I’m lucky enough to remember lapping up weeks of sun in the Yorkshire Dales during the sweltering summer of 1976. Those days of my early 20s, when I was still enjoying life to the full, came to mind last Sunday.
Conditions during those long, dry summer days of 40 years ago couldn’t have been more different. In the greyness of the morning I photographed the flooded Ribble at Langcliffe. It cascaded over the weir where surrounding fields were soaking up unusually heavy August rain from further up Ribblesdale.
Thankfully, a brighter day followed and I was able to take my only walk of the week in the Dales. I parked at St Leonard’s in Chapel-le-Dale, pottering about around Hurtle Pot before heading up the rough track to Ellerbeck Farm and circling back.
The sun struggles to find a way through the tree canopy along this way, and Nature has created a strange little world here. The limestone outcrops are covered in a carpet of mosses and lichens; ferns and other shade-preferring plants thrive in the crevices.
A surprising statue jumps out of the shrubs – the plaque says: ‘For years a statue stood on this spot. It was vandalised on Saturday August 27th 1983 and subsequently found in 30 feet of water at the bottom of Hurtle Pot. An enthusiastic team of divers made the recovery and it has been erected again as found. It was the creation of the late Charles I’Anson the well known sculptor and artist. Time will tell if the spirit of the Boggard of Hurtle Pot is now enshrined in the statue.’
Not wishing to hang around to find out, I moved quickly on. The track opens out beneath the mass of Whernside into a landscape of wild boggy fell which had acted like a sponge during the previous day’s downpour. The limestone outcrops which break up the bogland provide some excellent foregrounds for photos (first pic in post).
Great views up and down the Dales appear as you gain height. Beyond Ribblehead Viaduct I could clearly see the old Roman Road heading up Cam. It’s creamy surface, laid to take wagons for wood clearance, creates an open scar on the hillside. Hopefully it will soon blend into the surroundings.
I could also pick out the path restoration work being carried out up Ingleborough. There were plenty of folk attempting the Three Peaks and I hope they all contribute to the route’s upkeep – http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk
Printed in the first Dalesman magazine (April 1939) is this little snippet describing an early Three Peaks walk – certainly not the route walkers would normally take today but an interesting one-way trek from Dent to Kilnsey. A J Brown was a popular walking-book writer between the 1920s and 1950s. Striding Through Yorkshire, written in 1938, was one of his most popular books and can be picked up for a song on Amazon, Ebay or second-hand bookshops. He was a prolific walker – his book, Four Boon Fellows – a Yorkshire Tramping Odyssey (1928), was about a 100-mile walk he did one Easter weekend from Barnard Castle to Ilkley.
I’m not sure how far Brown’s Three Peak walk was – my guess is between 35-40 miles depending on the exact route. Not bad for a day’s trek which included three of Yorkshire’s highest mountains (and two pubs). Interestingly, the route took in Weathercote Cave. I visited neighbouring Hurtle Pot (pictured) on Monday, close to the Ribblehead Viaduct Navvies church of St Leonard’s in Chapel-le-Dale. Nowadays Weathercote Cave, just a few hundred yards north of Hurtle Pot, following the mysterious disappearing Chapel Beck, can only be visited by gaining permission from the landowner.
In days gone by Weathercote Cave was a major tourist attraction – visitors paid to view the spectacle, described as follows by Victorian writer Harry Speight: ‘The rocks here ascend to a vertical height of 108 feet, and the water is seen leaping from a large cavity 33 feet below the surface, and, expanding into a misty sheet of bright dissolving particles, drops 75 feet below with such tremendous violence into the stony whirlpool at our feet, that the noise and reverberation of the clashing waters render conversation an impossibility.’
The painter Turner visited the cave several times and it has been described as one of the wonders of England, especially when the beck is in full spate. However, the place was closed to the public in 1971 following the death of a visitor.
If you can’t obtain permission then the next best way to see Weathercote Cave is to visit http://oldfieldslimestone.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-darling-of-early-tourists-cave-this.html
Back to A J Brown – I was reminded of him at Bill Mitchell’s funeral when one of Brown’s poem’s was mentioned. Anyone who loves the Dales will relate to Brown’s sentiments. Here is the full verse: There must be dales in Paradise or what would a dalesman do? There must be dales in Paradise to wander through and through Bold Pen-y-gent and stern Whernside are wondrous fair to see And bonny Dentdale’s sunny slopes are paradise for me. To feel the rhythm of the pace that wanders far and free! To stride rough pastures of Cam Fell and Langstrothdale so fair! On steps above Wharfe’s waters bright to breath the moorland air Is nectar to tired townsmen who the asphalt deserts flee. But when we’ve done with wandering amongst these well loved hills. When Earth has loosed its hold on us, its blessings and its ills. We’ll find familiar pathways as we reach fair Zion’s strand. And our feet will know the blessings of that beauteous Beulah Land.