Leader : Chris Hollis Distance : 9 miles.
When he first thing you see at he beginning of a walk is a Defibrillator vending machine, it is time to be concerned. Yet that is what confronted us when we climbed out of our cars in Gunnerside, did leader Chris know something but wasn’t telling?
The village, the site of a major lead mining industry until the late nineteenth century, lies wedged between the River Swale and its tributary, Gunnerside Ghyll but with sunshine and clear blue skies above we cast our cardiac concerns aside and began the long but gradual climb ahead. The underfoot conditions were, and continued to be, good as we tramped the man made trails. At first we headed almost due west before gradually beginning the inexorable climb north passing Ivelet Wood and with the grassy banks on our left falling steeply down to the River Swale in the valley below. The prevailing wind kept us on our toes as we headed for the wild hills. A puff break was called after about an hour then it was on and up again towards the highest point of the day at about 1500ft were in the lea of a hillside hollow provided a lunchtime shelter from the wind while at the same time providing one of the many super views of Swinner Gill twinkling below..
We were now almost at the point of no return so post lunch we set off again and after just a little more climbing we began to close the circle and head home.
The views of Stonesdale Moors and the river & becks below continued to provide the most wonderful backcloth for our wanderings and our great leader paused regularly to have us take in the wonderful panoramas. Rather like a tour guide shepherding his charges along the way all he had missing was he little stick with a pendant fluttering in the breeze.
During one of these viewing sessions the word Crackpot rang out. Now while it has to be admitted that one or two of the assembled mob were of advancing years and occasionally displayed eccentric behaviour- it has to be said that to describe them as crackpot seems a little unfair. However bruised egos were soon mended when it was revealed that the sight of the ruins of the 18th Century Crackpot Hall near distant Keld was the reason for the call. Never actually a Hall and abandoned in the 1950s it is nevertheless preserved today by the Gunnerside Estate as one of the true icons of the dales..
Like most villages in the area Gunnerside has its favourite sons numbering among them Ralph Daykin a famous 19th Century clockmaker and more importantly in more recent times our very own Keith Wilson whose birthplace was the remote hillside dwelling seen in the centre of the banner head. to this report.
History also marked the village when during the second world war a team of SOE-trained Norwegian commandos succeeded in destroying a German heavy water production facility in an attack called Operation Gunnerside that was later evaluated by SOE as the most successful act of sabotage of the war. .
It had been yet another great day out in the bleak but beautiful lead mining area of the Northen Dales.