Hackfall is a beautiful landscape open to all.

1802 Description

The Reverend Warner’s description is very detailed and provides us with information not contained in other early descriptions. The language is a tad florid and Warner has a tendency to exaggerate particularly in terms of the heights of certain features. For example he estimates 40 foot fall to be 150 feet and makes Mowbray Castle 6 or 700 feet above the valley. Never the less if you only read on of these descriptions, this would be a good one to choose.

A tour through the northern counties of England, and the borders of Scotland – Volume I
Rev d . Richard Warner 1802

Galphay, with its little roaring stream, and humble mill; which lies about two miles from Studley, in the way to Hackfall; and is, indeed, a direct and passable road both for horse or carriage to that place, notwithstanding the assertions of the Ripon innkeepers and post-boys, who (in order to employ their chaises) terrify the traveller with stories of ruts unfathomably deep, beyond the reach of frost,” Sorbonian bogs, and other unconquerable difficulties. Notwithstanding these representations, we ventured to take the shorter road to Hackfall, by which six miles were saved out of twelve; and were rewarded for our hardihood by a ride full of very agreeable scenery, which continued to spread itself before us till we reached this other celebrated place of Mr. Aislabie, where he seems to have followed the hints of his own taste, as much as he complied with the dictates of fashion in Studley-park. There is no house at Hackfall; but when the owner visited this spot, he occupied an apartment in the gardener’s dwelling, a neat little cottage at the entrance of the grounds. Here, providing ourselves with a cicerone we were condueled through a small wicket, into a wild woodland dell, the bottom of which to the right is watered by a limpid brook, feasting the ear with its agreeable murmur, as it rolls over its pebbly bed. The very entrance into these grounds is marked by the finest touches of natural scenery, which instantly flashed upon the mind the superiority of these wild and artless features over elaborate and formal decoration. The path, following the brook that forms innumerable little falls in its course, which is almost impervious to the sun, conduced us to the summerhouse, a seat erected opposite to a beautiful series of cascades, called the alum springs. These are three in number, tumbling down the rough face of a rock, which struggles to make itself visible through a thick skreen of wood, into a brook sixty feet below the falls. From this point the dell grows still more wild, and the hills to the right more abrupt, the cascades more frequent, and the rocks more grotesque; forming a scene of abstraction perfectly answering the description of the poet’s Mansion of Contemplation.

Here may she imp
Her eagle plumes; the poet here may hold
Sweet converse with his muse; the curious sage,
Who comments on great nature’s ample tome,
May find that volume here. For here are caves
Where rise those gurgling fills, that sing the song
Which Contemplation loves; here shadowy glades,
Where through the trem’lous foliage darts the ray
That gilds the poet’s day-dream.

Proceeding onwards, the scene opens to the right, and lets in a lofty hill, an immense mass of wooded rock, whose point is crowned by a good ruined tower, called Mowbray Castle, which, from its isolated situation, has an extremely happy effect. But this is speedily shut out from the eye by the thickening gloom around us, and all is close and quiet till we descend to the fisher’s-hall, a little octagon room, constructed in the Gothic taste, of calcareous petrifactions, and opening a view unparalleled in its kind. Behind, every distant object is excluded by a mountainous bank of wood, except a pretty little ruin upon a point, and a narrow ribband of cascade falling down the rock. To the right, the brook, which we had been following, throws itself over a series of natural craggy steps; above this the august promontory on which Mowbray-Castle stands, rises to the height of six or seven hundred feet. Directing itself to the left, the eye catches another wooded hill, whose sides suddenly forming themselves into precipices present a long line of perpendicular rock; and at length uniting with the valley, are washed by the river Oure, who forces his impetuous course through it in a broad and winding stream, confined on both sides to his rocky bed by abrupt banks, clothed with venerable woods.

The next object is the grotto, approached by a devious path through the trees, and crossing a little torrent, that hurries from the left-hand hill to the bed of the river. Here the fancy is delighted by a noble flight of cascades, roaring down a steep declivity one hundred and fifty feet high; opposed on the other side by the aerial ruin on the summit of Mowbray point. A new and different scene now occurs, a little fairy spot of ground, sacred to stillness and retirement. This is a small verdant carpet of turf, terminated by the fountain-bouse, so called from its concealing the machinery of a jet d’eau, which throws a stream of water to the height of forty feet from the heart of an island in a pool to the left; an artificial littleness rather out of taste, as the opening to the right lets in one of the grandest scenes of Nature that the imagination can conceive. Here a long reach of the river Oure is beheld, rushing over its rugged bottom with uncontrolable fury; but lashing in vain the sides of its perpendicular rocky barrier, whose broad extent of uncovered face is happily contrasted by the solemn amphitheatrical crown of aged wood which waves to the wind far above the precipices. The tent walk shuts out for a short time, by the closeness of its shade, every distant object, and allows the mind a momentary repose, from the contemplation of such successive magnificent scenes, as almost tempt the exclamation of the poet, “Visions of glory, spare mine aching sight!” This sequestered sylvan scenery conducts to the tent, which gives name to the Arcadian spot through which we have passed; and here another view is let in of the mural rock, and its proud over-shadowing woods, that form the right-hand bank of the impetuous Oure, as well as a pretty pastoral picture of distant meads and rural dwellings. But soon the excursions of the eye are again precluded, by a darker shade, which grows around us as we descend through the coal-pit walk to the troubled waters of the river that has hitherto flowed below us. Here it unfolds a wider sweep to the visitor, stretching away both to the right and to the left; the former reach suddenly shut in by the bold promontory, crowned with Mowbray-Castle, whose face is overhung by a vast mass of calcareous incrustation, called the weeping rock, which, like the dripping-well at Knaresborough, distils with water that cases with a stony coat whatever is presented to its action. At this point the lower walks terminate, and we return towards the point from whence we set out, but by a new series of paths, which, managed with the utmost art and judgment, present a quick succession of different views. Climbing the limestone hill, we ascend through a plantation of fine half-grown oaks to a resting place, where the eye is refreshed with softened scenery, through a woody vista; a long and distant reach of the Oure, Masham’s spired church, rich meadows, waving corn-fields, and neat farmhouses. A gentle declination conducts us from hence to the rock walk, taking its name from the right-hand boundary, formed by a sudden perpendicular rise of the rock on that side. From this hollow another undulation of the ground brings us to Holland hill, a wooded eminence, on whose summit is found the rustic temple a little open octagonal shed, commanding a prospect that sweeps over a diameter of thirty miles, with a foreground of high rock and deep woods. Here the path again assumes a new name, and under the appellation of the quarry bank, ascends towards Mowbray point, catching in its way the spire of Masham, and a worsted manufactory. Near the summit of this elevation is perched a sentry-box, which gives a map-like view of the right and left reaches of the river, and its grand accompaniments; lets in Kedlington church, and an immense flat, studded with villages and towns, and only bounded by the dim descried Hamilton hills. Yet this is but tame and uniform, when compared with the grand and diversified picture which unfolds itself from the building called the point; whose foreground, a rapid river pent up between steep rocks, and midnight woods; middle distance, a wide sheet of inexhaustible fertility; and boundary, a long line of mountains; form a combination better imagined than described. Quitting this spot, we follow the new walk, which skirts the western side of the grounds, and admits, as we proceed, a pleasing peep to the left of the alum spring, seen now from above, and falling into the rock immediately under the eye, but losing much of its beauty and effect by the foreshortening. Here the entertainment is concluded; the walk pursuing its darkling course through a shady wood for a quarter of a mile, reaches the little wicket which admitted us into this enchanted region; a place of which it may be said, that Art has, gone hand in hand with Nature, to unfold her beauties and heighten her attractions. Not considering her as a rival, she has kindly assisted her on her course, rather than jostled her out of it. Indeed, when we compare Hackfall with Studley, and recollect that both the places were laid out under the direction of the same gentleman, we are tempted to consider them as having been intended by their owner as contrasts to each other; as a sort of practical argument held out to the public, to convince them of the superiority of the natural style of gardening over the meretricious system, which in his days it was the fashion to adopt.

On quitting Hackfall, we could not but wonder and regret, that there is no house upon or near its delicious grounds; that its beauties are seen by the eye, and walks trodden by the feet, of the stranger alone.