The Handy Guide To Swaledale (No2)
Printed and published by Northern Echo, Freemans Place, Darlington
[Partial content relating to Upper Swaledale only]

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Population - About 100.
Early Closing Day - Tuesday.
Places of Worship - Congregational Chapel, 2-0 p.m., 7 p.m.: Wesleyan Chapel, 7 p.m. Parish church at Muker.
Literary Institute, Library, and Reading Room.
Post Office - Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays; 8-30 a.m. to 10 a.m., Sundays. Delivery of letters commences 11a.m.; despatch, 1-30 p.m.
Money Orders; Telegrams; Telephone.
Distances - Askrigg, 8 miles; Hawes, 8; Kirkby Stephen, 11; Richmond, 22.

Thwaite (Photo, Gowing, Bedale)

Keld is the highest village in the dale. Situated amongst wild mountain scenery it is becoming increasingly popular as a centre for tourists. It has little pretensions to history, but is a place of some antiquity. Records show that in 1307 there was a William de Keld who was charged by the Earl of Richmond with chasing deer in the New Forest of Arkengarth without his leave. Then there is the old Keld chapel mentioned by John Leland in 1540, and formerly belonging to the Established Church. This was a ruin in the 17th century, but was restored as a Calvinistic place of worship. In 1789 it was again rebuilt for the Independents. One Edward Stillman

The Handy Guide To Swaledale (No2) - page 58

was minister of the chapel from that date till 1837. Of Parson Stillman the story is told that, requiring money for the repair of his church, and his flock being too poor to provide it, he walked all the way to London and back for the purpose of raising the necessary funds. His moving tale of the needs of his lonely parish was effective. He arrived back at Keld with the money in his pocket, and his total expenses for the double-journey amounted to sixpence!

Keld is within easy reach of quite a number of waterfalls. The district, indeed, is hardly surpassed for its romantic river and hill scenery, and is an endless source

Catrake Force, Keld
Catrake Force, Keld

of delight to the photographer. Kisdon Force (the most imposing of all), Catrake Force, Rainby Force, and Wainwath are formed by the precipitous nature of the Swale's rocky bed; Currack Force is on Stonedale Beck; and there are two waterfalls on East Gill Beck. The various falls mentioned are only a short distance from each other. Catrake Force is close to the E. side of Keld, the descent to the falls being by a number of steps reached by a footpath through a farm yard near Keld Post Office. The rocks form a great amphitheatre in the centre of which there is a cascade composed of three falls broken by projecting ledges. Near the Post Office, too, there is a footpath leading to Kisdon Force, about three-quarters of a mile before Catrake

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Force. It is situated in a romantic wooded glen with immense rocks and rough scars towering above. Midway between the two falls, East Gill Beck empties itself into the Swale, and the charming waterfall on the beck is seen from the bridge over the main stream near the confluence of the beck with the main stream.

Currack Force is on Stonesdale Beck, less than half a mile from Keld, near Park House, at the junction of the Tanhill and Brough road with the main road to Kirkby Stephen. The beck falls over a shelving rock, and the stream is broken into several falls before it joins the Swale.

Kisdon Force
Kisdon Force, Keld (Photo, Gowing, Bedale)

Cauterby Scar is a long escarpment of perpendicular limestone cliffs running for about a thousand yards along the N. bank of the Swale, and is reached by following the high road from Keld a short distance. At the extremity of the scar is a waterfall known as Hoggarth's Leap, which has a background of overhanging scars crowned with elm trees and mountain ash.

A fine moorland walk from Keld is to the summit of Nine Standards Rigg (2,008 ft.). The easiest way is to follow the Kirkby Stephen road alongside Birkdale Beck as far as Coldberg Side (near the boundary of Yorkshire and Westmorland), then cross Coldberg Edge and make straight for the Rigg. The approximate distance is 7 miles, but the latter portion of the journey

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is very exhausting, and the time occupied depends upon the physical strength exerted. When the summit of Nine Standards is reached, however, the climber will be amply rewarded. On the E., S. and N. sides there appears to be nothing but a treeless, houseless waste but to the W. a striking contrast opens out. Here the vista is the valley of the Eden, a veritable "golden valley," luxuriant and populous, with Kirkby Stephen nestling snugly amidst a pastoral expanse. There is no view in all this wild borderland that presents such a complete contrast by the mere turn of the head.

East Stonesdale
East Stonesdale (Photo, Gowing, Bedale)

The return journey may be varied by striking S.-E. to Whitsundale Beck (a rocky glen which runs down to the Swale from Nine Standards) and Raven Seat, joining the main road at Hoggarth's or Park Bridge. A whole day should be allowed for this walk.

A walk of similar character is the ascent of High Seat (2,328 ft.). The Kirkby Stephen road is followed as far as the county boundary at Hollow Mill Cross, and the mountain is two miles to the S. Lower down the ridge is a cairn known as Lady's Pillar (2,257 ft.), on one of the stones being the date 1664 and the letters "A. P." the initials of Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, who personally "rode the bounds" in Pembroke in the year named. The rivers Eden, Ure, Cotter and Swale may all be said to have their source on the

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slopes of High Seat. The return journey should be made over the same course as the outward.

The Source of the Swale. - About three miles from Keld, in a westerly direction, the Birkdale and Great Sleddale Becks join, and thence onwards the river becomes the Swale. The Kirkby Stephen road follows the course of the Birkdale Beck almost to its source, near the borders of Westmorland, four miles from its confluence with Sleddale Beck. Uldale Gill, rising on the N. side of High Seat (2,328 ft.) and Crooked Sike, with its source on Coldberg Edge on the S. side of Nine Standards Rigg, join to form the Birkdale Beck,

Tan Hill Inn
Tan Hill Inn (Photo, Gowing, Bedale)

and these may be said to provide the beginnings of the Swale. Both streamlets rise close to the boundaries of Yorkshire and Westmoreland.

"Birkdale Beck runs through a wild mountainous ravine without a solitary tree to break the cruel monotony of rock and grit, the hills rising in rugged grandeur, on every hand frowning crags." The beck drains a vast area of this wilderness of mountain.

The Swale, in the four miles from the smelting mill above Keld, declines from 1,100 ft. to 850 ft. From Muker to Richmond the descent is only about 25 ft. per mile on the average.

Birkdale Tarn, up on the N. side of the road, is a sheet of water about 20 acres in extent on the wild, treeless expanse of Birkdale Common. The Tarn is about four miles from Keld.

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Tanhill is reached by crossing the Swale at Park Bridge and following the old road alongside West Stonesdale Beck. The road joins the Reeth and Brough road at Tanhill, which was formerly the coal centre of the neighbourhood, there being a colliery there. As an instance of the loneliness of the whole district

Swinnergill Kirk Falls
Swinnergill Kirk Falls
(Photo, Gowing, Bedale)

it may be mentioned that in former days, before Bowes, Barras, Kirkby Stephen, and Hawes were connected with the colliery centres by rail, the coal drawn from Tanhill pit was carted to great distances, two days often being required for the journey to and from the pit. There is an inn at Tanhill which is said to be the highest in the North Riding - 1,727 ft. Distance : 4 miles to Tanhill.

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Swinnergill Kirk is more easily reached from Keld than from Muker. It is about one and three-quarter miles from the former village.


The "Victoria History of the County of York" has the following notes on Upper Swaledale which will be of interest to naturalists:-

"Following the highway from Keld to Muker we have opposite Angram a fine range of rugged and broken main limestone precipices girdling the crest of Kisdon, and 70 ft. below them a scar of Underset Limestone with a fir plantation upon its slope, in descending from which, towards the little stream which runs down this open undulated hollow, the Middle Limestone is obscurely seen at a depth of 150 ft. below the underset band. Upon these crags is abundance of Sesleria and Draba incana, a little yew and juniper, Hieracia murrorum and H. gothieum, and Asplenium viride and Orthothecium intricatium are also to be met with. At Thwaite we cross the Cliff Gill stream in front of a pretty little waterfall over limestone. Upon its banks we have Rubus saxatillis, Galium sylvestre, Hieracium anglicum, and Bartramia Oederi. At Muker this stream joins the Swale, which in the four miles from the smelting mill above Keld has declined from 1,100 to 850 ft. Here we have Orthotrichum tenellum and O. stramineum in hedgerows, and in the fields Cardus heterophyllus in abundance.

"Eastwards we have now on the north between Swaledale, Arkengarthdale, and the Greta watershed a grand sweep of ramified elevated moorland. From the Swale to the summit of drainage on the north the distance is at least five miles. On the edge of Gretadale, Water Crag attains 2,176 ft., above 900 ft. of which is Millstone Grit. This is the extreme thickness which the gritstone reaches in North Yorkshire, the upper beds being of later date than are to be met with in any other station amongst the hills.

"Over the edge of Swaledale, opposite Kisdon, Rogan's Seat attains 2,204 ft., with an elevated spur of hill stretching out from it towards the south, upon which is a locality for Sphagnum molluscum. A stream runs down from the peaks towards the south, and falls

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into the Swale at Gunnerside. It has a steep grassy glen, margined by the Main Limestone scars, which yield Sesleria and Galium sylvestre, and in a streamlet which flows from them Epilobium alsinifolium grows. Here are some of the lead works of the Old Gang Vein, with, as is usual, abundance of Arenaria verna. East of this glen Friarfold Moor attains 1,935 ft., and Browsey Moor, which stands boldy out towards the main dale, 1,765 ft.

Swinnergill Ravine
Swinnergill Ravine (Photo, Gowing, Bedale)

"Between Muker and Reeth the distance is nine miles, the course of the stream being again due east, and its fall comparatively gentle, not above 25ft. per mile on the average. The population of this part of the dale is thin, the dale narrow and grassy, its slopes steep and occasionally covered with wood. ….The Upper Limestone forms scars along the edge of the dale in many places. From Muker the Main Limestone rises slightly towards the east, so that at Reeth we have it nearly, or quite, at the top of the fells on both sides of the river….For several miles along the eastern side of the lower part of the dale we have a fine range of Main Limestone precipices."

Text ©Northern Echo, Freemans Place, Darlington
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