The walk does not have set start and finish points but, if you arrive by bus, Low Laithe is an ideal starting point.
There are lots of paths around Brimham rocks - to get onto the route from the Brimham rocks car park, go back to the main road from the car park and on the right across the road is the path. There is a Pay and Display car park at Brimham Rocks but note that it gets very busy at weekends in summer.
Hartwith means “stag wood”, and was first recorded in 1457 on a Fountains Abbey document.
Hartwith has a long history of human activity and clues to this can be found on the route of this walk.
During the last Ice Age the landscape was shaped by ice-sheets which retreated from Nidderdale over 10,000 years ago. A notable feature on this walk, particularly near Brimham, are the outcrops of carboniferous sandstone often called Millstone Grit.
Points of interest include:
1. Adams Ale:
Entering this magical oak wood from the south, notice the carved gatepost known as a “stang stoop”, used locally since the 17th century. Throstle Nest is the small walled clearing in the wood, probably dating from the Medieval Period.
2. Monk Wall:
Between Shepherd’s Lodge and Park House you will cross the Monk Wall. This is noticeably wider than normal field boundaries and has large boulders, known as orthostats, in its base.
3. Brimham Lodge:
The Lodge you see today was built in 1661 by Thomas Braithwaite from Ambleside Hall in the Lake District. All that remains is a small section, incorporated into a field boundary wall, adjacent to the footpath between Brimham Lodge and Mansion House farm.
4. Spring House Wood:
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, it was common practice in Hartwith for the local landowners to encroach into the former monastic woodlands, clearing and enclosing small areas for pasture. These were known as “assarts”.
5. Pack-Horse Route:
There are spring-fed troughs along these early tracks especially where there are steep slopes. They were used to water pack-animals or herded livestock.
There’s one on the old “pack-horse route” above Summerbridge. Indeed, the name “Summerbridge” is derived from “somer” the Anglo-Norman word for a pack-horse.
6. Old Spring Wood:
As you walk into Old Spring Wood you will sense that it is a place of great history. We know it dates back at least to prehistoric times. Since then, the woodland has been managed in many different ways. The remains of stone enclosure walls suggests that one of its earliest uses was for grazing stock but, with changing ownership, the woodland became part of an important hunting ground known as the Chase of Nidderdale.
7. Braisty Woods Farm:
This is now a sizeable farmstead with outbuildings and holiday cottages but 150 years ago it was a settlement with 125 people living there.
Of the buildings remaining, the oldest dates from the early 17th century. There was a Tannery and a Malt Kiln here then.
8. Monk’s Route:
Monk’s Route - part of the walk is on old routes used for hundreds of years. These connected the earliest farmsteads and were further developed by the Monasteries to access their estates and commercial interests.
The route between Smelthouses and Brimham is one example. See where the path goes along in a depression. This is called a “hollow-way”.