There’s barely a day goes by when the Three Peaks or the Settle-Carlisle Railway don’t crop up in conversation around this part of Ribblesdale. In the last seven days we’ve seen a massive influx of folk from all over the country head our way to watch Flying Scotsman – which apparently is a ‘she’, not a ‘he’ (I blame the confusion on kilts) – travel up the line to celebrate the reopening of the stretch between Appleby and Carlisle.
The old ‘girl’ certainly has pulling power, not only in the physical sense … just how many people lined the whole route from Oxenhope, where it started the journey on the Keighley & Worth Valley line, to Carlisle I can’t imagine. I got a photo as it passed Langcliffe in the morning, then I joined hundreds of people at Ribblehead Viaduct for the evening return beneath Whernside.
Earlier in the week I took a quieter (and less expensive) train for a day in Appleby. There are some pleasant easy walks around the town beside the River Eden, lovely churches and buildings, but it was a shame the castle gardens were not open on such a lovely day.
On the train I ear-wigged a conversation between three young walkers (young to me being under 40) who were chatting about the Three Peaks walk which they were now thinking of taking on after seeing the view through the windows. They were talking about Three Peaks ‘rules’ – which I thought was a shame really … ‘You’ve got to do the ‘official’ route, log in and out, complete within the time allowed etc.’ they said. What tosh – just go out there and enjoy the walk and scenery, I thought. There is no ‘official’ route – it can be between just over 23 and just under 26 miles depending on which way you go. The walk takes as long as you want it to, or are capable of.
Author and writer Alfred Wainwright was a miserable old fart like me, and he wrote about the Three Peaks: ‘Some participants have chosen to regard the walk as a race, and this is to be greatly regretted, walking is a pleasure to be enjoyed in comfort …,’ he grumbled.
According to that ever-reliable (!) source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, the first recorded ascent of the three hills was in July 1887 by J R Wynne-Edwards and D R Smith in a time of 10 hours.
Amongst my collection of old books (which I refer to as Jackopedia) I uncovered this paragraph from Victorian artist and rambler G T Lowe, written in 1892: “Looking round from the viaduct at Ribblehead, one can appreciate the feat which of late has occupied the attention of a few of our Leeds pedestrians: the ascent of Ingleborough, Whernside and Penyghent in under ten hours. Starting from the Flying Horse Shoe at Clapham, the whole journey over the three summits to Horton-in-Ribblesdale is over twenty-five miles as the crow flies, and affords a grand variety of views of mountains and moorland. Being in good training, we found it a comparatively fair day’s work.”
A love the Victorian understatement – and the fact they used the railways for their day out: Leeds to Clapham – walk the peaks – return Horton to Leeds. I wonder if that version of the Three Peaks can still be done using today’s timetable? Over to you train buffs.