Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Round Hill & Beamsley Beacon

GPS Track
Date: 04/03/2014
From: Beacon Hill House

Parking: Side of road
Start Point: Badger Gate
Region: Yorkshire Dales (just!)

Route length: 4.7miles
Time taken: 01:45
Average speed: 2.7mph
Ascent: 237m
Descent: 241m

Summits on this walk: Round Hill (409m), The Old Pike (400m), Beamsley Beacon (395m)

Additional summits: Bramberry Hill

Other points of interest: Ancient rock etchings

Route: Beacon Hill House, Badgers Gate, Wards End, Wards Ends Bents, Langbar Moor, Pike Ridge, Round Hill, Bramberry Hill, Beamsley Level, The Old Pike, Beamsley Beacon, Beacon Hill House

Round Hill and Beamsley Beacon form the two end points of Beamsley Moor, a barrier of high ground that marks the very south-eastern extent of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They also kick-start a vast area of high ground that stretches all the way to Great Whernside some distance to the north. Being at the very southern-eastern tip of the park makes the two hills the closest to my base of operations in Wakefield, perfect for a quick after work stroll now that the miserable 2014 weather seems to have abated for now.

Leaving early to avoid the majority of the evening rush hour, we arrived (as expected) just after 1600. Using the wonders of Google's spy car, we found a suitable place to park the car that would allow for a short, 4 mile round trip to make the most of the evening.

After a quick change from regulatory work attire to official walking attire, we headed off along the drive of Beacon Hill House towards Badgers Gate, a track that would lead us to the slopes of Langbar Moor. It was a lovely evening to be out, cold, quiet and ultimately dry (though not quite so underfoot). To save a significant loss of height, when we reached Wards End part way along the track, we set a bearing to the obvious Boundary Stone marked on the map that would lead us to a direct route route up to top of Round Hill.
Ilkley Moor across the valley
The slopes of Langbar Moor
After avoiding the worst of the bogs, we crossed the majority of Langbar Moor unimpeded, thanks largely to a series of patches where the heather had been cleared, no doubt for grouse hunting which is obviously popular due to the piles of discharged shotgun cartridges and the numerous shooting butts that are we found. I'd imagine this walk might not be possible during the shooting season or at least might have added an unwanted element of danger.
The setting sun was casting a lovely light

The distant Blubberhouses Moor
Evidence of a countryside past time
Upon reaching the corner of the wall at the Boundary Stone, we crossed the relatively deep valley containing Loftshaw Gill before returning to the wall and following it all the way to the top of Round Hill, crossing Middleton Moor. The going was much improved, thanks to the appearance of a wide track that replaced the need to tramp over the shin high heather. After a brief huff and puff, we made it to the top.
Round Hill
Middleton Moor
The distant Old Pike
The track that leads to the top of Round Hill
Sun setting over The Old Pike
Round Hill is the highest point of a series of moorland areas, topping out at 409m. The slopes all around form the moors of Beamsley Moor, Middleton Moor and the wonderfully named Blubberhouses Moor. This moorland area, Middleton Moor in particular, is home to a remarkable number of ancient features. A large tumulus (incidentally called Round Hill or Black Hill, not to be confused with the actual Round Hill we had climbed) is located close to Moor End Farm and a large number of cup and ring marked stones (86 to be precise) can be found dotted around. I was intrigued by these ancient features and dug a little deeper....
The summit of Round Hill
One of a number of mile markers dotted around
What purpose do the cup and ring marked stones serve? Quite simply, we do not know for sure. Firstly, they appear as they are described, a series of cup-like shapes etched into rocks with (sometimes) concentric circles emanating from them. There are a variety of suggestions for their purpose; maps of the world maybe or maps of the stars. Perhaps sites where fat was set alight for religion or simply records of ownership. One of them could be true or they could just be Bronze Age graffiti. The only thing that is certain in this instance is there are plenty of them to look at.

In addition to the ancient history, Round Hill also marks the start of the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the line neatly following the ridge top all the way to Beamsley Beacon. This is the direction we would head next, following the path across the insignificant hump of Bramberry Hill and over Beamsley Level to The Old Pike, another ancient feature.
More sunset action over the Old Pike and Skipton Moor
Some nice crespucular rays over Skipton Moor
A peek into the Yorkshire Dales National Park towards Barden Fell
Another mile marker
Some shoe-swallowing bogs
Scenes of the Peak District?
The path along the ridge top provides splendid views across the southern tip of the National Park, taking in Hazlewood Moor and the rocky tops of Earls Seat and Simon's Seat of Barden Fell fame. An almost uninterrupted view along the valley of Wharfedale presents the opportunity to see Burnsall and Thorpe Fell and the very distant Darnbrook, one of the Dales' 2000ft peaks. The path itself is very reminiscent of several I walked throughout the Peak District, particularly around Stanage Edge.

Back to The Old Pike though. Standing a grand total of 5m higher than Beamsley Beacon, The Old Pike is natural feature that has evidence of ancient use. In this case, though difficlut to see now, stones appear to have been added to a natural outcrop and some large gritstone boulders which were already in situ. Either way, it provides a great view of the nearby Beamsley Beacon.
Another interesting marker post looking towards Round HIll
The track leading towards The Old Pike
The Old Pike
The view to the west
Beamsley Beacon (or Howber Hill if you're that way inclined) certainly has an impressive cairn. 12m in diameter and over 2m high to be precise. The views certainly match up with its name, there are panoramic views as far as Pendle Hill in Lancashire. According to a number of websites, Beamsley Beacon cairn is thought to date from the 2nd millennium BC and to have been constructed during the Bronze Age. It may contain later burials, in common with other cairns of this date in the area. The beacon was once one of a chain of beacons used throughout England to warn of disasters or invasions. As such, the remains of a Napoleonic hut can be found nearby.
Beamsley Beacon
Beamsley Moor
The plaque in the trig pillar
The huge cairn
From the cairn, a fine ridge descends down 100m to the road and a short stretch back to the car. We bumped into a chap with a pretty broken looking model aeroplane, looking a bit perplexed. He seemed to suggest a rival radio signal was responsible for downing his aircraft but later inspection pointed towards a more mundane failure of the actual model. It reminded me of a time I spectacularly crashed a model helicopter and burnt the motor out but that's a story for another time.

The final glow of daylight
This is a great little walk, one I'll probably repeat on a nice summers afternoon, perhaps making it a bit of a longer route. It's definitely fuelled my appetite for more after work excursions. What better way to unwind from the stresses of work that gazing out across our wonderful countryside?