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Of all the routes up Ingleborough, I prefer the one from Clapham. The interest starts early, and is varied throughout – by turns sylvan, and dramatic. You can also make the walk into a circuit, if you include the three peaks route as far as Sulber Gate, then turn for home. The downside is you don’t get a look at the shape of the hill itself. For that, you have to walk in from Ingleton.

It’s a long walk, too, or so it seems. First, it’s a mile from the village to the start of the fells, then a mile and a half along a rough bridleway to Crina Bottom, and finally, a mile up a steep track through the limestone terraces, to the top. The interest actually starts about a mile from the summit, when the view suddenly opens, and you get a view of Ingleborough at its most aesthetic, and often its dramatic best. That last mile feels mostly vertical, though. The view is aided immensely by the farm at Crina Bottom, which has been providing foreground interest for artists for centuries.

I first saw that view as a drawing by Alfred Wainwright, in his venerable book “Walks in Limestone Country”, and I’ve often admired it. His pen and ink work possessed a charm that made the northern hills and mountains seem friendly, and accessible. Today’s visit has two objectives, then: one is to photograph the hill, as near as I can to how Wainwright drew it, and two, of course, while I’m here, to walk up it.

It’s a fine, late summer day, warming quickly to temperatures well in excess of the forecast. The light is softened by a faint haze, pooled here and there on the green flanks of the dales, and moving slowly. A little bird told me the kids were back at school, so “Holiday UK” is effectively over. Nevertheless, I make an early start. The village car-park is empty, which is a pleasant surprise. The hill is also quiet. It looks as if the mid-week scene has indeed been handed back to us retirees, now, and about time too. We must make hay, while the sun shines!

The long bridleway to Crina Bottom

I regret to say I am without the little blue car today. She’s making unfamiliar noises – a sort of clipping sound, like she’s picked up a flint, but I’ve checked the tyres, and she hasn’t. And anyway, it only comes on when she warms up. I suspect, in fact, she’s suffering a leaking brake caliper. So, for now, she rests up while waiting an appointment with the mechanic. It’s a pity; the drive to Ingleton from the M6, along the valley of the Lune, would have been perfect with the open-top. As it is, I drive it in the air-conditioned cocoon of my good lady’s car, which, however, I note is also making unfamiliar noises today. Never mind, it delivers me safely, and without recourse to the RAC.

Ingleton is one of those idyllic little places I have fantasies about retiring to, because, for all of its rural isolation, it does not lack facilities – leisure, library, even a swimming pool. And that’s before we get started on the varied walking hereabouts. I’m thinking they must have a canny council. Decades of austerity seems to have left mine bankrupt. It can’t even afford cat’s eyes to guide us home at night, let alone “facilities” for idle leisure.

Anyway, I make it along the long, sinewy bridleway to Crina Bottom, and take the shot, or rather several shots which I’ll muck about with later. The farm was up for sale last year. It’s remote, and entirely off-grid, a dream of a place to hole up in. But that’s a rough, steep, twisty drive to it along the bridle-way, though I note the sale included a Shogun 4×4, and you’ll need it. This place will be cut off at the merest hint of snow.

From here the whole of the mountain comes suddenly into view, and every inch of the route up it. Wainwright’s drawing really nails it. I’ve climbed Ingleton several times, been blown off it once, rained off it twice, and every time I do make the top, it seems bigger than the last. In this respect, at a thousand feet short of England’s biggest, I’m probably best advised to keep away from Scafell nowadays. Or maybe I just pace myself too quick, when I’m on my own, and wear myself out. We’ll make that our excuse today, then, rather than blame it on our middling mountain form.

As we make the climb, the vista opens out, and we get the wider views, which are especially fine across the upper reaches of Ribblesdale, from the viaduct at Ribblehead, to Whernside, then down the length of the Twistleton scars, and all the way out to the coast.

There was an amusing encounter with a family on the way up. It’s a scene you often see in the hills, on the popular tourist routes, the guy striding ahead with a remote air about him, an intrepid explorer with map and compass, wife in the rear, placating three kids of ages ranging from eight to early adolescence, and in various stages of revolt. In short, the kids were whining, though unlike me, they didn’t seem to lack energy for the climb. They just didn’t like the idea of it any more. The woman did a sterling job jollying them along, though I would have given up by now and walked them back to Ingleton for ice creams. Bringing up children has a way of rounding off all your square corners, until hopefully by the time they’re in their twenties, you’re as round and smooth, and slippery as a greased pool ball, with Zen for your middle name. I got a cheery hello from her as I came through at my snail’s pace, nothing from him. I hope she tore a strip off him when they got back.

There was another family on top who I particularly felt for. They arrived in a state of relieved exhaustion, and smiles of satisfaction all round at a climb well done. They sat down, opened their picnic, were distracted for a moment by the views, time enough for their dog to snaffle their lunch. All they were left with were bottles of water, and I’m sure the dog was already working out how to get its chops around those as well.

“Has it been in its mouth?”

“I don’t know, looks like it.”

“Well, I’m not having it.”

“No, I don’t fancy it either.”

From Ingleton to the top and back, is about seven miles, and just shy of two thousand feet of ascent. A possible circular is to descend now to Twistleton scars, then return to Ingleton via the downstream section of the waterfalls. I have done that route, with a mate who never knows when to stop, and for whom any walk under ten miles is no walk at all. We’ll not be doing that today. Instead, we retrace our steps.

I’m more tired than usual on the return, and dehydrated – one of those walks where you’re too weary at the end of it even to pull your boots off, though you know your feet will feel better for it. So I sat a while, until I came round, then changed my sopping shirt, and hobbled off in search of coffee. I hope my good lady’s car gets us home all right, and those pictures come out. They won’t be as good as Wainwright’s drawing, though.

Ingleborough, from Crina Bottom farm

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dipper

White throated dipper

I drove back in time at least two weeks yesterday. Around my home village, on the sleepy plains of West Lancashire, the harbingers of Spring are maturing nicely – hawthorns greening and the first crop of daffodils already looking spent. But an hour north, in the Yorkshire dales there was a colder, harder feel to the air. Here, the hawthorns were bare and frigid, and the watery sunshine I’d woken to had become more of a watery grey with spitting rain and a sleepy clag hugging the hills.

I was bound for Ingleton, a little dales village which has been drawing tourists since the 18th century. I was en route for the famous waterfall trail. Largely unknown outside of Ingleton until the 1860’s the waterfall trail takes in a series of some of England’s finest falls – a four and a half mile circuit of breathtaking beauty, and an absolute must for anyone visiting the Dales on holiday. There is a catch though – it’s not free. At the time of writing there’s a £6.00 per person charge. I’ve noticed a lot of grumbling about this in various forums, and while I wouldn’t normally condone the private ownership of our natural heritage, and the charging of fees to see it, I think the waterfall trail is special case.

Difficult of access and in places downright dangerous, this trail couldn’t possibly cope with the visitor numbers it sees without special attention to the paths, or they’d be churned to slime in a season, and people would be lost regularly – drowned, swept away or dashed to bits in the rocky ravines that truly are the stuff nightmare. As a walk it might be classed as easy to moderate, meaning anyone who can put one foot in front of the other and climb a flight of stairs is probably up to it. However, without those well maintained walkways, this would be a serious scramble and off limits to all but the hardiest and footsure.

So I paid my £6 with a glad heart and drove onto the carpark. Huge carpark, and I was the first one on it. I therefore had the luxury of choosing my spot and picked out a fairly private bit with a nice view of the river. I was pulling on my boots when the second car arrived. He had almost as much choice as I, but decided to squeeze his car in next to mine with barely a wafer between them, then opened his door clumsily. Bang!

“Oops, sorry mate.” He checks his door. “No damage.” He pulls on his coat and bumbles off to the toilets.

Had it been me I would have preferred to park some distance away; with so much room available it makes no sense to crowd others, or maybe I’m more of a misanthrope than I think, and others more naturally gregarious. People confuse me, and while I think I have made some halting headway over years in analysing myself, a lifetime of observing others has taught me nothing. I moved the car before the clot came back and delivered old grumpy another crack.

money tree

Money tree, Swilla Glen

The walk begins by following the river Twiss upstream through Swilla Glen, a beautifully mossy, wooded ravine. The first feature of note here is not a waterfall, but a fallen tree-stump covered with an armour plating of copper coins that have been knocked into it. It’s a custom you see a lot in Yorkshire. If this were Lancashire there’d be someone with a pair of pliers pulling the coins out. I’m not sure of its origins but suspect something pagan, a distant folk memory perhaps of paying ones respects to the water-faery, for good luck or healing – or so my romantic imagination insists. The real reason is probably far more prosaic.

Apart from the clumsy clot on the carpark, my luck was holding and the heavy rain that had been forecast was so far limiting itself to a light drizzle. There was still a lot of water coming down the glen though and I could hear the Pecca falls thundering long before I saw them. I have stood by the Pecca falls when the air has been shuddering and the ground shaking. The volume of water and the energy behind it is an awesome spectacle – one of the attractions of falls worldwide of course, but none more so than here. The walkways and bridges manage to get you in really close to these falls and you’ve only to imagine tourists scrambling over lichen slick rock to appreciate the sense in paying for a bit of maintenance, some steps and a stout barrier between yourself and certain death.

pecca falls

Pecca Falls

But the most famous and picturesque of the falls lies further on. This is Thornton force. Unlike the Pecca falls, which are squeezed in raging white torrents down a deep rocky ravine, Thornton force spills its thunderous way in the wide open. Take my picture it says, or paint me. But photographs can’t do it justice – they shrink it to a fraction of its true size, and they silence its throaty roar. I have sat and stared at Thornton force on a summer’s day and lost myself in it. A fine, double cascade – no one passes by here without a feeling of wonder – yet all it is water falling.

thornton force

Thornton force

We leave the ravines of the Twiss above Thornton force and climb to the Twistleton scars. This is the exposed bit and if you’re going to catch the weather it’ll be here. And it was. I caught a cold wind and a stiff back hander from the rain which gave me a good soaking, until I was able to dip down into the valley of the Doe and the down-stream leg of the walk. The falls here I think have a more subtle beauty about them. The vale is more densely wooded, more intimate, more sylvan, the rocks more heavily lichened, the water white and more dancing, as it makes its jolly way.

beezley falls

Beezley falls

The upper falls here – the Beezley falls, are a photographer’s delight, with such a fascinating number of twists and turns, every step revealing a new and ever more dramatic picture, but again the camera shrinks them to an atom, robs them of every spark of life. The pictures I’ve included here must be enlarged in the imagination a hundred fold, to the accompaniment of a deep, rumbling roar, and the song of birds.

The last of the falls on this spectacular trail is Snow Falls, another impressive and powerful cataract, though hidden at first by the deep ravine through which it passes, and one views it almost in retrospect. Before this towering curtain of white water, I noticed a bird, perched upon on a low rock, surrounded by leaping torrents. Binoculars showed it to be a dipper, rather a beautiful, playful little thing, mostly black, white throated, with a russet cap and waistcoat. It would occasionally go wading, swimming in the eddies, diving, then bobbing back up to its rocky perch. The dipper is a well named bird.

The gorge which ends with Snow Falls struck me as something akin to the gates of hell, a terrifying place where only madmen would venture voluntarily, but here was this beautiful little bird, unafraid, undaunted by the din. Perfectly adapted to its environment, it did not see the falls as I saw them – magnified and personified through the imaginative apparatus.

after twistleton

It’s significant, I think that people have flocked to Ingleton, and places like it, for centuries. We come and gaze wide eyed at the scenery, blinking as if at some alien world. We are amazed by it because we are not quite one with it. Were we ever to become truly one with it, we would become like the dipper, a thing of innocent beauty in itself, gambolling amid great beauty, but entirely unconscious of it. Like the tree that falls alone in the forest and makes no sound, because there is no one to hear it, it is mankind who lends an eye to show the world how beautiful it is, and a heart to reveal what mysterious joys such beauty can inspire.

So, two significant encounters – the clot on the carpark, and the dipper. I learned much more from the dipper, but then I’ve never been very good with people.

Graeme out.

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