Swale Way: Richmond to Reeth

Little White Bus in Richmond

This walk report was first published on the Swale Way website.

It’s not the most obvious section of the Swale Way to start with – unless you consider the public transport options, the proximity to home and the amount of daylight hours I have to work with at the moment – so I decided to start my research with the section between Richmond and Reeth.

I’ve walked between these two towns three times in the past, as part of my Coast to Coast crossings in 2006, 2009 and 2011 – but on those occasions I was walking mostly on the other side of the Swale, following completely different paths. When the C2C was written, many of the paths I used today were not available to walkers, so almost every part of this section is new to me – and what a revelation it was!

I parked the car in Reeth and caught the Little White Bus from there to Richmond, arriving around 9am and without any delay I wandered down to the river, to begin the 12 mile walk back to the car. The riverside path is lovely and would be even more so in a couple of weeks when the daffodils are in bloom and the trees begin to leaf properly. There are some impressive crags beside the path as it rises gently away from the river, before falling gently again, back to meet it. For the first couple of miles I was never far from the Swale – wide and slow-moving at this point, but Dippers and Grey Wagtails (a strange name for a yellow bird I’ve always thought) are to be seen and if you’re incredibly lucky, the otters (or more likely, their sign) that have returned to the river recently.

Following the MOD Permissive Path

The climb up towards the village of Hudswell is achieved using a long series of concrete steps – and when I say long, I mean long – they never seemed to stop. If you can reach the top without looking back to admire the view then you’re doing better than I did! Beyond the steps is a section of Permissive Path, opened by the Ministry of Defence, across their land and this is a lovely section of open grassland and easy moorland.

This is followed, with ever more impressive views down into Swaledale, as far as Downholme. I arrived at lunch time, which was perfect as the Bolton Arms opens at 11:30 (until 3pm) so should be open for most Swale Way walkers coming through.

I stopped for a while and chatted with a lady from Hudswell who was out walking two dogs, neither of which were hers, but were acting as training companions, getting her ready for a partial crossing of Wainwright’s C2C later in the summer. Good luck Annie, hope you have a great time on that walk!

If I thought the MOD path was lovely, the next section from Downholme to Grinton was just sublime. The path skirts the MOD danger area, this time on a public right of way – but the views are even more inspiring and the terrain over which I was walking was wonderful. It doesn’t look like much on the map, but the moor is wide and open and the path is clear and mostly dry, even after the recent rain and there are plenty of places to sit and admire the views.

I negotiated a deep, tricky gill and then found myself confused by the OS map outside Grinton, where the right of way marked did not match the layout of stiles on the ground, but I made notes (so future walkers will not face the same issue) and walked down into Grinton. The Bridge Inn was also open (two pubs in one section!!) but I had my eyes set on the car in Reeth and a sit down. My note taking and photography stops had made for a long day and it was getting late – the light was going, not least because of the clouds above and the light rain that had begun as I approached Grinton.

The walk had been great – a complete surprise – a fine mix of riverside paths, woodlands, open moors and gentle pastures. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

4 thoughts on “Swale Way: Richmond to Reeth”

  1. Stuart, Sounds like a lovely day you had. Reminds me of a similarly nice walk I had a few years ago when I travelled up from London to pick up a pair of hiking boots from the Alt-berg factory on the outskirts of Richmond. I used the occasion to walk from Richmond to Reeth on the north side of the Swale and, after overnighting in Reeth, returning to Richmond on the south side of the river along the Swale Way. I must walk the whole Way one of these days. Thanks!

  2. Hi Stuart. An interesting section of the walk. I’ll give it a go the next time that I’m based in Hawes with my caravan. Are there any restrictions on the permissive route from Hudswell to Downholme when the Army might be on manouveres? Brian

    1. None that I saw Brian – couple of information boards, but nothing that mentioned closures and no flag poles or anything like that before Downholme. Beyond Downholme before you climb up to skirt the Danger Area there’s a flag pole which could fly a red flag – but you’re not crossing the area, just skirting it, so even then I don’t think it would prevent anyone using it – that section is a PRoW too. It’s a lovely walk – well worth a visit

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