Nether Poppleton to Goldsborough – 20 miles
Saturday 19th October 2019
I’ve broken this walk down into three sections, that are each completed over a weekend. The Saturday part is normally about 12 miles or so and the Sunday part is shorter, to allow us both some time at home in the afternoon, and ends up around 7 or 8 miles or so. As Chris and I are coming from different sides of the country we meet at the finish point of Saturday’s walk and leave one car there, we then drive to the start of the day’s walk, park the car and walk to the end. After the walk we drive back to the start, pick up the other car then go and find a nice pub to relax in for the evening. At night we find a remote spot somewhere to park the cars and we sleep in them. Early on the Sunday morning we drive to the end of the day’s walk and repeat the process.
I started the River Nidd Trail at the most convenient village to the point where the River Nidd empties into the River Ouse. On the basis that I may end up turning this into a guide book, I selected somewhere that had the chance of accommodation, and public transport links. I chose the wonderfully named Nether Poppleton. Here there is a small, but beautifully designed First World War memorial right beside the Ouse, on the edge of the village and I’d chosen this for the start of the walk.
The first couple of miles of the walk are on the banks of the Ouse and initially the path was very muddy and we slipped and slithered through the tracks of dozens of local dog walkers. The further we progressed the firmer it became as fewer and fewer people ventured this far. The other side of that coin meant that the vegetation became somewhat thicker and we were grateful it was late in the year and most of it had died back. We passed a pair of kayaks, under a tarp and a pair of tents pitched in the deep scrubby vegetation beside the path. The Ouse is wide here, even when it’s not flowing as deep as it is at the moment and there are plenty of boats, some very large ones, moving up and down the river. In the summer it must get quite busy.
The path beside the Ouse was about the best of the day as it turned out. Once we reached the Nidd, we found the going a little less scenic. The river is so swollen at the moment and running very brown and murky. Many trees beside the river are under water, as are some sections of the bank. Just after we left the Ouse we reached a small cluster of houses at Moor Monkton and lost the path completely as it entered a cul-de-sac. I studied ViewRanger, and even at 1:25k scale, the route the path took wasn’t clear. There was no indication on the ground either. The path just ended at a pair of garden gates. I looked confused obviously, because a man repairing a roof nearby pointed me through one of the garden gates. In the back garden of the house we couldn’t see any obvious exit, so we wandered around until an old guy came out of the house and asked if we were looking for the path. I bit back a “D’uh!” and he walked us to a tiny gate hidden behind a bush. Chris suggested a sign may help walkers and prevent people wandering around his garden. “Not my responsibility” he bit back, “we don’t get many walkers anyway. We had half a dozen through at Easter and now you two”.
Back beside the river and the path now passed through many fields, along field boundaries and even when it did manage to hug the bank of the river, we were often screened from it by tall bushes. We took our life in our hands as we crossed the busy A59 and entered the other worldly environs of Skipbridge Farm. Once past the initial skirmish line of chickens and ducks, we were challenged by a closely-shaved Alpaca which then escorted us through some ridiculous mud to a field surrounded by camping pods. Here we met two Emus and a large Llama. I’m always nervous of animals with projectile weaponry so I steered well clear of the two camelids, which will spit at you if they don’t like the way you look at them.
Beyond the railway we passed through Wilstrop Hall and were glad we didn’t need to walk through the field filled with some of the most boisterous cows I’ve ever seen. They charged up and down beside us on the other side of a far too insubstantial looking wire fence and then stampeded off across the field as we left. We found a sunny spot behind the house and had some lunch.
The weather forecast had been for intermittent showers all day, but so far it had been fine. We’d a hint of mizzle as we left Nether Poppleton, but despite being a little chilly, there was no wind to speak of and now we were being treated to some patches of blue sky and broken sunny spells!
Shortly beyond the Hall we joined an embankment that separates the Nidd from the grazing land beside the river. The nice thing about the embankment was that it followed the river, the downside was that it followed the river religiously, every meander and every bend. The top of the bank was also quite overgrown with long grass so it was hard going and my boots, long since waterlogged, now took on even more water and my feet began to get sore. The embankment was a bit of a trudge if I’m honest. The river was always there and some of the flooded pastures had huge flocks of waterfowl, plovers and herons, that was great, but it did become a bit monotonous. I was quite glad when we left it and headed for the car. A navigational balls-up (mine, I must admit) cost us an extra 1/2 a mile across a boggy field, but we were soon back at my car.
We drove back to Chris’s car at the start, and I got changed out of my wet socks and waterproof overtrousers (over no trousers). We found the nearest pub and had a relaxing beer and planned our evening. Google helped us identify a nearby retail park where food choices were plentiful and which also had a cinema. Chris has been wanting to see the new “Joker” film, so I somewhat reluctantly agreed to accompany him (I’d have rather seen the new Zombieland film). We finished our pints and headed out. We had what turned out to be an incredibly expensive (for Chris) meal in a Harvester and then walked across to the cinema. The Joker was sold out and they didn’t have two seats side by side for Zombieland, so we bailed and made other plans.
We drove to the site I’d selected for our car camp and apart from a slow drive-by the local farmer, we weren’t disturbed. We watched a couple of films on my tablet in my car and around 10pm settled down in our own cars. I slept remarkably well, so much so that I never even heard Chris’s car alarm, which he managed to set off at 3am.
Sunday 20th October 2019
We decamped by 7.30 and by 8am we were off and walking again. Putting wet socks and wet boots back on should be made illegal, but they soon warmed up. We were greeted by a Red Kite circling above us, checking us out for the first part of the walk and then watched a large white owl (Barn Owl?) being chased and harassed by crows, in and out of the trees ahead of us. Dawn came up behind us and bathed the fields we were walking through in a warm glow, but not warm enough to counteract the chill wind that was keeping us both wrapped up. It was at this point that Chris realised he’d left his coat in the Harvester last night! A phone call to them later on revealed that no-one had handed it in, so he was about £200 out of pocket for that meal!
Today’s walk was a little better than yesterday I think. We walked through more woodland, there was less mud and the river was more interesting. We crossed tiny bridges over tributaries of the Nidd and passed a roaring weir in the river. The path soon led us into the grounds of Ribston Hall, a well-maintained country house with some lovely trees dropping their autumnal leaves onto the paths and into the river. On the other side of the park we crossed another lovely section of woodland and before long we were back at my car and the end of the first section of the walk.
The River Nidd Trail is a walk of my own creation. It was born from a longing to walk beside more rivers. I think I’ve been somewhat spoiled by the Swale, the Ure and the Eden though. The scenery beside those rivers is nearly always lovely – different types of lovely; hills, woodlands, meadows, field boundaries and the like and I was hoping the Nidd would provide the same. I know it gets better and I have high hopes for Section 2, but this section was bland and mostly uninteresting. The time of year may be a contributing factor; there’s lots of mud and paths are less walked. Despite that, this was still a let-down. I’ve not even mentioned the four miles of road walking (three at the end of Saturday and one at the end of Sunday) that we skipped completely. No reasonable alternative could be found to keep us on footpaths and I had to use the tarmac!
So of course, any dissatisfaction with the walk is my own fault and if I don’t love it I can’t expect anyone else to. As such, I’ve already decided this is not a suitable walk for a guide book. I will at least (all being well) have the personal achievement of walking the length of the Nidd – one more river to add to the tick list – but I’m not going to try and impose it on others.
Here are a couple of videos, pieced together from the snippets I recorded throughout the two days.