very quiet compared to all of the places we saw on our trip to Cornwall!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There is a short section at the start of the walk where you walk through the woods and we were able to let the dogs off the lead, which they loved. For the rest of the walk however there are signs up asking for dogs to be kept on a lead due to ground nesting birds (although we saw plenty of dog walkers ignoring this). I think ours would have loved a swim in the reservoir, but the water level was so low that it was too far away for them to be able to go in. There actually wasn’t very much water on this walk so I was glad we’d taken extra along for the dogs to drink. We crossed through fields of both sheep and cows, luckily the cows in the fields we did go in were very chilled and took no interest in us at all! There was no road walking and no stiles on the trail – both excellent points for any dog walker.

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Pendle Hill

Pendle Hill is probably one of the most famous walks in Lancashire. Partly famous for being a cracking walk with fantastic views, but mostly famous for its name: Pendle is synonymous with the Pendle Witches who were condemned in the area in 1612. The walk up the hill even passes along the Pendle Witches Way in places – but that’s a challenge for another day! Pendle Hill is the fourth highest hill in Lancashire – a reasonable accolade, even if it isn’t the highest. We set out with high hopes of a good day out, and we weren’t disappointed…

Even if you haven’t heard of Pendle Hill before, I bet the name Pendle rings a bell. This tiny town in rural Lancashire is the best known example of the European witch craze in England. From the 14th to 17th centuries, thousands of women across Europe were executed for the crime of being a witch, with the craze being particularly wild in France and the Holy Roman Empire (which was made up of large swathes of Europe east of France).

A pedlar was travelling along a road close to Pendle when a young woman tried to buy some pins from him. He refused, continued on his way, and a few minutes later appeared to suffer some kind of stroke. This was the start of a chain of events which led to the trial of twelve women accused of witchcraft, of whom one died in prison, one was found not guilty, and the remaining ten were executed.

I studied the European witch craze at university, and one of the richest sources of information we had to work with was about the Pendle Witches. Therefore I was very excited to actually see the landscape where these people lived! Pendle Hill offers a great vantage point to survey the surrounding countryside: you can see across the Forest of Bowland, Pendle AONB and even as far as the Lakeland fells! I’ve also heard that on a clear day you can see as far as the Blackpool Tower – we didn’t see it, but we only stayed on the summit for about two minutes, as there was a swarm of midges waiting up there for anyone standing still!

There are a few routes up Pendle Hill. The most popular route starts from Barley, so we took an alternative route that we found in our Cicerone guide to The Forest of Bowland and Pendle, which starts from the beautiful village of Downham. There’s a similar route available on Where2Walk.

The walk is a circular route of about six and a half miles. There is a reasonably sized honesty box car park in Downham – it’s not a huge car park, but there were plenty of spaces when we pitched up at 10am on a bank holiday Saturday. It was full though when we got back to the car four hours later!

There are views galore as you make the climb up from Downham. This is a good thing as if you’re as (un)fit as I am you’ll be taking plenty of breaks on your way up! The climb is pretty unrelentingly steep in places but levels out once you pass the large cairn erected as a memorial for the Scouting movement. The path from here is grassy and without noticeable features – we did the walk on a clear day so didn’t have any navigational issues, but I expect it would be very easy to become lost or disoriented if visibility was poor.

We had a bit of a shock when we got to the summit: we’d only seen two men walking a dog on our way up, but when we joined the track coming up from Barley a whole host of people appeared! Joking aside, there were quite a few people around, but nothing like the crowds we’ve seen on mountains like Scafell Pike, Pen Y Fan and the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The beginning and end of the walk pass through fields with livestock in so dogs should be on a lead, as well as when you cross onto the Access Land which covers most of Pendle Hill. There’s a short stretch of about 400m along the road, but aside from this, the walk is almost entirely along footpaths.

On the plus side, taking the walk up from Downham was very quiet, and we hardly saw any dogs – great for Coal! There were quite a few streams at the beginning and end that both dogs loved to splash in, and the majority of the walk was stile free, with just a few appearing towards the end of the walk.

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Attermire Scar

We are just home from one of the best bank holiday weekends we’ve had in a long time. We spent three nights in Austwick on the North Yorkshire/Lancashire border, aiming to spend the weekend exploring the Forest of Bowland, after finding it almost completely deserted last August bank holiday. On our final morning, rather than heading in the opposite direction to home, we did our last walk in the far reaches of the Yorkshire Dales a ten minute drive from where we were staying. Attermire Scar is somewhere we’ve both wanted to explore for a long time but being on the opposite edge of the Dales has made it tricky to find the time. We therefore seized the opportunity to tick it off the list on our way home!

We had a bit of a panic on our final night trying to decide where to go for a walk on our way home before Sam finally suggested Attermire Scar. There are so many possible routes: longer walks which incorporate Victoria Cave, Catrigg Force or Malham Cove, or shorter walks which just visit the Scar. As we were on our way home after a busy weekend we decided on a shorter walk this time, and a quick google resulted in this route on Craven and Valley Life Magazine.

The route is a circular walk of around four miles, starting in Settle, although we decided to start further up the hill in Langcliffe where there is a reasonably sized car park with an honesty box.

Although this is a relatively short walk it is tough. It’s hilly, with plenty of steep ups and downs, and the paths are uneven and narrow in places. While it’s easy enough to keep your feet for the most part, I did fall over after missing my footing on one section of path with a bit of a drop to one side. So watch where you put your feet!

The views on this walk are more than worth the effort required to drag yourself up and down the hills. The landscape around you is constantly changing with some incredibly dramatic rocky outcrops, and on a clear day, views of the Yorkshire Three Peaks on the horizon.

Navigation on this walk is pretty easy if you have a map (we use the OS Maps app). Many of the footpaths are clearly signed with finger posts and follow defined paths, however, there are so many footpaths around here that you need a map to make sure you’re taking the right one!

Plotting your route and making sure you know where you’re going, on a basic level, is part of using the countryside responsibly. Heading out without any idea makes you a prime candidate for needing to call out Mountain Rescue. As we came down to the car park, we encountered a couple of walkers who asked us if this was the path to Victoria Cave. We said yes, it was, and did they have a map so we could show them? No, they replied, they didn’t have a map, and set off up the hill looking vaguely lost already. They also walked through the gate we’d just closed and left it wide open… Sigh.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. This walk is fantastic for views, but less great if you’ve got four legs, as the proximity of livestock means dogs should be on leads all the way around. We saw plenty of both sheep and cows – the cows were all very chilled which was a relief!!

There were a few stiles to navigate but both of the dogs managed to clamber over with some assistance from us. We took water for the dogs which was a good thing as there were no streams or places for them to stop to drink. The bonus of this walk was that by starting in Langcliffe it was entirely off road – which is always a nice thing on a walk!

Where we Stayed

We stayed at the absolutely wonderful Game Cock Inn in the village of Austwick. We’d booked a larger room so we had a bit more space, what with having two dogs, and it was definitely the right decision – even sprawled on the floor after a long walk, Coal takes up a lot of space! The food was good and the staff were wonderful. Everyone we spoke to was so welcoming and friendly, from check in to check out and everything in-between. The pub is also ideally located for getting out exploring all that the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland has to offer.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The dogs were made so welcome – even Coal, who has a tendency to bark at anyone who looks him in the eye for too long! For our meals, we were given a quiet, out of the way table, and reassured that if another dog came in and set Coal off barking, we’d be able to finish our meal and the other people would be the ones who’d need to move. I think the dog’s favourite part was being given a little box of Sunday dinner offcuts at our meal on the Sunday!

We also found a lovely little circular walk to do at the end of each day, following enclosed lanes on a loop of around a mile. This was a great walk to finish off the day and take the dogs out for a last wee. We were also able to let them off their leads for a change as the lanes were enclosed with no danger of turning a corner to find a sheep or cow waiting for us! I’d definitely recommend the Game Cock Inn for anyone looking for somewhere to stay with their dog.

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Yearsley Woods

Can anyone remember that really hot two weeks we had in June? Me neither. After what feels like the soggiest August ever, I’m casting my mind back to sunnier days when it actually felt like summer. It was almost too hot, certainly too hot to take the dogs on long walks on the fells, so we spent a lot of time scouting out new woodland walks early in the mornings. One new find was Hamsterley Forest in County Durham, but slightly less well known is the lovely little woodland at Yearsley Woods in the Howardian Hills. Yearsley Woods is somewhere I discovered after seeing quite a few local Instagrammers posting photos of dog walks here – a sure fire way to find the best new walks.

Yearsley Woods is an area rich in history and fantastic walks. From the woods you can walk up to Yearsley Moor, across to Ampleforth Abbey or wander the woodland trails to find signs of the site’s industrial and medieval past (the North York Moors National Park have produced a series of short videos documenting the history of Yearsley Moor if you’re interested).

There are so many different walks you could do around the woods. I’d highly recommend downloading the paid version of the OS Maps app to help you navigate the seemingly endless trails – it’s only £25 a year and if you enjoy hiking you will get plenty of use out of it. We set out at about 8am with the intention of following this 5 mile circular walk through the woods, but in the end we used the app to cut about half of the walk out as it was getting very hot very quickly. We were sad not to spend longer exploring, but it’s a good excuse to go back another day.

For the most part, the paths we followed were broad, well surfaced tracks, the kind which don’t get horrifically muddy and boggy when it rains. It was only when we detoured away from our main route that we picked up some smaller, more uneven trails, which I imagine would get a bit slippery in wet weather. We didn’t have to worry about that at all due to the beautiful weather we were having, and the paths were well shaded from the morning sun by the trees. Despite this, the woods still felt really open and airy, with plenty of light able to filter through. There was a great mix of native deciduous trees as well as conifers, something which I think makes a wood feel much more welcoming and natural – I know that probably sounds mad!

There is no dedicated car park for Yearsley Woods, just a quiet lane which dead ends at the edge of the woods. You can park considerately along this lane for free, but be aware that at busy times this might be tricky, as the woods are popular with local dog walkers – when we arrived at 8am on a Sunday morning, there were already a fair few other cars there. Despite this, we saw hardly anyone when we set off into the woods: just one or two other dog walkers and a few horse riders. The woods are so large with so many different paths to choose from that I imagine it’s pretty rare to have an experience here that feels crowded. It certainly felt completely deserted for the majority of the walk – we spent a good 10 minutes on one of the narrower trails away from the main path just listening to the early morning birdsong with no human, dog or traffic noise to be found.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There’s not many walks in North Yorkshire where dogs can be offlead the whole time so we’re always thrilled when we find a walk like this. Our dogs absolutely loved zooming around the woods and we absolutely loved watching them have a great time. There are no stiles on this walk either, so as a dog owner it’s probably one of the easiest walks you can do in terms of dog related effort. As it was so quiet, this would be a great walk for more nervous dogs who don’t like busy places. However you like your dog walks I guarantee that Yearsley Woods will tick nearly every box – we will certainly be making a return at some point!

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Glenridding Dodd & Sheffield Pike

Now that school holidays are in full swing our Wainwright bagging expeditions are being planned around walks which start close to a decent sized car park. Lots of the best walks start from a small lay-by tucked away close to the bottom of the fells – ideal for cutting down on long treks to/from the start of a hike, less ideal when competition for car parking spaces is at its peak, and all the spaces are gone by 8.30am. We therefore opted for a walk up Glenridding Dodd and Sheffield Pike, starting from the village of Glenridding, which has a large National Park car park. Perfect for arriving at 9am and still being able to park!

We found the route that we followed on WalkLakes, a roughly 5 mile circular, taking in the two Wainwrights of Glenridding Dodd and Sheffield Pike, as well as Sheffield Pike’s subsidiary peak Heron Pike (not to be confused with the Wainwright of the same name). We started from the large National Park car park in Glenridding and paid £5 to park for 5 hours (card payment accepted for both parking meters and toilets).

We actually followed the route backwards, starting with Sheffield Pike, rather than Glenridding Dodd. We said quite a few times that we were glad we’d done it this way around as it gets all of the ascent out of the way nice and early – if you start with Glenridding Dodd you’ll be going uphill for an awfully long time!

Navigation on this route was tricky at times and we’d definitely have gotten lost if we hadn’t plotted the route on our OS Maps app beforehand. The route did send us down a path which is no longer in use as we were coming down Glenridding Dodd, but there is an alternative path which brings you out in the same place. I’d say you definitely need navigation skills for this route as away from Glenridding Dodd, the paths become pretty much non-existent in places, especially around Heron Pike and on the ascent of Sheffield Pike. Nevertheless it’s definitely a hike not to be missed as the views are spectacular all the way around. We did this walk in mid-August with the heather in full bloom and this made the views even better – my favourite view of the whole walk was the view of Ullswater from the summit of Heron Pike (pictured).

While Glenridding Dodd is one of the smallest Wainwrights, and Sheffield Pike is pretty much bang in the middle of the range, this route is not by any means gentle or easy. There is plenty of up and down. The ascent wasn’t too steep for the most part, but there are a few harder sections where the path was rocky or boggy (mainly the bogs were in the flat section on the way up Sheffield Pike). The downhill was relentless though, and loose underfoot coming off Heron Pike, and I definitely had a case of jelly legs by the end! We certainly saw plenty of red in the face hikers making their way up Glenridding Dodd as we were coming down.

The descent of Glenridding Pike was a fair bit busier than the rest of the walk – in fact, we saw a grand total of two people once we left the main path from YHA Helvellyn and started the climb up Sheffield Pike, until we came out of the col to start the ascent of Glenridding Dodd.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Like most of the walks on the Lakeland fells, you could come across sheep at any point in this walk, so it’s best to keep dogs on leads. That being said there is a long stretch along a quiet road where you could possibly let off well behaved dogs with good recall – the road is for residents/hostel visitors only so there wasn’t much traffic at all.

For dogs who love to swim there is a river crossing a short stretch after leaving the main path up to Helvellyn – Coal had the time of his life splashing around and actually got deep enough to swim! Aside from this there isn’t much water so take some extra for your dog. There are no stiles, but as we took a closed path off Glenridding Dodd we ended up having to clamber over a gate. I’d recommend using the alternative path which is better maintained!

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The Shivering Mountain: Mam Tor

Mam Tor, while not the largest hill in the Peak District, is one of the most famous. In fact, despite it’s nickname of ‘the Shivering Mountain’, it’s not even big enough to classify as a mountain. It doesn’t even make the top ten highest hills in the Peak District! Despite this, walkers flock to the hill, perhaps due to it’s renown as a great location to watch the sunrise, or possibly due to the car park a very short walk from the summit!

Mam Tor is called ‘the Shivering Mountain’ as the unstable nature of the soil on the hill’s eastern face causes frequent mini landslides to occur. This has resulted in a series of mini hills and the eventual abandonment of the old A625 road in the seventies.

Mam Tor is usually tackled as part of a route along ‘the great ridge’, which includes Mam Tor, Back Tor and Lose Hill, or as a shorter walk which visits Mam Tor alone, from a variety of starting points. We’ve previously done the walk starting from Castleton, following a much quieter, more circuitous route to the summit. However, I can’t say whether the views were any good as it was raining so heavily we could barely see the trig point! We therefore decided to have another go on a sunnier day when we might actually get to see the views.

We didn’t have quite as long to spend walking Mam Tor on our second attempt as it was the day before Sam was running the Spine Challenger and we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous. We therefore followed the shorter route from our Countryside Dog Walks book, which starts from the National Trust Mam Nick car park (free for members, app payment for non members) not far from the summit. The path up to the summit is well paved steps and gradual up hill from here and you reach the trig point in next to no time. From here, we followed the main path down to Hollins Cross, before descending gradually to cross through fields and a nature reserve to arrive back at the car park. I can’t find the exact route online but there are plenty of options available if you do a search on Google.

The walk was generally very easy – the climb from the car park to the summit is short and gradual, with flat walking along the ridge to Hollins Cross. From here, the path did get a little more uneven, before a steeper climb at the very end to get back to the car park.

The views on this walk are pretty standard for the area – miles of rolling green hills and valleys. Being totally honest, they’re not a patch on some of the views we’ve seen in the Lakes, but then the Peak District is a lot more accessible for a lot more people, which I expect goes a long way towards explaining Mam Tor’s popularity. For a walk with similar views but fewer people, read my blog about Win Hill. However, the views were still nice enough for us to thoroughly enjoy our two hour walk, and we were glad to finally see them after our first attempt was such a washout!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. We kept our dogs on the leads for the entirety of this walk: you’re either walking through fields with livestock, a nature reserve or close to a road. That being said, we did see plenty of dogs off lead as we headed down to Hollins Cross, but we didn’t want to risk suddenly stumbling across a sheep as can happen! There were however no stiles on the route we followed (as with all routes in the Countryside dog walks book, so I’d recommend this if you struggle lifting your dogs over stiles) and there was no direct ‘on road’ walking. There was one small stream we crossed where the dogs were able to have a drink, but we carried extra with us too. This was a walk where we saw plenty of other walkers and dogs, but generally there was enough space for us to give them a very wide berth, so it wasn’t too stressful for Coal.

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Tarn Hows and Black Crag

Bizarrely, the weather at the weekend was better in the Lake District than it was in Yorkshire, something which has happened a few times recently and which we certainly aren’t complaining about! Sam is training for an ultra marathon in the Lakes later in the year, so I dropped him off to reccy a stretch of the route, and decided to take Merry to tick off another Wainwright. I decided to make the most of my National Trust membership to get free parking and started from one of the most beautiful parts of the Lake District, Tarn Hows.

Like many of our walks, I found the route I followed in my handy Pocket Mountains guidebook, this one being for the Lake District. The walk is about 6km, adding a linear detour up to the summit of Black Crag to a circular walk around Tarn Hows. Note that the postcode won’t take you to Tarn Hows, and you need to take the road North West out of Hawkshead and then follow the signs.

There is a large car park at Tarn Hows which was nearly completely empty when we arrived at 8.45am, but was completely full by the time I got back to the car at 11am. Parking is free for National Trust members but pricey if you’re not – £7.50 for all day. There are nice clean toilets in the car park and a National Trust stand where you can join if you don’t want to pay for parking!

I included Tarn Hows on my blog 5 Classic Lake District Walks and I still firmly believe this is one of the best loved walks in the Lakes – it was certainly getting fairly busy by the time I got back to the car! This is with good reason as the circular walk around the water is beautiful, without being at all strenuous and with well surfaced paths all the way around. We saw plenty of people with buggies and mobility scooters and it’s great that there are places like this which are accessible to everyone. If you fancy getting off the beaten track you can detour up Black Crag as we did, or walk down to Tom Gill waterfall. If you do choose to venture away from the main track the path generally remains well defined but becomes steeper and rockier underfoot.

The path up to Black Crag takes you along a bracken-y track and up into a small plantation, before you re-emerge onto the open fell side. We got so, so close to the summit, but I ended up turning around near the top because there were cows with calves all over the path up to the trig. You can’t really see in the photo, but there were a good two or three calves hanging around using the trig as a scratching post! With a dog in tow I decided that the sensible option would be to turn around and head back up another day – it’ll still be there. It was extremely frustrating though to actually be able to see the trig point and have to turn around! Even more frustrating when I got back down to Tarn Hows and the cows on the other side of the tarn borderline chased me back to my car…

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. On most lakeland fells you can expect to come across livestock of some sort: mostly sheep, with the odd cow and the even rarer pony. There were PLENTY of cows on this walk, both on the fell and around Tarn Hows, and I did feel a bit like I got chased back to my car! Although maybe they were all walking (running) that way anyway…

There were signs up around Tarn Hows asking for dogs to be kept on leads, so Merry stayed on his, although I did see plenty of off-lead dogs. I needed to cross a stile to access the path up Black Crag, but there was a gap under the fence Merry was able to fit through easily. The big plus is that there is no walking on the road and the stream feeding into the tarn offers an opportunity for dogs to have a paddle and a drink. There are bins on the road near the car park where you can deposit and poos before you go home!

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Cow Green Reservoir, Widdybank Fell and Cauldron Snout

Cow Green reservoir is one of those places I’ve wanted to visit for ages after seeing some stunning photos on Instagram, but never quite managed to bump to the top of my places to go list. We finally made our way up into the North Pennines last weekend for a lovely eight mile circular which takes you around the bottom of Widdybank Fell, starting at Cow Green and returning via the impressive falls of Cauldron Snout, worth a visit purely on name alone!

Cow Green reservoir was built in the late 60s to supply industry in Teesside – and, according to a sign near the car park, holds enough water to give every person in Europe a shower! It’s also a good starting point for getting out and exploring all that this part of the North Pennines has to offer, with trails leading to Widdybank Fell, High Cup Nick and Herdship Fell. We opted for the first of these options, following a walk from our Cicerone Guide to County Durham, which loops around rather than over the fell and totals around eight miles. A similar route is available online here.

Starting from the Natural England car park by the reservoir (honesty box for donations, toilets), we followed the route in a clockwise direction. This gets the long stretch along the road out of the way first and rewards you with a spectacular view of Cauldron Snout at the end.

The beginning along the road isn’t exactly what I’d call boring, as you are surrounded by remote uplands in all directions, but it’s a good few miles just walking in a straight line. The road itself though is very quiet and we didn’t see many cars at all, plus they are very easy to see coming. Once you leave the road the path stays level and well surfaced as you begin your walk around the fell, before becoming more indistinct and uneven as you join the Pennine Way. Along here the path is narrower in places, with a few sections which require you to clamber over boulders – made more difficult for me because Merry was trying to drag me into the river!

Walking along the river was one of my favourite parts of the walk – it was so quiet with no people around, and the dogs loved being able to jump in to cool down. All of Widdybank Fell is covered by an Access Land restriction, which means that you have to stick to public rights of way, which can be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with Access rules!

Essentially, you are able to walk across Access Land, but some areas may be covered by a restriction which means no dogs, and potentially also no people as well. BUT, and it’s a big but, you are still allowed to walk on any Public Right of Way (footpath or bridlepath) which crosses Access Land. You can check if there are any access restrictions where you’re going on the Natural England website.

The walk is pretty flat nearly all the way around with some gradual inclines and declines, the only section where you have to work hard is the short climb up alongside Cauldron Snout, where it’s almost a bit like scrambling. Another reason to do this walk in a clockwise direction as I’d much rather climb up those steps (if that’s what you want to call them!) then try and navigate my way down!

Cauldron Snout is unmistakably the star attraction of the walk, and at nearly 200m long, is one of the longest waterfalls in England. While this walk takes you on a more circuitous approach, if you’re not fancying a longer walk, it’s close enough to the reservoir that you could do a short there and back walk in no time at all.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. While much of this walk requires dogs to be on the lead, ours absolutely loved being able to splash around in the river for a good stretch of the walk. As an added plus, there are no stiles to navigate across, and it’s a lovely quiet walk for nervous dogs.

As much of the land around Widdybank Fell is Access Land, dogs should definitely be on a lead for this part, and you might come across livestock or ground nesting birds. We saw sheep, cows and ponies, as well as a variety of moorland bird species like curlews and lapwings. Therefore Merry stayed on the lead all the way around as I don’t trust his chase instinct in wide open spaces at all!

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Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest is the largest area of continuous woodland in County Durham. Planted in the 1930s, today the forest is a popular outdoor recreation location, with trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders. We’d originally planned to spend our day hiking up Skiddaw, but given that temperatures were set to soar to the high twenties, we re-evaluated and decided that an early morning walk with plenty of shade would be a much safer option for the dogs. Hamsterley has been on our radar for a while but we’d never made it a priority to visit as we know it’s a popular place and can get busy. However, we decided that as we’d be going early to beat the heat, we’d take a chance on there being not that many people around. And we were in luck!

Hamsterley was so much more than we expected. Some forests can be an unending stretch of coniferous greenery, but Hamsterley is a wonderful mix of coniferous and deciduous species, beautiful in summer but I expect would be even better in autumn. For visitors to the forest there are a selection of walking trails or you can make up your own route from the huge network of interconnecting paths criss-crossing the forest.

Most of the walks start from the main visitor centre, although the Spurlswood Valley walk we followed starts from Grove car park, a little further along the forest drive. Parking is £6 all day (£10 on bank holiday weekends) and works through Automatic Number Plate Recognition. There’s no pay and display, just pay at the pay station (cash or card) or via a parking app before you leave.

The Spurlswood Valley trail is a circular route of about 4.5 miles. The first two thirds or so of the walk follows the river and is a great shady walk for a warm summer day. While you’re in the woods for most of the walk, you wander in and out of clear areas with lovely views back over the forest, especially lovely on days with blue sky for miles like we had.

For the most part the path is level and surfaced, with the odd section slightly more bumpy with rocks and tree roots underfoot. This walk is pretty easy: there are no steep ascents or descents (although it’s not completely flat), and navigation is also simple – just follow the green way markers.

Being totally honest I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this walk as much as I did – I thought we were in for a standard wander round the woods and then home again! But this walk was a total delight and we’ll definitely be heading back to discover more of what Hamsterley has to offer. My favourite thing was the fact that despite being surrounded by trees for the whole walk, the scenery around us was constantly changing, rather than feeling like we were walking on a treadmill in the middle of a forest (which can happen sometimes!).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. How could I give this walk any other rating! Ours absolutely loved it here – quite possibly their favourite walk ever. By going early (we arrived at 7.45am) we had the forest almost entirely to ourselves – we saw one other dog walker and a handful of mountain bikers. I do think it gets busier later in the day though! There were no stiles and no road walking which was fantastic. Merry in particular loved the river being next to the path for most of the walk – he probably spent more time in the water than out of it! We had ours off lead for the whole walk and it was great to have a long walk with no worries about livestock and no being dragged around on the lead – we will definitely be making this a regular walk! I’m writing this blog about six hours after getting home and neither of them have moved since we got in – they are completely pooped from having such an amazing time!

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Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay was voted Britain’s most beautiful beach by The Times and it’s not hard to see why. The sweeping stretch of sandy beach is overlooked by a cluster of red roofed cottages, perched at the bottom of the cliff, with seagulls swooping overhead and the occasional fossil waiting to be discovered. We’d been to Runswick Bay once before and hadn’t been able to see further than about two feet in front of us due to the sea haar (otherwise known as fog if you’re not from Yorkshire), so we decided to head back on a better weather day to see what we’d missed out on the first time.

We decided to head over to the coast as it was the only place in a two hour radius with a decent weather forecast. Usually we go to Robin Hood’s Bay, but it’s been fairly busy there recently, so instead we had a flick through our North York Moors Pocket Mountains guide for some coastal inspiration.

We settled on a circular walk from Runswick Bay to Kettleness, a tiny hamlet further down the coast. The walk is around five and a half miles and follows a circular route, starting out along the Cleveland Way, before returning inland along an old railway track. There is a similar walk available online on the Happy Hiker website.

This walk was a pleasure in every way: easy to navigate, easy walking and fantastic views. Starting out along the beach you can investigate a series of caves, said to be inhabited by a Hob, a malevolent household spirit. You then quickly pick up the Cleveland Way with a short but steep climb up some steps to gain the clifftop, where you are rewarded almost immediately with a fantastic view back to the village.

The walk along the cliffs to Kettleness is gentle and follows a clearly defined path which is almost completely flat. When you reach the village there’s a bench where we enjoyed a nice sit down and our lunch, before heading back to Runswick Bay along the also very flat and well surfaced inland path.

There are a couple of car parks in Runswick Bay. The smaller car park at the bottom of the hill fills up early, however, there is usually plenty of space in the large car park at the top of the hill. This car park is run by Scarborough Borough Council and you can pay cash or via a parking app – it cost us £5 to park for 6 hours. I know this might sound pricey but we are always happy to pay for parking on our walks – really, if you bring your own lunch, parking is your only expense, when you could easily pay a lot more money to enter a local attraction!

There are toilets in the car park but no other facilities apart from a hotel at the top of the hill – if you fancy the obligatory seaside fish and chips I’d recommend popping down the coast to Whitby where you’ll have plenty of choice.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is a great walk for dogs. The beach at Runswick Bay is dog friendly all year round and ours absolutely loved haring around and swimming in the sea. It was surprisingly quiet for a beach which has had lots of media focus in the last year or so, but that’s fine by us!

Along the cliffs we did choose to keep ours on a lead just for safety reasons, and there are signs up on the inland track asking for dogs to be kept on leads. A big bonus on this walk is that there are no stiles and very little road walking – although I’m sure the dog’s favourite part was the beach!

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