The first time I came to Dob Park was in the Summer of 1968. I was 13 and had just joined the Scouts and I was on an overnight camp with a red headed lad called ‘Carrot’ who I had never met before and who wouldn’t tell me his real name. The Scout Master had given us all a list of things we would need for the camp, and I remember going through this with my Mum – sleeping bag, a change of clothes and boots (no need to bring a tent or food – everything else would be provided). That afternoon we were driven to Pool bridge, given a rucksack containing a tent and other ‘bits and pieces’, and a sheet of written instructions on where to camp and how to get back home (we weren’t given a map) and told ‘see you tomorrow’.
Neither of us had been in this area before, and we followed the instructions as best as we could, eventually getting lost (it later transpired that the instructions were wrong), and when it got dark we pitched camp at the side of a small river. It was then that we realised, after we had unpacked the cooking stove and pans, that we didn’t have any food and the only drinks we had were what we had brought with us, and we had drunk those on the walk in…
I remember waking up very early, in a beautiful meadow at the side of a small river, surrounded by cows, and next to this very strange looking arched bridge next to a ford – not the car 😉 I remember wanting to go over the bridge, but Carrot insisted we follow the river upstream, which we did. If only we knew that had we gone over the bridge we would have been only a couple of miles to Otley and we could have got a bus back home – but we didn’t know that and of course we had no map.
To cut a very long story short, we somehow managed to find our way to the Timble Inn, where we were given a drink of water and an apple each and spent the rest of the day walking the 12 miles home – more or less lost – but in a funny sort of way enjoying the freedom immensely.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am all for the Scouts who do a brilliant job (my Grandsons are Beavers and Cubs) – but this was nearly 50 years ago – and this mess was entirely down to our Scout Master who was incompetent at best. But on a positive note – we fended for ourselves and did eventually get back home safely, and the memory has stayed with me most of my life – it is the only camping trip that I do remember – so maybe it was a good thing after all.
It would be several more years until I next returned to Dob Park and it’s strange packhorse bridge, and armed with a good map I thoroughly explored the area over the course of a few weekends.
It is a really beautiful place, and it is as though it is completely wrapped up in a time capsule – even the river Washburn (which we camped next to all those years ago) is silent. No rapids or waterfalls here – just a quiet ribbon of water gently moving through the still valley. You can easily imagine a pair of heavy horses pulling a plough in the fields and farm labourers with their pitchforks loading a cart with hay.
The pack horse bridge was built in 1738, and the old road lead eventually to the little village of Summerbridge in Nidderdale – some 12 miles away. Dob Park Lodge – a ruined hunting lodge – is nearby and so were the Timble Witches.
There are also some Neolithic rock carvings there – but when I tried to find them I had to go through a field containing a large bull – so I didn’t bother.