A short, simple walk in the valley of Snaizeholme to the visit and spend some time with the delightful local population of red squirrels.
|Parking:||Cattle grid, Snaizeholme Road|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
The Red Squirrel Trail is a short way-marked walk in the valley of Snaizeholme, a side valley of Widdale which itself is one of the lesser dales joining Wensleydale. The walk visits a designated viewing point for a colony of red squirrels that have successfully made a home for themselves in the wooded valley.
The official start of the trail is half a mile up the narrow road heading up the valley. Parking is very limited. There are a few parking spaces outside the house at Mirk Pot but these need to be pre-booked via the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre in Hawes. An alternative is to use a bus service from Hawes which drops passengers off at the top of the trail.
"Soon enough the first red squirrel arrived. They are utterly charming creatures and, being almost semi-tame, quite fearless of humans."
On this occasion I took a third option which was to park the car on the other side of the cattle grid at the foot of the road. Although signs warn against parking on the roadside there is ample room to park several cars at this point and is surely preferable to taking a car further up the road. It does add almost a mile to the walk but since it is such a short walk anyway this shouldn't be a problem for most people.
Having walked up the road to the drive leading steeply down to Mirk Pot we descended through the woods. Just after passing Mirk Pot we spotted our first red squirrel of the day. Further down the path levelled out as we turned right for a pleasant walk through the woods.
After quarter of a mile we emerged into a more open area featuring a cottage with a memorial stone propped up on the outside wall. Nearby is a white statue facing the fellside opposite. Since my last visit here two years ago I've always thought of this statue as the 'Snaizeholme Jesus'. Following the path around the outside of the wood we then passed through a gate to arrive at a signpost for the designated viewing area.
On my first visit to see the red squirrels another photographer was feeding the squirrels. They proved so tame and inquisitive that I spent almost hour and a half enjoying their company. This time I brought some nuts with me. It should be noted that there are signs asking people not to feed the squirrels. The sign is largely in vain. Both the couple already there when we arrived and the three couples who arrived after us also all brought food.
At first though there was no sign of the squirrels, there were however a few pheasants and a number of very busy coal tits foraging. Needless to say the pheasants and coal tits know that this is an area where they can get food.
Soon enough the first red squirrel arrived. They are utterly charming creatures and, being almost semi-tame, quite fearless of humans. Indeed as I lay on the ground trying to take pictures one ran halfway up my leg to see if I had anything of interest. Another went rummaging around the top of our rucksack to see if it could find any food.
My first encounter with the red squirrels was so special I knew I had to take my wife to meet them. It had taken a couple of years but finally I'd managed it and she loved every moment.
After about 45 minutes more and more people were arriving so we finally decided to move on. Rather than going back the way we'd come we continued on the waymarked trail heading further up the valley. After passing the shore of Olav's Lake, below the cottage at West Field, we passed another remote house at Crook. Not long afterwards we finally left the woods to reach the farm at Stone Gill Foot.
From the house we climbed up the farm's drive to reach the rough road above. Turning right on this it was then a simple walk of just over a mile back to the car. Along the way there were some good views of this quiet little valley.
For more information about the Red Squirrel Trail please visit the Yorkshire Dales National Park website.