Over this winter I am planning to enjoy several waterway walks during which I will explore our local rivers and canals.
Gargrave is on both the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
From the Dalesman cafe follow West Street to a bridge over the canal. Turn left onto the towpath, where you’ll find impressive locks and a flat stretch of water, known as ‘pounds’ – which would have been a hive of activity during the busier days of the canal. Now it’s full of colourful pleasure craft, many berthed for the winter but their owners are usually present, with stoves alight and the smell of frying bacon in the air.
The towpath is a delightful walk and passes under the A65 and alongside Gargrave Park. Here is the popular Anchor Inn and a series of locks. Two bridges span the railway. The longer the two crosses the River Aire on the way from Malham and on its way to Leeds. The smaller of the bridges was built for the canal and this is soon followed by a very pretty aqueduct over the River Aire.
At Priest Holme Bridge cross the canal and turn left. The canal is now on your left.
At Bank Nelson cross the bridge and turn right. This is one of the most beautiful stretches along the whole 127-mile canal. The stretch from Gargreave to Leeds opened in 1780 offering the cheap transport of lead zinc and limestone to the developing industries of West Riding. At Nelson Grange Farm on the left leave the towpath. Follow a rough track slightly uphill to Trenet laithe.
Turn very sharp left to join the Pennine Way. You are now in an area of lush pastures which can be damp after rain – I recommend everybody wears good solid footware and wraps up warm. Cross stiles and see Scaleber hill to the left.
Follow the well marked Pennine Way and look out for drumlins. These are rocks left as a result of glaciers melting during the Ice Ages. As the climate warmed up and the water began to retreat some 10,000 years ago the drumlins were left high and dry. This is the best place to enjoy the views of the Aire Gap – the valley of the river, which birds use as a migration route. Pass Scaleber Farm on the left and descend along Mosber Lane towards the railway station, the village green and pond before returning to the starting point.
The Village itself
Although all traces of this has vanished there was once a substantial Roman villa close to the Aire through Gargrave. Apart from the canal the road (now the A65) was astride the old Coach Road linking Skipton with Settle, Kirkby Lonsdale and the Lake District. A stroll around the large village will reveal some old coaching inns which had stables for the horses. Gargrave is a perfect place to visit for a walk through history, within easy reach of East Lancashire.