Shacklesborough and Balderhead Reservoir

Shacklesborough

Walk Summary

A pleasant walk in the upper reaches of Baldersdale starting from Balderhead Reservoir and including the neat summit of Shacklesborough before finishing with a visit to Hannah’s Meadows.

Distance: 8.6 miles
Total ascent: 1160ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Car park, Balderhead Reservoir
Route: Download Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

Although Shacklesborough does not quite attain enough prominence to be included in the Database of British Hills as a separate summit, it is still shapely enough to be the object of a walk. It had been almost 11 years since I’d last visited Shacklesborough (you can read the report for that walk here) so I thought it was high time I did so again.

On that previous occasion I included Goldsborough in the route. This time I decided to instead do a loop in the opposite direction up to the head of Baldersdale. Starting from the car park at the northern end of the dam of Balderhead Reservoir the initial route was very simple. Walking back up to the road I turned left to follow it westwards. With only a few farms and houses further up the valley the road was very quiet. In addition to enjoying the changing views of Shacklesborough on the other side of the reservoir, I also saw plenty of wildflowers growing in the verges of the road.

“As the path began to level out it got wider and very soon I noticed that it was laid with some strange green matting. As it turned out there were miles of path laid with this particular object.”

There were also plenty of moorland birds about, including the usual suspects, curlew, lapwing, oystercatchers and golden plovers. Not long after reaching the road end I also saw what I believe is my first redshank. Annoyingly though I was too slow with my camera so only got a blurry picture of it in flight.

At the road end a stony track took over as I began to cross Hunderthwaite Moor. This soon gave way to a less obvious grassy bridleway. This passed the remains of a sheepfold, called Combs Round on the map. A bit further on the path dropped nicely down towards the River Balder to arrive at a fine spot where the river is formed by the confluence of Balder Beck and Black Beck. Crossing Black Beck at a footbridge I was intrigued by some large boulders scattered in the vicinity including one large one sat in the middle of the stream bed itself.

On the other side of this first footbridge I left the bridleway to take another footbridge, this time crossing Balder Beck. On the other side I took an initially faint path climbing up alongside Great Ay Gill. As the path began to level out it got wider and very soon I noticed that it was laid with some strange green matting. As it turned out there were miles of path laid with this particular object. It wasn’t the easiest thing to walk on but was probably preferable to stomping through the heather. I presume that it has been laid to aid shooters vehicles.

At about the 440m contour I left the green matted path to make a beeline for Shacklesborough which had now reappeared over to my left. Around this area I discovered large patches of cloudberry, better known as knoutberry further south in the Yorkshire Dales. Soon though I saw another green matted path and so made my way to this. It led me past a number of grouse butts to just below Shacklesborough itself.

Once more leaving this unusual path I contoured around the sides of the hill to scramble up past some nice crags on the south-western side of the summit. The highest point, marked by a prominent cairn and a trig point was soon reached. The panorama from the summit was excellent with especially good views of the chain of reservoirs in Baldersdale.

After eating my lunch by the cairn I set off westwards to drop down gently over Galloway Rigg. For a while I followed a quad track but it was easy enough underfoot at this stage anyway. After the brief obstacle of Caper Gill I joined the public footpath near Water Knott. Gaining a good track I then descended past the southern end of the dam heading for Blackton Grange. While it would have been quicker to have finished by walking across the dam I decided belatedly to add Hannah’s Meadow on to the route.

Beyond Blackton Grange a lovely path skirted around the western end of Blackton Reservoir. After a lovely bank of bluebells I was then treated to a modest slope covered in mountain pansies. Further on down the path there were numerous wildflowers to be found on the verges including bugle, germander speedwell and tormentil to name just a few. In the small woods by Low Birk Hat there was also a profusion of wild garlic.

In all honesty, after all these flowers, Hannah’s Meadow Nature Reserve was something of a disappointment. Once owned by Hannah Hauxwell, the subject of numerous books and a TV series during the 70’s and 80’s, the meadows are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and are renowned for their wildflowers. I was probably a few weeks early to see them at their best so I’ll have to go back another time as some of the photos I’ve seen look spectacular. Hannah herself died earlier this year at the grand old age of 91.

To finish I followed the access drive from High Birk Hatt up to the road, turned left and then back to the car park. This had been a lovely walk. Other than the fairly popular paths below the dam I’d travelled into some fairly unfrequented country and found it much to my liking. The going underfoot was also much easier than expected. This was a combination of the dry weather we’ve been enjoying and the strange ‘green’ path I discovered.

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