An interesting walk visiting the remains of numerous lead mines on the moors north of the exposed village of Greenhow high above Nidderdale.
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Greenhow is one of the highest villages in England and is situated right on the boundary between the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. North of the village there is a vast sweep of moorland that, apart from a popular bridleway visiting the Prosperous Lead Mines, is rarely visited. The aim of this walk was to make use of a mixture of shooters tracks, old mining tracks and access land to visit other lead mining remains.
I started the walk from a small layby about a quarter of a mile east of the village, just before an unmarked access road that descends steeply downhill towards Laverock House. Just next to the parking area is a bench and an old stone sign post. Heading west I first walked towards and through Greenhow itself. Along the way I encountered a number of interesting features. In order these were the wooden lychgate by the cemetery, the village war memorial, the former Miners Arm pub and Kipling’s Cottage (possibly the former home of Rudyard Kipling’s grandfather). Finally I also passed St Mary’s Church, possibly the highest parish church in England.
“The Merryfield Hole Lead Mine also features the remains of a large chimney and in my eagerness to cross the stream and take a look at it I missed the opportunity to continue upstream to the site of the High Stony Groove mine.”
Carrying on along the road I walked out of the western end of the village to briefly enter the Yorkshire Dales National Park. At 404m above sea level I was already at the highest point of the walk, just a few metres higher than where the car was parked. Turning right through a gate I followed a broad track passing a number of mounds that are the remains of old mining activity on the moor. Climbing up to the top of one mound on my left there was a great view west towards the limestone knoll of Nursery Knot with Thorpe Fell beyond.
Just to the north of this mound, and about 10m from the track, were two engraved stones. The smaller of the two simply read ‘Ross’. The larger had the following inscription, “Ballyfrema Daphne of Hardcastle, Fanny, 11th Jan 1962, 16th Oct 1972”. Were these rather remote burial spots or just memorial stones? Either way they were a somewhat surprising find in such a bleak spot. Not long afterwards I came across another memorial. This time it was in the shape of a beehive cairn just below which was a stone plaque which read “Craig Smith, Sportsman and a True Gentleman 2015”.
Continuing along the track it swung right and then left to descend into Round Hill Gill. Here there was a well maintained shooting house the ladies and gents of which were labelled ‘hens’ and ‘cocks’. Someone called ‘Frank’ had his own parking space and there was a stone horse head afixed to the side of the house.
Passing the house the track doubled back up to the left before turning right again to cross the head of another gill. Looking east there was a good view of the mysterious stone tower above Thieveshaugh Gill. Finally the track descended alongside a line of grouse butts into the upper reaches of the valley of Ashfold Side Beck.
Dropping down into valley I arrived a junction. Turning left I headed upstream until reaching a fork with a fainter track, I could see from the map that the latter option headed for a small reservoir in Cranberry Gill. As I do like remote sheets of water I first took this fainter path to visit the reservoir. After visiting the latter I then followed the stream emerging from the reservoir back down towards the main path. The heather was quite thick in places and, keeping in mind I was in an area of old mine workings, I was very careful where I put my feet.
Back on the track I continued a short way to reach a gate in the fence. Passing through this I then set about exploring the mine ruins I could see before me. Although I didn’t know it at the time I was looking at the remains of not one but two mines. These were Low Stony Grooves Mine on the south bank of the stream and Merryfield Hole Lead Mine on the north bank of the stream.
Mining activity at the latter apparently goes back as far as the 12th century and, as can be clearly seen, included the process of hushing. The Merryfield Hole Lead Mine also features the remains of a large chimney and in my eagerness to cross the stream and take a look at it I missed the opportunity to continue upstream to the site of the High Stony Groove mine. Information on all three sites can found on the Historic England website.
Having hopped across the stream to take a look at the chimney and a couple of fenced off mine shafts I climbed out of the valley on a strip of grass. Passing some more mining remains at the top I continued north to reach another track. Turning right on this I enjoyed a nice easy stretch of walking on Heathfield Moor. At some prominent spoil heaps I took a track descending to the right of the spoil heaps (these I believe are part of the remains of the Merryfield Lead Mine). Continuing on, the path skirted around a large dip in the ground which contains a pool and which must surely be linked with the mine above.
Eventually I arrived at a gate. The next stage is a little tricky. The track I’d been following continues on down a couple of pastures to link up with the popular bridleway in the valley below. However, this part is not a right of way and nor is this section in access land. I didn’t think it would be a problem as I’d literally be remaining on a well defined track between two areas where access is permitted. However, when I did finally reach the right of way there were signs saying ‘No Public Access’ to the track I’d just been on. This is a real shame as it means that there is no viable route from the mines I’d just visited and one’s I was about to pass through. It is something I aim write to the Nidderdale AONB about.
Slanting down to a footbridge I crossed the beck to have a look at the remains of the Prosperous Lead Mine just to the left. Unlike the mine remains I’d visited earlier in the walk the remains of the Properous and adjacent Providence Lead Mine are well known and a number of information boards are handily placed around the site. From the remains of the smelt mill I climbed steeply up through the spoil heaps to take a quick look at the winding house from the Providence mine. Just above the latter I joined a good track which is part of the Nidderdale Way walk I’d done earlier in the year.
I only stayed briefly on the Nidderdale Way, soon leaving it via a gate on the right to take another track. Initially enclosed this track eventually dropped down into the valley of Brandstone Beck and further lead mining remains. My initial plan had been to head up into Thieveshaugh Gill to visit the tower. However, the earlier sunshine had given way to some quite heavy looking clouds. Keeping in mind the cold temperatures and the fact my car was parked at 400m above sea level I decided not to risk the potential for snow and to leave the tower for another day.
Shortly after the track had crossed Brandstone Beck I took another track doubling back to the left. Following this it soon turned into a metalled road, indeed it is the access road to Laverack House that I’d parked near the top of. Therefore it was a simply case of remaining on this road all the way back to the car, the only difficulty being avoiding the large patches of slippery ice on the steep, narrow road.
This had been a fascinating walk, more so than I’d actually anticipated. The mining remains at Merryfield Hole and Low Groovy Stones certainly exceeded my expectations. For anyone interested in the industrial archaeology of the Dales these sites are a must. I’m kicking myself I didn’t press on to High Groovy Stones and would have liked to get closer to the tower but I can always go back another time.