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Semer Water seen from the path above the marshland nature reserve at the inlet to the lake
Semer Water seen from the path above the marshland nature reserve at the inlet to the lake

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Route No. 480 - Thursday 26 July 2012
Marsett, Stalling Busk, Semer Water,
Countersett, (Cam High Road), circuit - 8km
Raydale, Wensleydale . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales Northern & Central areas


Starting out from Marsett
Starting out from Marsett

Following the track along side Bardale Beck
Overtaken by younger legs following the track along side Bardale Beck

Footbridge over a small stream
Footbridge over a small stream

When we arrived it was already raining quite hard! We parked off the road near Bardale Beck at map ref. SD902862, and set off heading eastwards in the rain on a track beside Bardale Beck. Parts of the track were flooded but there was a path on the grass beside the track and we continued along the track to cross a concrete ford over Raydale Beck at map ref. SD908859.

The weather forecast for today was for a cloudy overcast day over the Yorkshire Dales but no rain so my mate, Jim, and I drove up Wensleydale to Marsett in Raydale upstream of Semer Water to meet Ray, a friend of ours, who has contributed numerous interesting routes to this web site.

Stone barn beside the track
Stone barn beside the track

The beck on the left, flooded track on the right
The beck on the left, flooded track on the right


Concrete ford over Raydale Beck

Climbing the track up to Stalling Busk
Climbing the track up to Stalling Busk

The road through Stalling Busk
The road through Stalling Busk

We walked along the road past the church, a fairly modern building, and after about 100m we turned left off the road onto a path back down the steep hillside.

About 200m after the ford the track was enclosed between two walls and began to climb steeply for about 500m until we reached the tiny village of Stalling Busk.

St Mathews, the present day parish church at Stalling Busk
St Mathews, the present day parish church at Stalling Busk

Path down the hillside from Stalling Busk
Path down the hillside from Stalling Busk

Looking back to Stalling Busk as we started down the hillside
Looking back to Stalling Busk as we started down the hillside

Approaching the ruined church
Approaching the ruined church

Graves by the ruined Stalling Busk church
Graves by the ruined Stalling Busk church

Start of the nature reserve adjoining Semer Water
Start of the nature reserve adjoining Semer Water

A large area of marshland here adjoining the lake is a nature reserve managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. We continued along the track around the side of the lake to the road at map ref. SD923872 opposite Low Blean farm.

We followed the path down the hillside to the site of the old ruined Stalling Busk church at map ref. SD916862. From the ruined church we followed the path along the hillside above Crooks Beck, the main feeder stream to Semer Water.

The ruined Stalling Busk church
The ruined Stalling Busk church

 

Path above the nature reserve next to the lake
Path above the nature reserve next to the lake

Reaching the road opposite Low Blean farm
Reaching the road opposite Low Blean farm

Cranesbill & meadow sweet by the road
Cranesbill & meadow sweet by the road

Heading for the Carlow Stone on the lakeside
Heading for the Carlow Stone on the lakeside

Seat where Turner sketched the lake in 1816
Seat where Turner sketched the lake in 1816

The gravel beach on the lakeside is a car park but the modest fee of £2.50 per day is payable at Low Blean farm about 400m away. On the roadside opposite the Carlow Stone is a little walled enclosure around some steps up to a seat with a view over the lake. This has been completed recently to commemorate the tour of North Yorkshire made by the artist Turner in 1816 to sketch the natural wonders of the place including Semer Water. The rain had stopped now and we sat on the seat for our lunch and a couple of cheeky chaffinches came to clear up our crumbs.

Here we turned left to walk along the road to a small gravel beach area on the edge of the lake next to the road at map ref. SD921875. Here next to the road is a large boulder called the Carlow Stone and at the water's edge there are two boulders next to each other called the Mermaid Stones. All three are glacial erratics dropped here as the ice melted and the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age.

The lakeside car park
The lakeside car park

Chaffinch hoping to share our lunch
Chaffinch hoping to share our lunch

The Mermaid Stones on the edge of Semer Water
The Mermaid Stones on the edge of Semer Water

The Carlow Stone, a glacial erratic on the shore of Semer Water
The Carlow Stone, a glacial erratic on the shore of Semer Water

Bridge over the River Bain at the outlet to Semer Water
Bridge over the River Bain at the outlet to Semer Water

Looking back over Semer Water
Looking back over Semer Water

From the village we continued up the hillside along the road towards Burtersett for about 600m to a sharp bend at map ref. SD912878. Here we turned left off the road to follow a grassy track, a public bridleway, climbing up the hillside.

After our break we began the long climb up the hillside. First we followed the road across the River Bain, the outlet to the lake and continued up the hill to the edge of Countersett.

Meadow sweet & other flowers on the roadside
Meadow sweet & other flowers on the roadside

Leaving the road for a grassy track up the hillside
Leaving the road for a grassy track up the hillside

Looking up Raydale in the rain on this gloomy day
Looking up Raydale in the rain on this gloomy day

Crossing a marshy area
Crossing a marshy area

The track up to the moor top
The track up to the moor top

The track along the moor top
The track along the moor top

The track along the moor top
The track along the moor top

Along the moor top we were only a few hundred metres from the Cam High Road to the northwest. It's a Roman road that went from the Roman fort at Bainbridge to the Roman fort at Lancaster. We continued along the moor top for another 700m to map ref. SD896873, where we met a path that goes between Burtersett and Marsett. The word ending 'sett' is an old Norse word for pasture, and in the case of these villages it's preceded by the name of the Viking owner of the land.

We crossed a marshy area and followed the track around the top of a woodland plantation and below some crags and after about 700m from the road we reach the moor top over looking Raydale. It's a climb of about 250m (around 800ft) from the lake shore to the moor top.

The track up to the moor top
The track up to the moor top

The track up to the moor top
The track up to the moor top

View over Semer Water from the moor top
View over Semer Water from the moor top

Finger post where we met the path from Burtersett
Finger post where we met the path from Burtersett

Looking across Raydale from the path down the hillside
Looking across Raydale from the path down the hillside

Beginning the descent to Marsett
Beginning the descent to Marsett

Young dairy cattle by the path
Young dairy cattle by the path

Farm track down to Marsett
Farm track down to Marsett

At the road we turned right to our parking spot in Marsett and the end of our walk. We drove back into Leyburn for a coffee and bacon roll before driving home. Not a bad day despite the weather.

We turned left here to follow the path from Burtersett down the steep hillside towards Marsett for about 1km to a farm track at map ref. SD901863. We followed this track for about 200m to the road.

Heading down the hillside to Marsett
Heading down the hillside to Marsett

Almost down to Marsett, it's a long descent
Almost down to Marsett, it's a long descent

Mixed bag of horses at Marsett
Mixed bag of horses at Marsett

Back at our parking spot in Marsett next to Bardale Beck
Back at our parking spot in Marsett next to Bardale Beck

Background Notes:
This walk is an 8km, that's 5 Mile circuit of Semer Water in Raydale, a branch off Wensleydale. We start from the village of Marsett. There's been a settlement here since Viking times and several villages in Wensleydale end in 'sett', an old Norse word meaning pasture, and the first part of the name is usually the Viking who owned the land. From Marsett we make our way along a track following Bardale Beck and then climbing up the hillside to the village of Stalling Busk. The track comes into the village opposite the parish church of St Matthew built in 1909 to a modern style after the Arts and Crafts movement of the day. Quite an unusual church building and worth a visit. About 100m past the church we turn back down the hillside and at the bottom we come to the ruins of the former Stalling Busk church. It was in use until the beginning of the 1900's when the new curch was built in the village. There had been a church on this site since the early 1600's. We follow a path from the ruins to Semer Water and as we approach the lake there is a wetland nature reserve on the flat marshy land at the inlet to the lake. The site is managed by the Yorkshire Wild Life Trust, and you will need your binoculars to watch the wildfowl at the lake edge from the path as the site itself is not accessible. We continue around the edge of the lake to the road and follow the road to a gravel beach area near the outlet to the lake. At this beach next to the road is a large boulder called the Carlow Stone and at the water's edge there are two more large boulders called the Mermaid Stones. All three are glacial erratics, that's boulders picked up by the advancing ice of a glacier and then dropped miles away from their starting point when the ice retreated at the end of the ice age. Semer Water itself is a glacial lake gouged out by the glacier. The whole valley was flooded by glacial melt water when Raydale was dammed off from Wensleydale by glacial debris. Over the years this dam was erroded away and the lake reduced to its present size. Archeologists have found evidence of settlements around the lake from neolithic times, through the bronze age and into the iron age with the remains of iron age houses on stilts around the water's edge. There's a fanciful legend that there was once a town where the lake is and one stormy night a beggar was refuse help by the towns people. A humble couple took him into their cottage on the outskirts and the following morning as he left the beggar cursed the town condemning it to be drowned in a flood, and so it was! Personally I prefer the glacial explanation. On the opposite side of the road to the beach is a seat on a bank with a view over the lake. The seat is one of a series that have been placed where it is believed that Turner made his sketches, including the lake, during his sketching tour of North Yorkshire in the early 1800's. From the lake we make a big climb, about 250m, 800ft, from the lakeside up to the moor top almost to the Cam High Road. That's a Roman road that ran from the Roman fort at Bainbridge, via Ingleton, to the Roman fort at Lancaster. We follow the moor top to a footpath that crosses the moor from Burtersett to Marsett. This part of the route all the way from the lake edge has lovely views over Raydale and across to Aldbrough, a distinctively shaped hill across the valley. We take the path coming from Burtersett straight down the steep hillside back to Marsett and the end of our walk for this week.

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