“And is no nook of English ground secure
From rash assault ?”
Gunnerside Gill off Swaledale was filled with burning, digging, banging, crushing and smelting lead ore, at the time Wordsworth was writing. Industrial buildings thrown up willy-nilly, plate-ways carved diagonally up hillsides.

Today, a path climbs the narrow re-wooded valley, passing at intervals a series of ruins and spoil tips, which, with the march of centuries, nature is gradually reclaiming.

The scene presents fascinating contrasts between the natural landscape and the brutal assault of 18th century industry. Plus some rather terrible thoughts about the working conditions of the time.

After 4.5 km up the narrowing gill, Angela and I climbed westwards up the side of Blind Gill onto the huge expanse of moorland above.

Here (in Norse times) a chap called Rogan must have decided to go to the 17th highest place in the Yorkshire Dales, and sit down. Rogan's Seat (672 m) is only 22m lower than Penyghent, but it is not shapely or spectacular. Maybe Rogan didn't care : all he wanted was to get his name on the “Dales 30” list.

And yet there is a feeling of vast space. The high point (hardly a “summit”) lies in a huge sea of heather moorland. Thirty miles to the east, we could just make out the N Y Moors.

Unfortunately the almost Cairngorm-like situation extends to a very heavy-handed shooting track, an “assault” similar to the many such abuses which have scarred the Highlands in recent years. No track at all would make the moorland considerably more difficult, but it has made a big scar.

We returned south, then west on more shooters' track, to find a path leading down the steep gorge of East Grain and Swinner Gill.

More lead mining ruins. Contemporary with the mines, was Shelley's Ozymandias. “Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck........”

Then down to Crackpot Hall. Yes indeed. Actually, it was no more than a barn, with at one end a “dwelling” that had a ground level store and just one room above for all living purposes. Testament to the desperately hard life of by-gone farmers as well as lead-miners.

And here is the infant River Swale. As the January light began to fade, we were quite a long way from anywhere: but about 2 hours' walk downstream lay Gunnerside and the pub.


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