Geology trail takes you back in time to the Ice Age

A map of the route. �Crown copyright 2017 Ordnance Survey. Media 060/17
A map of the route. �Crown copyright 2017 Ordnance Survey. Media 060/17

The walk begins from the Toft Gate car park. Follow the B6265 from Pateley Bridge towards Grassington. The Toft Gate/Coldstones Cut car park is signposted at the top of the hill (grid ref SE129644). The walk is covered by OS Explorer Map 298.

The route will take you on a journey back in time from the present day to the Ice Age, then to tropical conditions 300-350 million years ago where you can discover fossils from the tropical seas and forests. You can look down 100m into the inside of the hill from the Coldstones Cut and then drop right down into the valley where you see the impact of man’s search for lead and fluorspar. You can also look for crystals of your own in the material the miners threw away as waste, before climbing back up the hill to the mining village of Greenhow where again the geology has been greatly disturbed by the miners.

In fine weather the last section gives good views across Nidderdale and looks at the remnants of the local lime producing industry.

A printed booklet with the details of this walk is available from the Nidderdale Plus Community Office in Pateley Bridge.

Note: This walk follows rough footpaths so hiking boots/strong shoes are advisable. Please keep away from old shafts or workings.

This is a working, farming area – please respect it and those who live and work here. Take your litter home, close all gates behind you and keep dogs on a lead at all times.

The route

From the car park, follow the footpath towards the Coldstones Cut, turning left at the sign just through the gate towards a small gateway in the stone wall. Beyond this is sign 1.

Retrace your steps to the main footpath and climb up to the Coldstones Cut viewpoint. From sign 2 you can see that quarrying has exposed the rocks in the centre of the hill. Here you can also see where the glacial sediments have penetrated deep into the carboniferous limestone. From the Coldstones Cut walk back down the hill, look out for the imprint of a fossil tree fern in one of the sandstone boulders at the bottom of the track.

Cross the minor road and go back through the car park. Cross the B6265, looking out for traffic, and climb the stile at the side of the gate, again look for another imprint of a fossil tree fern in a sandstone block on the stile. Sign 3 describes the environment these tree ferns grew in, a similar species of tree fern can be found in Australia today.

After following the dip of the limestone downhill, the track turns to the left and you should be able to find limestone with crinoids in the small exposures cut for wall stone and stone for the track. Sign 4 shows modern survivors of this species. The track itself is now following the top edge of the limestone and, over the wall, are sandstones.

Where the track meets the road, turn to the right and look for the areas of boggy ground which have developed on the shale layers. Just after the stile and gate, look to the left where a small drain has exposed a coarse grained gritstone with small pebbles. At sign 5 follow the track downhill again looking out for the boggy flatter areas.

At sign 6, looking downstream, you can see the shale beds exposed above Brandstone Beck where they have been cut through by fast flowing melt water streams to form a deep valley.

As you follow the track to sign 7 the stone lined entrance of an old lead mine, (Gillfield Level), is alongside another pile of mining waste. You can still find fragments of minerals on these heaps.

As you walk from Gillfield Level along the path you are walking through the remains of several periods of ore processing and smelting. In the late 18th century there were two smelt mills here, one for Gillfield Level and the other for Cockhill Level (near sign 8) further up the path. On your right (near the bridge) is a pile of slag from the later smelt mill and further on to the left a flue led up to a chimney on the hill. Cockhill Level was the main horse level in the area and its tunnels led into about 10 miles of interconnected passages.

Follow the track above Cockhill Level to a marker post, turn left up the hill towards another marker post above you. From here walk to sign 9, which looks back on Jack Ass Level, one of the earliest mining tunnels in the area.

Follow the markers to where the paths cross and re-join the main path at the top of the hill. Looking back towards Jack Ass Level, the Red Scar Grit beds dip along the flank of an anticline and by your feet are shale beds disturbed by rabbits.

As you walk up the hill you pass back onto the gritstone which can be seen in several places. Walk uphill to where a large shaft can clearly be seen on the left alongside the track. This large shaft is the first shaft on Waterhole Vein and the size of the tips surrounding it indicate the depth of the shaft.

Carry on up the path and through the gate, then walk up the hill on the right to sign 10 and look at the line of shafts to the east and west along Waterhole Vein.

Follow the path uphill and as you pass alongside the Miners Arms, just before the main road, look to the right. Here, in the garden of Kipling Cottage, is the stone housing of an old well. The well took water from the Grassington Grit aquifer, which is contained by the impermeable Nidderdale Shales below.

Just before the gate, sign 11 shows information about Greenhow itself and the stone used for building. Turn left at the road and follow the path on the left side of the road. As you walk along the road note the line of shafts running across the fields to the left and another complex of mine shafts across the road on the right.

Just after the graveyard the large shaft to the left and another to the right of the road, mark where Sun Vein passes below the road. This vein was mined from Gillfield Level at its northern end and by a meandering route from Cockhill Level, along different veins, until it reached Sun Vein at the southern side of the quarry. Sun Vein was a very productive vein and is visible from the Coldstones Cut viewpoint where it runs through the quarry.

Cross the road just after the water tower and go through a metal gate, turning left along the quarry perimeter, you can continue the walk keeping out of the path of traffic.

Continue across the quarry entrance and follow the path to sign 12 near an old lime kiln on the right.

As you walk back to the start of the route, on a good day, you can look at the vista to your left. If you still have energy to spare you can explore the unique lime kiln by the car park.

l This walk was prepared by members of the Greenhow Local History Club, a group formed to research the local history of the Greenhow Area. For more details about the history of the area, visit