Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Chevin & Chevin Forest Park

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Route: Otley, East Chevin Road, Birdcage Walk, Johnny Lane, White House, East Chevin Quarry, Chevin Forest Park, Ebor Way, Caley Crags, Caley Deer Park, Dales Way, Miller Lane, The Chevin (Surprise View), Yorkgate Quarry, West Chevin Road, Burras Lane, Otley

Date: 24/04/2016
From: Otley

Parking: Otley
Start Point: Otley
Region: Yorkshire

Route length: 6.3 miles (10.1 km)
Time taken : 02:41
Average speed: 2.3 mph
Ascent: 460m
Descent: 464m

The Chevin (282m)

Other points of interest: White House, East Chevin Quarry, Caley Crags

We kept things local this week; there's plenty of fine walking to be found within a few miles of the city centre of Leeds. A mere 2km from Leeds International Airport you can find The Chevin, a ridge of high round above Wharfedale which overlooks the market town of Otley, a short half hour drive from our house.

The Chevin has an interesting history, which I'll touch on later, first we had to get there. Leaving the car in the town, we made our way through the streets to Johnny Lane which leads directly to the foot of the Chevin. Ahead is a fairly steep climb up to White House, currently the base from which the Chevin Forest Park is managed. At various times in its history it has also offered refreshments to passing visitors. In recent times it housed a Visitor Centre for Chevin Forest Park, a role now provided from the adjacent café building.
Old mill on Johnny Lane
Paved lane leading towards White House
The White House through the trees
Looking back down the paved path
The path climbs directly towards the top of The Chevin but we were intent on saving that for later. Instead we turned south east to cut across the hillside through Ritchies Wood to the crags of the disused East Chevin Quarry. The millstone rocks could have been lifted straight from Stanage Edge and its certainly a surprise to find something so dramatic so close to Leeds. The track follows the line of crags to reach one of many free car parks that are dotted around the Forest Park.

East Chevin Quarry
East Chevin Quarry
The Chevin Forest Park consists of 180ha of woodland, designated as a Local Nature Reserve. The park (formerly the Danefield Estate) was gifted to the public by the Fawkes family after the second World War. Prior to the war, most of the trees in the area had been felled to provide timber for the war effort. In August 1944 Major Legender G.W. Horton-Fawkes of Farnley Hall decided to give the Danefield Estate to the people of Otley. In a letter to Otley Urban District Council he said:
 “Your Council may even now be considering alternative forms of war memorials. It occurs to me that an open space which can be beautified by trees and preserved in a natural state might offer an opportunity as a memorial to all who fought and furthered the war of Freedom on all fronts.”
This act of generosity saw the Danefield Estate become open to the public for the first time since the Land Enclosure Acts of the 1780s, and the first steps were taken to create the Chevin Forest Park that is known today.
A bench with a view
A millstone marks the entrance to the Chevin Forest Park
The Chevin Forest Park
Numerous paths criss-cross the Forest Park, ours leading us to the Ebor Way, a long distance path that joins Helmsley to York and Ilkley as well as providing a bridge between the Dales Way and the Cleveland Way. The Ebor way leads to Caley Crags, a world class venue for rock climbing, with sweeping views right along Wharfedale.
With a bit of imagination, this is the site of an Iron Age settlement
A small stream runs through the park

Caley Crags
Caley Crags
Caley Crags
Caley Crags
View over Wharfedale
Almscliff Crag
Arthington Viaduct
We turned, heading west now along the Dales Way that passes through the woods. After a short walk along the main road, we took Miller Lane which climbs up to Suprise View; the top of The Chevin. This point has a superlative view of Otley and Wharfedale as well as Leeds in Airedale. It is the site of a beacon, and a cross has been erected every Easter since 1969. The name comes from the Brythonic cefyn, cefn or cefu meaning a "ridge", or "ridge of high land".
Woods along the Dales Way
The Dales Way at Miller Lane
Heading towards Surprise View
Rotary Club toposcope
The toposcope at Surprise View
The summit of The Chevin
Wharfedale panorama from The Chevin
Looking west
After savouring the views from Surprise View we pressed on, passing the old Yorkgate Quarry and entering the woods on the western side of the The Chevin. A path leads straight back down the hillside to West Chevin Road and back into the town and the car. This was a very pleasant afternoon out, made all the better by the fact that it's only a short distance from home. I really think we're spoilt for choice here in Yorkshire and it's amazing what you can find on your doorstep.
Yorkgate Quarry
Woods at Great Dib