Nearly 70 people took advantage of the opportunity to visit the four parish churches in Swaledale with Arkengarthdale when the parish held an open day recently. Visitors were welcomed with tea (and coffee) and buns (and biscuits and cakes and scones)and shown around the churches, ranging from the mighty St Andrew's, the "cathedral of the dale", at Grinton, to the small and simple Holy Trinity at Low Row. The two St Mary's, one in Arkengarthdale and the other in Muker, made up the foursome.
From the oldest (St Andrew's dating from the twelfth century ) to the newest (Holy Trinity was consecrated in 1841), all the churches have had recent improvements, restorations or developments to show their visitors. The least visible of these is the two additional new bells at Grinton, giving the church a full ring of eight bells for the first time in its history. They may not normally be visible but their presence can certainly be heard up Swaledale and into Arkengarthdale when the wind is in the right direction.
Windows are a perennial problem in old churches and visitors were able to see the work that has been done at both Low Row and Arkengarthdale to repair and restore the diamond paned windows so leaks and draughts are minimised and the churches are maintained for future generations.
If a stroll up and down the church aisles didn't provide enough exercise, the churches had put together a series of walks so visitors could ramble from one church to another, following the detailed route instructions and the maps provided. The really energetic could cover the length of the parish, visit all four churches, hike an impressive 16 miles and get a lift back with the vicar, Rev'd Caroline Hewlett. No one actually did that but there were some who walked from one church to another and back on a different route.
After visiting Grinton, someone who had walked from Reeth up to Arkengarthdale was planning to walk to Low Row and then back to Reeth. He was very pleased to accept a lift from the couple who were driving over to Low Row next on their travels.
Churchwarden Elizabeth Bedford said "The day was a really good example of rural mission at work. It was great to welcome so many visitors, lots of whom came from quite far afield, and they were fascinated to see and hear about all the work that goes on in a rural parish."