Historic Walking from Reeth

Although I like collecting walking guides I seldom do whole walks from them. They’re there for ideas for walks for me rather than the walk itself. But I saw an interesting ramble in one the other day, with lots of interesting features. It cried out to be walked.

Grinton Church (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Grinton Church (c) John Bainbridge 2015

I’ll credit the book and the author here and now. It’s called “Walks in the Yorkshire Dales” by Jack Keithley (Cicerone). A beautifully illustrated guide in the Wainwright tradition, though Mr Keithley in no imitator. The book has fifty terrific walks and I’m looking forward to trying some more.

We set out from Reeth village green (£1 parking all day!) and down to Reeth Bridge before following a very pleasant footpath to Grinton Church – the Cathedral of the Dales. A fascinating building as well, dating from at least the 12th century, though most of what remains is 15th century. You can see the scratches on the porch entrance arch where medieval arches sharpened their arrowheads. Having recently written a Robin Hood novel such reminders of the past are always interesting to me. There’s also a very impressive Jacobean pulpit.

Arrowhead scratchmarks at Grinton (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Arrowhead scratchmarks at Grinton (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Along the banks of the River Swale now, with some glorious ancient stone stiles – fie on those ramblers who wish to abolish them! – real trademark examples these. I think I shall start a Stile Preservation Society. Lovely creations are stiles – featuring so much in our history and literature. Do we really want to see a countryside without them? Bypass them with politically-correct gates if you have to, but please leave our stiles alone!

As we walked across the fields we saw the tower of Marrick Priory rising just above the Swale. It was founded c1154 for Benedictine nuns, and managed to survive Henry VIII’s Dissolution. A tale relates how Isabella Beaufort, a maid of honour at his court, came here to avoid Henry’s lechery. For her protection she disguised herself as a boy.

Marrick Priory (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Marrick Priory (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Just beyond, a steep and paved path climbs up to Marrick Village. This is the Nuns’ Causey (causeway) and has existed since the days of the priory itself. A truly beautiful path and full of history. These are the sort of paths that we are in danger of losing for ever as the Ramblers’ Association’s officials seem so keen to agree to almost every path diversion going. Fight to preserve our historic paths, please. If you  are a member of the RA please do go along to meetings and fight these sell-outs to the landowners.


The Nuns' Causey (c) John Bainbridge 2015

The Nuns’ Causey (c) John Bainbridge 2015

We climbed uphill then out on to Fremington Edge – open heather moorland, wandering the edge of Marrick Moor. We were a bit early for the heather itself, though it was out in its fashion. There was cranesbill and harebells though.

Fremington Edge offers grand views over much of Swaledale, from Richmond up in the direction of Keld, with Reeth far below. There was a lot of mining here in days gone by. The spoil heaps are still there to see. Worth a poke around, though watch out for any shafts.

On Fremington Edge (c) John Bainbridge 2015

On Fremington Edge (c) John Bainbridge 2015

A very steep and rocky path leads down a good mile to the hamlet of High Fremington and Reeth itself, where there are ample pubs and teashops.

And, hey it didn’t rain once in what has been such a wet English summer.

Thank you Jack Keithley. You are in the worthy tradition of the great Yorkshire guidebook writers. A worthy successor to the immortal A J Brown.

Looking over Reeth and Swaledale from Fremington Edge (c) John Bainbridge 2015

Looking over Reeth and Swaledale from Fremington Edge (c) John Bainbridge 2015

We shall do more of your walks.


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