Langthwaite is one of the Yorkshire Dales' lesser known hamlets in oft-forgotten Arkengarthdale, a few miles north of Reeth. Its name is old norse for 'long meadow or clearing', which seems accurate as the small settlement hugs the beck after the wild moor.
As you arrive over the moor from Reeth you'll first pass by blink-and-you'll-miss-it Arkle Town, a surprisingly big name for such a small place, named when lead mining was an important industry with big ambitions for growth. Do park there in the car park in Langthwaite is a small village and there are no spaces elsewhere!
You may spot the free range hens wandering around - their eggs are sold from a nearby honesty box. The few visitors who do venture into Arkengarthdale (named after Arkle Beck, a tributary of the river Swale) often visit Tan Hill Inn, or CB Inn.
There were once around 300 miners working in Arkengarthdale. The whole dale would have looked and felt very different, alive to the smells and sounds of the dangerous and arduous lead mining industry. Look out for the six-sided powder house, once used to store explosives for use in the lead mines. Its thought that the unusual shape was to make it stand out from the rectangular field barns and symbolise that this was part of a successful and modern business. The lead mining industry flourished for a while but then struggled in the face of cheaper imports until it became uneconomic and the mines closed, leaving their desolate grey ruins behind.
If you drive on from Langthwaite towards Low Row you'll come to two interesting sites. The first is instantly recognisable to fans of All Creatures Great and Small - the 'water splash' which James Herriot and Siegfried Farnon drive over in the television series. After that come the less romantic ruins of Surrender Lead Smelting Mill. You can still see the long horizontal chimney and wander around the ruins where two interpretation panels explain its operation - it was in use until 1880. It's incredible to imagine that once men would have worked here, feeding a furnace that reached 700 degrees, slogging away in shifts that lasted up to fourteen hours a day. And then they'd have to wearily walk their way home across the moor...
James Herriot fans of a certain vintage (mine) are more likely to make a pilgrimage in memory of cosy Sunday nights watching the TV series of All Creatures Great and Small. You'll perhaps recognise the bridge over the Arkle from the opening sequence, and the small Red Lion pub also featured in several episodes. It's a traditional pub with cosy, dark rooms and serves simple food and local beers.
Back across the bridge on the other side of the road is a small village green, with an old horse waggon from when lead mining was at its peak. From here you can choose the walk up on to the moor or continue to the other end of the village, minutes away.
The solid-looking Wesleyan Chapel built in 1883 looks out across the Dale. You might think that for one small village that one chapel would suffice, and yet a little further along the lane is St. Mary's Church, beautiful and surprisingly large. It was one of the so-called 'commissioners' churches' which the government encouraged to be built. They had become aware that there were not enough spaces in churches to house the many people who had moved to work in the new industries such as lead mining, and after the French revolution were nervous that if people were not influenced by the teachings of the Church they may rebel against authority. In the graveyard is an unusual iron grave-marker for Thomas Barningham who owned an iron foundry that was once among the largest in the world.