Marske to Marrick & Downholme Bridge

Once described as the prettiest village in Swaledale, Marske lies on the old high main road between Richmond and Reeth before it was replaced in 1836 by the construction of the valley road.


It makes a good starting point for a walk up to Marrick on its 1000 feet plateau overlooking the dale. If you have time, the parish church of St. Edmund is worth a visit for its Norman south door and its box pews and double decker pulpit. There are many monuments too to the Hutton family who lived at Marske Hall.

Our walk starts from the road junction by a shelter, provided by Mr. George Shaw in the 1950s and indispensable for walkers picnicking in inclement weather. The downstream half of the bridge over Marske Beck, which we cross, dates from the 15th century. The 5 fine ribs which support the structure can be seen after descending the well worn steps of the public footpath on the upstream side of the bridge.


Distance: 7 miles

Time: 4 hours

Grade: easy, with 3 short climbs

Conditions: field paths and farm tracks

Refreshments: Richmond and Reeth

OS Explorer Map OL30

Originally published: 19 October 2007


The path continues upstream along the beckside for half a mile to the pretty 18th century Pillimire packhorse bridge. Cross it to a 19th century waterwheel constructed to generate electricity for nearby Skelton Hall. The scheme was never completed so the wheel lies

isolated and abandoned.


From the bridge go across one field to a tarred lane where turn right. This leads in a quarter of a mile to the hamlet of Skelton where a footpath goes left uphill past the imposing Skelton Hall. it continues, first as a hollow way and then as a bridleway between walls to a gate which leads out on to the open moorland of Cock How. This is lead mining country and the flanks of the hillside are pitted with shafts. Away to the left, rising out of woods on a hilltop is Hutton's Monument, to Captain Matthew Hutton, who died in 1814.


From the lane end the right of way goes left on an indistinct path, diverging slightly from Potter Plantation on your left to a gate in a wall, which may have been built to provide access for a 19th century intake of the moorland. Continue ahead through another two gates to the road from Marske to Reeth.


Cross over and descend on a path to the considerable remains of the Marrick Smelt Mills on Dales Beck. As early as 1574 lead ore was being smelted by John Sayer on the site of the Low Mill, although the present buildings date from a re-foundation by Jaques and Company in the 1830s. The nearby High Mill was built by Thomas Swinburne about 1660 and, as Mike Gill describes in his excellent book 'Swaledale, its Mines and Smelt Mills' is "the best preserved 17th century lead smelting mill in Britain, and possibly the world". Much of the ore from surrounding mines was smelted here for over 300 years and, before the coming of the railways, the lead was then taken by packhorse to Hartforth, near Gilling and thence to Stockton for transhipment. This most impressive site of  the area's industrial past deserves an

explanatory information board.


I picnicked here on a fine day and was lucky to see an agile stoat energetically chasing three very agitated mallard ducks in and out of the beck for some 5 minutes. Eventually the ducks tired of the deadly game and flew off, leaving the stoat to seek easier prey.


Our signed path continues out of the tiny valley and up across fields to Nun Cote Nook, a substantial farm on Crook Bank Lane. Turn left along the lane into Marrick, a village of grey stone houses, the most notable being the 18th century manor house.


Our route now briefly follows Wainwright's Coast to Coast path from St. Bees Head to Robin Hood's Bay. It leaves Marrick by the first lane on the left at our entrance to the village. In about 200 yards the long distance path goes left next to a house. We go straight ahead on a lane which leads through grazing lands on a gentle two mile descent to Downholme Bridge.


The  route passes high above Old Vicarage Farm before reaching Marrick Park, a restored 18th century farm house and outbuildings. The wall which accompanies the track and separates it from the former quarry in High Park above, is a fine piece of rebuilding too. For the next half mile there are outstanding views over to the extensive Downholme Moor and down into the valley of the Swale, which here flows through a narrow wooded defile.


The lane next passes the 17th century  Low Oxque Farm and drops to the sylvan banks of  the Swale which it accompanies to the road from Marske to Downholme. Turn right down to the huge, high span of Downholme Bridge. It was built in 1684 for John Hutton, but considerably repaired after a great flood in 1771 by John Carr, Bridgemaster for the North Riding. If you have time to pause, take the path to the left  just before the bridge and walk under the first, usually dry, span to the foot of the arch on the upstream side. I counted 6 different masons' marks on the large ashlar blocks which support the main arch. There may be more.


The same path continues downstream for two fields before heading left for a lone post in the middle of the next field. From here the way goes uphill to a stile on Cat Bank on the road into Marske. Turn right past the imposing entrance to the 18th century Marske Hall. On the right there are glimpses of the hall's fine ornamental gardens.

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