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North Pennine Walks

God's Bridge & Bowes Moor

Date: 6th December 2015
Distance: 13.5 miles
Ascent: 2300 feet
Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
With: Graham & Paul
Start Grid Ref: NY996135

Walk Summary:
A fine walk from Bowes to the Collinson's Hill trig point on Bowes Moor including a visit to God's Bridge, a superb limestone bridge across the River Greta.

Route Summary: Bowes - Pennine Way - Cardwell Bridge - God's Bridge - Collinson's Hill - Bog Moss - Sleightholme Moor Road - Sleightholme Farm - Intake Bridge - Trough Scars - East Mellwaters - Cardwell Bridge - Pennine Way - Bowes

Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Bowes Castle
The footbridge over the River Greta, note how the foot of the steps are submerged
Cardwell Bridge above a foaming Sleightholme Beck
An impromptu waterfall above the River Greta
Graham and Paul investigating God's Bridge, a natural limestone bridge over the River Greta
Looking downstream from God's Bridge
Another view of the River Greta from God's Bridge
An old kiln alongside God's Bridge
Following the shooting track along Bowes Moor
Paul and Graham heading along the track
Looking towards the Stainmore Gap from Bowes Moor
Looking back towards the Valley Farm and the busy A66 as it approaches the Stainmore Gap
Paul and Graham making their way across Bowes Moor towards Collinson's Hill
The view north-west towards a cloud topped Mickle Fell
The view back towards Bowes Castle from Collinson's Hill
The trig point on Collinson's Hill
Following the track south across Bog Moss with Rogan's Seat in the distance
Thankfully we didn't have to cross this rickety bridge over the swiftly flowing Sleightholme Beck
Instead we were able to cross via this bridge just above the ford that is marked on the map
A dramatic bend in the progress of Sleightholme Beck
Pennine Way sign on Sleightholme Moor Road
Looking across Sleightholme Moor towards Coney Seat Hill and the dark silhouette of Cleasby Hill
Citron Seat
Sleightholme Beck
An old road sign on Sleightholme Moor Road
Sleightholme Farm
A line of sheep on Bog Scar above Sleightholme Beck
Looking down on Sleightholme Beck from Bog Scar
Another view of Sleightholme Beck from Bog Scar
An impromptu waterfall dropping into Sleightholme Beck near Cardwell Bridge

Walk Detail: Almost exactly a year to the day since I'd last set foot in Bowes I was back again for another walk. On that occasion I'd done a walk on my own up up to the trig point on Citron Seat. This time the target was the even more remote trig point on Collinson's Hill. Joining me were Paul, who has become a regular walking companion in the North Pennines this year and, for the first time, Graham of Graham Vasey Photography.

Actually starting this walk in Bowes was not part of the plan. Not only were we supposed to be starting the walk from the road end near Sleightholme Farm but we were originally supposed to be doing the walk a week earlier. That had been cancelled due to a poor forecast and this rescheduled walk took place as Storm Desmond was beginning to die out.

Whilst the east side of the Pennines didn't see anywhere near as much rain as Lancashire and Cumbria, the storm had still done a lot of damage. We discovered as much when a fallen tree in West Plantation, above Gilmonby, blocked our only driving route to Sleightholme Farm.

The only viable option was to start the walk further back at Bowes. Returning back to the village we parked in the small car park and finally began the walk. Initially following the Pennine Way out of the village we first passed the sombre remains of Bowes Castle. Dropping down past the house at Swinholme to the River Greta it soon became apparent, not only how swollen the river was, but that the levels must have been higher overnight due to the presence of driftwood over five metres from the river bank.

With water lapping on the bottom step we crossed over the footbridge to continue west along the Pennine Way passing the farms at Lady Myres and West Charity to reach Cardwell Bridge. Crossing the bridge we then took the path following the Greta upstream towards God's Bridge. Along the way we passed a nice waterfall which, unmarked on the map, was probably only in existence because of the exceptional amounts of recent rainfall.

God's Bridge is a natural limestone bridge spanning the River Greta. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest it is cited as the finest example of a natural bridge over an active river to be found in the UK. This was my first visit and, especially with the river in spate, it was a dramatic sight.

After we'd all taken a number of photos we continued south on the Pennine Way until reaching open access land. Turning right we left the Pennine Way to head along the foot of Wytham Moor. Though pathless it was fairly easy underfoot and we had little difficulty in reaching Hunt Rove Gill. Here we joined a shooting track which we followed for an easy mile and a half of walking until reaching a junction below Adam Gill.

Here we took the track climbing steeply up Bowes Moor with Adam Gill on our right. Having gained about sixty metres in height we crossed the numerous feeder streams leading into Adam Gill to reach the trig point on Collinson's Hill. Despite the presence of the A66 just a mile to the north the view was mainly of moorland stretching away in all directions. The main features of interest were the Stainmore Gap to the west, the cloud topped silhouette of Mickle Fell further north and to the south-west the Tan Hill Inn which could be well seen despite being over three miles away.

From the trig point we crossed a section of Bog Moss, which considering the rain was not as bad as I'd expected, to once again reach the shooting track. Continuing south we gradually dropped down alongside Dry Gill (which was anything but) to Sleightholme Beck. I'd been slightly worried that the footbridge marked on the map might not be useable due to the swollen beck and indeed it did look rather unsafe. Fortunately a much more sturdy bridge, not marked on the map, has been constructed for vehicles using the shooting track.

Crossing the bridge the track climbed over the end of Washfold Rigg to rejoin the Pennine Way where it crosses Frumming Beck. There followed an easy walk along the track to reach Sleightholme Farm and where we should have been finishing the walk. Instead we still had another couple of miles to get back to Bowes.

This we did by crossing the beck at Intake Bridge before climbing up on to Bog Scar were there were some cracking views of a sinuous stretch of the beck. Continuing on we carried on above Trough Heads and Trough Scars to reach East Mellwaters. Here we took a permissive path alongside Sleightholme Beck to arrive back at Cardwell Bridge. Noting that the water level had dropped a good foot or so from the morning we crossed the bridge and retraced our earlier steps to arrive back in Bowes just as the light was beginning to fade.

Despite being almost five miles longer than the planned route this was still a cracking walk. With the exception of the detour to the trig point and a short stretch on Wytham Moor, the paths and tracks were excellent throughout. God's Bridge alone was worth the walk as were the impromptu waterfalls we saw. It was also nice to finally meet Graham in person and hopefully we will meet up for more walks again in the future.

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