Sunday, 9 September 2012

Settle's Waterfalls

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Route: Settle, Pennine Bridleway, Blua Crags, Cow Close, Winskill Stones, Upper Winskill, Catrigg Force, Winskill Stones, Jubilee Cave, Victoria Cave, Brent Scar, Attermire Scar, Attermire Cave, Sugar Loaf Hill, High Hill Lane, Scaleber Force, Upper Settle, Settle

Date: 09/09/2012
From: Settle

Parking: Parking in Settle
Start Point: Settle
Region: Yorkshire Dales

Route length: 8.4 miles (20.1 km)
Time taken: 04:05
Average speed: 2.1 mph
Ascent: 405m
Descent: 407m

Points of interest: Catrigg Force, Jubilee Cave, Victoria Cave, Attermire Scar, Scaleber Force

We chose a truly fabulous day to get out into Yorkshire Dales to investigate some of the waterfalls that can be found near to Settle. A glorious late-summers day greeted us as we arrived and parked the car, a real Indian summer sort of day. Settle is nestled just outside the National park, much like Buxton in the Peak District. It stands within the valley of the river Ribble, underneath some impressive limestone formations, namely a great exposed ridge, the Craven Fault, that runs east to Malham Cove. The walk, though a little disjointed, would pass a number of geological features including waterfalls, ravines and caves, a perfect day out for the geographer and walker alike and a great way to see out the summer.
The small town of Settle
The most challenging part of this walk hits you right at the start, a fairly steep climb up Constitution Hill, along the Pennine Bridleway and passing the Castlebergh Plantation. Immediately it became obvious that we had dressed inappropriately from the very start and required a quick de-layering to prevent overheating. The Pennine Bridleway is a relatively new long-distance trail, starting at Middleton-in-Wirksworth in Derbyshire and ending close to Kirkby Stephen. In addition to the 73-mile trail, a couple of additional loops take the total distance to 130 miles. The Pennine Bridleway would take us all the way to our first port of call; Catrigg Force.
The Pennine Bridleway looking towards a distant Ingleborough
After the steep climb out of Settle, the Pennine Bridleway is a much more gentile affair, passing beneath Blua Crags (the western extent of the Craven Fault) before a steady climb up to the road that links Langcliffe and Malham. A drive along the road is highly recommended, especially as it gives a fine view of Malham Cove as you descend into the valley.
Rounding Clay Pits Plantation
Unfortunately, reaching the road means that you begin one of two short sections of walk that are actually along the road, so be on the lookout for traffic. The location does, however, provide a fine view northwards into Three Peaks territory; Pen-Y-Ghent is just 7 short kilometres in the distance along the Ribble Valley.
A distant Pen-Y-Ghent
After leaving the road, the track crosses an area called Winskill Stones, a 74 acre area of limestone pavement and discarded erratics (an erratic being a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. They are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres). The largest of the erratics we passed is called Samson's Toe.

Samson’s Toe is approx 2.5m high and it stands upon a series of small limestone stilts that have not eroded away thanks to the protection of their boulder. It is said to be possible to rock the stone on its limestone pivots.
Samson's Toe
Its name is derived from the legend of Samson the giant. According to the story, he lost his footing when jumping across from Langcliffe Scar, breaking off his toe whilst attempting this. In reality, the boulder was deposited in this location during the last Ice-Age by the retreating glaciers moving back to the north. It is suggested that the boulder may have come from as far away as the Lake District, where the Greywacke type of rock the boulder is made from is abundant.
Traffic up ahead
After crossing Winskill Stones and passing the farm at Upper Winskill, we made our way through a cow field (luckily we didn't have a dog with us) before dropping down, off the Pennine Bridleway, into the depths of Catrigg Force. The waterfall is reached by a steep, stepped path the leads down to the plunge pool. Catrigg Force is completely hidden from view to those who do not deliberately seek it out and is one of the few spectacular Dales waterfalls that does not fall directly underground. In addition to being a stunning waterfall, the location was the inspiration for some of Sir Edward Elgar's most famous works including Land of Hope and Glory. Our inspiration at the time was the prospect of a well-earned bite to eat.
Descending the path to Catrigg Force
Catrigg Force lies in a secluded gorge
It is possible to get closer by scrambling over the rocks
The tumbling water of Catrigg Force
Retracing our steps back to the Pennine Bridleway, we rounded the eastern side of Winskill Stones this time, returning to the Langcliffe - Malham road. After travelling south towards Settle a short distance, we took the path that spears off towards Brent and Attermire Scar. Prior to that, though would be Jubilee Cave.
The eastern edge of Winskill Stones
A view back to Ribblesdale
Jubilee Cave
Jubilee Cave is a small limestone cave (unsurprisingly enough) visible and easily accessible from the track that leads towards Attermire Scar. There are actually three entrances to the cave, though the one we had a poke around in is easily the largest and roomiest. Excavations in the cave have revealed Iron Age human remains along with Neolithic, Romano-British and Celtic material.
Having a peak inside Jubilee Cave
The view looking out!
If waterfalls and caves weren't enough already, the next part of the walk was equally as impressive; a wander through Brent Scar and Attermire Scar, a ravine that runs out through the exposed limestone and provides an excellent route back towards Settle. Attermire Scar is a high limestone cliff which forms part of the Craven Fault in the hills beyond Settle. The path leads down into Brent Scar before heading into Attermire Scar, a large gash that isolates Warrendale Knotts on the opposite side from the rest of the fault. Attermire Scar formed part of a gigantic subterranean cliff face which arose from the sea approximately 200 million years ago.
Brent Scar
Attermire Scar
Warrendale Knotts
The full spectacle of the Craven Fault; Warrendale Knotts, Attermire Scar and Settle Scar
Leaving Attermire Scar behind, we passed between Sugar Loaf Hill and High Hill on our way down to High Hill Lane, one of the routes leading into Upper Settle. Despite being relatively close to the end of the walk, there was still one treat left in store; Scaleber Force, reached by a short walk along the lane before following a signposted path through a wall stile.
Scaleber Force
Scaleber Force is split into two, the upper and lower falls. The upper falls are perhaps the most exciting, especially when viewed from the path higher up, however, it is well worth a scramble down to the lower falls also to get an up-close look at the rocky terraces. After finally working out how to put my camera in a manual shutter speed setting, it was time to try and take the classic 'water cascading with a slow shutter speed' shots. Here they are:
Scaleber Force
Scaleber Force
Photographic urges appeased, it was time to make our way back to Settle and the waiting car. We'd exhausted the natural features in this area (aside from a few additional caves and an exploration of Warrendale Knotts) so it was time to finally head back down the hill into Upper Settle and eventually Settle proper.
High Hill
One of the many old-fashioned road signs around Settle
A view of Malham Cove on the drive home
Settle lies right in the very heart of some of the most exciting and often overlooked scenery in the Yorkshire Dales (despite the town actually being located just outside the boundary). Where Horton-in-Ribblesdale may take the prize for being the starting point of the Yorkshire Three Peaks and Ingleton cowers in the shadow of the shapely Ingleborough, Settle is spoilt for choice in the sheer number of things that surround it, many in addition to the ones you have just read about. Other routes take in some classic Yorkshire Dales limestone scenery such as Giggleswick Scar and Stainforth Force. This walk alone has waterfalls, caves and ravines to which you can add or remove at your leisure. In short, it's great fun and a great day out.