When I received an email from Zoe at Outdoor Bloggers requesting posts on the theme of ‘From Your Front Door’, I knew exactly where I had to write about. My home town, Otley is dominated by The Chevin, which is really the first of the Pennine hills as you travel up the valley of the Wharfe. The name is thought to derive from the Celtic word cefn, which features unchanged in the Welsh language to this day, and means ridge. Nowadays, The Chevin is a Forest Park, and is well-loved by local people. I recently headed out one evening after work to explore it anew for this post.
The most popular route up The Chevin is via the Victorian steps that climb straight up to Surprise View from Otley’s old railway station. It’s a good route, but it is a very steep climb and you do miss out the western end of the ridge. I prefer to use the paths that climb up from West Chevin Road, or as on this occasion, Sinclair Field.
I headed from Great Dip up onto the highest parts of The Chevin. The summit itself isn’t particularly exciting and I didn’t visit it on this occasion. Far more impressive is nearby Surprise View (925 ft), which most people believe to be the summit anyway. This stands in an area of open moorland, well above the woods.
From Surprise View, I headed along Miller Lane to the Danefield Estate, the lower and more densely wooded eastern half of The Chevin.
As I climbed up to Deer Park Plantation, a red kite flew just above the tops of the trees; a beautiful sight with the sun lighting up the underside of the body. However, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a photo.
The highest part of the Danefield Estate is crowned by a trig point, which must have had an extensive view when it was first erected. It now stands forlornly in a fire break between Deer Park and Memorial Plantations.
The red kite came back to taunt me as I was standing by the trig point, this time making sure that it was just high enough in the sky to make a poor photograph.
I headed down through Quarry Wood towards Caley Deer Park, passing the only wetland area on the hill as I went.
J. M. W. Turner used to stay at Farnley Hall on the other side of the valley. The Hall was the seat of the Fawkes family, who owned the Danefield Estate at that time, and it was whilst staying with the family that Turner was inspired by a thunderstorm passing over The Chevin to paint Hannibal Crossing the Alps. Turner would also later paint the crags themselves.
From the deer park I headed back west, passing the Main Crag en route. Though popular with climbers, there weren’t any about on this occasion.
Beyond the crags, I headed through Poolscar Wood and soon found myself at one of my favourite spots on The Chevin, the bridge over the Holbeck. One day I intend to walk the full length of this beck, keeping as close to the water as I can.
Foxscar Wood is home to the remains of an Iron-Age settlement, though it has to be admitted that a very good imagination is required to reconstruct it.
Danefield Wood, the westernmost of the plantations on the Danefield Estate, puts on a great display of bluebells in May. I noticed that they were just starting to come out as I passed and made a mental note to return in a week or two.
The Chevin had one final treat in store for me – as I crossed East Chevin Road, I was witness to the most glorious sunset. I’ll leave you with a few pictures of it – which show far better than my words can why you shouldn’t dismiss what you can find from your front door.