Arkengarthdale watered by Arkle Beck is an offshoot of Swaledale and has a stark beauty of its own. This is the country of the old lead mining industry and you sense it as you journey through the lonely valley where the neighbouring ridges have a hard and sombre cast'. AJ Brown's description in his 'Fair North Riding' of 1952 is just as valid today for this seven and a half mile walk.
Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 4 hours
Conditions: well signed field paths
Refreshments: Reeth, Langthwaite
OS Explorer Map OI30
Originally published: 24 June 2016
We start from the bustling green in Reeth (GR 038993). Follow the B6270 in the direction of Richmond. In 250 yards you cross Reeth Bridge over Ankle Beck, rebuilt by John Carr of York in 1773 after floods. Go left at the first footpath sign and continue upstream on what must be one of the finest valley walks in the dales. In the first half mile two fields are crossed. Just after a large barn with a painted yellow arrow, go left through a gated stile, and then, following more arrows, bear uphill past another barn as if you are heading for the heights of Fremington Edge.
At the next gate however turn left on a bridleway which once must have served as the connecting route for the scattered farms on the east side of the dale. It's now an undulating, metalled track which winds through ancient woodland whilst affording good views back to Reeth and over the valley to the brooding heights of Calver. In half a mile it descends to the beckside and a junction. Should you wish to limit your walk to three and a half miles, continue along the river bank to Castle Farm House. Then follow the access track over the beck to where it intersects the longer walk. I've also mapped the footpath continuing upstream from Castle Farm House.
Our longer route, following the bridleway, is relatively dry, much more scenic and the beck can still be heard as it ripples and rushes far below. Just before Castle Farm it emerges from the trees and follows the 1,000ft contour level whilst being overshadowed by the white cliffs of Fremington Edge. Soon the settlement of Booze is visible nearly two miles ahead.
In half a mile you will pass Heggs House after which the bridleway descends again to the beckside. Again you could shorten your walk, to four and a half miles, by crossing the footbridge here and rejoining the main walk at West Raw Croft Farm.
Our main walk now leaves the beckside and heads across two fields to the picturesque 18th century Storthwaite Hall set by a ford over Sei Gill. Near the adjacent footbridge are the overgrown tailings from a mill which once smelted the lead from Fell End Mine, still visible up on Fremington Edge.
From the ford climb the concrete track to a junction and go right (signed Slei Gill) on an ancient track called the Moresdale Road along which in the 18th and early 19th centuries the refined lead was conveyed to Darlington and Stockton. In 100 yards bear left up across two fields to Booze. Its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon bowehous, the house by the bow or curve.
Bear left and head out on the hamlet's access lane. The views of Arkengarthdale below you are spectacular. Look out for a welcome seat on the right as you begin the steep descent into Langthwaite, the dale's tiny capital' The most noteworthy of its tightly packed buildings are the Red Lion and the house of 1695 built for RH and IH.
We now follow the rough track next to the beck and past the little former Primitive Methodist chapel of 1839 known as the Ranters' chapel for the noise generated at its services. In less than half a mile go right, over a footbridge and then left on a path which keeps close to the beck for another 500 yards. It then heads across fields with views left, across to Sei Gill and the pockmarked slopes of Fell End.
At West Raw Croft go ahead through the gates leading to East Raw Croft and then immediately right on a field path. In just over half a mile it joins the access track from Castle House Farm, bear right up it and after the first gate, by a barn, look out for the path branching left and heading for a gap in the wall across the first field.
It is then easy to spot the succession of stiles which are accompanied by a parallel line of power poles. The path then passes under the power line before keeping to the left of a barn on a little hill top. After the barn the right of way turns sharp right through a new steel side gate before emerging on to the Reeth to Langthwaite road at Sleights Brow.
Turn left downhill into Reeth. For an alternative path to the green look out for a seat on the left some 250 yards after crossing a cattle grid. From it the right of way skirts the yard of the 17th century Town End Farm before crossing two fields to the village.