A day out in limestone country26th October 2009
As I start to write these words relating an outing among the hills of the western Yorkshire Dales, we are in the grip of a mild end to October when there is occasional dampness and rather a lot of cloud filling the sky for much of the time. Of course, that mildness can end all of a sudden like it has done in some previous years with down jackets being quickly grabbed from where they have been for the summer. That realisation reminds me that the outer of my North Face Nuptse needs a clean, but there’s time for that yet.
Returning to that trot from over a week ago, I arrived in Ingleton at a decent hour when its library was still open, so there was ample time for a day of walking. There were cloudy skies overhead like what those over Cheshire so far this week but I am not deterred so easily when my mind is set on a task so I ventured forth underneath the village’s disused railway viaduct to seek out the horse manure soiled single track piece of road that is Oddie’s Lane. The lane was quiet with only the occasional walker or Land Rover about as I ascended the gradient from the river banks of the Doe and the Twiss. It wasn’t to be a day when there were enough people about to get in each other’s way, though we did bunch together from time to time. While most go to Ingleton for the Waterfalls Walk anyway, my horizons were extended beyond that.
Staying on tarmac as long as I did might have seemed a peculiar choice when travel over softer ground was available, but the OS doesn’t seem to show the Waterfalls Walk so well and I might have ended up feeling corralled anyway. As it happened, I was to leave the tarmac for part of its route near Beezleys. A well-made path was sufficient to compensate for a certain lack of signage on the roadside and Twisleton Hall was passed without a blunder. The path turned into a track that I was to leave for a bridleway taking me up the slopes of Twisleton Scar End. There were others with the same idea as myself, but there was no mob so we all got along as we picked our way through the limestone pavement.
In time, we all scattered such that each had a piece to themselves, so there was an opportunity to have some quality carefree time when the following of rights of way on access land could become something that fell by the wayside. All the while, I knew where I was on Scales Moor, so there was no flirtation with mortal danger. At times, I was to revel in the sights of limestone pavement with Ingleborough beyond it. Being lit by the sun was a hit-and-miss affair with Gragareth having more luck than where I was wandering. That piece of “off-piste” travel was well apparent when I joined the track down to Chapel-le-Dale and it shortened the walk a little too, taking time pressures even further out of the equation.
Chapel-le-Dale is but a small place and I was across the Low Sleights Road (B6255) in no time at all to shorten the distance to the summit of Ingleborough. My course was to have its moment of problem-solving when I worked out the way around Souther Scales after a little lunch. It may have been over three years since I last trod in these parts, but my memory was still up to the task of informing me that I was taking a different course from last time, at least at the start, before I made out the trail that had taken me to those heady heights before.
Knowing that the way ahead was to have steeper moments than that around Souther Scales meant that I opted for a steady gait through the Southerscales Scars and over any duckboards. A short break was taken at Humphrey Bottom before tackling the steep slopes that lay between me and Ingleborough’s summit. The path is well pitched though some may find the way in which it has been done a little unnerving. Having gone the way before, it didn’t phase me though I was conscious that other folk were after me and making good progress. The top of the steep section came along in its own good time and I grabbed a chance for a little breather before scaling the final approach to Ingleborough’s flat top. Others going my way needed longer to recover and more again sailed on regardless, so Ingleborough attracts all sorts by the sounds of things.
With the sun staying well hidden from me, the summit of Ingleborough wasn’t to be a place where I was going to linger. Still, I could see where I had been on the way from Ingleton and Whernside was an unmissable whaleback along with the distant humps of the Howgill Fells. Ingleton wasn’t too far away and the next bus to Lancaster wasn’t until 18:50 so I could afford to take my time. Not being in a mad rush (never a good idea on hills) meant that there was no angst on the initial part of the descent to reach a decent track. Looking ahead of me took my eyes out towards Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea, both seemingly blessed by the sun as might have been the lower reaches of the Lune Valley too. Cloud may have been over me, but Scales Moor seemed to be starting to catch the sun. The prospect of low evening sun dropping beneath the clouds to liven the landscape began to intrigue me and the signs of that pleasant possibility steadily grew.
As I continued on downhill, I wondered at those who were coming against me at that hour of day and where they may have been going. Could they have been on a similar circuit to me but with cars parked in Chapel-le-Dale instead or was Ribblehead train station in their sights? Horton-in-Ribblesdale or Clapham would be other potential destinations but they were further away. Wherever they were headed, there seemed to be a sense of purpose to all their endeavours and I am not one to intrude so I passed the time of day and left them be.
When I got as far as Fell Lane, the sun finally dropped below its cloudy obstruction to show the surrounding countryside at its best. It might have been better for my DSLR not to run out of power at this stage, but a backup film SLR was there to do the honours, so there was no drama. If I didn’t possess the time to make what I could of what lay around me, it would have been more annoying and that’s the advantage of leaving a little slack and not filing every second of it. Of course, the daylight eventually did give out but I was walking through the heart of Ingleborough as the sun disappeared below the horizon. A satisfying day was ending well and it’s telling that it might have been utterly fantastic if the skies were clearer. Nevertheless, there were plenty of sights that captivated my attention, even under cloud cover, and that really is telling. The prospect of a spot of sun might even tempt me back and there’s no better way to leave anywhere than that.
Return train journey from Macclesfield to Lancaster and return bus journey on Stagecoach Lancaster service 80 from Lancaster to Ingleton and back.
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