Muker – Keld – Crackpot Loop

Today we’re ‘co-ed’ and the better for it. Language is less Anglo-Saxon and the anecdotes are either new or told from a different (and more caring) angle. Even the scenery is different. Always beautiful but changes with the weather of the day. Carol has promised blue-skies and sunshine; however, the message hasn’t yet been received by the weather gods of Swaledale. We’re still blanketed under grey of varying depths either scuttling across the sky or sat threateningly, in one place. It’s interesting to watch the smaller clouds scurry around the huge rain-filled ones like parents with children on the way to weather school. We pack a raincoat just in case but it’s not necessary; however, we won’t know that for another hour.

Here’s the plan:

The walk up Kisdon Moor is initially on a road but leading to tracks that are well used and, generally speaking, well kept. The rain that we’ve had over the last week or so had led us to believe that there would be significant mud; however, we’re pleasantly surprised and whilst there’s an element of unfitness we reach the summit with nothing much more than a ‘glow’ or, in my case, the need for a bath towel and a change of clothing.

The intention is to arrive in Keld and avail ourselves of the coffee, scones, sausage rolls and bacon sandwiches that are reported to be available at the little cafe in this tiny hamlet. They’re home or locally made and do put a spring in the step both before, like two opposite poles of a magnet then after when one of them is reversed and we’re pushed back onto the track towards a waterfall.

East Gill Force (Upper) – I’ll let this one speak for itself..

Margaret’s observation is that, if visited in New Zealand, it would be referred to in spectacular superlative terms and she’s right. I’m trying to analyse this and come to the conclusion that here it’s accepted as just another element of beautiful Yorkshire but we’ll come to that in a minute.

So now the effects of East Gill Force (Upper and Lower!) and the rapids that have hypnotised and relaxed our souls are behind us. The flywheel effect leaves us mellow as we close the gate to a scene that would do justice to any ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. We are blessed.

The Swale is busy about three hundred feet down to our right and the, now disused, Beldi Lead Mine three hundred feet above. This is mining country although it has been variously used for forestry and hunting for the Crown and Gentry. We’re heading to Crackpot Hall which is now derelict thought to be due to the subsidence from the mining. There are legends of Alice, a four year old child who was often seen in this area but a BBC documentary debunked the myth as they explored the books produced by local authors Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley who wrote about the child and described as having a dialect that was unintelligible. They tracked down the real Alice and unearthed a photo that shows her particularly un-feral but the tale’s a good one.

The girls leave us now to carry on for the final three miles back to Muker and a well earned beer, we’re off to find Swinner Gill Mine and the track is just a tad narrow!We find Crackpot Hall easily then make our way to the path about three hundred feet behind and above it. It does look sinister inside and smell like it may have been used by passing walker for more than a picnic lunch.Back on the trail and it’s getting narrow and to add to the excitement, the drop to the right is gaining height as the track narrows to a sheep trail. Pete decides that he’s had enough and announces he’s going to retrace his footsteps and meet us back at Muker. I’m still looking at the drop when I realise he’s actually gone. He has done this part of the walk before so he knows where we’re heading and how steep it gets just around the bracken-covered corner…

We have lunch at Swinner Gill sitting near a wonderful old bridge built to access the mine and the water driven processing mechanisms on this side of the stream.The return to the main route follows another tiny track that is so narrow that if we are to meet someone coming the other way. It makes for a tense 20 minutes whist we make our way towards Swiller Gill – the views though, are stupendous!

Making our way along the gorge.

..out of Swinner Gorge and views across Swaledale

The track down from Fair Yew End is heart stopping but the height we’re at and the relative height of valley basin leave those of us with acrophobic tendencies (i.e. me!) slightly anxious; however, the trail that we’ve tackled over the last thirty minutes has had a dampening affect. Not in the underwear department, you understand, but in the sense that it’s acclimatised us (me) to the height and whilst I’m still not a hundred percent comfortable, I’m significantly happier than when we entered the gorge. Oh, and the views, well they speak for themselves…

We reach the valley floor and after a bit of rucksack rearrangement we’re off for the final two miles. The track follows the Swale and the water is high enough to give us the spectacular sight of the falls near Keld but low enough to not be a risk. The sun’s shining intensely now and there is an earnest rummage through our bags for appropriate head covering. We also take the opportunity to catch up on taking on water. Our wonderful part-time member and retired medic, Louise has reminded us on a number of occasions that if we’re not peeing then we’re not drinking enough. I can’t think of anyone sneaking off for a surreptitious pee so, I’m sorry Lou, we’re guilty as charged!The final leg is a footbridge over the Swale and then into some of the most wonderful meadows in the country. They’re a world heritage site and protected within an inch of their lives. Farmers are given special grants to maintain them (yes, you do maintain meadows) and they do.As we arrive back in Muker it doesn’t take long to find the girls (actually, we didn’t go looking, we just go straight to the pub and that’s where they are!)If you do this walk, the Swinner Gill Mine leg can be jettisoned if you have issues with heights and a bit of scrambling but the rest of it is eminently doable but you need to have an element of fitness. If you want to see the meadows in full bloom then May/June is better but they’re beautiful all year.I hope you’ve enjoyed the snaps. As always, feel free to share. G x

I would particularly like to thank George Renwick, who, over the years, has helped me to overcome my fear of heights by encouragement and support without pressure. Much appreciated.

Thank you: Pete Hymer, George Renwick, Chris Richardson, Dave Bowman and Dave Rider but more importantly thank you to Karen Rider, Margaret McDonnel and Carol who made a wonderful change to the dynamics of the group. It was excellent

1 thought on “Muker – Keld – Crackpot Loop”

  1. The Muker, Keld, Crackpot Hall and return to Muker is one of my favourite walks, after your fabulous piece of writing I am sure it will become so for many others. It was a wonderful day to be in Swaledale, can I just add the more adventurous in the group thought it was just marvellous to be on those small tight tracks, high above the valley below. Photographs also tell the story of the walk.


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