GEORGE WILKINSON braves the rain for a walk along the swollen River Ure at West Tanfield.

West Tanfield was wet, and the River Ure was nearly full, and it had taken us a while to get here with minor roads flooded.

Though the Bull Inn looked inviting we braved the nearby spooky Marmion Tower, climbed its tight spiral staircase to its open-air first floor and looked out through the unglazed stone windows to the surrounding countryside.

The fifteenth-century building has garderobes, that is latrines, non-operational now, designed to dump straight into the river. The Ure flowed wide and high, fast and dirty under Tanfield Bridge. We followed, taking the riverside path. The first half of this walk was all about the river, it was so close, so present through the bare trees.

Distances and views were no distraction, just a field or so to a line of trees dissolved in rain.

It was clear that our path does flood, there were layers of fresh sand on the adjacent fields and mats of vegetation caught in trees at waist height.

When reaching West Tanfield, the Ure has travelled some distance and drained some land.

First the length of Wensleydale and then as far again skirting the Dales. From here it has another 30 miles, via Ripon and Boroughbridge before it hits York as the Ouse.

We got a show of its power and speed where it whooshed over a weir, accelerated, and from then was full of sound and fury and waves. A grey heron lifted from the banks, gone in the grey sky.

Nothing else and no one else was out and about, which was a blessing at the caravan site. After that the path takes a rise to land named the Terrace and here the Ure is far below in a deep cut curve.

You will notice that, near the point our route leaves the river, that there is an information board showing a permissive path that goes on for more waterside walking, it looks good, but we had half a mind on the state of the roads as the rain hadn’t let up and didn’t feel like pushing the boat out, so to speak, and we turned.

The return was rather nice, not much was particularly special, but we enjoyed the very quiet back lanes. Five hundred pigeons flew over and occupied a wood. A woman driving a horsebox smiled.

A couple of times we progressed gingerly along the crown of the road watching the water level rise up our boots.

After fields and wood edge, we touched on the Ure again, upriver of West Tanfield, and here there’s a place on the steep banks where to miss a footing could result in a slide down slithery yellow clay, so I found. But generally it wasn’t a muddy route, most on the Ripon Rowel Walk, and this we used again, coming back on a track into West Tanfield.



When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From car park, left to road, bridge over River Ure, immediately path on left (fingerpost). Riverside path. Join metalled drive (waymark). into caravan park.

2. Through caravan park amenity area, gate to right of reception (waymark), straight on through park, path by wood. Gate (waymark) and left to field-edge path, above high riverbank.

3. Gate on left (waymark) and immediately right, 20 yards, gate and left (waymark), steps down to fenced path, gate, up bank, metalled drive to road.

4. Right to road (verge), first road left (sign Mickley 2 miles), left to road at T-junction.

5. On left-hand bend shortly after copse, path (fingerpost), from other side of dung heap, across field, left to field-edge path, 150 yards to field corner, path into trees (waymarked post), 200 yards.

6. Stile (waymark) into field and left to wide grass margin by wooded bank above River Ure.

7. Stile (waymark) on left into wood, steep downhill path for 25 yards to junction above high, steep bank/cliff above River Ure. Right (waymark).

8. Snickelgate (waymark), diagonally right across field to corner and grassy track that seems ‘the usage route’. Right to track/drive. Rejoin outward route at bridge.


Fact file

Distance: Four miles.

General location: Vale of York.

Start: West Tanfield.

Right of way: Public and permissive paths.

Dogs: Legal.

Date walked: December 2012.

Road Route: From York via A1 and Ripon.

Car Parking: Free car park near river and nearly opposite the Bull Inn public house.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: The Bull Inn and the Bruce Arms at West Tanfield and the Staveley Arms at North Stainley.

Tourist & public transport Information: Ripon TIC 01765 604625.

Map: Drawn from OS Explorer 298 Nidderdale.

Terrain: Riverside.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.