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Leaden Arkengarthdale

Around an austere valley where hundreds of lead workers once toiled.

Distance 8 miles (12.9km)

Minimum time 3hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 1,213ft (370m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Mostly clear tracks, some heather moor, 4 stiles

Landscape Mining-scarred moorland, with evocative remains of industry

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales - Northern & Central

Start/finish NZ 005024

Dog friendliness Off lead for much of walk, except where sheep are present

Parking Pay-and-display car park at south end of Langthwaite village

Public toilets None on route

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 Leave the car park, turn right, then right again into Langthwaite. Go over the bridge and continue ahead between cottages. Climb the hill and follow the lane to the hamlet of Booze. Pass the farmhouse and a stone barn and follow the track to a gate.

2 After the gate, where the track bends left, go straight on next to a broken wall. Bear right to go past a ruined cottage, then follow the path to the stream. Walk upstream, go through a gate and then cross the stream on stepping stones.

3 Walk slightly left, through the moorland, to reach a wooden hut near a crossing track. Turn left along the track. At a crossing of tracks go straight on, then at a T-junction turn left. Where the wall on your right ends, leave the track, bending right along a path and down to a gate in the corner of two walls.

4 Follow the small gully downhill and go through a gate on to a track. Turn right along the track and continue through a gateway and on to another track by a barn. Follow this track as it bends left by a stone wall and then passes farm buildings. Go through two gates to reach a third, white gate.

5 Go through the white gate to enter the grounds of Scar House. Follow the drive as it bears right, downhill, go over a bridge and cattle grid at the bottom, then turn right. Follow the track to a road. Turn left, uphill, to a T-junction. Turn right and follow the road. After a cattle grid, turn left along a signed track.

6 At a gravelled area bear right and continue uphill on the track. Where it divides, go left beside spoil heaps and pass the junction of two flues. The track winds uphill, right then left, to reach a T-junction of tracks. Turn left and follow the track downhill to reach a road.

7 Turn left along the road. Just after a farmhouse turn right at a bridleway sign, which takes you towards the house; turn left before reaching it and follow the signed track. Go through a gate and continue downhill. Before a small barn, turn left. Go over four stiles to reach the road. Turn left back to the car park.

The quiet villages of Arkle Town and Langthwaite are grey clusters of houses in the austere splendour of Arkengarthdale. One of the most northerly of the valleys in the Dales, it runs northwards from Swaledale into dark moorland, with the battle-scarred Stainmore beyond its head. This isolation and stillness is deceptive, however, for until the beginning of the 20th century the surrounding hills were mined for lead. The metal was first dug here in prehistoric times, but industrial mining of the great veins of lead really began in the 17th century. By 1628 there was a smelt mill beside the Slei Gill, which you will pass on the walk, and it is possible to pick out the evidence of some of the early miners' methods.

Booze (Norse for 'the house on the curved hillside') is now just a cluster of farm buildings, but was once a thriving mining community with more than 40 houses. Between Booze and Slei Gill you will pass the arched entrance to a level (a miners' tunnel) and behind it the remains of Tanner Rake Hush. This desolate valley is full of tumbled rock, left behind when the dammed stream at the top of the valley was allowed to rush down, exposing the lead veins. You'll pass the spoil heaps of Windegg Mines, before returning to the valley near Scar House, now a shooting lodge owned by the Duke of Norfolk but once belonging to the mine master. Near Eskeleth Bridge is the powder house, a small octagonal building, set safely by itself in a field. Built about 1804, it served the Octagon Smelt Mill, the remains of which can be traced near by. Just after you turn right along the road are the ruins of Langthwaite Smelt Mill. Lord of the Manor Charles Bathurst held the mining rights here for much of the 18th century. The CB Inn near the road junction is really the Charles Bathurst, in his honour.

Mining the west of the valley was more difficult than on the eastern side. This was an area known in the 19th century as the Hungry Hushes - the lead mined here was scarce and hard-won. The miners' tracks ascend the hill and eventually pass the junction of two long chimney flues. The walk then returns via Turf Moor into Langthwaite - it needs a feat of the imagination to visualise its heyday, peopled with hardened miners and their families.

Where to eat and drink

The Red Lion in Langthwaite has good beer and offers lunchtime bar food. The CB Inn further up the road is more upmarket, with a noted restaurant serving fine, fresh food - best to book for evening meals.

What to look for

Dry-stone walls are a typical feature of Arkengarthdale, as in much of the Yorkshire Dales. There are around 4,680 miles (7,530km) of such walls in the National Park, many of them built during the enclosure of former common land in the 17th to 19th centuries. These are the ones that head straight as an arrow for the fell tops. Earlier walls tend to enclose smaller fields and were built from rocks gathered from the fields - some may date from earlier than 1000 BC. They provide shelter for sheep and for smaller animals and birds, like whinchats. Many walls are derelict, and there are grants from various bodies available to farmers who want to repair them - a lack of skilled wallers is slowing down the work of repair.

While you're there

Continue up the road towards the head of Arkengarthdale and on to the 16th-century Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in Britain at 1,732 feet (528m). Winters can last for six months here and ice, 4in (10cm) thick, has been known to form on the windows. The inn has hosted an annual sheep show on the last Thursday of May since 1951. Despite relying on a generator for its power, it boasts an award-winning website!

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