We were on holiday in Yorkshire, Wensleydale to be precise. We’d hired a cottage and used it as our base to discover this lovely part of the country.
After visiting a few ancient monuments and taking a whole day to see York we decided to take it easy this day and drive around some of the quainter villages and just chill out. We left a village having had lunch there in a small pub and drove for about fifteen minutes when I saw a sign for a nature walk.
“Did you see that, Lisa?” I said quickly looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing no one behind me put my foot on the brake.
“No I didn’t, what was it?”
“A nature trail of sorts, shall see what it’s about?”
“If you like but I’m not really dressed for walking today,” she advised as I reversed the car back and drove into a small car park.
We both got out the car and strolled over to the signage board.
“It’s a walk through some woods, Hackfall Wood it’s called. What do you think?” I asked, “Shall we go and see what it’s like?”
“As I said I’m dressed for walking in the woods,” she replied seriously.
I looked her up and down; she was wearing trainers with a short creamy colour skirt and light brown blouse that had poppers instead of buttons. I thought she would be okay. “Look the pictures here indicates it’s not a heavy-going kind of walk lets go for it.” I urged.
Lisa looked at me then at the pictures on the signboard, “Oh alright then.”
“Good I’ll go get me camera and lock up the car.”
We set of walking along a wide track made by the tractor of the local farmer. At the bottom of this was the start of our walk. With a copy of the trail walks through the wood, we turned right here and set off.
After a good hike, we came to the first of half a dozen Follies built during the first conversation work in tidying up Hackfall Wood.
I read this aloud to Lisa, “ ... this was in the 1700’s and started by a man called William Aislabie. After many different owners, each making their own mark on the wood finally came into the hands of the Woodlands Trust in 1987. All the past work is what we are seeing today with several of the folly buildings listed as Grade II. Hackfall is registered – Grade I on the English Heritage “Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Interest”.
“Blimey the Victorians must have loved this,” she replied.
“Come on let’s take a few photos and move on.”
Lisa posed in front of the folly known as the Banqueting House and I took several photos, then we moved on.
After a hundred yards or so, the trail started to descend down into the valley and woods. Here a small area cleared of the overgrowth enabled you to observe the view. It was at this point you realised just how high you were and how beautiful the wood was.
“Gosh look at the view,” Lisa exclaimed, “And over there look, a castle!” The surprise in her voice made me turn away and look in the direction she was pointing.
“We’ll have to find that place won’t we?” I asked as she turned back onto the trail and headed off.
As we descended further into the wood, Hackfall began to reveal its treasures. As the trees grew denser, so the sun become less intense and it became cooler. Other than the birds, singing in the trees there was no rumble of traffic and you became aware of other sounds. However, the quietness was what really got to you, the tranquillity of the woods pulled you in and you began to appreciate its existence.
We followed the track left and it continued down, after several hundred yards the trail forked. Here we consulted with the map we’d picked up in the car park.
“The way to the Medieval Castle is this way,” I said pointing to the map. From where we were standing the trail sloped back up again.
“I don’t really want to walk up again,” Lisa said looking over my shoulder, “What’s down the other way.”
“It looks like it its part of the river, come on then we’ll go that way, there’s a shorter route up from there.”
So, we took the left fork and continued down. The ground to our right now suddenly dropped away into a tight gorge and we could hear the sound of running water. The gorge looked deep and I wondered how long it would take to get to our next destination.
I was beginning to enjoy myself. The woods were lovely, not too overgrown and one could see through the trees in most places. At present, the only place where the growth was dense was on the side of the gorge, as we couldn’t see down to the bottom.
Fifteen minutes later the path turns gently down to bring us into a large open area that would probably be a large water fall during the winter months or when there is a lot of heavy rain. However, as it was June and the local area hadn’t had any rain for weeks the falls were quiet, just a trickle of water ran along its well-cut path towards the river proper.
As we walked down to the water’s edge, I surveyed the area and it really was beautiful. There wasn’t much sunlight and when I took my first photo, I found I had to open the aperture up quite a bit to get a shot.
Looking around the area, I saw two men sitting on a bench cut out of the rock to our right. Lisa was looking for the path that would lead us to the Castle. Looking at one of the men, who was drinking beer from can, I saw him look Lisa up and down and it was clear he liked what he saw.
The man nudged his mate who was sitting next to him and says something. His mate looked at Lisa and he nodded with approval.
I went over to Lisa who was looking at the map.
“There’s a trail leading up from according to the map, but I can’t see it,” she said.
I looked along the stream to see some stepping-stones placed across it that led to some rather precarious looking steps leading up the side of the gorge.
“I think that’s it over there,” I said pointing the way.
“Bloody hell John I’m not going up there dressed like this. And look at the state of the steps they’re covered in green slime.”
I had to agree with her, the route did look rather slippery and dangerous. “Okay come on we’ll go the long way up. We’ll see more anyway.”
We set off following the stream. The trail was to the left of the stream and as we walked so the overgrowth slowly hid the stream from us. The sound of water was never very far away though. For quite some time, we followed the path when we spotted two female walkers heading towards us on another path further to our left, a path we didn’t know was there. They soon passed, never taking a second glance at us as we continued to follow our narrow trail.
The sound of water began to grow, it was obvious that the river was further up the trail, yet the overgrowth here grew thicker until we walked down sharply onto the dry riverbed. The main river was further over and I took several photos of the sun glinting off the water. I also found a small waterfall running over the edge of the bank and into a pool and then it flowed over and into the river proper. With a slow shutter speed, I got a nice shot of the water looking like soft white cotton running over the stones, nice.
Turning around I saw Lisa had decided to move on, following the trail to our right and taking us across the small stream and now followed the river with it being on our left. The path was easy going and well used, we covered a lot of ground in a short time. In addition, the path was gently ascending.
We followed the river for a good thirty minutes when the trail turned right and made a sharp rise upwards. As we turned I looked back over my shoulder, back down the trail. It was all clear it looked as though we were the only people in the woods. I stopped for a second feeling the solitude and the quietness of it all – it felt really good. I looked back once again, scanning through the trees when I suddenly saw one of the men who was sitting on the bench back at the stream.
I moved on and caught Lisa up. We walked on still ascending the side of the hill. After a while, I wanted to find out if they were still following so while walking I took my camera out of its carrycase and then stopped standing sideways to the path and pretended to adjust the settings.
As I did this, I look back the way we had come. There they were trying to hide behind a large tree.
Again, I walked on and caught up with Lisa.
“Blimey John how much further do we have to go?” asked Lisa as we came to a large clearing. Here the trail went straight on. However, there were some steps cut out of the side of the hill, these looked freshly laid. I knew straight away that we had to go up the steps.
“Don’t know sweetheart, but the way is still up,” I replied pointing to the steps.
“Bloody hell I’m knackered,” Lisa exclaimed, “All this climbing is making my legs ache.”
I looked at her to see the sweat on her brow.
“How much further do you think it is?”
“Don’t know, the map doesn’t tell us either. We’ve done a fair bit as it is do you want to turn back?”
Lisa thought a moment, “No we’ve come this far, let’s go on. I know I’m tired but I am enjoying it,” with a smile, she turned and started up the steps.
There must have been a hundred steps because by the time we got to the top we were both panting. We both stood at the top catching our breath. Lisa took a few steps away breathing rather heavily, “God, that was hard work,” she exclaimed between gasps of air and looking further up the path.
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