The clouds glowered as we set out from the village of Bainbridge in Wensleydale for a walk along a Roman road and back by Semerwater. The rain really came to nothing, just a shower while we sheltered under a tree. The hill-hugging mist passed away long before we got to high ground and we got some fine views over this part of the Yorkshire Dales.
Now, as someone called Bainbridge, I’ve been to the village where the surname – and presumably my distant ancestors – originated several times. But I’ve never rambled from there.
It’s an interesting landscape.
We walked up to the Cam High Road. A Roman road, quite straight considering the rough ground it crosses, bar one or two squiggles where it crosses becks. You can follow this for a good five miles through some very wild countryside until it reaches Beggarman’s Road.
We weren’t going to do that. Only about half the distance. It was very calm and peaceful, with views over a hazy Wensleydale as we climbed gradually towards higher ground. You could just about make out some stretches of agger on the rockier parts of the road. And there was clear evidence of some boundary ditches alongside what are now walled enclosures on either side.
We followed Cam High Road to near Wether Fell. At Common Allotments – and the history of enclosure here would be a fascinating study – we took a side footpath over the ridge and down to Marsett. The descent was pretty steep for the dales and rough going in places.
Marsett is a simple farming hamlet – the “Sett” in the name deriving from the Old Norse word Saetre – a lowland farmstead. Another of those Yorkshire places that seems lost in time. The present Norwegian Saeter is of the same derivation.
We followed the track from here to Stalling Busk, though we didn’t go all the way, turning along a footpath to see its old ruined church. This was built in 1602, was badly damaged in the English Civil War, rebuilt in 1722 and in use until 1909. There are supposed to be some 750 bodies in the churchyard – perhaps some of them ancestors of mine, was the thought that crossed my mind?
On then to Semer Water, the largest freshwater lake in the Dales, though only a remnant of the larger glaciated lake which once flooded this valley. It has a legendary sunken city and, interestingly enough, there was once a prehistoric Lake Village there. On its banks is the Carlow stone, an erratic boulder carried there by the ice, though legend says it was heaved by a giant at the devil.
Nearby you can sit close to the spot where JMW Turner sat and painted the scene.
The River Bain flows out of the lake – at first it’s sluggish and reed-haunted before flowing more fiercely as it gains a rockier bed and tumbles swiftly towards Bainbridge. The Bain is supposedly the shortest river in England.
We roamed through several pastures before climbing up Bracken Hill, which offered extensive views over Bainbridge itself. Then the descent back to the village with pretty views over the houses.
Sadly, they no longer blow a horn at dusk to guide travellers seeking shelter there. This medieval tradition was abandoned some years ago.
But the stocks are there, out on the village green.
I bet some of my ancestors spent a bit of time in them!