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Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor

There are currently 3 comments and 3 photos online for this walk.

Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 28 Jun 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guidestar1 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guidestar1 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guidestar1 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guidestar0 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guide
North Yorkshire, Yorkshire Dales
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guide boot Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guide
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A 6 mile circular walk across the Reeth High Moor in the Swaledale area of the Yorkshire Dales. The route visits the remains of the largest lead smelting complex in the Dales, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, before climbing high onto the Reeth High Moor for the return leg.

These high moorlands are very exposed so please do ensure you are properly prepared with warm clothing and other essentials. The route has several steady but long climbs and descents and follows a stone track bridleway the whole way round. You will need to negotiate a couple of wide gates but there are no steps or stiles on the route. The first two miles of the track is at least 2m wide, is compacted with a well-compacted aggregate and the steepest gradient is 1:10, making it suitable for rugged pushchairs or disability buggies. The rest of the route climbs a bit more steeply, is more uneven, and crosses a couple of shallow fords but in good conditions may also be suitable for the most rugged types of buggies should you be up for the challenge. You will be sharing the paths with sheep for the entire walk. The high moor is used for grouse shooting and the season for this runs from 12 August to 10 December each year. There are no toilets or other refreshments on route. Approximate time 3 hours.

The walk starts and finishes from an informal parking lay-by within a remote section of the moor, which is easiest to access from the small village of Low Row (on the B6270 between Reeth and Muker). The post code DL11 6PF will take you to the Punch Bowl pub in Low Row. With the pub on the left, take the next road on the left signed to Langthwaite. Follow this tiny lane climbing into the moor. Just before you reach a bridge over a stream (with a cattle grid), you will see a road to the right signed for Reeth. Turn right into this road and park in the grass and stone lay-by immediately on the left.

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Walk Sections

Start to Old Gang Smelt Mill
Start to Old Gang Smelt Mill

Start point: 54.394 lat, -2.0182 long
End point: 54.4001 lat, -2.04 long

Standing in the parking lay-by with your back to the lane, look at about 2 o’clock and you will see the stone remains of one of the area’s old lead smelting mills, Surrender Smelt Mill. This area was one of the most intensively-mined parts of Swaledale in the 18th and 19th centuries. The lead-bearing veins here were very complex, so there are many remains all around you.

Walk back to the T-junction and turn right (signed to Langthwaite). Pass through the gate alongside the cattle grid and cross the stone bridge, Surrender Bridge. Continue up the hill for about 50m and then turn left onto the stone track (signed as a bridleway). Follow this track with the stream of Old Gang Beck running down to the left. The stream runs from its source in the moors down to Healaugh where it meets the River Swale. During its course it has many names including Flincher Gill, Hard Level Gill, Mill Gill, Old Gang Beck and Barney Beck.

Follow the track as it climbs steadily and then descends once again. After 0.75 miles the track runs with the stream immediately on the left. A quarter of a mile further along, you will come to the impressive stone remains of the buildings and chimney of Old Gang Smelt Mill, a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Old Gang Smelt Mill to Level House Bridge
Old Gang Smelt Mill to Level House Bridge

Start point: 54.4001 lat, -2.04 long
End point: 54.4073 lat, -2.0569 long

Take some time here to explore this site. This site is the largest remaining smelting complex in the Yorkshire Dales and also contains various stores and workshops of the Old Gang Mine. At the rear of the site is the earliest mill which was known as the New Mill because it replaced earlier mills. This mill began smelting in 1797. In front of this is a larger mill usually referred to as Old Gang Mill which began smelting around 1846. The last smelting on this site took place in 1907. This valley probably has the biggest concentration of lead smelting mills in the country. The first mills were constructed in the 17th century and for more than 200 years this now peaceful valley was a hive of industry.

When you have finished exploring, continue along the main stone track, passing a couple of old stone buildings and a pretty arched bridge across the beck. The track now climbs steadily and leads you to a fork. Take the right-hand (higher) branch and follow this still climbing, passing another stone arch bridge over the beck across to the left. The track now descends, running alongside the beck, this stretch being called Hard Level Gill. Further along, pass through the wide gate ahead and you will come to a junction of tracks with the stone arch bridge, Level House Bridge, on the left.

Level House Bridge to Second Ford Gate
Level House Bridge to Second Ford Gate

Start point: 54.4073 lat, -2.0569 long
End point: 54.4154 lat, -2.0629 long

Take the right-hand path, a stone track which runs with the stream (Flincher Gill) on the left. The track swings steadily right, passing between old spoil heaps, and leading you up onto Reeth High Moor. Further along, the track crosses a ford and swings right to continue its climb.

You will pass a pair of arches on the right, the entrances to old mine shafts. Fairly soon afterwards the track leads you across a second ford and up to reach another wide gate.

Second Ford Gate to Sheepfold
Second Ford Gate to Sheepfold

Start point: 54.4154 lat, -2.0629 long
End point: 54.4155 lat, -2.0427 long

Pass through this and stay on the stone track swinging right and still climbing. Follow the rough and rocky track leading you through large spoil heaps that give this section of the moor an eerie lunar feel. Despite its barren appearance, the moor does support a range of plants including heather and cotton grass. Ravens and the ground nesting oyster catchers are common sights in this area.

Eventually you will reach the crest of the track and begin the steady descent with superb views to the east across Swaledale. Keep ahead on the track to begin your descent and it will lead you to the right of a large stone sheepfold.

Sheepfold to End
Sheepfold to End

Start point: 54.4155 lat, -2.0427 long
End point: 54.3942 lat, -2.0182 long

Stay on the obvious stone track, leading you down from the high moor. You will notice a range of sunken wooden hides and the more traditional stone walls, all arranged in neat lines across the moor, called grouse butts and used as the positions from which to shoot the grouse.

Grouse shooting has been carried on in Swaledale for over 150 years and now forms a substantial business for the large estates. Management of the moors for grouse has produced some of the broadest stretches of heather moor in the dales. Grouse are dependent on short, young heather plants for food whilst old, bushy heather provides shelter and nest cover. Heather is systematically burned in patches on a 12-15 year cycle to encourage new young shoots, the main food of the red grouse, creating a mosaic of young and old heather cover. Lines of shooting butts are evident in even the remotest places, together with the more obvious new roads built across the fells to allow shooting parties to reach the butts and shooting huts by vehicle.

After descending for a couple of miles you will emerge to a T-junction with the Low End to Langthwaite road. Turn right along the road, taking care of occasional traffic. Follow the lane down into the dip, back across the bridge and to the parking area on the left where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


3 responses to "Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor"

This is a great walk if you like being high up on the moors with a bit of industrial archeology thrown in. You can of course shorten the walk (and still see nearly all of the industrial archeology) by making it into a linear walk and retracing your steps back before you reach the 'Second Ford Gate" waypoint.

By Richard on 2015-06-28 08:20:05

A brilliant walk high up on the moors, some excellent remains of the mines to have a mooch around. A coffee in Reeth to finish off the day

By davidrout on 2015-08-02 18:49:07

Fantastic walk high up on the moors. Great place to go if you enjoy quietness and solitude. Just gorgeous.

By romycat on 2016-09-17 16:07:24

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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3 images to "Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor"

4660_0Richard1435475191 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
You will pass by a number of these arches which I presume were the mine entry shafts?
4660_1Richard1435475191 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
The mine ruins show more than just a few walls - given the mine was abandoned more than 100 years ago there is still lots to see.
4660_2Richard1435475191 Old Gang Smelt Mill and Reeth High Moor Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
i would presume that working conditions were hard all the year round and particularly difficult this high up on the moor in winter.

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