Saturday, 23 December 2017

Norber Erratics & Moughton Scars

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Route: Austwick, Thwaite Lane, Norber, Thwaite, Long Scar, Pennine Bridleway, Sulber Gate, Thieves Moss, Moughton Scars, Capple Bank, Austwick Beck Head, Hunterstye, Dales High Way, Crummack Lane, Austwick

Date: 23/12/2017
From: Austwick

Parking: Austwick
Start Point: Austwick
Region: Yorkshire Dales

Route length: 7.5 miles (12 km)
Time taken: 02:54
Average speed: 2.6 mph
Ascent: 386m
Descent: 296m

Other points of interest: Norber, Thieves Moss, Sulber Gate, Moughton Scars

Despite walking something similar a few years ago, this area has yet to make it onto the All the Gear blog, mainly because I didn't have a GPS and have no idea where we actually went. Though the Norber and Moughton areas will now grace the pages of All the Gear, sadly it was a terrible day for the weather so any pictures fail to do it any justice. As a pre-Christmas stroll here's how I got on.

Norber and Moughton form two very different yet geologically fascinating areas of the Yorkshire Dales - both brought about thanks to the power of the glaciers that were once draped across the land. Norber is best approached from Austwick, though Moughton can be gained from Horton in Ribblesdale or even Ingleborough if you so please. To include both, Austwick is your best bet.

It was going to be a filthy, grey, drizzly day but I was undeterred as it's still preferable to being sat behind a desk at work. Heading north out of Austwick, I followed Crummack Lane to a crossroad with Thwaite Lane. Here, over a stile into the adjacent fields, are the first signs of the Norber erratics, a collection of curiously discarded boulders.
Leaving Austwick - it would be one of the those days
Crummack Lane
A path climbs easily across the field to a gate beneath the looming Robin Proctor's Scar, a popular spot for climbers. A 4-way finger post marks routes to Austwick, Norber and Horton. The main collection of Norber erratics stand up the hill, through a cleft in the scar.
Crossing the fields towards Robin Proctor's Scar
A few erratics lay scattered
Robin Proctor's Scar
Robin Proctor's Scar
Climbing through the cleft
The Norber erratics are one of the finest groups of glacial erratic boulders in Britain. Many of the boulders at the site are perched on pedestals of limestone up to 30cm high. The boulders were probably deposited by melting ice sheets at the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago. The pedestals have developed because the erratic boulders have protected the underlying limestone from solution by rainfall, giving estimates of the rate of lowering of the surrounding limestone pavement of around 25mm per 1,000 years. Recent dating suggests that the boulders have been exposed for around 18,000 years.
The erratics make an appearance
Norber Erratics

Norber Erratics
Norber Erratics
I was following a route I found online which suggested taking in the erratics as an out and back yet there did seem to be an obvious path forging ahead across the boulder field in the general direction I wanted to go, so I followed it, which was a good move I think. Instead of the tedium of Long Lane, I was rewarded with a path which skirts the top of an escarpment all the way to Long Scar.
Following the drystone wall was the plan
Below Thwaite Scars
These lonely trees are typical of limestone country
Thwaite Scars escarpment
The path hugs the edge....
The Pennine Bridleway at Long Scar
 With the most and cloud swirling low, the broad bridleway path of the Pennine Journey was welcomed and it is easily followed to Sulber Gate which is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a simple wooden gate in the drystone wall. Sulber Gate stands above Thieves Moss, into which I descended as I made my way towards the limestone wonderland of Moughton.
Pennine Bridleway
Crummack Dale
Gate above Thieve's Moss
Sulber Gate
Moughton and specifically Moughton Scars is a vast and impressive area of limestone pavement. Perhaps not as perfect as the pavement found at Malham Cove but certainly more expansive. Even on a day like today, its a special place. The limestone pavement in the Yorkshire Dales, again the result of past glaciation, is amongst the best in the world.
Thieve's Moss
Moughton Scars
Moughton Scars
Ignoring Beggar's Stile, a path, at times indistinct, follows the edge of Moughton Scars, sometimes passing between the limestone blocks, other times heading straight across. On a fine day, the views include the looming presence of Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent, located across the valley.
Beggar's Stile
Moughton Scars
Moughton Scars
After a while, the path reaches a breach in the ramparts of Moughton Scars at Capple Bank and offers an easy way down into Crummack Dale. It's possible to extend the walk up to the trig point further south but, with zero visibility and the ever-increasing sensation of wet feet, I decided that I'd begin my return to Austwick.
The gap at Capple Bank
After descending to Austwick Beck Head, I finally dropped below the clouds, revealing the length of Crummack Dale, a quiet yet typical Yorkshire Dales valley. The walled lanes are typical of the area, as was the weather today. In fact, the swollen Austwick Beck was forging its own route along the lane turning it to a swift flowing stream.
Crummack Dale
ABelow Moughton Scars
The lane at Austwick Beck Head
Crummack Dale
Moughton Scars
Ultimately the lane dried out, leading back to the Thwaite Lane / Austwick Lane crossroad I had visited earlier in the day. The road down the hill led me back to the car, giving me an opportunity to finally dispense with the wet gear and get the heaters cranked up before driving back to Leeds. I'll be back to revisit this one, preferably on a dry, sunny day!
Austwick Beck
The Dales High Way
Crummack Lane