Walk date – 11th June 2020

Distance – 4.5 miles

Weather – dull and overcast, cool and windy


Since our last walk the weather has been mostly overcast and very windy with frequent and prolonged spells of rain. The rain was welcome after such a long period without any, the wind wasn’t. This morning was just the same but about one o’clock things seemed to be brightening up, the cloud became thinner, the showers stopped, the sky brightened and the wind eased so we thought a decent afternoon was on the cards. The photos tell a different story.


Ravenstonedale – Smardale Bridge – Smardale Gill Viaduct – Smardale Bridge – Ravenstonedale

St Oswald’s Church at Ravenstonedale. Parking is available a few yards back up the road beside a nursery school. Note the blue sky …..

….. which was rapidly being obliterated by large and ominously dark clouds. From the church a short stroll down the hill brings us to a junction where we turn right and after another short stroll we turn left over this step stile for the path to Smardale Bridge.

After climbing the step stile in the village we walk across the field and make our way towards the wall where another step stile awaits and …..

…..once over that we descend a set of steps, cross the A685 (normally very busy but with very little traffic at present) and ascend a similar set of steps through the trees opposite.

Up the banking where another step stile lies in wait beyond which is …..

….. a good farm track passing alongside these two barns. After such an unusual and unconventional start to a walk it was something of a relief not to see yet another stile waiting to be clambered over immediately in front of us.  The cloud has closed ranks, the wind is picking up and I’m wishing I had brought my gloves.

The farm track eventually turns right into the field behind this wall but we keep straight on and aim for the gate on the left at the end of the stand of trees. Passing through that gate brings us out into a large field where we bear slightly right, below the steeper ground and eventually come to …..

….. yet another step stile. Beyond the step stile we drop down to …..

….. this new fence and gate with Scandal Beck in the valley bottom. Its not necessary to go through the gate, you could just walk up the slope alongside the fence and then drop down again, but we decided to walk beside the beck instead. Either way you end up at the same place.

Not a lot of water in the beck despite the recent rainy spells but plenty of ‘tubus plasticus’ in evidence protecting, at the moment, non-existent trees. The parapet of Smardale Bridge can just about be seen above the forest of plastic tubes towards the right hand side and there’s only a short walk beside the beck before we reach a handgate opening out to …..

….. Smardale Bridge. A pack horse bridge dating from the 1700’s and a Grade 2 listed structure, now part of the Coast to Coast walk route.

Smardale Bridge again.

After passing through the gate on the left we don’t cross the bridge but turn right up this hill until we come to …..

….. this finger post and stile indicating the route to Smardale Gill viaduct …..

….. from where the viaduct comes into view.

Looking along Scandal Beck towards the viaduct.

Crosby Garrett fell on the left dropping down to Begin Hill towards the right.

A closer look, across the valley, at the disused quarries and kilns carved into the limestone of Begin Hill.

Completed in 1861 at a cost of £11,928 the viaduct, built of local stone, has 14 arches, is 90′ high and 550′ long. It is now a listed building and an impressive reminder of Victorian engineering.

Looking back at the elegant curve of the viaduct as it crosses from one side of the narrow valley to the other. Behind me is a slight slope up to a gate which leads to …..

….. the top of the viaduct, now used by walkers but originally built as part of the South Durham & Lancashire Union Railway, which crossed the Pennines to carry coke to the iron and steel furnaces in the Barrow area and West Cumberland. The line was closed in 1962 after steelmaking finished.

Beyond the viaduct the old quarries and limestone kilns are set adjacent to the railway line.

Looking back along the old railway route.

Further along is this pair of old houses, which were probably accommodation for railway or quarry employees when the line was in operation.

We left the railway path, climbed the banking and emerged over the stile on the right onto this track leading back to Smardale Bridge which …..

….. eventually appears below us. When we reach the bridge we will turn up the path on the right hand side.

A longer view of the bridge with some of the Howgill fells in the distance although nothing much of them can be seen in the gloomy light conditions.

Dropping down to the bridge where we turn right …..

….. and after only a few paces turn up to the left to the squeeze stile by the fingerpost. The path carries on over the fields and hills towards Brownber.

A look back to the bridge from the stile.

From the squeeze stile we head across the field aiming for this gate to the left of a stand of trees. A very indistinct Wild Boar Fell appears on the skyline.

Walking back towards Ravenstonedale from the stand of trees with Wild Boar Fell and some of the Howgills on the misty skyline.

We turned left at the marker post to avoid a steepish drop down and to make for the gate in the wall which is out of shot over to the left. From there we crossed the field and took to the farm track.

We followed the farm track for a short distance and then branched of to the left at this marker post from where …..

….. I took this shot looking back towards the stand of trees up on the hill.

From the marker post the path dropped us down to some very pleasing views of Scandal Beck.

From the beck the path leads us through the underpass below the A685 and eventually brings us out at The King’s Head in Ravenstonedale. We’ve had a very enjoyable Sunday lunch there on a few occasions so it has a place on the to-do list as soon as it re-opens, the sooner the better in my opinion. On the left of the pub is the footpath leading back to the church and the parking area.

Approaching the church from footpath beside The King’s Head …..

….. and a look back at it as we make our way to the gate and back to the car. The white blob just above the headstone at the bottom right of the photo landed on the lens as the rain, which had threatened all afternoon, began to fall so it was fortunate that we only had another hundred yards or so to walk, even so we were quite damp when we reached the car. This is a nice little walk if you don’t have a lot of time available, but sad to say we didn’t see the area at its best today.

On different matter I came across something a few days ago which raised my blood pressure a couple of notches. Its an explanation of the thinking behind ‘social distancing’ by Professor Robert Dingwall during an interview he gave for the Daily Telegraph’s political podcast. Professor Dingwall has been advising governments on epidemic preparedness since 2018 (he’s earned his money then hasn’t he?) and gives advice in the SAGE group. The ‘it’ referred to in the first sentence is ‘the required social distance’.

This is what he said during the podcast –

We knew it was one metre but we doubled it to two because we did not think the British population would understand what one metre was and we could not trust them to observe it, so we doubled it to be on the safe side.’     

Basically he’s saying that we’re all considered to be as thick as pig****, and, if that is the case, what does it say about the standard of education in this country.

Furthermore where is the ‘following the science’ line which gets trotted out at every available opportunity? It would appear that the only ‘science’ followed in this case was the advisory group’s belief in the inability of the UK population to understand the concept of distance. Belief alone is not a sound basis on which to make informed political decisions. Whether its one metre or two is largely irrelevant in any case as any given distance is only guidance and not enforceable, as stated in the second paragraph of this document – ‘Policing the pandemic: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No 2) changes – 13 May 2020′ – issued by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council.

Anyway folks, that’s how we’re being viewed. Make of it what you will.