JONATHAN SMITH heads out for this week's country walk in Heriot country

Surrender Bridge, the Old Gang and Great Pinseat

THIS is a short and very straightforward walk through the barren landscape that remains from the thriving lead mining industry of years back. It is full of interest, different to most of the Dales and a refreshing high-level saunter.

Surrender Bridge is the start of the walk and has some parking but it is perfectly possible to park in Healaugh and walk up the footpath on the north side of Barney Beck. The walk starts off at Surrender Bridge. It is possible that mine workers had to ‘surrender’ a toll when carrying their goods down the valley, who knows.

No need to do that on this lonely road leading from the main Swaledale valley to Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale. It is what I have always described as a ‘Herriot’ road with open sides where, in the books, James used to pull off the Tarmac and walk his dogs. This road is used a lot in the original series, the present series filmed further south.

Just north of the bridge join a track on your left and head east. The track lies just to the north of the river, known as the Old Gang Beck after the smelting mill that you will arrive at after one mile. The smelting mill was partly excavated in the early 1990s and provides archaeologists with a valuable resource for studying the smelting technology and how it changed during the 19th century.

There are in fact two mills, one on the hillside to the north and one on the flood plain to the south. The higher mill was built in the late 19th century, the lower one, Old Gang 50 years later. From here continue up dale for a further ¾ a mile, past Hard Level waterfall to a main path junction.

Take the right fork as it bends to a more northerly direction with the river on your left.

For those interested in map reading do notice that the track has followed a V shaped contours all the way up, signifying a walk along a river bed with steep sides (V) on either side.

However, the path leaves the V shaped valley at a gate when it bends sharply right/east and climbs steadily through a moonscape landscape. It is a completely unique landscape, the remnants of the large scale mining of the past. I can only liken in to something out of Star Wars with the remains of waste tips, mineshafts and some scattered machinery scattering the area.

To the left of the path there is a higher area of land with a trig point on the skyline.

This is Great Pinseat which offers a great view of the northern Dales. It may not win any prizes for beauty but plenty for interest and uniqueness. Drop back down to the main track and follow it south east as it starts to head through more scrubby and typical moorland towards Surrender Bridge. The views are impressive looking down Swaledale. After ¾ a mile pass some grouse butts, signalling a more modern use of the land. From the butts it is just over a mile to the road, lower down the route passes through some more mining remains.

On meeting the road turn right and head down the Herriot road back to Surrender Bridge.

Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 6 miles

Height to Climb: 245m (805 feet)

Start: Surrender Bridge SD 9989999. There is some parking near the bridge.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium. On an excellent track and straightforward to follow.

Refreshments: Head back to Reeth for a choice of cafes and pubs.

Be Prepared:

The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL30) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales:

• He has published 2 books on the Dales, ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’ and ‘The Dales 30’ mountains. Available direct from the Where2walk website.

• Book the popular Navigation Training days for 2021. The dates will be available on the website in November

• Hire a guide for a private guiding day in Yorkshire or the Lake District.

His popular website, also features 100’s of walks across Yorkshire, from easy strolls to harder climbs.