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Through Grisedale, 'The Dale that Died'

The derelict farmsteads of this once-thriving dale tell their story of hardship and surrender.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 722ft (220m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Moorland paths and tracks, may be boggy, 19 stiles

Landscape Rough moors and hidden valleys, railway within earshot

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL19 Howgill Fells & Upper Eden Valley

Start/finish SD 786919

Dog friendliness Sheep on moorland - keep dogs under close control

Parking Roadside parking on road to Garsdale Station

Public toilets None on route

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

1 Walk down the hill to the main road. Cross at the junction and take a stile signed 'Grisedale and Flust'. Bear gradually right to a stile in a wall. Follow the sign straight ahead on the track across the field to a signpost. Follow the sign to a gated stile, right of the farmhouse.

2 Go half right after the stile, over two more stiles then downhill over a clapper bridge and on to a stile and signpost by a ruined building. Go over the stile and follow the sign, though a stile to the left of a barn and onwards to a signpost left of a white-painted farmhouse.

3 Cross the metalled lane to another signposted stile. After two more stiles, follow the wall towards a ruined building, descending to walk beside the stream. Go through a gate and bear right to a signposted stile. Continue with the steam on your left to a gate, then to a humpback bridge. Do not cross, but follow two signposts uphill and along the ridge, bearing slightly right to reach the tumbled farm buildings of Round Ing.

4 Follow the signpost at Round Ing towards East House. There is no clear path, but look for a waymarked post by the end of the wall. Continue towards houses on the hillside. Cross a stream. Continue downhill to a grassy track and turn left towards the barn. Just before it turn right, off the track, to pass below the barn to a gate. Go through the gate and bear right across the stream.

5 Pass a ruined building and head across the field towards the houses. Go over a wooden stile and then over a ladder stile right of the farm buildings. Follow the track through two gates on to a metalled road. Turn left, uphill, to a T-junction, where the metalled road ends. Turn right, along the track, first following the wall on your right then continuing to a stile beside a gate. Walk downhill to railway buildings in the valley bottom.

6 Go over a wooden stile by the buildings, pass the footbridge and, just by the track over the line, take a gated stile on the left corner. Walk half right, away from the railway, pass through a tumbled wall and follow the path over two stiles and through another broken wall to pass beside a barn and on to a stile on to the main road. Turn right, back to the road junction and the parking place.

Whenever Grisedale is mentioned, it is tagged 'The Dale that Died'. This perhaps unfortunate label was the title of a television documentary made in the mid-1970s that followed the fortunes, and misfortunes, of families farming in this remote valley that pushes north from Garsdale towards the massive heights of Wild Boar Fell. The programme in particular dealt with a former miner, Joe Gibson, who struggled against the climate, misfortune and the lack of subsidies for upland farmers to try to make even a bare living from the land - a struggle that eventually proved unequal and ended with his retreat from Grisedale. The fields that Joe and his neighbours once tended have now reverted to moorland and scrub, and a plantation of conifers climbs the side of East Baugh Fell from the valley bottom. Nearly all the farmhouses are now derelict. At the head of the valley stands Round Ing, once a substantial building with barns and animal sheds. Now it has tumbled down, its walls diminishing in height every year. What remains of the plants and shrubs in its garden still bloom in summer, but, like West Scale and East Scale a little downstream, it is a place of sadness and lost hope.

Grisedale's earlier history is obscure - perhaps unsurprisingly for such a remote place. Its name comes from Old Norse and means the valley in which the pigs were kept, so the dale must have been farmed from its earliest days. In the Middle Ages it was owned by the monks of Jervaulx Abbey at the far end of Wensleydale; Grisedale is only about a mile (1.6km) from the River Ure as it begins its decent though Wensleydale. Grisedale seems to have been populated steadily throughout the later centuries, partly because it was adjacent to one of the main routes to the Lake District from the east - Wordsworth recommends it in his Guide through the District of the Lakes (1820). It also received a boost when the Settle-to-Carlisle railway arrived in 1876, and the connecting Wensleydale line in 1878.

After Round Ing, the walk passes the derelict barns of Flust, where it fords a stream, then continues to the inhabited farmsteads of Fea Fow and East House. It then crosses the ridge (and the county boundary between Cumbria and North Yorkshire) with views towards Ingleborough and Whernside, and descends through South Lunds Pasture to Grisedale Crossing on the Settle-to-Carlisle railway line. Beside a typical railway house is a metal footbridge across the line, put up in 1886 to replace an earlier wooden one. Here the line is just below its highest point, the 1,169 ft (356m) Ais Gill summit.

Where to eat and drink

The nearest place is the Moorcock Inn a mile (1.6km) east of Garsdale Station on the A684, at its junction with the B6259. It serves good beer (including Black Sheep bitter) and has hot meals both at lunchtime and in the evening.

What to look for

Red squirrels have been reported in Garsdale, and refuge sites are being established in conifer woodland to help protect and encourage them. You will be very lucky to spot one, but you may see the tell-tale signs of their presence in the nibbled and discarded pine cones in the woods. The animals are around 8in (20cm) long and their tails add another 7in (17cm). While their bodies are the characteristic rusty red - though in winter it turns more grey - their tails are often much paler in colour. There have been red squirrels in Britain since prehistoric times - unlike their larger grey relatives, which came from America in the 1870s, either escaping captivity or being deliberately introduced. Though the two types sometimes fight, the grey squirrel is more of an opportunist than an invader. Its spread seems to have coincided with a disease that drastically reduced the number of reds in Britain, letting the greys take over the reds' traditional areas.

While you're there

Visit Garsdale Station, which is the local station for Hawes 6 miles (9.7km) to the east. The station has the only fully-operating signal box on the Settle-to-Carlisle line, while just to the south the highest water troughs in the world were once located and trains at speed gathered water from them. The station was originally called Hawes Junction, became Hawes Junction and Garsdale in 1900 and just Garsdale in 1932. The Hawes line closed in 1959, though a group of local people is determined that it will reopen.

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