SEMER Water is one of only two natural lakes in the Yorkshire Dales, the other being Malham Tarn. Semer Water is less well known, tucked away on a side dale to the south of Bainbridge in Wensleydale. It is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Semer Water is little over a mile from the pretty village of Bainbridge. There is limited parking down the steep hill from Countersett which makes a good place to start the walk. The parking is next to a small beach, a lovely spot sometimes used as a launching pad for some organised child activities.

The walk heads along the road to Low Blean Farm and the path that heads due south from here towards Stalling Busk. The path winds its way through Semerwater Nature Reserve. Oyster catchers, snipe and curlew are just some of the birds that you may see, while the open water supports the unusual yellow water lily.

The only other natural lake in the Yorkshire Dales is Malham Tarn (similar sized) and that has been artificially raised, while Semer Water was formed naturally at the end of the last ice age when fluvial deposits filled the outflow creating the lake. Be aware though, after heavy rains this section of the walk can become very wet and the lake rises surprisingly quickly.

The path continues beyond the southern end of Semer Water until it reaches an old ruined chapel and graveyard, the chapel built in 1772. Take the left hand path here which climbs in to the pretty little hamlet of Stalling Busk. A pretty church, St Matthews, lies in its centre, this one in much better condition. Stalling Busk marks the end of the road in the valley (which has run along 100 metres above the path).

From the church head west down a steep track towards Crooks Beck (one of the two rivers which feeds Semer Water), two footbridges leading towards the hamlet of Marsett. Marsett is a collection of holiday cottages and two farms.

It is in Marsett that there is a choice of route back to the start. The best route in bad weather is via the road which follows the north west shores of Semer Water. In good weather take the steep climb up the hillside to the shoulder of Wether Hill. To find the path cross the bridge in Marsett and then take the farm track west, but after 200 metres and before it becomes steep, take the footpath to your right for a short sharp climb.

The reward for the steep climb is wonderful views across Raydale towards the distinctive, flat topped peak of Addleborough. Semer Water is revealed in all its glory, nestling, tear dropped shaped, in the valley bottom. The path reaches a bridleway on the broad moorland ridge, turn right and follow this for one mile to the quiet road above Countersett. From Countersett drop down the road to your car.

Fact Box:

Distance: Low Level 4 miles, High Level 5 ½ miles.

Height to Climb: 350m (1,150 feet) on the high route. 100m (330 feet) on the Low Level Route

Start: SE 922875. There is a small car park near the beach.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

Refreshments: There is a café and pub in Bainbridge, 1 ½ miles away.

Be prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL30) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk. Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

Jonathan runs Where2walk, a walking company based in the Yorkshire Dales:

• He has published 3 books on walking in the Dales; ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’, ‘The Dales 30’ mountains and the ‘Walks without Stiles’ book. All these books (and more) are available direct from the Where2walk website.

• Book a Navigation (Map and Compass Skills) Training day near Settle or a bespoke day for a private group. The first available day is March 23rd.

• Join our “Dales 30 Weekenders” in Hawes & Sedbergh. also features 100’s of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.