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Country walk at Reeth
George Wilkinson didn’t mean to go to Reeth, but events conspired to send him in that direction. Not that he’s complaining.
REETH was not our plan. We were diverted by a closed lane, and then by the Olympic torch at Richmond. Who could complain? Vesta, goddess of the eternal fire, had smiled on the northern Dales and we had our lunch at a Reeth café, the high horizon of Fremington Edge bright in the sunshine.
We headed for the edge, for a variation on the classic route, a direct ascent, more Olympian you could say.
It was steep for a public footpath, and mostly grass speckled with tiny, white, heath bedstraw flowers.
To be more precise, a 700ft gain in altitude over 700 yards horizontal, that is 1 in 3. Reeth shrunk to a discus of houses settled in the big junction of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale and these valleys were hazy yellow with buttercup meadows past their brightest, and cut fields were pale gold.
At the top at 1,400ft, two quiet motorcycles chundered past to the green lane across the moor and we chatted with two walkers from Darlington.
You can make the next one-and-a-half miles along Fremington Edge a speed walk, a race. Little wheatears perched on walls and wire, plover beeped from the heather and grouse were quiet. The open access on the moor was closed for a few days but nothing seemed to be going on.
Then a runner appeared on the horizon, on a bridleway, and behind her and catching up buzzed two flashy little quad bikes. We met. The runner said she’d come for the ‘peace and quiet’ and, with a glance to the bikers who were struggling with a gate, said: "Men."
The runner ran on, and we continued and in the same direction as the bikes, but then they stopped near spoil heaps from an old lead mine. And then, as in a western, up rumbled the gamekeeper riding his heavy-duty quad bike, camouflaged all the way to the silencer fitted to his rifle.
After words, the boy racers were dispatched and zoomed off, engines snarling, and my navigator was sprayed with their wheel-spun earth.
We refocused, because the descent is something of a downhill event and was new to us, and was steep, angling between crags and skirting scree slopes, the grey rock hung with yew trees and skittering with black rabbits. Two buzzards flew high, a deer was shy.
The walk back along the valley was steady, leafy and steamy, and scattered here and there with carrion, mostly rabbit, the place seethes with them.
In Reeth walkers de-booted, some drank, and we were rather pleased with our ad-libbed, action day.
Distance: Six miles.
General location: Yorkshire Dales.
Right of way: Public.
Date walked: June 2012.
Road route: Via Richmond.
Car parking: Reeth, honesty box.
Refreshments: Inns and cafes in Reeth.
Tourist and public transport information: National Parks Centre Reeth 01748 884059.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales northern and central.
Terrain: Valley and top ridge.
Difficulty: Steep climb and descent.
• Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.
When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. From centre of Reeth, road to Richmond, bridge, 50 yards.
2. Gated squeezer (fingerpost) on left and immediately left to track, 200 yards, at bend straight on by wall to your left. Fieldgate (broken waymark), to right of barn, gated squeezer (painted arrow) under tree, by wall to right gently uphill.
3. Squeezer on right (fingerpost), gently uphill, squeezer, to left of intact barn, gated squeezer/fieldgate, 20 yards uphill, ignore right fork and go steep uphill, 300 yards, ladderstile in wall, steep uphill, 400 yards. Near top, at fingerpost (Fremington Edge/Hurst), left to stone track uphill.
4. Fieldgate to moor and left to grassy path with wall to left. 1¼ miles.
5. At kink in wall, straight on at fieldgate into field and grassy track, 11 o’clock gently downhill across field, 400 yards, spoil heaps to right.
6. From near larger cairn double back left, find path in shallow gully, becomes clearer, angle downhill below crag, steep sections, double back at fence/wall junction, 200 yards, new gate in new wire fence into new wood and downhill.
7. Find gate (yellow waymark) 150 yards above and, from above, to the left of the house in rough/boggy field corner. Path by fence, gate (waymark), gateway, gateway.
8. Fieldgate into wood, 20 yards, fork left uphill, waymark post, gateway by river (three way fingerpost bridleway), track uphill, gateway, squeezer on right to rejoin outward route.