The Land of the Lune

Chapter 8:  The Greta Headwaters

  The Introduction
  The Previous Chapter (Middle Lunesdale and Leck Fell)
  The Next Chapter (Gretadale and a little more Lunesdale)

Ingleborough from Souther Scales

The River Greta (Chapel Beck) ...

force gill Right: Force Gill, with walkers on the Three Peaks route

The River Greta is formed at Ingleton by the confluence of the River Doe and River Twiss. Unfortunately, there is confusion as to which is which. The Ordnance Survey and the Ingleton Waterfalls Walk leaflet have the Doe to the east but Wainwright’s Walks in Limestone Country and Ingleton’s own leaflet have the Doe to the west. Upstream, the two rivers are called Chapel Beck (in Chapel-le-Dale) and Kingsdale Beck (in Kingsdale) and it seems simplest to retain those names down to the Ingleton junction, rather than choose between the river names.
      As Chapel Beck is the larger of the two at the junction I will consider that to provide the source of the Greta, with Kingsdale Beck being a tributary. This is supported by Thos Johnson’s 1872 book A Pictorial Handbook to the Valley of the Lune and Gossiping Guide to Morecambe and District (yes, really), which considers Chapel-le-Dale to lie in Gretadale. Moreover, he has a River Doe in Kingsdale, so if I were forced off the fence, I’d say the Ordnance Survey has it wrong.
      The source of Chapel Beck is at the head of Little Dale between Whernside and Blea Moor. Here, Little Dale Beck is joined by Force Gill, which has two fair-sized waterfalls and crosses the Settle-Carlisle railway line over an aqueduct. Force Gill arises in Greensett, a boggy plateau on the eastern slopes of Whernside. Our obsession with getting to the tops of mountains – perhaps understandable with Whernside, as it is the highest peak of the Dales – tends to lead us to hurry past more interesting areas. Although the slopes of Whernside are now all CRoW land, 99% of walkers dutifully follow the signposted route, part of the Three Peaks walk, via Grain Head, ignoring Force Gill and Greensett.
      Actually, my preferred route up Whernside is from Kingsdale Head – all grass and no people (so forget I mentioned it). But the CRoW policy does raise a question: is it environmentally better that we all tread the standard path, thereby giving up that path to erosion and decay? Or should we spread ourselves thinly across CRoW land? There seems little point in creating access land if we are not expected to access it but, on the other hand, even the occasional walker may be too much for some of the flora and fauna.
      The first time we walked the Three Peaks route we came across a curlew’s nest right by the path. There’s no chance of that today. The curlew is the bird most redolent of the northern moors, with its distinctive call as it glides earthwards. Some describe it as plaintive or melancholy but it sounds bubblingly joyful to me. Never mind the swallow and cuckoo, it is the call of the curlew that is for me the most evocative of the new year (as early as January in 2006) as the curlew returns up the Lune valley to its nesting haunts.
      Below the red-tinged sandstone slopes of Whernside, grey slate tumbles towards the peat of Greensett Moss. Here is Greensett Tarn, the sheltered home of black-headed gulls, and below the tarn is a line of shakeholes and caves, including Greensett Cave. Their existence at 560m, when the main potholes and caves of the valley are at about 300m, shows that there is a layer of limestone here, as well as in the valley.

The Three Peaks are Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent. The first two, at 736m and 724m, are the two highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales and are wholly within Loyne. Pen-y-Ghent (694m) is the 7th highest Dales peak and is in Ribblesdale.
      The Three Peaks walk of about 38km, with nearly 1600m of ascent, is a challenging all-day expedition. The Three Peaks fell race is even more challenging but should not take all day (only serious runners are allowed: no pantomime horses). The record is 2hr 46min for the present course and 2hr 29min for a previous course, with the women's record standing at 3hr 13min. In 2008 the 54th Three Peaks race was run as the 5th World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge. The start used to be at Chapel-le-Dale but is now at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which has taken upon itself the role of Three Peaks centre. Of course, walkers may start at any point on the circuit.
      [Update: The women's record is now 3hr 9min, set by Victoria Wilkinson in 2017. For the record, the men's record was set in 1996 by Andy Peace.]
      However, it is hardly a fell walk or race nowadays. Much of the route has been so badly eroded that the natural fell has been replaced. It is a shame that so many people (an estimated 250,000 a year) continue to follow such a worn path. Jack Sharp’s New Walks in the Yorkshire Dales provides a score of alternative long-distance walks.
      I would also suggest a Loyne Three Peaks – replace Pen-y-Ghent with Great Coum. The latter is only 7m lower and this route avoids the long trek over bog and on road from Pen-y-Ghent to Whernside and the eyesore of the Horton quarries (and it’s 10km shorter).

batty moss viaduct Right: Batty Moss Viaduct

      Little Dale Beck absorbs Hare Gill and Foul Gutter from Blea Moor before crossing under the railway line, 1km north of the Ribblehead Viaduct, to become Winterscales Beck. This viaduct was originally called Batty Moss Viaduct, in keeping with the tradition of naming viaducts after what they cross (Dent Head, Arten Gill and Dandry Mire). Its renaming, along with that of Batty Green Station to Ribblehead Station, is a triumph for the tourist industry of Ribblesdale.
      The source of the Ribble is 8km north at Newby Head in Widdale. Standing under the viaduct, it is hard to tell whether water will flow southwest to the Lune or southeast to the Ribble, precisely because the viaduct was built over the watershed. If anything, it looks more downhill to the southwest and, certainly, the largest beck of any size that is close to the viaduct is Winterscales Beck, which flows to the Lune.
      It is too late to claim the viaduct for the Lune but there is every justification for calling it Batty Moss Viaduct, as I will, not least because its actual existence here may be a little batty. The Settle-Carlisle railway line is now absorbed into the romance of the Dales and we may marvel at the skill and energy that produced the scenic section from Batty Moss Viaduct to Dandrymire Viaduct, via Bleamoor Tunnel, Dent Head Viaduct, Artengill Viaduct and Risehill Tunnel. But we might pause to ask: Why? Why was it necessary?
      Imagine yourself to be a railway engineer in 1870, standing at Selside in Ribblesdale. The Settle-Carlisle line will proceed north up Ribblesdale and south below Wild Boar Fell. How would you bridge the gap? Would you go over the watershed to Dentdale and then out again to Garsdale rather than through Widdale (the present B6255 route), knowing that the line from Hawes to Garsdale, completed in 1878, was already planned? I am not a railway engineer but it seems to me that this route requires no large viaducts and no tunnels.
      Anyway, let us be grateful, for if they had so decided all of the Settle-Carlisle line would be outside Loyne. However, we should always remember that the “thrilling story of this magnificent engineering enterprise”, as Wainwright’s Walks in Limestone Country puts it, involved a few thousand people working here, under appalling conditions, for six years (less for the two hundred or so who died). The Batty Green shantytown sounds jolly but it must have been a hard, tough life here in the cold, wet, muddy desolation. I hope that the workers’ sacrifices were not in the cause of some vainglorious adventure.

winterscales beck Left: Winterscales Beck near Winterscales Farm

      Today, we may admire the results of their labours. The Batty Moss Viaduct is the most spectacular of all the engineering works on the Settle-Carlisle line and an awesome sight from Whernside and other vantage points. Its 24 arches are made from local limestone and the embankment from earth excavated from Bleamoor Tunnel. The viaduct is 32m high and 400m long and the spans are 7m wide, with each sixth pier thickened to help prevent collapse. Its gentle curve seems fully in keeping with the surroundings, now that the shantytown has long gone.
      Winterscales Beck makes its way intermittently southwest, repeatedly disappearing through its limestone bed and being re-created by resurgences, of which the largest is from Gatekirk Cave. In summer much of its bed will be dry but it is obvious from the erosion that after heavy rain this is a ferocious torrent. In places, one can stand in the dry bed and see debris in the trees several metres above.
      After Winterscales Beck disappears, a series of potholes and caves continues its line until the emergence of Chapel Beck below Chapel-le-Dale. Some of these potholes are described in the overblown prose of John Hutton, vicar of Burton-in-Kendal, who in 1780 wrote a 49-page pamphlet considered to be the first-ever book on caving. He considered Weathercote Cave to be “the most surprising natural curiosity of the kind in the island of Great Britain … a stupendous subterranean cataract.” Hurtle Pot, however, was “one of the most dismal prospects we had yet been presented with … [and he viewed] with horror and astonishment its dreadful aspect.”
      Like many rural hamlets, Chapel-le-Dale is known for its pub and its church. The Hill Inn was long regarded as a rowdy base for potholers. St Leonard’s Church is a more sombre resting place for the “many men, women and children … who died through accident or disease during the construction of the Settle-Carlisle railway and who were buried in this churchyard”, as a millennium year memorial plaque puts it. Sadly, the plaque does not list the two hundred names given in the burial register. The church itself is neat, with mullioned windows and bellcot, built in the 17th century and restored in 1869.

Walk 16: Whernside from Chapel-le-Dale

Map: OL2 (please read the general note about the walks in the Introduction).
Starting point: A lay-by on the north side of the B6255 200m northwest of Hill Inn (744777).
      Walk past the Hill Inn to take Philpin Lane north to Bruntscar. This is on the Three Peaks walk route but you will avoid the steep, knee-jarring slog up the reinforced thoroughfare on the flank of Whernside by taking a more leisurely uphill amble, mainly on grass.
      Turn left past Bruntscar and Ellerbeck and on to the bridleway southwest. After about 1km leave the bridleway to cut across to the straight wall that runs up the West Fell ridge. Follow this wall all the way to the top of Whernside, 1km before which you rejoin the Three Peaks thoroughfare.
      From the top, drop down the slope (steep but not too steep) to reach the remains of a wall 0.5km east and follow it northeast, investigating the Greensett caves and potholes, as you wish. Follow the wall down east to see the Force Gill waterfalls. Rejoin the footpath to cross the railway line and after 1km go under the railway to Winterscales and Ivescar. From Ivescar take the footpath south to Winterscales Beck. Continue on the road and then footpath back to Philpin Lane, noting the caves and potholes and the signs of damage wrought when the beck is in spate.
      [Update: If you consider the slope down from Whernside too steep then you could continue along the ridge path and make your way down from a less daunting height.]
      When planning a high-level walk, it is always worth having a low-level alternative in mind, for often on arrival we find that the tops have gathered cloud. Here there is a fine loop walk under the shelter of Whernside: from Chapel-le-Dale take Oddie’s Lane to Twisleton Hall, then follow the footpath across Scales Moor to Bruntscar and on to Winterscales, and then work your way back along Winterscales Beck.

Short walk variation: Follow the long walk through Bruntscar and Ellerbeck to the West Fell ridge. Walk by the wall north past Combe Scar to where it is joined from the right by the broad path from Bruntscar (part of the Three Peaks route). Now you must summon up all your resolve to not walk the further 1km to the top of Whernside, just 140m higher: this is supposed to be a short walk and you really cannot expect to get to the highest point of the Yorkshire Dales on a short walk. So, with great fortitude, take the path down to Bruntscar and back to Philpin Lane.

      Above Chapel-le-Dale soars Ingleborough, the supreme peak of the Yorkshire Dales. Although second in height to Whernside, its isolated location and proud profile make it seem higher from almost every direction. Its position at the head of the Greta and Wenning valleys means that it oversees, and can be seen from, much of Loyne.


Ingleborough from White Scars

The Top 10 peaks in Loyne

(to look at, not from)
      1.   Ingleborough
      2.   Wild Boar Fell
      3.   Great Coum
      4.   Grayrigg Pike
      5.   Calf Top
      6.   Whinfell
      7.   Whernside
      8.   Clougha Pike
      9.   Winder
      10.   Mallowdale Pike

      Its name alludes, perhaps fortuitously, to two early roles. The word ‘ingle’ is from an old Gaelic word for fire and no doubt, because of its domineering position, Ingleborough was often in the past the site of a beacon. The ‘borough’ (as we saw with Low Borrowbridge and Over Burrow) may be associated with an old fortification. In fact, the Ordnance Survey is bold enough to mark ‘fort’ on its map. The fort is variously believed to have been built by the Romans, by the Brigantes (against the Romans) and by pre-Roman Iron Age settlers. But David Johnson, in his 2008 book on Ingleborough, doubts that it was a fort at all. He does not consider that the remains of the wall, which some call ramparts, that run round the rim of the summit plateau are substantial enough to indicate any defensive role. Also, the lack of water on the plateau makes it an implausible defensive retreat.
      This fact also leads Johnson to doubt that the score or so of circular remains that can be seen on the plateau are those of hut circles, as is usually stated. Ancient people were hardy, but not necessarily masochistic, as they would need to have been to choose to live here, completely exposed to the elements, of which there are many on the top of Ingleborough. He considers the remains to be those of ring cairns and that in ancient times the top of Ingleborough served symbolic or ceremonial functions rather than military or residential ones. Much like today, in fact.

ingleborough top Left: Ingleborough top (with no people!)

      These ancient remains should not be confused with the great pile of stones on the western rim. This was a hospice-cum-tower-cum-shooting-box. It was left to fall into ruin after damage was caused at a boisterous opening ceremony in 1830. Recalling this event in the Lancaster Guardian in 1897, Joseph Carr described the tower as “one of the wonders of Lunesdale” – note the Lunesdale. Still standing is the cross-shaped wind shelter erected in 1953. This provides endless entertainment for, sitting in one quarter, one cannot help eavesdropping on conversations in the other three quarters. These are often disputes over the identification of distant peaks. One can hardly intrude to point out the view indicator in the middle of the cross.
      Ingleborough’s distinctive profile is a consequence of its geology, which is similar to that of Whernside and Wild Boar Fell. The top 30m or so are of hardwearing millstone grit. This sits atop 250m of conglomerate rocks (the Yoredale series), mainly shales and sandstones, with a little limestone, all covered with peat except where exposed on the crags. Below this is a 200m layer of limestone (the Great Scar limestone), which is visible on the lower slopes of the mountain. These are all sedimentary rocks of the Carboniferous period that have not been distorted much from their horizontal layers. Below the 250m contour are the much older Silurian slates and grits, which have been folded and contorted. And the whole has been much shaped by glacial action.

from ingleborough Right: Whernside and the Batty Moss Viaduct from below The Arks, Ingleborough

      Some of the western slopes of Ingleborough and Simon Fell form a National Nature Reserve, although at the moment it is more a matter of reversing nature than of reserving it. Previously the land had been fertilised and over-grazed, preventing the growth of wildflowers and trees. The moorland areas are now being managed to restore lost acid-loving plants such as ling heather and bilberry, to join plants such as bog asphodel and purple moor-grass. The grazing regime on the limestone grasslands is intended to enable the flowering of different plants through the seasons: purple wild thyme, orchids, yellow rockrose, harebell, and so on. Within the grikes many woodland plants flourish but now trees and shrubs (ash, elm, hawthorn, hazel, sycamore) also have a chance to thrive. This process has been supported by the Dales-wide Limestone Country Project, which was partly funded by the EU and ran from 2003 to 2008. The aim was to improve biodiversity by moving from sheep-intensive farming towards mixed farming using hardy upland cattle breeds, such as the Blue Grey and Highland cattle that may be seen at High Howeth on the western slopes of Ingleborough.
      To the north, Scar Close has been protected for longer and gives an idea of the clint-and-grike flora before wood clearance and over-grazing. Ash, hazel and rowan trees have become established. Further north, the raised terrace of Howrake Rocks has formed a prominent rectangle of woodland, showing how different the Yorkshire Dales would look if left to revert to its natural state.
      Above the limestone terraces, there is a line of caves and potholes where becks running off the fells disappear underground. Great Douk Cave and Middle Washfold Caves are popular with novice cavers. Braithwaite Wife Hole (which Thos Johnson and Harry Speight, in their 19th century guides, rendered more intriguingly as Barefoot Wives Hole) is a huge shakehole, 60m in diameter. Raven Scar Cave, only discovered in 1971, was found to be a Neolithic burial site. Meregill Hole is 170m deep, with the mere that gives the pot its name visible 12m down – or so they say. The sound of a waterfall below, when the beck above was dry, was enough for me.
      There is a line of springs, particularly clearly seen after rain, in the green fields below Twisleton Scars, where the limestone meets the impermeable lower layer. Below God’s Bridge, several resurgences can be seen entering Chapel Beck – or in summer creating Chapel Beck, for then the bed is dry above the bridge. God’s Bridge, incidentally, is traditionally a name that denotes a natural, as opposed to man-made or devil-made, bridge but here it has been sacrilegiously cemented over.
      Chapel Beck runs below Oddie’s Lane, which is along the line of a Roman road that ran from Bainbridge to near Ingleton and then probably to join the road at Over Burrow. On the east bank is the site of the disused Ingleton Granite Quarry. It is, in fact, not granite at all but greywacke, an impure sandstone with a toughness that made it a valued stone for roads.

beezley falls Right: Beezley Falls

      As Chapel Beck flows gently south-east, on the left a building comes into view that delivers exactly what it says on its roof, that is, caves – to be precise, the White Scar Caves. By the time Chapel Beck crosses the footpath from Beezleys it is wide and docile enough to require nearly fifty stepping-stones to cross. But it is only girding its loins for a tumultuous fall through Baxenghyll Gorge, including impressive cascades at Beezley Falls, Rival Falls and Snow Falls, between which the water lies black-brown in deep pools.
      The glen is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its geology and associated flora. It is also designated an Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland, ancient in this context being defined as pre-1600. Ancient woodland is scarce locally because of grazing but much of this glen is inaccessible to sheep or cattle, enabling oak and birch, with occasional hazel, holly and rowan, to flourish on the acidic soils that overlie the Silurian slate. The woodlands are also important for their mosses and liverworts, which thrive in dark gullies, and ground plants such as wood rush, dog’s mercury and wild garlic.
      The path alongside the falls provides views of several disused slate quarries, while from high to the east the stone-crushing noise of Skirwith Quarry may well intrude. This quarry continues to mine the Ingleton Granite previously mined upstream.
      As Chapel Beck emerges from the wooded glen it passes through the remains of Mealbank Quarry. It contains probably the thickest coal seam within an English limestone sequence, and the sediments are rich in fossils yet to be fully understood. The quarry also has the ruins of England’s first Hoffmann kiln, which operated from 1864 to 1909. This kiln had a literally revolutionary design, whereby material was burned in a continuous horizontal loop, rather than tipped into a vertical furnace.
      On the outskirts of Ingleton, Chapel Beck passes an outdoor swimming pool that a plaque proudly informs us has been ranked the 52nd such pool in the world. Just before the viaduct for the old Lowgill-Clapham line Chapel Beck is joined by Kingsdale Beck to form the River Greta.

White Scar Caves are the longest show caves in England. They were discovered in 1923 when two Cambridge students, Christopher Long and John Churchill, investigated Playfair’s Cave, then thought to lead only a short distance. They had previously explored the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset and Stump Cross Cavern near Harrogate and, having concluded that there was money to be made from developing a show cave, had come to Ingleborough with that specific intention.
      So, wearing, according to the Yorkshire Post, an outfit that “consisted of all-leather clothes, thoroughly treated with dubbin; a helmet, with three candles and an electric lamp, served by a battery and switch attached to their belts; rock-climbing boots and a plentiful application of vaseline to such parts of their body as were exposed” (that is, most of them), Long and Churchill ventured in. They found a way beyond a pool and after crawling 200m reached the first waterfall of the cave’s main stream. Subsequently they explored upstream, passing many fine formations, now bearing prosaic names such as the Sword of Damocles and the Devil’s Tongue, as far as the lakes now bypassed by the Bagshaw Tunnel.
      Unfortunately, they were not rewarded for this endeavour because Long, a manic depressive, died of a drug overdose in 1924 and Churchill was unable to raise sufficient funds to continue the development of the cave. The cave was eventually opened to the public in 1925, with the first manager, Tom Greenwood, adding further galleries and passages in the 1930s. In 1971 the massive 200,000-year-old Battlefield Cavern, 100m long and 30m high with thousands of delicate stalactites and undisturbed prehistoric mud pools, was discovered and this now forms the climax of the present tour, 1.5km and 90 minutes from the entrance.

Kingsdale Beck

Most visitors to Kingsdale intend to go through or under it, which is less than it deserves. They are either using the road between Dent and Thornton-in-Lonsdale or they are aiming to tackle the potholes arrayed along the sides of Kingsdale.
      Kingsdale is a fine upland valley, flanked by Whernside to the east and Great Coum and Gragareth to the west, with its limestone scars below the millstone grit tops providing superb views. It can be lonely and wild but also, on sunny summer days, balmy and serene. It would perhaps have its deserved appeal to tourists if it reverted to its full name of Vikingsdale – some of the names here (Yordas, Braida Garth) are of Norse origin, as indeed are ‘beck’ and ‘dale’.

Kingsdale and Whernside

      The valley runs straight from north to south for 7km with only 1½ farmsteads in it – Braida Garth and Kingsdale Head. The other ½ of the latter is a holiday cottage. The head of Kingsdale is 3km above Kingsdale Head, where the road between Whernside and High Pike begins to drop down steeply to Dentdale. Kingsdale Beck gathers off the peaty slopes of Great Coum and Whernside but, like Barbon Beck to the north, comes and goes a few times. It has usually gone between Kingsdale Head and Keld Head. This is convenient for it means we can follow the new ‘conservation path’ across the beck to investigate the Apronfull of Stones. This 20m-diameter ring of stones, with gaps to the east and west (the latter probably from beck erosion), is a Bronze Age burial cairn.

apronfull Right: Gragareth and Yordas Wood from the Apronfull of Stones

      Directly opposite is Yordas Cave, which was one of the first tourist attractions in the Dales. The afore-mentioned Reverend Hutton said of Yordas Cave: “Having never been in a cave before, a thousand ideas … were excited in my imagination on my entrance into this gloomy cavern … As we advanced ... and the gloom and the horror increased, the den of Cacus, and the cave of Poliphemus came into my mind [sadly, our knowledge of Greek mythology is not what it was] … The roof was so high, and the bottom and sides so dark, that, with all the light we could procure from our candles and torches, we were not able to see the dimensions of this cavern [it’s about 20m high and 50m long] ... On the right was the bishop’s throne, and on the left the chapter-house ... [the religious terminology was in use before the reverend’s visit and is still used today]. Here we could not but lament the devastation made in the ornaments of these sacred places; some Goths not long since having defaced both throne and chapter-house of their pendant petrified works, which had been some ages in forming [so vandalism is not a recent problem].”
      Yordas Cave has been formed from Yordas Gill dropping through the limestone, forming the waterfall in the chapter-house, and running across the floor of the cavern. After heavy rain, its present exit is insufficient and the cavern begins to fill. It is one of a series of caves and potholes that line the Turbary Road that runs above the limestone terraces. This track provided access to turbary, that is, common land where peat or turf may be cut, an important right in ancient times. Today, it provides an excellent walking track, safely guiding us between the potholes.

rowten pot Left: Rowten Pot

      These potholes and those on the eastern side of Kingsdale hold a proud place in potholing history because in 1991 the route from King Pot (on the east) to Keld Head provided the then longest diving traverse in the world. The best pothole to view from the surface, Rowten Pot, can hardly be missed, although I hope it is avoided. Walking from the south, the sound of the beck will first be heard, rather scarily, from a hole barely 1m from the Turbary Road. This hole is in the roof of Rowten Cave, which can be entered 100m to the west. Rowten Pot itself is a huge chasm 10m to the east. Actually, it is two chasms, between which it is possible to walk – with care, for the southern one falls 70m. Walking from the north, it is the northern chasm, with trees sprouting out of it, which is seen first.
      The Turbary Road swings west towards Masongill but there is a good path back to the Dent road, past the Tow Scar trig point. From this there’s a view of Ingleborough and Whernside and across the Greta and Wenning valleys to the Bowland Fells and Pendle – a much better view, in fact, than the one afforded by the Millennium viewing station kindly provided on the Dent road, for this is dominated to the south by the nearby mast of a radio station and there is no view to the north.

keld head scar Right: Keld Head Scar

      Meanwhile, Kingsdale Beck (if it exists) has run along its straightened course to be replenished at Keld Head, where the becks that disappear into the potholes re-emerge. At Keld Head the waters meet the impermeable Silurian rocks that underlie the limestone and form a huge underwater cavern. At first glance, it seems that Kingsdale is enclosed on all four sides by higher ground, with Raven Ray forming a barrier to the south. It is easy to imagine Kingsdale as a glaciated valley, with terminal moraines being deposited at Raven Ray, so enclosing a large lake. But there is now a way through for Kingsdale Beck.
      If you innocently follow the beck by taking the path over Ravenray Bridge you may be surprised to find yourself struggling against the flow of walkers in the opposite direction. Clearly there is something special downstream – and we soon hear and see it, that is, Thornton Force, which many regard as the most picturesque waterfall in the Dales. At 14m it is not the highest but the graceful cascade within a shrub-topped cliff face seems perfectly designed for tourists’ snapshots from the footpath. It is even possible, with care, to scramble behind the waterfall to enhance the magic.
      A better reason for doing so is to investigate at close quarters the geological unconformity in the cliff face. An unconformity does not just mean that there is a change in the type of rock, which is obvious to even the untrained eye, but that two rocks are adjacent when they shouldn’t be: a younger rock rests upon an older rock with an expected intervening middle-aged rock missing, because the sediment either was never laid or has been eroded away. Here, the sediments of 350 million year old Carboniferous limestone lie above distorted Silurian slates some 100 million years older, with the Devonian layer missing, the whole forming a textbook illustration of severe earth movement and erosion. Between them is a narrow band of softer conglomerate limestone that has eroded to give the overhanging waterfall lip.
thornton force

Thornton Force

      The region clearly has a complex geology. Chapel Beck and Kingsdale Beck are crossed by the North Craven Fault, one of several Craven Faults that run across the southern Yorkshire Dales, from Grassington past Malham Cove and Ingleton towards Barbon. The faults are responsible for some of the most dramatic Dales scenery and for the clear change from limestone to the north to millstone grit to the south. It is less apparent that on a 2km stroll near Ingleton you may walk over the oldest sedimentary bedrock in Loyne, that is, Ordovician (Arenig), 500m years old, and also the youngest, Permian Red Sandstone, 250m years old.
      Our admiration of the outcome is enhanced as we continue downstream, passing Hollybush Spout and Pecca Falls, which fall over sandstone and slate, and entering Swilla Glen, a deep gorge cut into limestone. The gorge woodland is, like Baxenghyll Gorge, a Site of Special Scientific Interest on account of its geology and stands of ash, hazel, wych elm and yew, with rich woodland herbs.
      If you follow our path down by Chapel Beck and by Kingsdale Beck then, as you emerge at Broadwood, an official may well challenge your innocence by demanding payment, for you have completed, in an unorthodox fashion, the famous Ingleton Waterfalls Walk.

The Ingleton Waterfalls Walk is an 8km circular walk up by Kingsdale Beck, across the path by Twisleton Hall and Beezleys and back down by Chapel Beck, passing a series of waterfalls.
      The walk was opened in 1885 and soon there were packed trains bringing multitudes from places such as Leeds, Bradford and Manchester. Inevitably, this financial windfall provoked disputes about who should benefit – the developers of the pathways, the farmers whose lands were being crossed, or the village of Ingleton itself. There was also a debate with Mealbank Quarry, the noise of which spoilt an idyllic country ramble. At one stage, there were two companies involved, one charging for the western glen, the other for the eastern glen. Many visitors were so disgruntled at being charged twice for one walk that they returned home to put up notices warning others “not to go to Ingleton unless you want to be robbed”.
      There is obviously a difficulty in charging for a walk that has four entry points – the tops and bottoms of the two glens. The tops may be freely entered, as may the bottom of the Chapel Beck glen. Some people resent paying for what nature has freely provided. Guidebooks agree that the fee is a bargain, authors not wishing to appear curmudgeonly or to belittle the undoubted splendour of the walk. For example, Wainwright’s Walks in Limestone Country effuses “So small a fee! So great a reward!”. But then it was one shilling (5p) in 1970. It now costs an arm and a leg, with reduces the pleasure, not to say feasibility, of the walk. The paths do need to be maintained, and they are, to a high standard, but does it cost so much to do so? Today, the Waterfalls Walk is managed by the Ingleton Scenery Company, with an address in Skipton.

from tow scar

Ingleborough from Tow Scar

Walk 17: Kingsdale and Yordas Cave

Map: OL2 (please read the general note about the walks in the Introduction).
Starting point: A lay-by on the Thornton-in-Lonsdale to Dent road (692757).
      This is a shorter walk than usual, to allow time for pottering about. Before I forget, take a torch with you.
      From the lay-by walk 200m north along the road to take the track east over Kingsdale Beck. Continue for 1km and then take the footpath that cuts back north heading for Braida Garth, 3km away. Follow this path below limestone scars to Braida Garth and then continue across a field to the road.
      At this point there is a new path alongside Kingsdale Beck to the Apronfull of Stones, 1km upstream. If Kingsdale Beck is dry, as it usually is, walk to the Apronfull and then follow a new path west to Yordas Cave, where the torch will come in handy. (If it isn’t, forget the Apronfull and just walk 1km along the road to the cave.) The field within which Yordas Wood is located is CRoW land, so from the cave walk above the wood to locate the line of the permissive path linking to the Turbary Road, which you follow south. Stray from the Turbary Road only with care, for example, to see Jingling Pot, Rowten Pot (and the cave above it) and as many other pots as you wish.
      Now it only remains to locate the path back to the starting point: after a section where the Turbary Road runs near a wall, stay on the Road across another field, and your path, a clear track, is 200m further (at 685768), heading south. It goes past Tow Scar (worth a detour to the trig point) and then drops down to near the lay-by.

Short walk variation: Follow the long walk to Yordas Cave and then return along the road to the lay-by.

ch8 map
  The Introduction
  The Previous Chapter (Middle Lunesdale and Leck Fell)
  The Next Chapter (Gretadale and a little more Lunesdale)

    © John Self, Drakkar Press