This First World War heritage trail around Colsterdale is part of “Nidderdale AONB: Leeds Pals, POWs and the Home Front” - a First World War Centenary project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project is supported by the Friends of Nidderdale AONB and has benefitted from the hard work of many project partners, not least volunteers from the AONB and Leeds and archaeologists from the University of York.
1. Start at the small car park by the River Burn in Gollinglith Foot (grid ref SE153809). The hamlet of Gollinglith Foot sits in Colsterdale valley bottom, on the River Burn.
From here the route travels eastwards along the single track entry road towards the villages of Healey and Fearby. Walking along, the road climbs gradually and offers the walker increasingly extended views to the right - south across the dale towards the site of Breary Banks. Breary Banks was once a bustling reservoir workers’ village and First World War army camp.
2. Look across the valley to the right from this point for the distinctive Memorial Cairn to the Leeds Pals, which stands near the centre of the former settlement.
Continue along the road to the next roundel, passing a white house called Pasture House.
3. Stop on the verge just after Pasture House looking right into the the valley of Colsterdale. Just beyond, looking southwards across the valley, you can see an impressive black and white building known as Pinewood Manor. At the onset of war, it was destined to become the Officers’ Mess: comfortable accommodation for the officers of the 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds Pals).
4. Here at the highest point along this part of the route (grid ref SE164804) look back across the valley towards Pinewood Manor and Breary Banks, the memorial cairn to the Leeds Pals and the surrounding terracing. The archaeological footprint of the former settlement clearly stands out, particularly in relief at low light. One hundred years ago Colsterdale Camp, as it was known during the war, would have been visible as a bustling village of huts on the hillside. Continue to a junction in the road.
5. This marker at the junction of the Masham to Lofthouse road (grid ref SE171804) denotes the point at which walkers should turn southwest along this road, downhill to Leighton Bridge, situated at the bottom of the hill. Care is needed here as this road can be busy. Note also the distinctive ‘sighting tower’ further to the south, on the horizon beyond Leighton Reservoir. This distinctively shaped tower is one of a set of four ‘Colsterdale towers’ which were intended to help engineers conduct surveys to enable the reservoir work to take place. Continue across Leighton Bridge to a field gate on your left about 20m beyond the bridge.
6. At the field gate on your left look south into the field. This was the site of the narrow gauge railway junction for rail routes up to Leighton reservoir, Roundhill reservoir and Colsterdale. Walk back down to the Leighton Bridge junction with Breary Banks road to waypoint seven.
7. The marker at Leighton Bridge marks the point at which the trail turns to the west along a single track road and up the south side of the dale, following the brown signpost to the Leeds Pals Memorial.
8. Walk along the narrow lane past Crab House Farm on your left and The Lodge on your right. Soon after, a now derelict Methodist Chapel is on the right. This marker identifies the old Methodist Chapel, which is one of the only surviving buildings from the time of the former village of Breary Banks. Continue along the lane climbing steadily uphill.
9. Stop at the prominent stone cairn located in a fenced enclosure on your left. Here, at the memorial cairn to the Leeds Pals, it is possible to envisage the scale and position of the First World War military camp. The road you have walked along continues through what was once the centre of the former settlement.
10. Continue along the lane through the former settlement. As you walk, note the terraces to your left in the hillside. You may also be able to discern humps, bumps and concrete features in the field to your right, which once held army huts erected in the first instance for the Leeds Pals Battalion.
10. This is the highest point on the walk (grid ref SE151800) just before the route turns north and down the hill, through the gate, towards Pickersgill House. Turn right downhill through the gateway along a tarmacked track. The fields around you contain the remains of training trenches constructed by the Pals and the Battalions that trained here after them. Walk down the track to a gateway near a derelict house straight ahead.
11. Pass through the gate in front of Pickersgill House and bear left to find a gate immediately to the west of this old dwelling.
12. Go through this gate and proceed north to a small gate at the bottom of this steep field and then bear right to a gate and footbridge across the drain from Spruce Gill Beck. This catchwater drain was installed by the Leeds Corporation to draw water out of Colsterdale and pipe it south into the new reservoir at Leighton, in lieu of building an actual reservoir here in the valley. From here bear slightly right, heading for the old stone gatepost visible in an outgrown hedge further down the slope.
13. From this point bear slightly right in a north-easterly direction to go down the slope to a small gate which opens into woodland by the Spruce Gill Beck.
14. Crossing the small beck, the route starts to gently rise through the wood to a further gate, which in turn opens out into pasture broken up with trees, many of which are the remains of outgrown hedges. From here bear right of the old barn and make for a gap in the hedge of the opposite field corner and a new marker post.
15. Passing by this post, continue in a north-easterly direction, across the pasture and heading down the slope towards a gap in the gorse which is scattered across the lower parts of this field. Passing through this gap, you will pick up an old path which continues north and to a footbridge over the River Burn and back to the car park at the start of the route.
For more information about Breary Banks, research in Colsterdale and the AONB’s First World War Centenary project, visit www.nidderdaleaonbWW1.org.uk.
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