Thursday, 1 November 2012

Settle to Ribblehead 28/07/12

This day's walk came about as I had a rejiggering of my walk schedule, as I had intended to join the FOSCL group for a walk from Dent to Ribblehead in August but changed my plan to attending this one as I figured that it would get in more useful territory for future reference, and would also start to stitch together my Dales walks with my other wanderings closer to home. It was first competitive day of the London Olympics too, and I had no real desire to veg away in front of the TV with that. Not that I'm one of those natural complainers who were all 'Boo! Waste of Taxpayer's Money!' before the thing had even gotten started, I'd consider myself more 'sporting disengaged' and had no desire to get suckered in like I did with the Beijing Olympics when I had a lot of time to fill between episodes of painting during 2008's flat redecorating.

Settle to Ribblehead. 14.7 miles

To Settle at 9.50am, and giving my leaky boots one last turn as I don't think my new ones should get their breaking-in trip in the Dales, and for a moment the party, of more than 20, wonders if our guides have failed to turn up. No, they're here, A&R just running a bit late due to important gear having been forgotten, so off we all go through the narrow streets and open carparks of Settle to the Market Square as I realise that this walk will not be following the path I had anticipated for, I'd guessed we'd be hitting the Ribble way path for long stretches, but it seems that we are destined for a lot more ups and downs than that. First ascent is the haul up the path towards Langcliffe Scar, and that pain of that initial haul is tempered by the knowledge that we won't be hitting the grass slope up to Attermire. Soon enough, we're on the high path to check out weather that looks changeable, at best, and to observe that several of our group appear to be in their 30s, I might not be the youngest in the group today! Once we've started to get used to the elevated sights of Ribblesdale, it's downhill we go again, into the village of Langcliffe, noted for its teashop and book stall, apparently.

The Hoffmann Kiln, Stainforth
From there, it's over the fields to the path alongside the railway line, and it looks like the Gricers are out as men set up cameras from vantage points above the tracks to await the arrival of a steam special, due to arrive soonish, they claim. No opportunity to hang around though, we have to press on to one of the best hidden sites found so far, the Craven Lime works with its massive Hoffman Kiln, a structure so large it is almost impossible to photograph, built in 1873 and with 22 firing chambers, this is one serious bit of industrial kit, operational in lime production until 1931 and now you can wander inside and enjoy it as a dark place. It's an industrial remnant that deserves further exploration, as is the whole site, but we only have time to wander up the tramway route before hitting the fields again, heading towards Stainforth, and I talk kit with R, as she knows where to find the bargains and what I should purchase for the winter (thermals and waterproofs, she says) and I get enthusiastic about bagging a steal on new boots, I just hope that fit properly. In the village, it's time to water-stop, and the steam train chooses this moment to pass by, conveniently hidden in the cutting above Stainforth tunnel, so no pics are scored and annoyingly it was 46233 'Duchess of Sutherland', which I've never seen on the main line.

Long Lane, and Pen-y-ghent
Ascent no. 2 on the day starts as we join the section of the Ribble Way that runs nowhere near the river and it's 150 metres of up we go, observing the peaks of Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent as they emerge, with the spiky crags of Smearsett and Moughton closer on the west side of the valley. We look like we're heading out into open moorland and marshiness to moisten my boots, until we reach Moor Head Lane for 90 metres of descent and just as I think we'll be taking the path walked a decade earlier down to Helwith Bridge, we hit Long Lane for 140 metres of more ascent. Make no mistake, this rough track is a drag and a half, and when we encounter a 4x4 heading up behind us we all think 'That's the way to do it' until we see the passenger is holding a baby in her arms and looks of horror at possible disaster cross many faces. Just as I think we might be heading up to summit Pen-y-ghent we hit the path down to the bunk house at Dub Cote, and the road to the collection of farmsteads at Brackenbottom. 170 metres of descent down to Horton in Ribblesdale, and it's nice to see this part of the world when it isn't raining like it was six weeks previously, and wandering up through the village you get the feeling that the better part of the day might have passed and also start to wonder where we might be stopping for lunch. A doesn't want to stop in the village to eat, so we carry on to a wall above the railway station where we can eat and look on as the valley starts to grey out.

Sulber Nick, and Simon Fell
Grim weather is always a possibility in Ribblesdale, and waterproofs are necessary as we start the long walk up (Ascent no.3) to Sulber and the group spreads out, occasionally looking back to see Pen-y-ghent disappearing beneath the rainclouds. Rough limestone walking isn't a lot of fun in the rain, far too damn slippery, but once you've ascended 100 metres, you reach the plateau with the long groove of Sulber Nick and the path becomes level and easily walkable. The group has stretched out so much that I feel like I'm walking on my own, and as clouds part and sunshine pours down, I feel like I'm grinning like an idiot and that's why my cheerful visage can be seen at the top right of this page. Gather up the group again beneath the cloud shrouded Simon Fell and thankfully we're not going further towards Ingleborough, and instead we start the long walk down to Selside, again not the most interesting of stretches but made more challenging when it starts to rain really hard and the opportunity to put on the waterproof trews isn't even available as I'm soaked through in seconds. Having passed Borrins farm, and the rain stopped, it's a damp trudge up to the path that leads to Alum Pot, and I hope that if it doesn't rain again, the breeze and air temperature might just get me dry.

Borrins Farm
Slide down the bare limestone path to Selside observing the cavers going the other way, and there's a hobby that is outright lunacy! Selside is the home of the University of Leeds Pennine Hut, and the location of my very first Dales walk back in 2000, there's not space to recount that tale here but will share it with R and anyone else who'll listen, as we hit the final ascent of the day up Selside Shaw and my improved walking stamina is observed. Steps are retraced from 12 years previously to go up through the scarp at Bent Hill Rigg and some of the group hit the jets in hope of getting the earlier train at Ribblehead. The rest of us amble along having reached the high path that leads to Colt Park, and beyond there the vista of Ribblehead opens up, dominated by Whernside, with the grassy lump of Park Fell behind us and the Blea Moor / Cam Fell areas out west. With the sun out again, the massive Ribblehead viaduct looks very small from up here, but that doesn't stop the rail enthusiasts from starting to photograph it extensively. Through Gauber High Pasture we go, down into the Limestone pavement, so A can lead us to the last hidden relic of the day, a long house and farmstead of supposedly Viking vintage, because among limestone clints is the best place to do your farming.

Ribblehead Viaduct, from the Station Inn
Descending from here is much easier now that Ribblehead quarry is closed, and you don't have to negotiate and trespass an active site, it's much easier to follow the nature trail / mountain bike path down as I try to find a spot to photograph myself with all of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. From the access road it's a short walk under the railway to the Station Inn to conclude at 4.40pm with a celebratory pint of Black Sheep, and the boozer is so crowded, I have to take my seat outside, and would you believe Polish bar staff can be found even this far out? I'm not complaining if they know how to pull a pint, though. See our leaders depart in their car, leaving the rest of us to await the train at 5.40pm, so I've plenty of time to wander both ways along Low Sleights Road to photograph the viaduct, but the truth is that the best view of it is from the window of the Station Inn's gent's toilet!

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 287.9 miles

Hanging up my boots: So that's the last hurrah for my second pair of walking boots, and for someone who can put a date to nearly all my life-events, I have no idea when I bought them so can't age them as I put them into retirement. I don't remember when they replaced my first pair, worn out after a lot of winter walks to work in the early 2000s, and I guess it must have been '05 or '06, and I got them from the Hawkshead store in Skipton, and they've done at least 400 miles over the years since. Now they are too leaky to continue and are only good enough for the dustbin, so it's goodbye to Suede and Mesh, and hello to All Leather!

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