Arkengarthdale is a side valley of the more famous Swaledale, named after Arkel,
who held the place in pre-Conquest times. It is spectacular, steep and was, for quite a long period of time, quite industrial. Nature is still healing the scars of the lead-mining industry, remarkably so when you see the beauty of the landscape.
We walked it last week from its major – though small – village of Langthwaite, following the Arkle Beck through some delightful stretches of woodland before taking the gentle climb up a splendid green track alongside the tumbling waters of the Slei Gill – a valley much worked by lead-miners.
Up on the slopes are the evidence of the hushes – where great pools of water where stored on the hilltops, then released in a great flood taking away the topsoil to reveal the lodes. There are lots of spoil heaps here too – a reminder that 7000 miners – men and women – once worked in this dale. Their workings now busy only with rabbits and kestrels.
At the headwaters of the Gill, we came out on to a great wide sweep of heather moorland – the heather at its best. A grouse moor, with a shooting box and butts. The grouse so tame that they only scuttled away from us, not even bothering to fly. Bell-pits here too, evidence of early lead-mining.
Grand views from up here, not only over Arkengarthdale and Swaledale, but right up to the high north Pennines, across Stainmore, where Erik Bloodaxe was slain over a thousand years ago, and, in the far distance the blue line of the North York Moors.
We descended by a steep and stony track to the hamlet of Booze – and not a pub in sight! A small hamlet of cottages and farms, with not even an access road, just a farm track to get there. Another place lost in time. In a record of 1473 it was called Bowe-house.
From here a lane down to Langthwaite. This village has featured a great deal in television series and films such as “All Creatures Great and Small” and “A Woman of Substance”. It grew in time with the lead mining industry.
The original parish church was abandoned. In 1817 a new church was built, a Waterloo or Millions Church built to commemorate the battle and by public subscription. Its oak altar was made by Robert “Mouseman” Thompson. The Wesleyan chapel is worth a look too, it’s still in use for its original purpose.
A fine walk on a lovely summer’s day of warm weather and long views. Just six miles. A fascinating dale, not to be overlooked if you are in the Swaledale area.