Leader : Ken Adair Distance : 9.5 miles.
Picture: Brandy Bottle Incline
Nobody (except maybe Joan) would dare to suggest that Ken had no style but today he managed to lead us on a hike around the lead mining countryside of Swaledale which, almost uniquely for a club walk, had precisely that- no stile. Almost a first it could be suggested.
So it was that after a pleasant ride through the magnificent Dales countryside we assembled at the quaintly named Surrender Bridge a short distance up a distinctly narrow country lane from the hamlet of Low Row. The origin of the bridge’s name is unclear but the most likely explanation is that it was named after the nearby Surrender Mine. Which of course begs the question as to where the mine’s name originated. We could go on forever so we will call a halt to conjecture right here.
Weather forecasts for the day had been a bit varied so we were not totally surprised when light rain prompted the donning of waterproofs for the initial part of our journey. Coupled with a blustery north wind the early travel along the mining path towards the ruins of the Old Gang Smelt Mill was just a little uncomfortable. However on reaching the mill after almost a mile of gentle climbing our dear leader allowed us to pause a while to partake of liquid refreshment in the comparative shelter of the ruined buildings. This was in its time one of the largest mines in the area and the date of its closure is unclear but is generally reckoned to be late 18th- early 19th Century. The starkness of the building remains , the remoteness of the site and the bleakness of the surrounding landscape left indelible impressions of how tough life must have been in such a working environment.
The two minutes call rang out and we were off again with Hard Level Gill our companion below to our left sometimes gently bubbling along and occasionally taking a hidden subterranean diversion. The precipitation was by now more of a nuisance than a problem but the wind continued to be pesky as we wended our way upwards and onwards. A couple of miles further up the grey gritty paths we reached the highest point of the day at near 1900ft as we skirted the edge of Great Pinset.
We briefly paused on our way to explore another interestingly named mining relic, The Brandy Bottle Incline- the name stretches the imagination. The structure is not as many thought entrances to a mine but in fact a couple of parallel tunnels. Dug in the 19th Century they descended at a steep angle into the moors between Arkengarthdale and Swaledale to intercept a rich band of mineralised ground called the Friarfold Vein. And there ends the history lesson.
Gently downwards thereafter we had reached well past the point of no return when we stopped for lunch near the Fore Gill water splash fondly remembered by those of us of a certain generation from the opening scenes of All Creatures Great & Small. (ah, the good old days!!) The spot would also be fondly remembered by a small wedding party of lovely young ladies who were braving the elements to set up a photo shoot in celebration of the bride’s forthcoming nuptials. We waved them off with our good wishes- the first 50 years are the worst.
Our general downward travel was gently interrupted on occasions as we traversed Cringly Hill and then some minor hummocks around the lower regions of the famous Calver Hill. Throughout this second leg of our journey though the newly sprouting heather provided magnificent panoramic purple carpets as far as the eye could see proving once again that nature needs no painting to show it at its best. Occasionally we had fleeting glimpses of our cars adjacent the bridge below and then equally as fleetingly our leader’s planned route took them teasingly away. But we did eventually turn for home and with the end in sight, at least metaphorically speaking, we circumvented part of Reeth Low Moor, passed close to the mysteriously named Nova Scotia and down to cross the newly constructed bridge over a small tributary of Barney Beck. A brief pause (for some) and then we were confronted by the traditional sting in the tail, in this instance a stiff climb up a flight of rough steps but which once surmounted led us over onto more level ground again and on to our waiting chariots.
A great day out in one of the area’s wildest spots but with beauty of a different kind to enjoy. We twelve did just that.