|Keld to Reeth (18 km)|
Wast Water - Wander
Wast Water - Scafells
Patterdale - Helvellyn
Blakethwaite Smelt Mill ruins
This day offers a choice of routes. The usual route is a high moorland crossing through stark industrial wilderness alternating with charming dales and purple heather-covered moors. Many people though prefer to keep to the valley floor and amble along banks of the River Swale. This balances the disadvantage of the many stiles to cross with the advantages of the lovely countryside and a choice of refreshment stops on the way. I like lofty places so I took the high road.
|Butt House||B&B||01748 886374|
|Keld Lodge||YH||0870 770 5888|
|Prospect House||B&B||01748 886688|
A rough lane leaves Keld at the foot of the wee square and immediately crosses the river on a footbridge. Take a moment to wander into the small dell that contains East Gill Force before rejoining the path and climbing above the waterfall. The Pennine Way departs to the left and our path bears right above the falls. A broad track rises up to the ruins of Crackpot Hall (actually a farmhouse which was made uninhabitable by mining subsidence). There are glorious views from here down the valley of the River Swale with the river sweeping around the base of Kisdon Hill before escaping into the broader valley beyond.
|Swaledale from Crackpot Hall|
The Coast to Coast Walk climbs behind the ruins and up to a gate through a stone wall. The path enters the narrow confines of Swinner Gill and crosses the gill via a simple footbridge - have a look upstream into the rough ravine of Swinnergill Kirk. A stiff climb leads up beside East Grain onto marshy ground and then an ugly shooters track is followed to a junction (just past a fence). A detour can be made north to Rogan's Seat (678m or 2204ft) - one of Yorkshire's most isolated peaks. Past the junction, the track swings to the right but we take a footpath to the left (marked by a cairn) beside the open gash of North Hush. A hush is a ravine in the hillside caused by lead miners releasing dammed-up water to scour away the topsoil and reveal ore veins. A green track then slopes down to Gunnerside Beck and the gaunt ruins of Blakethwaite Smelter Mill - the most prominent features are the arches of the peat store. This is a good spot for a morning break.
Leave the ruins by a thin zigzag path climbing the slopes behind the peat store. This reaches a broad green way that is followed to the right with good views into the lower wooded sections of the gill. The path drops down to between Burton Crushing Mill (below you) and Burton Hush (scaring the hillside above you). While you can head directly up the brutal slopes of the hush, there is a gentler, greener route just through the gates ahead and up the fellside beside a decrepit wall. Another green track takes you through the wall and upwards - becoming stonier as the top of the moor is attained. Before you is the devastation of the Old Gang Lead Mines - a wilderness of bare stony earth covered in spoil heaps. The only good point is that there is a glimpse of the North York Moor hills on the horizon over Swaledale.
Luckily the path takes the quickest route through the desolation and gently descends to Hard Level Gill. It continues down the gill to Hard Level Force (a nice waterfall in a small gorge) and then the ruins of Old Gang Smelt Mill. A conservation programme is keeping the ruins in good condition with the tower of an intact chimney dominating the scene. The pillars up on the hillside are the remains of the mill's peat store. The ruins are well-known and quite accessible so don't expect to be alone here.
A stony track drops down to a moorland road at Surrender Bridge (a popular stop for passing motorists) and a clear path continues on the other side past another ruin (Surrender Smelt Mill). The path passes through heather to the steep-sided Cringley Bottom and over a stile onto an increasingly clear track skirting the enclosed fields above Barney Beck. Beyond Thirns farmhouse, a rough track threads through old mine workings (good outlook down to the pretty Healaugh village) and above more fields to a gate into the narrow lane of Skelgate. This delightful lane soon becomes overcrowded with vivid undergrowth (not so nice in shorts) before a stile provides an escape. A couple of fields lead to a snicket beside the village school with Reeth just a step along the valley road.
Reeth is an attractive village on the lower slopes of Calver Hill with a large sloping green, graciously surrounded by the village's main buildings. There is plenty of accommodation here and I actually stayed at the inn. There is a good folk museum. However the intriguing Grinton Lodge Youth Hostel is only about 3 kilometres away (partially on the Coast to Coast Walk) - the castellated walls of this former shooting lodge look down from high up on the moors.