Leader : Nigel Medcalf. Distance : 10 miles
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Nigel reports :-
I have to admit that I do like the River Nidd. Its upper reaches are contained within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and include the beautiful 53 mile circular Nidderdale Way. But although less spectacular, there are some picturesque stretches lower down the river before it becomes swallowed up by the River Ouse north-west of York. Today we explored a section known as The Nidd Gorge between Ripley and Knaresborough.
Our route is a classic figure of eight: not just two loops bolted together but crossing over in the middle like a Scalextric track. In our case, the outward and lower return paths are separated in height by 100 feet at the crossover point.
9 walkers set off from the car park at Ripley (popular because it has free parking and has free toilets too!). The village itself has been in the hands of the Ingleby families for over 700 years. One of the more eccentric members of the family demolished the village in the 19th century and completely rebuilt it after the style of an Alsatian village complete with a continental style hotel de Ville. We pass le Monument, a reminder that the Tour de France was routed through here in July 2014, and cross the A61 aided by the pelican crossing. For the next couple of miles we followed the old railway line from Ripley to the Bilton Viaduct, a wonderful seven arch construction dating from 1848. At that time it opened to carry rail traffic northwards to Ripon and Thirsk. Turning left onto Bilton Lane we headed east towards Knaresborough. Here our numbers were swollen from 9 to 309 as we had inadvertently joined a running race. When we reached the Harrogate Ringway, peace was returned as we turned north to follow the track through the wooded banks of the River Nidd along the Nidd Gorge. We took our lunch here in Spring Wood before continuing through Woodland Trust open access forest. Passing under the Bilton viaduct this time allowed us to marvel at its engineering from below. The aroma from the Bilton Sewage works did not seem to trouble those of us still feeling fragile from the previous night’s birthday celebrations. Spruisty Bridge was crossed: a seventeenth century packhorse bridge allowing entry to the pretty hamlet of Knox. Field paths proved to be wet and muddy after recent rainfalls. We returned to our vehicles for a quick change of footwear and refreshments in the Boar’s Head in Ripley. The significance of the Boar’s Head to Ripley Castle is that Sir Thomas Ingleby saved the king from being gored by a wild boar whilst on a hunting expedition. As a result of this, he was knighted and the Boar’s Head motif has remained in use to this day. The weather had been kinder than could be expected for mid-November (just ask the midges!) but the autumnal colours of the trees particularly along the river itself were the highlight of this 10 mile walk for many.