Sunday, 22 November 2020

A walk in the footsteps of long ago lead miners

 From Surrender to Old Gang and Great Pinseat - a circular walk

Walk in the footsteps of the lead miners.  Approx 6 miles of good going with only a few easy inclines, making this an accessible walk for all ages and abilities.

Park at Surrender Bridge on the road between Low Row and Arkengarthdale. Walk downhill over the cattle grid, across the bridge and turn left along the clearly marked bridleway.  The track follows the Old Gang Beck for a couple of miles.  The first landmark is the ruins of Old Gang Smeltmill.  

  Old Gang is a group of buildings and relics of the lead mining industry.  These well preserved buildings and its impressive, ramrod straight chimney are a credit to the skills of the stonemasons of the 16th and 17th century.

Shortly after leaving Old Gang is Spencer Level clearly visible from the path.  Driven hundreds of yards (sometimes miles) into the hillside this is where the miners left the daylight behind to begin their working day.  When these tunnels were under construction a young boy would sit all day pumping bellows to give the men access to cleaner air.  Woe betide the unfortunate lad that fell asleep during this tedious and muscle aching task. 

About a mile further along are the unmistakable double Brandy Bottles.  These levels go deep into the ground and were designed for engines to bring the ore out however the engines never materialised.  Between the two openings is a bench, a welcome place to stop for coffee or lunch.

Hard Level Bridge and another further up stream, niether of which you cross. Stay on the path!
There are testaments to the building skills of the men-of-yesterday at every turn.  The bridges are particularly well crafted with strong, perfect arches and intricate stonework. 

 Shortly after leaving the Brandy Bottles the track bears right and begins the gentle rise to the summit of Great Pinseat.  Here the landscape changes completely and is stark and desolate, a dumping ground of spoil left over from the lead mining industry.  It resembles a cross between a lunar landscape and the Ohio desert and I wasn't sure to expect Captain Scott of the US Enterprise or Clint Eastwood and his poncho!

Despite the eerie, unwelcome nature of Great Pinseat the panorama is outstanding with views of Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and far beyond which quiet honestly takes your breath away.  The whole walk is on a well made path with no tricky navigational conundrums to solve which suited Suzanne and I as we could concentrate on chatting instead of getting lost! 

This is a great walk for families.  Space to run and jump and play.  Abandoned buildings to explore and wonder over.  Places to picnic.  Streams to splash in and endless opportunities for games of hide & seek.  The track is perfect for mountain bikes (less challenging and shorter than the Swale Trail so perfect for entry level bikers).  Or how about bringing your pony?  That was a delightful surprise! 

 Where the track drops down to meet the road, turn right and its just a short walk back to Surrender Bridge and the car park.  For more about the lead mines, some great photos and an easy map to follow clink on the this link
Thanks to Jonathon Smith introducing me to this walk through his article in the Darlington & Stockton Times 




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