Yorkshire Dales Walks
Date: 16th January 2011
Distance: 6 miles
Ascent: 1082 feet
Time: 3 hours 10 mins
Start Grid Ref: SD951982
A very wet exploration of the fascinating mining remains of Gunnerside Gill.
Route Summary: Gunnerside - Birkbeck Wood - Bunton Hush - Blakethwaite Mine - North Hush - Botcher Gill Gate - Jingle Pot Edge - Gunnerside
1. The village of Gunnerside backed by the slopes of Blea Barf
2. Lisa by Gunnerside Beck
3. Looking back down to Gunnerside Beck and Birkbeck Wood
4. Botcher Gill
5. Lisa on the path climbing to Swina Bank Scar
6. The man made desolation of Gunnerside Gill
7. Peering into one of the adits
8. The sword in the cairn
9. Bunton Hush
10. Gunnerside Gill
11. Blakethwaite Smelt Mill
12. Looking up the gill towards Blakethwaite Force
13. Looking back down at Blakethwaite Smelt Mill
14. Enjoying a moments shelter from the rain in a kiln
15. Blind Gill just above its confluence with Gunnerside Gill
16. Looking across from North Hush to Bunton Hush
17. Blea Barf from Gunnerside Pasture
18. Looking rather sodden at the end of the walk
Walk Detail: Due to a combination of illness, snow and ice I hadn't been for a walk for almost a month and it had been twice as long since Lisa and I had been able to get out together. Therefore we were both really looking forward to this especially as Gunnerside Gill was one of the few well known features in the Yorkshire Dales that I hadn't yet visited.
After the heavy downpours of Saturday the forecast for Sunday was promising with any remaining showers moving south to leave a bright day in the north. When we finally arrived (following numerous diversions on the A1) we were delighted to see some blue sky overhead and it looked as if the forecast was spot on.
The recent heavy rain meant that Gunnerside Beck was quite swollen and in the early stages I wondered whether the route would be entirely passable due to the sheer quantity of water that was flowing off the hills. Normally innocuous feeder streams were in places raging torrents and in other places water courses had sprung up where normally there would be none.
In normal conditions the route would have been very easy but in these conditions a number of streams had to be forded with care. At the half way point we were thankfully able to cross Gunnerside Beck using a slabbed bridge at Blakethwaite Mines. The crossing of the adjacent Blind Gill however required some careful balancing using the walking poles.
Gunnerside Gill is one of the steeper sided side valleys in the Yorkshire Dales and was also one of the major centres of Dales lead mining in the 19th century. It has a ravaged beauty with the colorful natural features contrasting sharply with the man made despoliation.
The gill is basically one large open air mining museum and there are numerous remains to explore with care. Apart from the actual buildings themselves the visually most impressive feature are the hushes where dammed up water was once released to scour away sections of the mountain side to try and uncover new veins.
Perhaps the most unusual feature which we came across was a large cairn with a replica sword stuck in it. Stood near some of the buildings below Bunton Hush the cairn commanded an excellent view of the gill. The sword meanwhile had written on it: "Bob Johnson 1943-2009 - He loved this place and its history. Please place a stone to honour my Viking warrior. All my love Sue". What a unique and splendid memorial!!
For the first half of the walk there had been the odd light shower though sadly the early promise of blue skies quickly faded. Rather than clearing up as forecasted the skies gradually became even more overcast and by the time we reached Blakethwaite Mines it began to rain heavily and persistently.
Fortunately the return route via Jingle Pot Edge was on mostly on a nice easy track without any further streams to cross so the return was accomplished quickly. Despite arriving back at the car completely sodden this had still been a fine little walk and I'd definitely like to visit again sooner rather than later. Perhaps next time I'll use Gunnerside Gill as the start of a more extended walk visiting Rogan's Seat and Water Crag.