Pen-y-ghent

P1100142

The kids and I were on a mission. I like to climb a mountain on my birthday, if at all possible, or failing that, as close to the actual day as can be arranged. I knew that this year I would be recovering from surgery, and so wouldn’t be up to much on the Big Day, but our Easter holidays had begun (although sadly TBH was still working), and the forecast for the Monday and Tuesday before my op were almost perfect. What’s more, I’d remembered that in ‘Walks in Limestone Country’, Wainwright says:

“April visitors will ever afterwards remember Penyghent as the mountain of the purple saxifrage, for in April this beautiful plant decorates the white limestone cliffs on the 1900′ contour with vivid splashes of colour, especially being rampant along the western cliffs.”

Purple Saxifrage, Saxifraga Oppositifolia, is one of the flowers which appear in ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’ which don’t grow in the immediate vicinity of home, but which can be found within striking distance, and which I’ve therefore decided to seek out.

The sun was shining, the kids were all on fine form, and we made rapid progress up to the south ridge and to the lower line of cliffs seen above. And there just a short, steep climb above the path, we found…

P1100146

Purple Saxifrage.

It was almost an anticlimax, but only in as much as I’d been expecting a bit of a hunt to find it. I’m not sure how patient the children would have been with any lengthy deviations anyway, so it was probably for the best that we came across it so easily.

P1100148

P1100151

We climbed part way up the steep nose of the ridge, but by now, Little S, always the first to crack, was demanding a lunch stop. When we reached the second steepening of the ridge we found a relatively sheltered spot, out of the wind, behind a wall.

P1100156

For the first time in quite a while, I’d brought a stove and the makings of a brew. I really enjoyed my hot drink, doubly so since the boys, who had made their own lunches and seriously miscalculated on quantities, were soon eating my lunch as well as their own.

P1100154

P1100155

The second, gritstone line of cliffs. “It’s so wrinkled, it looks like an old man,” opined Little S.

From our lunch stop it was quick work to make the summit.

P1100158

You can probably tell that it was very windy. There is a clever S-shaped shelter there in the wall and we sat for a few minutes. I think the kids would have quite liked to stop for another lunch, had it not come so soon after our previous halt.

P1100160

Ingleborough and huge flags for repairing the Pennine Way path.

P1100163

Our descent brought us to the western cliffs, where, just as AW predicts, the Purple Saxifrage is ‘rampant’.

P1100179

“Traces of the Purple Saxifrage have been found in Britain in deposits that were laid down 20,000 years ago, that is before the end of the last Ice Age. As each of the glaciers retreated north towards the Pole, the Arctic alpine plants – of which the Purple Saxifrage is one – followed up, going ever northward. The Arctic alpines were in turn followed by plants that could live at higher temperatures and, when the ice finally vanished for good, the Saxifrages and other Arctic alpines had to find refuge wherever they could on high mountains, cliffs and the like.”

“At first the plant looks as though it had been showered with white dust, but a close examination of the leaves reveals that each is flattened and truncated near the tip, and that, in the flattened area, is a pore from which small nuggets of limestone are expelled. One would hardly have expected this to happen, as the Purple Saxifrage favours sites that are rich in lime. But the plant also likes constant running water and perhaps this sometimes contains more lime than was bargained for. At any rate most Purple Saxifrages seem to have lime to spare.”

Wild Flowers in Danger by John Fisher

P1100180

Only Little S joined me for a short exploration of the base of the cliffs, A and B opting to sunbathe (and bicker) back down by the path. Wainwright has a drawing of a limestone pinnacle. I suspect that there may be a few such pillars along the entire length of the cliffs, but this one does look quite like the one in his drawing.

P1100194This is only a short walk – Wainwright gives it as 6 miles – but there are plenty of points of interest along the way. The next one being Hunt Pot.

P1100195

P1100196

200 feet deep apparently. For us it provided another place out of the wind for lunch stop number two. Or in my case, another cup of tea and the privilege of watching the Gannets demolish the remainder of my lunch. To be fair, they did magnanimously share some of it with me.

The rocky cracks and ledges here, sheltered and protected to a certain extent from sheep,  were decorated with Primroses and Coltsfoot…

P1100203

P1100204

P1100208

Dark clouds were hurling in from the west now, but we had one more landmark to locate. Due to a bit of navigational muppetry, we came at it from above, following Hull Pot Beck…

P1100210

Where there were both Pied and Grey Wagtails flitting about.

P1100211

The beck becomes a dry stream bed when the water disappears underground…

P1100214

…and leads to…

P1100215

…Hull Pot…

P1100217

…an enormous collapsed cavern.

P1100221

The missing water emerges part way down the cliffs…

P1100220

But apparently, after heavy rain a waterfall flows directly into the top of the pot, which, on occasion, can actually fill with water. I can see myself making a return visit to witness that.

P1100224

In all, a great day out, in marvellous company. Certainly on a par with some of my favourite previous birthday hill-days. But, being greedy, I was determined to try again on the Tuesday and see if we could go one better. (More to follow!)

The kids meanwhile are quite taken with the idea of ‘The Three Peaks’. The boys, having done two of them in quick succession, would like to knock off Whernside, in fact were angling to do it the next day, and all three of them are keen to have a crack at the Three Peaks walk. I need to get into training!

Advertisements
Pen-y-ghent

8 thoughts on “Pen-y-ghent

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      It was a splendid day. I don’t know how long it flowers for, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed Conrad. I hope the weather’s good for you.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      It seems unlikely, although it does grow on cliffs in South Wales, I don’t think it’s found any further south. But I’m far from being an expert.

  1. Excellent day and a walk I did many times when I lived up that way. As you say loads of interesting stuff. I’ve seen pictures of Hull Pot full of water but never in real life as it were. Looks like the kids training is coming on a treat. Just need more food with you!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I may be me that needs more training than they do, I’m not sure. They may have learned the food lesson, but then they still leave out essential items like a cag. I’m really enjoying walk in the Dales at the moment.

  2. Stunning photos, It looks like you had a good day. I was up on the 9th, it was quite crowded.
    Good luck with the Y3P. Don’t forget to post your set off time through the door at the pen-y-ghent cafe, You may not want to join the 3peaks club, but when you have done it it feels great, and at that point you may feel so inclined.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Y3P – it took me a moment or two to twig on. I did it a few times many, many moons ago, when I was a lot fitter than I am now. I think my youngest is still a bit too young, but maybe we’ll have a crack at it some day soonish.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s