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Kings Arms, Askrigg

Yorkshire Dales, England

Hidden gems in the Yorkshire Dales

Posted by Luci Ackers on Mar 11, 2016
Lake in the Yorkshire Dales
Lake in the Yorkshire Dales

Semerwater is one of the largest natural lakes in North Yorkshire and is thought to have been formed around 10,000 years ago following mass movement from the glaciers that formed the Dales. It lies just south west of Askrigg in Raydale and attracts a lot of nature lovers.

The lake is unspoilt and non commercialised, so it supports a great variety of wildlife and is especially good for bird watching. It's a quiet place and one of only a few lakes in the Yorkshire Dales, making it an attractive haven for a whole range of different birdlife.

If you fancy stretching your legs and breathing in some of that fresh Yorkshire air, why not take a walk across the fields and over to Semerwater? From Askrigg the journey is roughly four miles and makes for a good stroll. A Site of Special Scientific Interest since the 70s, Semerwater is cared for by the Wildlife Trusts and provides and excellent walking destination. You can sit and enjoy the views, watch the wildlife or the occasional fisherman or canoeist who may be visiting, and enjoy a picnic amongst the peaceful surroundings. If it's a nice day and dry conditions follow the river from Bainbridge for a pleasant walk. However if it has been wet it is more advisable to take the Roman road as the river can flood.

At the lake you can expect to see an extensive range of habitat from open water and marsh areas to ash woodland in the drier parts. The sandy shore supports the growth of needle spikerush and sedge, and provides a great feeding zone for waders and ducks, while swamp species like yellow water lily flourish further out.

So well positioned is this peaceful lake that it was actually the setting for one of JMW Turner's famous paintings. The view inspired first a number of pencil sketches and then the recognisable watercolour 'Simmer Lake, near Askrigg' that resides in the British Museum. If you keep your eyes open you will happen upon the exact spot that Turner sat in 1816 to begin his sketch. At the north-eastern side of the lake a small garden has been created on the spot, with a sign explaining who was there.

Because the lake is so well established, and is one of very few in the area, there are naturally a couple of legends surrounding its origins. The most famous tale describes how the lake covers the remains of what was once a town. A shunned hermit who was seeking food is supposed to have cursed the lake to rise and swallow all but one of the houses when no one would help him. Legends aside, there is a lot of history in the area. Keep your eyes open for the crumbling ruins of the old chapel of Stalling Busk nearby. Or walk in the footsteps of the Romans along the old Roman road, now Cam High Road.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

2 Comments related to this article
Brian Milne 31 May 2017
Are any of the walking routes suitable for cycling
Luci Ackers 31 May 2017

Hi Brian, thanks for the comment. I have some great info for cyclists staying at Kings Arms so I'm going to send you a private email with it all!

All the best

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