Nidderdale is one of my favourite Dales, and it has the distinction of being an ‘AONB’ too. AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is not given lightly, and considering the Dales are beautiful anyway, having the ‘AONB’ just shows how exceptional this area really is.
But for some reason not too many people go there – certainly in my ‘walking crowd’ few venture forth to Nidderdale on a regular basis. Maybe it is because the remote areas are hard to get to and busses don’t run there. But nonetheless it really is stunning and it is a shame more people don’t visit it.
This particular day the rivers were full having rained almost constantly for days and during the lull I decided to visit Scar House and Angram dams in the wild and remote North West of Nidderdale, to see the water running down the overflow spills. Shirl had been accompanying me on my walks recently but she was busy this day so I decided to go on my own.
Leaving the market town of Otley where I live, I headed up over the moors past Thruscross and arrived at the tiny lead mining hamlet of Greenhow. Hooking a right I dropped down into the lovely little town of Pateley Bridge. Pateley is a typical Dales village, although it doesn’t get the quantity of tourists most other Dales villages get – it has it’s own special charm and I like it immensely. There is something timeless about Pateley and it’s Main Street with it’s little shops – no Starbucks or Golden Arches here.
Turning left just before the bridge I follow the winding road for several miles, past Gouthwaite reservoir and then the little hamlet of Ramsgill and out towards the villages of Middlesmoor and Lofthouse. Now I come to the old Water Board road on the right and I follow a single track past waterfalls and a river – the Nidd – for several miles. Eventually I arrive at a car park and turn off the engine.
I am the only one here today and instead of silence I can hear a dull rumbling sound – almost a hissing in the distance. Walking forward I can see an immense dam through the trees and the spillway is gushing water and it is churning and foaming it’s way to the bottom 170 ft. below.
Scar House dam was completed in 1936 and it took 15 years to build. The length of the dam is 600 metres. Scar House was once home to more than 1,250 villagers who lived and worked building the dam and there was a makeshift village complete with a cinema/dancehall and a church. Nothing remains of this village now except foundations.
Two miles upstream is another immense dam, Angram. This one was completed in 1919 and is similar in size and shape as Scar House. The dam gets it’s name from the little settlement of Angram which was flooded when the reservoir was built.
The circular walk around Scar House reservoir is 8 and a bit miles and the scenery is stunning. You also get a sense of isolation and remoteness, especially at Angram – something a bit eerie around there.
The water exiting Scar House dam flows along the river Nidd and past the cave of Manchester Hole where a young schoolboy, Joseph Lister was drowned in 2005. He was with a party of school kids when the cave flooded.
Next to Manchester Hole is another cave – Goyden Pot and this magnificent river cave, several miles long floods totally when the swollen river thunders into the entrance. Flooding is unpredictable and can be caused by a number of factors including water spilling over Scar House slipway several miles away. I have caved in Manchester Hole and Goyden and they are both very impressive, especially the latter. In 1957 Brian Kerr disappeared during a solo exploration of Goyden Pot – his body has never been found.
Nidderdale is unique and very special. I don’t know it as well as I should and I will take great pleasure from exploring it further.