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A Walk Around Fewston and Swinsty Reservoirs

It was a bank holiday and for once, it was sunny!! Yes! Sun on a bank holiday, we’re not so used to sunny bank holidays in the UK are we?! So we decided to make the most of the Yorkshire sunshine and head out into North Yorkshire to two beautiful reservoirs, Fewston and Swinsty, situated less than 10 miles west of Harrogate and north of Otley. This stunning location is easily accessible by car, on the A59 towards Skipton.

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We parked up at the main car park, Swinsty Moor (which was already very busy, with one space left for us!) between the two reservoirs, at the southern end of Fewston Reservoir. It’s a perfect starting point for walkers and cyclists whether you’re heading out on a long walk or just a short stroll to take in the wonderful sights. Parking is free, yes, you read that correctly, free!! There is a grassed picnic area with benches, a WC block including a disabled WC, on hot days a refreshments van (which was much appreciated at the end of our long walk but remember to take cash!!) and of course a big map of the two reservoirs with footpaths marked on.

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Fewston Reservoir (the beginning of our walk), building of the reservoir began in 1874 and was completed in 1879, it’s a very impressive piece of construction and provides a beautiful setting for walks.

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Our walk began in the wood across the road from the car park, which was a relief as it was already rather warm, this providing some welcome shade at the start of our walk. Walking along the western side of the reservoir we had our first view of Fewston, which looked incredibly peaceful, surrounded by trees and what I thought looked remarkably like pebbly beaches…….this had to be my first stop for a photo opportunity! The footpath was very easy to follow, well defined and so far reasonably flat, we kept the view of the reservoir as we walked on one side, whilst on our other side the vast array of fields with sheep grazing on the lush green grass under a sea of blue sky was a beautiful sight.

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It was clear to see what a popular area this is, every few hundred yards we past other walkers, some with young children in pushchairs, dog walkers, a few cyclists and some with walking sticks obviously making the most of the sunny weather, the stunning views and enjoying the fresh air. With many benches along the route there were plenty of ‘lunch stop’ opportunities, although we ended up sitting on a log for ours, in the shade, as a pale skin family, we need the shade!

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Once we reached the far end of Fewston reservoir, I obviously HAD to take a photograph of this stunning scene. Ducks minding their own business as they floated on the water, water rippling in the occasional light breeze and the expanse of different shades of green in the trees was a too good an opportunity to miss. As an avid, very amateur photographer, this is a photographers paradise, for the wildlife and scenery. The route we took around the reservoir should take around 2 hours, 4 miles/ 6.5km although it took us a tad longer as I stopped every few hundred yards to get more photos, by this point my sons were willing me on to walk and not take so many photographs.

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As we made our way to the opposite side of the reservoir we came upon another (very small) car park, Blubberhouses car park, which again has a well defined pathway to the main footpath on either side of the reservoir.  Continuing our walk, now on the opposite side of the reservoir, the footpath was in the dappled shade, perfect for myself as a redhead I don’t cope well in the immense heat, although for a lot of you it probably felt fairly cool.  Every now and again the footpath moves slightly away from the water front, with a line of trees between the two creating much needed shade for some and an occasional gap in the trees to give another gorgeous sight of the breath takingly beautiful manmade reservoir and surrounding scenery. There are many perfectly placed benches along the route on this side of the reservoir, looking out across the water, some in the shade, some in the sun, to sit and enjoy a packed lunch whilst taking in the views.

Once we had re-energised ourselves with our lunch on a log and my very welcome flask of coffee, we were ready to start walking again. Wanting to make the most of the sunny weather, we decided to extend our walk and walk, around the second reservoir, Swinsty. Rather than walking back to the car park, over Fewston Embankment, we continued along the path into a wooded area at the start of Swinsty reservoir. As we walked, the ground looked very eerie, almost like a sea of cobwebs, engulfing the plants and leaves on the ground, it was completely bizarre, something we hadn’t ever seen before, on closer inspection we realised it was dandelion seeds, everywhere!

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Swinsty is another beautiful walk, nestled in the Washburn Valley with the most stunning views across the landscape and reservoir. Building of the reservoir began in 1871 and was completed in 1878, holding around 866 million gallons of water.

It is slightly shorter than Fewston, at around 3 miles/5km, about 1 ½ hours, but for any avid photographers out there, I would allow longer, as with Fewston there are many stops for photograph opportunities. The footpath is wide and accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs, with an occasional incline, with no steps or stiles, making it a perfect walk for families with young children too, for those wanting a longer walk, there are various pathways around which can extend the route.

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With plenty of benches on the walk, there was also a fabulous picnic area, with benches and a carpark which was incredibly busy, with families set up for the day enjoying picnics in the shade of the trees, making the most of the views, the sunshine and the free carpark!!

On reaching the far end, the Swinsty Reservoir Embankment the view across the reservoir was simply stunning and most definitely breath taking. Of course this meant, another photo opportunity, at which point my son agreed and took one too! One side the vast expanse of the reservoir and trees, on the other a complete opposite view, lush green fields across the valley.

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By this point, the sun was shining in all its glory, it was baking hot! It was the last part of the walk back to the car, most of which wasn’t in shade but I pushed on and kept going. There were two alternative routes, one which went past Swinsty Hall (a beautiful, very grand looking building which sits on the edge of the reservoir, built in the 17th Century, which is a privately owned house) but is quite steep, the other is more on the level and may be a preferred route, especially for those with pushchairs, or bad knees like myself.

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Once back at the car park, it was time to make use of the refreshments van and enjoy an ice cream at one of the picnic benches, in the shade. This is a place we will definitely be revisiting again, no doubt this summer, maybe trying new walks to get some more photographs of the beautiful scenery around and about.

It’s definitely a place I would recommend to everyone, perfect for a full day out or just half a day if you want a short stroll. If it’s a warm sunny day, get there as soon as you can, the car parks fill up fast!!

Written by Claire Newman

I'm a Lancashire lass living in Yorkshire for the past 11 years, with my husband and 2 sons. I work in a school in the Learning Support Unit with pupils who have dyslexia. Weekends are for walking and photo taking!

2 Comments

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  1. I loved, ‘my sons were willing me on to walk and not take so many photographs’ as I have the same from my son!! Glad you did stop for photos as they are great! 🙂

    • Thank you. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who gets this comment from their children!
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading the article and liked the photos.

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