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Today’s walk didn’t quite turn out as planned. With an extended trip to Northumberland planned for next week, we decided we rather fancied a walk from Marske, about 5 miles down the road from Richmond. Nothing too strenuous, and nothing too far from home.

So, the route was planned and duly loaded onto our OS Maps app, sandwiches were made and flasks filled with tea for a lunch on a hill somewhere, and off we went.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at Marske, we found all the car parking spaces had been commandeered by a team of construction workers. I’m not sure what the job was, but it seemed major (possibly laying pipes or fixing drains… says me, trying to sound like a civil engineer). The problem was that Marske only has a small, limited number of car parking spaces for visitors and walkers… and they’d all gone, fenced off with huge dig-up-the-road-related paraphenalia, and no good, nearby alternative. Believe me, we looked. Having drove through the village a couple of times (and Marske is only a very small village), we eventually decided to give it up as a bad job and head towards Reeth, roughly four and a half miles further up the Dale.

As it turns out, it was the best thing that could have happened. A back road from Markse to Reeth, which we’d never been along before, turned out to be a pleasant drive, and surprisingly more direct than the route we would normally take. Reeth is a much larger village than Marske, with way more car parking opportunities, but it was busy, and we struggled to find a suitable place to park. Having circled the green a couple of times, a space eventually became free, so we took it. It is worth noting, though (which we realised later, on our return) that car parking is actually allowed on the green itself. There are no parking charges, but visitors are encouraged to drop a couple of pounds into a voluntary honesty box; no wonder Reeth is a popular place!

With Reeth being a location we hadn’t planned for, I quickly drew out a route on the OS Maps app for us to follow. This was relatively easy because it was a walk we’ve done before; we just didn’t have it saved anywhere on the phone.

Eventually, a little later than planned, we were booted-up and on our way. The route leaves Reeth by the main road (towards Healaugh and Gunnerside), and turns off just past the school, to cross fields towards Reeth Moor.

Unlike our previous two walks, the one thing missing – but not at all missed – was the wind, at least for the first stage of the walk. It was pleasant out, sunny with blue skies and the going was firm underfoot.

This part of Swaledale is classic Yorkshire Dales scenery, with miles of dry-stone walls and literally hundreds of old barns and farm buildings scattered randomly along the valley sides. As we crossed the fields and gained height, the views up the valley were fantastic. It’s lambing time at the moment, and we saw a couple of small lambs with their mothers who looked like they had literally only just been born. In fact, a farmer on his quad bike was floating around near one, clearly keeping an eye on things… but possibly also keeping an eye on us, checking we didn’t disturb his flock.

Eventually, as got higher, the stone wall enclosures gave way to the open moorland of Reeth Moor, and as we reached the highest point on our route, we stopped by a convenient, broken down wall to sit an eat our sandwiches.

By the time we’d finished lunch the wind had started to get up, so we shouldered our rucksacks and ploughed on. The route was generally easy to follow as it led us back down into Arkengarthdale, although we did seem to lose the path briefly, where the right-of-way disappeared, and we stubbornly carried on across the boggy moor, following the line on the map instead of sticking with what would have been a far more accessible, but slighty more circuitous, alternative path.

Eventually, we reached Arkle Beck, which flows in a South-Easterly direction to where it joins the River Swale near Reeth. The beckside walking was easy, although another minor navigational issue found us repeating the earlier activity of digging out a right of way through wild undergrowth, as it appears on the map, in favour of following what would have clearly been an easier alternative.

All things considered, although I’d been looking forward to our walk from Markse, it’s been a while since we hiked out from Reeth, and revisiting Reeth Moor and Arkengarthdale turned out to be an excellent choice.

Download the gpx file here

Peter Woolley

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