A day enjoying Bolton Abbey

It is difficult to identify a more picture perfect place to enjoy the winter sunshine! There are walks for all abilities here… and on this beautiful sunny day we enjoyed two of them!

Firstly some key info:

  • A map of the estate can be found here.
  • Parking was £10 all day. With a ticket you can visit different car parks, but we based ourselves at the Riverside carpark. Entry is otherwise free.
  • At each of the car parks, toilet facilities are available.
  • Many paths are gravel or surfaced, but there are definitely muddy parts, particularly across fields towards the Abbey.
  • Pushchairs are certainly possible in many places, but you need to be brave on the steeper paths. If you prefer to keep it safe, a good option might be to the Astrid and back from the Riverside carpark.
  • There are no traditional play areas, but there is a sandpit, and at certain times of year there are activities on the main paths… including Easter and Christmas trails.

Starting our morning walk at the Cavendish Pavillion, we decided to take advantage of the glorious sunshine and walk on the far side of the river towards the Strid, crossing at the Aqueduct and returning on the near side. We’d packed a picnic so we’re looking out for a good spot for lunch!

This path can get steep in parts, and be careful with a youngster as the path does have some serious drops in places! Jess is (usually) pretty sensible so we were confident she’d be fine. I can’t say for definite how far this route is, stupidly forgetting to start my tracker, but looking at the estate map I think a little over three miles. If you’re after something a little longer you could also walk up to Barden Bridge (previously done on this blog post).

Walking back was a bit colder in the shade! Luckily Jess was refuelled after her sandwich and the draw of ice cream (!?!) at the Cavendish Pavillion kept her going. I had an amazing chocolate brownie with my cuppa, which kept me pretty happy too!

After warming up we crossed back over the bridge, this time taking the river path to the abbey. This path is also steep in places, but there’s lots to keep children engaged including crossing a ford (although you can also avoid it), as well as a money tree!

Be warned, the field on the approach to the Abbey can get VERY muddy… the path along the side of the river (rather than cutting through the field) is a bit better, and also provides the opportunity for stone skimming!

To cross to the Abbey you have the choice of a footbridge or if you’re feeling brave, the infamous Stepping Stones!

After exploring the Abbey, we took the path alongside the road that takes you back down to the Riverside carpark.

Both children were fast asleep by the time we got to the road, a sure sign of a cracking day out!

I wonder what your favourite walks are there?

Shaun Glow Trail at Dalby Forest

Since my first visit to Dalby Forest about 10 years ago I’ve been absolutely enchanted. I love a good excuse for a visit, and the fact we hadn’t done the Glow Trail seemed to fit the bill!

We’d read about downloading the (free) app before we went. And obviously ignored it. And forgot there’s not really any phone signal there. So the first 20 minutes of our visit I spent in the cafe in the free WiFi waiting for it to download (it’s not massive, the connection was just slow) while Jess and hubby played in the rather impressive adventure play ground.

We also bought the activity pack for £3.50. The trail is recommended for 6-12 year olds. Jess was absolutely fine with the walking (she’s coming up 4) but didn’t get the concept of the trail as much. The activities were good, but I hate to say after standing there for 20 minutes getting the app, she was actually bettter using the paper clues in the activity pack. The app puzzles were a little beyond her…. but I think they would be good for older children (so the recommended age)! Online, I’ve seen examples of photos with Shaun which I also assume you can do on the app but we must have given up before that was possible, that or we didn’t see it (you can tell I work for a tech company, right?!?). In a nutshell, you CANNOT do the activities without buying the pack (you need the special pen) but if you have younger ones you don’t necessarily need the app too.

The walk itself takes you out the back of the visitor centre, and past the BBQ area where we stopped for a perfectly picturesque picnic by the stream. I can imagine in summer this is super busy, but we had the area to ourselves. It was a fantastic winter treat!

The trail continued uphill into some woodland. It really isn’t suitable for buggies after the first kilometre of so; it gets quite steep as you turn off the main track and is super muddy in places. It’s definitely a step up from the Zog Trail, despite it being not much further in distance.

The activities involved using a glow stick (UV torch) to identify shapes. Jess loved this, even though, as I’ve said didn’t necessarily get the whole spaceship theme.

Between the stops for clues there are also suggestions for little activities, our favourite was how many trees can you touch in 30 seconds. So obviously in the denser part of the forest we did this about five million, six thousand, three hundred times. Our favourite activity in the woods is always looking for signs of the bears, I’m dreading the day Jess gets too old for this because we love it soo much!! Every fallen tree, snapped branch, trodden leaf is a sign a bear has been through!

Back at the visitor centre we enjoyed some hot chocolates whilst Jess had her usual winter food choice of ice cream.

I think the walk’s just the right length for younger children.. the return to the centre is downhill which makes it easier for them! There should still be plenty of time to do another walk or maybe some bike riding afterwards. Make sure you do leave time for the play area, and a little play in the stream at the back.

If you wish to do another guided trail, I think you could mostly do the Zog trail without buying another pack, as the activities are written on the clues. There’s also a beginners bike trail from the visitor centre. Or you could just go and explore the beautiful woodland on one of the many walking trails. I cannot wait for the children to get older so that we can go on longer walks. There are also explorer packs that you can rent for £3; little backpacks with all the tools you need to explore the streams or woodland.

If you do make it out there let me know how you get on!

Details:

Mam Tor Circular Walk

If you’re looking for a challenge that young children will find manageable, climbing Mam Tor (the Shivering Mountain) from a car park only 50m from the summit could be the ideal choice!

Distance: 3 miles

Accessibility: The Walk starts with lots of steps… some muddy slopes can make for tricky walking in wet weather.

Route: The National have provided this route guide; https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinder-edale-and-the-dark-peak/trails/mam-tor-circular-walk

Parking: National Trust Mam Nick Car Park

The walk is easy to follow and the steepest climb starts from the car park, so it is over nice and early on!

The initial climb is on stone steps (can your little ones count how many?). There is a trig point at the top of Mam Tor, so it’s great for photos, with a beautiful 360 degree view. If you do this walk in finer weather you’ll likely see the masses of hand gliders taking flight from the top.

From here it’s a straight walk along the ridge to Hollins Cross, a cross roads in the dip of the ridge, and another great spot for 360 views. Be warned, it can get pretty windy along the ridge so if you’re walking in winter make sure you’ve got lots of layers! I think being so accessible there were many families who had come unprepared; it might be a family walk, but it is still a peak at over 500m so don’t get caught out!

The return walk passes under the Mam Tor peak, where the lovely views over Castletown continue. If it’s a colder day, you may prefer to choose this path for a picnic/ snack stop as it tends to be a little more sheltered than the ridge. Until you meet the road, and the path from the caverns back to the car park can get pretty muddy and slippy, so make sure you have appropriate footwear, especially in wetter weather. Whilst there is some uphill it’s not as steep as the start, and being on the way back to the start helps spur on reluctant walkers! If you need some ideas on how to encourage little ones to walk read this blog.

Back at the car park there’s often a catering van offering hot drinks, or you can drive down to Castleton with its excellent variety of pubs and cafes! We also like the Cheshire Cheese Inn in Hope, which does great food.

For future walks, or if you’re after a more challenging walk, the 61/2 mile circular from Castleton is a great one, taking in much more of the ridge and the glorious views!!

Calverley/ Apperley Bridge Circular (4.5 miles)

A great walk which follows the easy canal path and back in the other direction along the river Aire. With decent pubs at Apperley Bridge and Calverley you have a choice of places to enjoy your well deserved drink or meal!

Parking: Roadside parking is available at Calverly Bridge, but be aware it can get busy and some spaces are for residents only.

Route: Starting at the Railway pub, walk along the canal to Apperley Bridge. Climb the short flight of stairs onto the main road, navigating through the grounds of Woodhouse Grove to pick up the river path (more on this to follow).

Access: Whilst the canal path is suitable for pushchairs the river path is not, being extremely muddy and you’d need to carry the chair up the stairs or continue further along the canal to come off. The walk to Apperley Bridge and back could be a nice option, particularly if you have lunch at one of the lovely pubs there. If you have an off road buggy you could potentially try the route if it is dry in summer.

Facilities: There are good pubs at both the start and mid-way points. At Calverly there is also a picnic area.

Vlog on walk: (be prepared for my ramblings) https://youtu.be/DXvBU_ae-rM

If like me, you’re doing this walk in winter, be prepared to get muddy! I’m not great at walking over a couple of miles in wellies (my calf muscles suffer), so I tend to stick to walking boots and avoid the mud where I can!

The two halves of the walk are nice and different. The first half is straight up to the canal, the path is surfaced and so easy walking and easy navigation. A train line accompanies you on the walk, so you are frequently greeted with the passing of trains. There are some beautifully picturesque parts that make you eager for more!

On arrival in Apperley Bridge you pass under a bridge, continue for another 100 yards and you’ll come to another bridge. To your right, take the stairs up to the main road.

Turn right and walk along the road until you reach the entrance of Woodhouse Grove School. It isn’t immediately clear how to get onto the river as the route has recently changed, but some friendly groundsmen gave me directions. On entry to the grounds head on the right hand road towards the pavillion. Just after this you’ll see a small path straight ahead that follows the other road. When you reach the wall turn right and head towards the 5 bar gate that takes you onto the riverside path.

The path takes you along the side of the River Aire and is a really lovely stretch.

Eventually the path leads away from the river, along the side of a field to join a little lane.. be aware this part can get really muddy!

If like me, you have an older map you may find yourself having to use your phone to navigate the streets of a new housing estate back to the start point. Essentially the easiest way on leaving the lane is to go straight ahead until you reach Calverly Lane. Turn right to take you to the bridge that takes you to your starting point.

The best end to the walk is to enjoy a home cooked meal at the Railway pub! It’s a really lovely route with plenty to see on your way round. Enjoy!!

Pateley Bridge and Fishpond Wood (2 miles)

We were looking for a short walk suitable for my three year old, and came across a set of suggested walks by The Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership. This first route takes you through the pretty village of Bewerley into ancient woodland, round the fishpond (where we picnicked) and down the hillside back to Bewerley. At just 2 miles my daughter walked it without complaint.

Route: Walk one from this page by the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership

Parking: Pay and display carparks in Pateley Bridge

Facilities: Public toilets in Pateley Bridge. Lots of choices for cafes and tearooms. Play area.

Pushchairs: Route is not suitable for buggies.

The walk starts following the road between Pateley Bridge and Bewerley, the path was quite narrow but there were few cars. We passed the auction house where sheep were being loaded onto a transporter. Interesting conversation about where they were going!! There were some lovely views from the road!

The woodland was pretty with benches to rest when needed. Before you get to the pond you can pop up the steps to see the 18th century icehouse.

At the pond there are a few benches to enjoy a break, and we stopped for a picnic, where some very tame ducks came over hoping for some of our sandwiches!

The path follows the edge of the pond and over a ‘trolly trolly’ Bridge (according to our daughter).

Leaving the woods you climb the Monks steps and are rewarded with great views, before walking down the fields and back to Bewerley.

Coming back into Pateley Bridge you pass the great play area, a perfect reward for any little legs! We finished the day with a trip to the nearby Brimham Rocks.

We’re looking forward to trying some of the other suggested walks so will be back soon!

Other blog posts on Nidderdale:

Pugneys and Sandal Castle

This is a great walk to start little legs off on hills! It’s a lovely walk round the lake and the walk up to Sandal Castle gives fab views over the surrounding countryside.

Route: http://www.wakefield.gov.uk/Longer%20Walks/Walks_Leaflet_12_Sandal.pdf

Distance: 3-4 miles depending on the path you take.

Pushchairs: Whilst the path round the lake is perfect for buggies, the path up to the castle is not!

Parking: Pay and display car park

Facilities: The visitor centre has a cafe and toilets. There are lots of picnic benches and a great playground.

We did this route in an anti-clockwise direction. There is a signposted path away from the lake to take you onto a tree lined path.

You can’t really go too wrong on this walk- you can always see the castle or lake so know which direction you should be going in! Heading up the hill there are great views of the castle and lake.

At the top you’re rewarded with great views.

The walk back is lovely, and you rejoin the lake path.

For a shorter route, the lakeside path is extremely child- friendly, read this blog.

Plumpton Rocks, Harrogate

If you’re looking for a stunning picnic spot with lots of opportunities for little ones to explore, Plumpton Rocks should be top of your list! With a short lakeside walk and plenty of rocks for scrambling around its a great destination to create some real family adventures.

Website: http://plumptonrocks.com

Accessibility: Not suitable for buggies- be prepared for steps, slopes and scrambling.

Cost: It was £3.50 an adult and £2.50 a child on our visit- but check website for up to date pricing

Opening: Weekends only in season, 11am-6pm.

Facilities: None, parking included in entry cost.

If you’re looking for a decent walk, this probably isn’t the place for you. It’s barely a kilometre to walk around the lake. BUT if you’re looking to spend a few hours adventuring and exploring in some incredible scenery then this is the perfect place. I can’t believe we hadn’t been before!

I’m not sure what we were expecting, after looking at the website I could see it was a pretty picturesque area. But I was completely unprepared for the beauty we found there.

After looking at the information board, we decided to do a rough circuit of the lake. From the car park, moving in a clockwise direction it’s a steep descent down to the lake for little legs, but straight away it captured Jessica’s imagination. The path of the west side of the lake gave pretty views and a walk through some bluebells.

At the top of the lake was a great grassy area perfect for picnics and a run around. Following the path round the rocks start and the exploring begins!

There are loads of little trails and climbs for children; surprises round every corner! No areas seemed off limits, so you can explore to your hearts content, and easily get lost amongst the rocks! I loved that there were benches situated in the most surprising of places.

Obviously the scenery continued to delight too! In the woodland behind the lakeside rocks there was more fun to be had with den building and even more climbing!

If you haven’t been before, get that picnic packed and prepare to see some serious energy getting burned off. An absolute treat to find.

A walk from Heath Common, Wakefield (2.5 miles)

We first discovered Heath a couple of years ago, when searching for a ‘cosy pub’. We found the delightful King’s Arms, and have returned on numerous occasions; both to enjoy the pub itself, but also as a starting point for walks around the Southern Washlands Nature Reserve. Today we tried a new route, from a document provided by. Wakefield Council.

Heath

Route: We completed the short walk on this page provided by Wakefield Council, 2.5 miles starting in Heath. Parking is free.

Accessibility: Not suitable for buggies;

muddy in places/ paths through fields

Facilities: The King’s Arms has good food (with children’s menu) and a lovely beer garden.

I think (I know) that I’ve fallen in love with the gorgeous Heath, and on a sunny day like today it really shows off the village to its best.

After looking at some of the many ponies that are kept on Heath Common, the walk starts down a little path from the back of the village covered by trees; truly picture perfect.

The path then opens out onto some lovely fields. You could be anywhere, you really can’t believe how close this is to the centre of Wakefield, it’s such a pretty area! We didn’t pass anyone at all on this part of the route, making it incredibly peaceful.

On the Bridleway between the road and Kirkthorpe we passed a field of bullocks and goats who seemed pretty interested in us (maybe it was the mooing noises Jess was making). She kept herself entertained blowing dandelion clocks and playing with sticky grass.

After passing through Kirkthorpe we joined back onto the path that forms part of the longer route past the Half Moon Lake. Once the Lake came into view, we spotted some steps down towards it, and came across a little bench where we set up for a picnic stop.

Before long we were back in Heath. The access land on which Heath sits is perfect for running around and burning off any remaining energy!

Obviously we finished the walk with a drink at the King’s Arms. The beer garden is lovely. Jess loved watching some horse riders stop for refreshments, their riders enjoying a glass of wine in the saddle!

This was a lovely short walk, nice and flat and easy to navigate; perfect for the 38 week pregnant walker! We’re looking forward to returning and trying the longer route.

Rachel xxx