GEORGE WILKINSON experiences stoat encounters of the furred kind in Arkengarthdale.

Arkengarthdale was peaceful, we were at Whaw in the sunshine morning, nothing made a sound and nothing moved except a pair of stoats that scampered on the verge. A mile to the west the ground rose steeply offering the prospect of an exciting route, and we set off to cross the comparative grassy flatness of the approach slope.

We passed near a ramshackle tin barn and spied a stoat trap with a stoat. There was a capable looking farm in the distance, the last in-use building we saw. Up ahead the land forked in two deep valleys and we reached their junction at a ford. Here Little Punchard Beck bubbled as a spring and thereafter refreshing cascade but above the ford was dry, a wide boulder- strewn bed that told of torrents, and that this is a fine weather walk.

However, Great Punchard Beck was our route, running deep below us in its valley. The track is cut into the valley side, there were tin mine remnants, lime kilns, circular sheepfolds - old stuff in the harsh almost brutal landscape. A buzzard dropped down to watch, a heavy twin-rotor helicopter thudded over, a jet lanced through, and a gamekeeper rolled past in a 4x4, that was the traffic for the day.

It was a long climb, a direct and determined distancing from the pockets of habitation in Arkengarthdale, all the away up to a bleak abandoned coal-mining level at 1,900ft marked by the remnants of a building. We had our sandwiches there.

Now the task was to loop round the face of land between the two valleys to reach the head of Little Punchard Gill. This we did as much by luck as judgement, the path exists but is duplicated for some lengths. We saw a distant cairn called Standard Man, and super long views.

Heather is the plant, so grouse is the bird. There is a necklace of butts.

The shoot is Scandinavian owned - loosely, a return of the Vikings, as Arkengarthdale derives from Arkill, a bloke, and garthr, an enclosure.

While on the subject of enclosures, there is an old fence.

Boundary disputes are common in the history hereabouts because of the wealth underground.

You will also notice the regularity of the drainage channels, and will not be pleased if you are a citizen of York and thus an eventual recipient of the hurried water.

A couple of miles of super empty moor came next and took us near the trig point of Great Pinseat, then a zig-zag track took us swiftly down into the valley.

The teashop at Whaw is fair reward.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point.

Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From Whaw, up road to T-junction, left 100 yards, track (fieldgate) on right (signed Bridleway).

2. Right at Y-junction (track).

3. Over ford, stay on track, pass circular sheepfold to your right, 200 yards, right fork at Y-junction and follow track up valleyside (bridge).

4. Ford stream, left and immediately pass rectangle of ruin, peaty path through heather approximately south-east and approximately contouring. Do not descend much.

5. At some rough ground (ditches to cross) the path fragments. We saw it again, now grassy, 50 yards to the left (east). It remains grassy and then angles west of south, still approximately contouring.

6. Ford stream, left to stony path 20 yards from boundary fence, ignore little bridge. Becomes grassy track/path which continues and is visible ahead. After 11/4 miles pass trig point by wall a few hundred yards to your right.

7. In bare spoil area, pass two cairns that are 50 yards apart, do not turn right to cairn on spoil heap. Track winds way downhill, keep scree/spoil on hillside to your right, and descend to pass tinsheet shed, join main track and rejoin outward route.

Fact File

Distance: Seven miles.

Time: Four to six hours.

General Location: The northern Dales National Park

Start: The village of Whaw.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way. NB the OS map seems to be wrong (an anomaly) near number 4 on my map. My correction on the map follows approximately the current usage route.

Date walked: Wednesday, September 18, 2002.

Road route: Via A1, Richmond, Reeth and Langthwaite.

Car parking: Roadside near Whaw.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: Tea room in Whaw (open Good Friday to end of October). Inns at and near Langthwaite.

Tourist & Public Transport Information: Reeth TIC 01748 884059.

Map: Based on OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales Northern and Central areas.

Terrain: Valley side and moor tops.

Points of interest: Any plastic pipe posts on the moor are not waymarkers, they may trace the routes of mines.

Difficulty: Serious in bad visibility, take OS Explorer OL30 map and compass. Disused mine shafts await the lost. 1000ft climb. If you don't mind returning the same way, it's a splendid moderate walk up a mining valley to Direction No 4.

Dogs: Suitable.

Weather forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 09:04 Saturday, October 05, 2002