Friday, 30 January 2015

Yorkshire 2000s - Ingleborough & Simon Fell

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Route: Clapham, Clapdale, Ingleborough Cave, Trow Gill, Hurnel Moss, Gaping Gill, Thack Pot, Little Ingleborough, Ingleborough, Green Hill, Simon Fell, Lord's Seat, Fell Beck Head, Nick Pot, Sulber, Long Scar, Clapdale Drive, Clapham

Date: 30/01/2015
From: Clapham

Parking: Roadside parking in Clapham
Start Point: Clapham
Region: Yorkshire Dales

Route length: 11.4 miles (18.4 km)
Time taken: 04:29
Average speed: 2.5 mph
Ascent: 788m
Descent: 801m

2000s on this walk:
Ingleborough (724m), Simon Fell (650m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: Ingleborough Show Cave, Trow Gill, Gaping Gill, Sulber

Occasionally, and all too rarely, the timing of fine weather coincides with not having to meet the demands of work - a combination that eventually greeted me during a week off while I changed jobs. The fine weather in question was a sumptuous winters day - the kind that I'd been hoping for during a long weekend in the Lake District. Sadly this didn't arise though this walk more than makes up for the dreary, rain-laiden days that preceded it.

This is a repeat of a walk Sara and I started a few months ago but had to turn back due to illness so it was the perfect opportunity to complete it. It was a blessing in disguise - the weather all those months ago wasn't a patch on today and it would simply have added to the growing list of times I'd visited this mountain without seeing the view. The mountain in question is Ingleborough, arguably the finest of the Yorkshire three peaks.

The only minor downside of this walk is that it approaches Ingleborough from the south, missing out of the iconic view of the mountain if viewed from the north. It does mean, however, that the view over Ribblesdale would be saved until I reached the peak and there are a number of interesting sites along the route to keep you interested along the way. It also includes the 2,000ft peak of Simon Fell and a quick trip through the limestone pavements of Sulber.

The walk starts from Clapham, home to the Farrer family who established their Ingleborough estate close by. Until the eighteenth century Clapham had been a parish of prosperous yeoman farmers and small landowners. In the nineteenth century most of the farms were bought by the Farrer family and Clapham effectively became an estate village. The family owns, and is responsible for, much of the land, walls, woods, fields and moors of the village and the surrounding countryside and farms.

There are two routes from Clapham to the footings of Ingleborough, both of which pass by the Ingleborough Cave. One is a route through the Ingleborough Estate, with a nominal fee to pay to pass through (around 60p) and the second is a route up the adjacent rack leading to Clapdale. The choice here was made for me - the estate was closed for shooting and, as I made my way along the lane, I was passed by the shooting party in their Land Rovers, sporting their finest country attire, no doubt on their way to gun down the unnumbered and outgunned grouse.
Looking towards Thwaite Scars
The lane leading to Clapdale
Above Clapdale Wood
Thwaite Scars
The lane climbs steadily all the way to Clapdale itself, Clapdale being a farm rather than a valley, as you may suspect, before it drops down the valley side to Clapdale Drive exiting the Ingleborough Estate as it does so. A short distance further, the lane passes the entrance to the Ingleborough Show Cave.
The entrance to the Ingleborough Show Cave
Beck Head, the outlet of Gaping Gill
Ingleborough Cave, first entered and made accessible in 1837, includes a range of stunning cave formations. The imposing cave entrance and the large passages are full of artefacts dating back millions of years along with the evidence of the significant impact of the Ice Ages. It also forms an outlet to the famous Gaping Gill system, which I'll come onto in a moment.
Some of the fine formations in the show cave
A short distance beyond the cave, along the stony, snow covered lane are the jaws of Trow Gill, an impressive limestone ravine. Trow Gill was possibly once an underground cavern formed by waters which now take an alternative route through the Ingleborough Cave / Gaping Gill system. At some point in time the roof of this cavern is believed to have collapsed - Trow Gill being the suggested result (though other theories have the ravine as a glacial meltwater channel).
Trow Gill
Looking back to the entrance
The boulders lead the way out
Another mystery surrounds the ravine, that of a skeleton discovered in 1947. The remains, reported to be those of a young man, was found to have been wearing a blue shirt and tie and a grey-blue suit with red and white stripes. He was also found with a bottle of Sodium cyanide, a lethal poison, which lead to speculation that he was a German spy though German intelligence documents discovered after the war dispute this.
Trow Gill from the exit
The ravine narrows towards the end and a few stepped rocks allow you to climb out the other side. I was thrust into a brightly lit winter wonderland, with a vivid blue sky contrasting the sparkling white snow. It was an awe inspiring day. And, I still hadn't reached Ingleborough yet - the next port of call would be Gaping Gill.
In the valley above Trow Gill
Wind blown snow along the hillside
Venturing further along the valley
Following the footpath along the valley, it climbs briefly until a ladder stile allows you to cross onto the open countryside of Hurnell Moss. For this first time in the day Ingleborough finally appears on the horizon and, perhaps more importantly, it was free from cloud. A short distance still, a branch off the main path leads to an area guarded by a small wooden fence. This is the realm of Gaping Gill.
Exiting the valley onto Hurnell Moss; Ingleborough rises in the distance
Little Ingleborough
Gaping Gill is a monstrous hole in the ground, swallowing Fell Back as it minds its own business. In fact, the chamber of Gaping Gill is approximately the size of York Minster, a fact confirmed by a laser scanned 3D model of the chamber. The falling waters of Fell Beck form the highest unbroken waterfall in the country as they cascade some 98m to the floor below before disappearing into the bouldery mass only to reappear at the Ingleborough Show Cave. For the more adventurous among you, local potholing clubs set up a winch above the shaft to provide a ride to the bottom and back out again for any member of the public who pays a fee.
Gaping Gill
The full profile of Pen-Y-Ghent
Now, on to the main event, Ingleborough itself. An approach from Gaping Gill takes you up the gentle southern slopes, a fairly easy route by most standards. The path, often flagged with large slabs to prevent it disappearing into the mire, guides you all the way up the hillside until you reach Little Ingleborough, a southern prominence and a fine vantage point overlooking Clapham and the River Wenning.
The flagged path up to Little Ingleborough
The view over Newby Moss and Clapham Bottoms towards Clapham
The vast view from Little Ingleborough
Pen-Y-Ghent once again
A large shelter cain sits on top of Little Ingleborough
The final climb up Ingleborough stretches out ahead of you, preceeded by a flat ridge leading from Little Ingleborough - an easy walk if ever there was one. As you approach the flanks of the final climb, the path skirts around the edge of Swire Gill Head before starting up the slopes. A short moment or two later and you're on top of the flat plateau that characterises the mountain.
The final climb awaits
The excellent panorama from above Sware Gill Head
A look back towards Little Ingleborough
Some pristine snow blankets the hillside
Approaching the summit
The second part of the name Ingleborough is derived from the Old English word burh, meaning "a fortified place"; in this case, a hill fort. On the top of Ingleborough the remains of an old walled enclosure have been discovered inside which foundations of Iron Age huts have been found. Oddly, Ingleborough was also once thought to be the highest mountain in the country, despite actually being lower than the neighbouring Whernside.
The summit trig pillar
The Victorian wind shelter
The views from around the summit are spectacular and this is the first time I'd seen them despite being my third time on the mountain. They stretch away in all directions and are especially good viewed to the north and the west. The far, snow capped hills of the Lake District even appear on the horizon.
The Ribblehead Viaduct and Blea Moor
The panorama of Ribblehead
Simon Fell
After loitering around in the wind shelter for a while and chatting to a guy who was intent on skiing back down, I ventured off the summit plateau and towards the quieter northern area of the mountain on my way to Simon Fell. A large wall marks the route and luckily for me, someone else had already passed that way meaning I could follow their steps and avoid stepping into any boggy bits or deep drifts.
Ingleborough seen from the depression separating it from Simon Fell
Simon Fell rises ahead
It didn't take long to reach Simon Fell, crossing the minor Green Hill on the way. The separation and relative height difference from Ingleborough means that Simon Fell is classed as a Nuttall and thus, makes its way onto the list of Yorkshire 2000s; much like Plover Hill on Pen-Y-Ghent. A small cairn marks the summit.
The summit of Simon Fell with Whernside behind
I had some ground to cover now to get back to the car but not before stopping off at a final viewpoint on the way off Simon Fell; Lord's Seat. I've come across a number of Lord's Seats on my travels but I reckon this one, so far, is most worthy of the name. A small outcrop peers out over Ribblesdale and Pen-Y-Ghent, a view made all the more impressive thanks to the dusting of snow. I also passed some remarkable ice formations on the fences which you can see below.
Some icy fence posts
The amazing formations of ice I mentioned
Icy scenes once again
A cairn marks the view from Lord's Seat
Panorama of Ribblesdale from Lord's Seat
It was a snowy tramp down the hillside to Fell Beck Head where the afternoon sun had finally got to work on melting the snow and ice on the paths. Here, another of the typical flagged paths leads to Nick Pot, another yawning hole in the ground, and marked the entrance to one of the most extensive limestone pavements in the country; Sulber. I didn't notice the extensiveness at first, thanks to the covering of snow yet suddenly it stretched as far and wide all around.
The path as it leads to Nick Pot
Pen-Y-Ghent across Ribblesdale
A ruined shooting hut
Entering the limestone world of Sulber
Limestone pavement
For those who might not be aware, limestone pavement consists of a flat, incised surface of exposed limestone that resembles an artificial pavement. The blocks are called clints and the fissures are known as grikes. Limestone pavements can be found in many previously-glaciated limestone environments around the world though the most notable examples are found in the Yorkshire Dales.
Limestone pavement stretching out towards Pen-Y-Ghent
Ingleborough seen from Long Scar
A wide bridleway leads around Long Scar to Long Lane, a suitably named track that drops down to Clapham. Instead of following it entirely, I detoured off back into Clapdale near the cave I had passed earlier in the morning. The hunters had finished for the day and the route through the Ingleborough Estate was open once again.
The valley of Clapdale
Long Lane
Thwaite Scars
Clapham Beck after it has escaped the clutches of Gaping Gill
The road follows the valley of Clapham Beck, passing a number of benches and odd buildings on the way. At the foot of the road is a small but pleasant lake called, The Lake. I don't make this stuff up. The final thing I passed before reaching the car is Clapham Falls (which I had also passed in the morning but was saving until now). The falls were constructed by the Farrers in 1837 as part of the remodelling of the land around Ingleborough Hall, The falls have three separate tiers which are fed from The Lake.
The road leading through the Ingleborough Estate
An odd construction along the roadside
An ornamental rock bench
The Lake
Clapham Falls
I had a short window of time between finishing the walk and sunset so I decided to drive a little further along the road between Ingleton and Ribblehead to see Ingleborough's more dramatic side which had been lacking from this walk. The mountain has a stunning profile from this direction, further enhanced by the snow and fading light.
I was delighted how this walk turned out and finally managed to see the view from the famous Ingleborough. It's a great and popular mountain and one that I think isn't too difficult to access for most people. There's certainly more to it than racing across the summit on a three peaks challenge, that's for sure. The additions of the limestone pavement and numerous caves only further enhance the appeal of what is arguably one of the best mountains in the country.