I headed with my work colleague James, deep into Swaledale one crisp sunny January morning for a walk up Gunnerside Gill, following the walk outlined in my "Swaledale" guidebook written by Paul Hannon. After the walk along Marske Valley at the end of 2011 this was my second walk from this book and I am looking forward to more as they are great medium length routes that pack a lot of features in.
We grabbed the last available parking space beside the bridge in Gunnerside and headed off alongside the Gunnerside Gill (or Ghyll). The first part of the walk is a pleasant and at times muddy walk along the banks of the gill, with some of the familiar Swaledale stone barns dotted on the hillsides.
The bunker storage facilities for the storage of lead ore are impressively well preserved and give you an idea of how this scenic quiet place was once an industrial hive of activity.
We then climbed up the hillside and the landscape changes from a lush green valley to being something more rugged and wild, with the stone buildings (intact and ruined) maintaining the Swaledale look and atmosphere.
Bit by bit you stumble upon more mining remains - old hushes, buildings, piles of rocks and so on, yet despite the man-made industrial origins, this landscape looks very natural. By this point we had reached the snowline, and the man-made intrusions were well camouflaged under the layer of crisp white snow.
The top end of the walk is at the very impressive Blakethwaite smelt mill, where the remaining structures look almost fit for a castle or abbey, in particular the kiln as pictured below! This was a really nice spot to stop for a quick look around and with a bit more time there is plenty to explore here.
You cross the stream via a stone slab bridge, fortunately it wasn't as slippery as I didn't fancy a dip at this point!
Our return route took us high up onto the other side of the valley, giving us bird's eye views of the outward section of the walk.
As we got to the top we could see the desolate moorland that stretches between here and the head of Swaledale. Heading further southwards, the snow cover was gradually giving way as we got closer to the woodlands around the Gill.
This created some quite amazing views of the valley - the stone buildings looking like toy buildings with a dusting of icing sugar to decorate. After following a drover's track for a while, we headed back across a short marshy section before a steep descent back into the village and the car.
Once again, I was amazed by the quality of paths, scenery and general atmosphere that you experience walking in beautiful Swaledale.