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Posts Tagged ‘erratics’

Pot Scar and Smearset ridge

I’m sitting on a big piece of limestone that was once part of a dry-stone wall, here on the Dales High Way. It’s been in the sun, and it’s nice and warm. The wall has eroded to no more than knee height but the line of it is distinct enough, and leads the eye unerringly up the green fell side, to a crown of limestone crags. Just here, it’s been brought down flat, and the path runs through it. We’re a mile out of Feizor, heading for Stainforth, but the view has pulled me up and sat me down. The scene, the air, the sun, and this faultless blue sky, all of it makes for a feel-good day, as most days are in the Yorkshire Dales.

As the days shorten, and good weather becomes less frequent, the light takes on a magical quality. The sun is rendering the line of crags from Smearset Scar, to Pot Scar in bristling detail. I’ll never do it justice with the camera, not the way I see it and feel it, right now, but I’ll give it a go anyway, maybe a little higher up the valley. But, for now, we’ll just rest awhile, and soak up the atmosphere. Who knows when we’ll pass this way again?

Our peace is disturbed by a large walking group coming over the ladder stile, a little way off. They number around thirty old guys with craggy faces and outdoor complexions. We exchange greetings as they pass. This is Yorkshire, so greetings are hearty and often delivered with a touch of dry humour. Then comes the tail end guy. He’s a tall, bearded and somewhat distinguished looking gentleman, a good few minutes behind the rest. He comes up to me and then he stops.

“An erratic, you know?”

I admit, that’s not what I thought he was going to say.

“Em,…”

“The rock I’m standing on,” he clarifies. “Gritstone, you see?”

“Really?”

“Glacial erratic. Erratified even further by whoever put it in this drystone wall.” His accent, like his compatriots, is Yorkshire – but posh Yorkshire.

“Well spotted. You’re a geologist, then?” He does have the look of a geologist – don’t ask me why I think that. He nods. Yes, he’s a geologist.

He looks at me, and something registers with him. “Ah,… you’re not part of our walking group, are you?”

“No, they went that way.”

“Oh,… well,…. em,…. nice talking you. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”

“I shall. You too.”

Actually, I have a bone to pick with him and his mates. They’d taken over the little tea-room in Feizor, leaving me nowhere to sit. That makes it the second time I’ve walked over from Stainforth with the idea of getting a brew, only to be denied it by ravenous crowds. It’s a popular tearoom, though Feizor itself strikes me as being one of those pretty little places that only comes into existence for a day, and only once a century, if the moon is right.

The weather has been appalling all week, and I was doubtful today’s forecast of fine weather would materialise, but it did. Then, the fuel shortages that rattled everyone last week seem also to have passed over, at least in the north-west. Anyway, we filled the tank, and here we are.

The little blue car is down in Stainforth. We had a good run over from Lancashire. Confidence in the old girl is restored, after the mystery of the loose wheel-nuts – though the mystery itself remains unsolved. In fact, she went like a rocket, though mainly on account of aggressive tailgating by monstrous, thundering hardcore wagons. They’re an intimidating presence on the route from Clitheroe to the limestone quarries, near here, and always put me in mind of that old film, Hell Drivers, but with much bigger wagons.

So, we managed to keep our tails from being trodden on by the Hell Drivers, and we parked on the National Trust car-park at Stainforth, (£4.80, card payments accepted) and we set off for Feizor. I was in Stainforth, back in August, and failed then to get a decent shot of the impressive falls on the Ribble, here, due to holiday crowds. It’s quieter today, and, what with heavy rains, I’m thinking they’ll be worth another visit. But as I cross the little bridge over the river, I see the falls have been colonised by a large group of photographers and film-makers. All we’re likely to get there is a shot of the backs of their heads. So, we plod on.

Penyghent, from Little Stainforth

At Little Stainforth, we go north, along the narrow road. The views across Ribblesdale to Penyghent from here are stunning today, crackling with detail in an extraordinarily clear light. The meadows are a lush, soft green, and the sun, struggling for altitude now, is picking out the crags and the wiggly lines of dry-stone walls. We sometimes forget man is part of nature, that when he’s not busy destroying it, his presence can add something special to the land in reducing some of its bleakness. The enclosures do have a lovely, pleasing quality to them – natural stone, all higgledy-piggledy, following the contours. I suppose, however, if we were to replace them now, it would be straight lines and barbed wire.

So then we pick up the path that takes us west, over the fell. Smearset Scar is an imposing lump, as you come up from Stainforth, but it’s all bluff, at least if you approach it from its northern face. From the south and west, it’s more precipitous. At a modest 1200 feet, it still manages to impress, being dramatic, and airy, with tremendous views all round.

As a lunch spot, we can do no better than this. Eleven forty-five, on a midweek morning, not a soul in sight, and we’re on top of the world. This time last year we were still working, and doubting we’d see the end of it. Now, none of that is our problem. I’d wondered if I’d still be waking in the mornings, thinking I should be heading out to work. I was warned I might have trouble switching off in retirement, but I think the major part of me had switched off long before. Or rather, I had already moved on, in my head, to what I’m doing now. I’ve not thought about the day job at all, except on mornings like this, to appreciate the freedom to simply be.

On Smearset Scar, looking towards Pot Scar

So, from Smearset Scar, the feet are naturally drawn westwards, along the ridge to Pot Scar. This is an area without any substantial paths, though it’s criss-crossed by what looks like the tracks of a farmer’s quad bike. There’s probably a simple way down though the crags, directly to Feizor, but I’ve yet to find it, so we rejoin the path coming over from Stainforth, disturbing a fox in the process, which bolts to a hidey hole on a limestone pavement. The path swings south, through a nick in the crags, and brings us down to the tea-shop in Fiezor.

Feizor

Unable to get our coffee, without what looks like a long wait, we make do with a swig from the water bottle, which is what I remember we did last time, and we start on the climb back towards Stainforth, along this lovely bit of the Dales High Way. Then we pause, on a rock, by another rock, which our new friend points out is a glacial erratic. The area is well known for them. Some, the Norber Erratics, are spectacular lumps of stone, up on the limestone pavements around Ingleborough. They were deposited here by retreating ice sheets, and probably came from the Lake District. The word derives from the old French erratique, and from the latin erraticus; it means, literally, “wandering, straying, roving.”

Anyway, we say goodbye to our geologist friend, give his walking group a good fifteen minutes start, then follow them back to Stainforth. The encampment of photographers and film-makers is still there at the falls, so we’ll give it another miss. I wonder if they’re photographing salmon leaping. October, November, after rains, I’ve read are best. Good luck to them, but I prefer to keep moving on my days out, keep wandering, roving. That makes two erratiques then, today, on the Dales High Way.

So, now it’s time to join the Hell Drivers, on the road back to Lancashire, and see what we’ve got in the camera. On past performance, it’ll be mostly blurred, I suspect. Others, I’ll be wondering what on earth I thought I was looking at. But, with luck, one or two will have some potential as a reminder of another good day, in the Dales.

I wish I’d taken a picture of that rock, though!

“An erratic, you know.”

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