Pen-y-ghent

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ingleborough and huge flags for repairing the Pennine Way path.

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

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“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

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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.

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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…

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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…

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Where there were both Pied and Grey Wagtails flitting about.

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

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…and leads to…

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…Hull Pot…

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…an enormous collapsed cavern.

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The missing water emerges part way down the cliffs…

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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.

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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!

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Pen-y-ghent

Turbary Road – another walk with caves.

Keld Head Scar

The window for significant post work walks is a short one – for most of May I’m far too busy, so it’s generally June and then part of July before we head off on our annual pilgrimage to the Llyn Peninsula. This season, then, was exceptional – the weather was kind and I managed to squeeze in several good strolls despite the competing attractions of the World Cup.

This is the first of those walks, another route from Wainwright’s ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ (Which might otherwise be known as ‘Walks from the A65’ and since we live not too far from the A65, that makes it ideal). This is walk number 5: ‘The Turbary Road, Rowten Pot and Yordas Cave’, or more precisely, about a half of that route, since Wainwright has it starting and finishing in Ingleton and walking up along the lane into Kingsdale and down via Swilla Glen and the Waterfalls Walk which we did back in December, when the falls were in spate.

Small hut marks the start of the walk 

I cheated and drove along the lane to a point (692 756 ish) where it’s possible for half a dozen cars to pull onto the verge and park. If you’re at the right spot, you’ll see this neat little hut and an old limekiln just nearby where you’ve parked.

From there a good track climbs gently with good views of Ingleborough….

Twistleton Scar End, Ingleborough 

…and of Keld Head Scar, Kingsdale and Whernside….

Keld Head Scar, Kingsdale, Ingleborough II 

Eventually I left the track, looking for the trig pillar on Tow Scar. I was pleased that I did, because otherwise I might not have seen the pansies….

Pansy 

‘The Wildflower Key’ tells me that there are Wild Pansies and there are Mountain Pansies, and how to distinguish between them.

Pansy 

And these are….. drum roll…..probably one of those. If only I’d had the forethought to take pictures of the leaves, I might have more idea. They didn’t seem to be particularly widespread, but they were locally quite abundant…

Pansies 

Now that my attention had been drawn to the ground around my feet, I found that there was plenty more to see.

Heath Speedwell? 

I was pleased that I knew these for a speedwell, but beyond that I’m not very confident. Heath speedwell is my best guess.

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I shan’t even hazard a guess for these last two. A yellow flower and some white flowers!

Abundant white flowers 

These tiny white flowers were particularly abundant and starred the sward in a very cheerful fashion.

Tow Scar  - looking towards Gragareth 

Tow Scar is not an especially prominent spot, but it has good views out over the Lune Valley and looking up to Gragareth, and across Twistleton Scar End to Ingleborough….

Ingleborough from Tow Scar 

The walk was further enlivened by a number of butterflies and, once again, by wheatears posing for shots…

Wheatear 

The Turbary Road is a track once used by peat-cutters. It traverses a kind of plateau between Kingsdale below and Gragareth above, and the land around is fissured with potholes and caves.

This is Kail Pot….

Kail Pot 

Somewhere above the track is Swinsto Hole, which my old friend Andy could tell all about, from a trip we made many moons ago. I chickened out at the first, short, but committing, abseil. 

Turbary Road and Whernside 

Hard by the track is Rowten Pot….

Rowten Pot 

Quite large and impressive, but hard to do justice to in a photo. Incidentally, the tree on the right here was liberally coated with webs, presumably from some kind of tent moth, although I couldn’t see the moths. The water flowing through the pot was very audible and could also just about be seen below.

Looking down into Rowten Pot 

There are several openings hereabouts. This stream flows into Rowten Cave and then eventually down into Rowten Pot. Wainwright says that it’s easy, if a little uncomfortable, to follow it down, past a side stream flowing in from Jingling Pot to the bottom of Rowten Pot. It would have been a very wet trip, and I decided to save it for another occasion. There’s also a passage off to the left, which Wainwright says is ‘dry’. It wasn’t.

Rowten Cave 

I found it’s far end and then followed a narrow winding passage down to the confluence, before turning back to this alternative, drier exit:

Rowten Cave 

After Rowten Pot I managed to wander off the track, but serendipitously, found this narrow, deep pothole which doesn’t seem to appear on my OS map.

Another Cave? 

Of all my post-work walks this year, this was by far and away the most populous. I met several dog-walkers near the start and again close to the finish, one fell-runner on the Turbary Road and two mountain bikers at Rowten Pot. As I wandered down towards Yordas Pot, on access land but well away from any right-of-way, a farmer on a quad-bike with a long-barrelled rifle casually slung across his back, made a bee-line for me. Fortunately, he was just after a friendly chat.

Where the Turbary Road meets the metalled lane, a rocky dell hides the entrance to Yordas cave.

Yordas Cave 

The main cave is huge. This was a show cave once upon a time, but is now quiet, and free, and can be explored at will. It took my eyes ages to adjust to the gloom and at first I stumbled around, cursing my ‘useless’ headtorch.

The entrance from the inside 

But, once my eyes had tuned in, I found that there was plenty to admire and examine.

Rock feature - some kind of dinosaur? 

I was surprised that my camera and its flash coped reasonably well with my snaps of the walls of the cave.

Curtain 

More cave featuers 

Even more cave features 

It coped less well with the lovely chapter house waterfall at one end of the cavern….

Waterfall 

There’s a better photograph of the waterfall, and a much more detailed write-up of the cave here.

Back outside the slight haze had cleared and the final leg of the walk, back along the valley on the lane, was accompanied by lovely evening sunshine.

Kingsdale 

Kingsdale had one more surprise for me: a dry streambed….

Kingsdale - dry river bed 

Which at Keld Head suddenly fills with water….

Keld Head 

…..which becomes the River Twist and flows over Thorton Force and the Pecca Falls on the famous Waterfalls Walk.

Twistleton Scar End and the River Twist

A terrific evening out and about, and a walk I think my kids will love. I had intended to have shared it with them by now, but somehow I haven’t got around to it yet. Soon…..

Oh, almost forgot…..some folks appreciate a map….

Kingsdale Map

Turbary Road – another walk with caves.

Catrigg Force and Stainforth Force

Catrigg Force

The day after our island-hopping excursion brought more promising looking skies, with the odd hint of blue, but by the time we’d driven to Stainforth in the Dales, it was gloomy again. Positively threatening in fact. We lunched in an odd little picnic area, near to the car park in Stainforth and then set-off up-hill out of the village in search of Catrigg Force, a waterfall in Stainforth Beck.

It was dark and atmospheric down in the ravine, making it hard to do justice to the force in a photo: you’ll have to take my word for it that it was impressive.

Catrigg Force with B and S 

The Dangerous Brothers liked it anyway.

I shan’t bore you with details of our route. I don’t need to. There’s a lovely map below with the route marked on and everything. I haven’t shakily drawn on an approximation with a mouse-driven drawing tool, like I have occasionally in the past, or shelled-out my hard-earned for a GPS. Didn’t need to. I’ve stolen Andy’s map! Genius. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that before.

Shhhhh! Don’t tell him.

Anyway, we crossed some fields, many of them resplendent with buttercups.

The Beach Funsters crossing a buttercup field 

And the final portion followed the river Ribble.

Ribble-side meadow 

As you can see, it had begun to brighten up. The sun was shining!

What’s to be done in those circumstances?

Chilling-out

Have a snooze, obviously!

Well, not obvious to our kids, who decided that since everyone else was lying down, they would do the same, but on a slope….

Rolling down the hill 

….so that they could roll down the hill. I think little S is giving his Sister an encouraging shove. Probably.

More simple pleasures on view at Stainforth Force where some lads were using a rope-swing to fling themselves into the river.

Stainforth Force 

It looked like great fun, if maybe a bit too invigorating.

There are several cascades here. Very fine.

Stainforth Force III 

My friend the Proper Birder tells me that it’s a very good place to see salmon leaping, so I think that we might come back this way in the autumn.

Bridge over the Ribble

Andy’s map:

Nice eh? Expect more high quality maps in these parts in the future. Just not regularly.

Andy’s post about our get-together is here. Well worth a read. I can recommend the map, in particular!

This was another walk from…

…and another cracker to boot.

More to come….

Catrigg Force and Stainforth Force

Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

So, I was sent some books to review: ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ or, to give them their full titles, ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells and Adjoining Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country. The Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent Area of Yorkshire.’ We might call them Wainwright’s other, less famous, guide books.

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Warrendale Knotts from Attermire Scar

Now, you might think it a bit presumptuous for this insignificant blog with a trickle of readers to be reviewing the books of one Alfred Wainwright. The man has spawned an industry. He has an appreciation society! His surname has become a noun! He has a beer named after him, surely the ultimate accolade? He is a guidebook writing mega-star. A colossus!

I couldn’t agree more. I can’t help feeling that Wainwright doesn’t really need my help.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

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Whernside from Ribblehead

The books are available in the original edition, Wainwright’s unsullied version, or in a second edition which has been updated by Chris Jesty.

The unrevised edition has a handsome Wainwright drawing on the dust-jacket, the new editions have fetching photographs. (Personally, I prefer the drawing, but I think it’s good that the two are clearly distinguished.)

The books are fairly small and can handily fit in a rucksack (mine have both already been out numerous times). The new edition is slightly bigger than the old, which, if you’re of a certain age and are beginning to find that most things must be read at arms length, can be quite handy when trying to decipher some of the small handwriting.

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The Mare’s Tail, Force Gill

Wainwright and I have a bit of a history. Several of my friends are bagging the Wainwright’s or have finished the Wainwright’s or are pretending not to be bagging the Wainwrights. I’m in the latter category, surreptitiously ticking off the Wainwright’s as I accumulate Birketts. At University, always Tommy Opposite by nature, I was temperamentally inclined to take a dislike to anything which was popular with my peers – and one of those things was, as I saw it, the cult of Wainwright. I still stick by some of my opinions – ‘Allo, Allo’ really was dreadful,  and I’ve never warmed to the music of Genesis, Haircut One Hundred or Thomas Dolby, but I’ve grudgingly come to admire Wainwright’s pictorial guides.

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Catrigg Force

But, although I’ve gradually put together a second-hand collection of the Lake District Fells guides, and fairly recently added ‘The Outlying Fells’, I’ve never had either of these books. (I almost bought a second-hand copy of ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ but decided in the end that the copy I had found was prohibitively expensive.)

So – what do I think of them? Well, as I’ve alluded to already, I love them! They’re gggggrrreat! They’ve inspired me to go back and rediscover some corners of the North-West I haven’t visited for far too long and have also pointed me toward some delights that I hitherto was unaware of. (A few of these walks have appeared on the blog, but there are many more to come!)

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Stainforth Force

Initially, I was predisposed to prefer the original versions – why muck about with the best? But – I must admit that I’ve changed my mind. The access status of some of the routes in the Dales book are questionable and I wanted to know whether the routes were still OK to use. In the revised Howgills book, Chris Jesty’s additions, handwritten and sympathetic to, but distinct from, the original, are really useful and if were to buy Wainwright’s books again, I’d be strongly tempted to go for the revised editions.

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Rowten Pot

Either way, if you don’t know these books, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’ve galvanised me in a way which I really didn’t anticipate.

Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

The Caves of Ribblehead

So, here I was, back at Ribblehead, with a bit of time on my hands, clear blue sky overhead and wall to wall sunshine spreading its munificence to one and all. And when I say ‘one and all’, I do so advisedly, because, in stark contrast to how quiet it had been at seven thirty, Ribblehead was now thronged with people.

I had ‘Walks in Limestone Country’ in my pack: I had a bit of a shufti at that and decided that Walk 22: The Caves of Ribblehead, or at least part of it, was just what was required.

This is one of several entrances to Roger Kirk cave.

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I didn’t venture into this one, and now that I’ve read a little more about it*, I’m happy with that decision.

(*If you’re thinking of poking around in these caves, you’ll need a more knowledgeable and comprehensive guide. Fortunately, there’s one available here, and a very interesting read it is too.)

The caves in this first section of Wainwright’s walk are all close to Runscar (the OS map has Runscar Scar but that sounds awful, a tautological nightmare like Windermere Lake or Torpenhow Hill)

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Runscar’s clean white rocks add interest to what otherwise might be a rather bleak stretch of moorland.

I couldn’t find all of the cave entrances which Wainwright mentions, but, disconcertingly, found some that he doesn’t mention. Both Thistle Cave and Runscar Cave have upper and lower sections. I didn’t find the top entrance to Thistle, but I had a good poke around in Runscar Cave. Which was most enjoyable.

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Then I was across the limestone pavement (Penyghent in the background)….

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…and heading towards the upper branches of a tree apparently emerging at ground level from the otherwise tree-less moor. The tree is a good marker for Cuddy Gill Pot…

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You can scramble down into the bottom of the pot, pausing on route to enjoy a marvellous display of primroses…

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At the bottom, Cuddy Gill appears from under a low lintel of rock and almost immediately disappears beneath another. In the bright sunshine it was hard not to notice that some of the rock had tiny, shiny crystals catching the light and sparkling. What would these be in sedimentary rock? (A geologist’s opinion required please. Amateurs welcome. Actually, almost any opinion welcome – keep it clean however, this is a family show.)

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Not far from the pothole, and upstream, is Cuddy Gill Cave, which also has a number of entrances. I had a bit of a look in there, but it’s narrower and the rocks are sharp edged, and to my mind, worth a look, but not as satisfactory as Runscar Cave.

Here’s Penyghent again…..

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…because, well….why not?

Turning back towards the car I came across this resurgence, which I now know is Runscar Cave again.

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I went in a little way, but when it looked like I might need to use my knees, decided that shorts are not the best attire for caving and left it at that.

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Must go back and have a more thorough gander sometime.

I’d seen this tight cave entrance under a small bluff on my way out, but a lady with two dogs was sat nearby eating her lunch and it seemed rude to interrupt. I crawled a small way into it now, but, not knowing what I was letting myself in for, thought better of it. In fact this is the exit for the top section of Thistle Cave.

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As I say, I shall definitely have to come back and follow through the top sections of Thistle and Runscar Caves as Stephen describes on A Three Peaks Up and Under:

A Rabbit Round Ribblehead

The Caves of Ribblehead

Whernside from Ribblehead

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A solo outing. And one of my early morning starts – if I remember rightly, I parked up at Ribblehead at around 7.30am. It was, as you can see, clear and bright: very sunny, but also bitterly cold.

As I walked alongside the viaduct, I was distracted by a pair of wheatears, who posed for numerous photos – which turned out to be a bit of a feature of the day.

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Then the early train crawled past…

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I followed the railway line North towards Dent, stopping briefly to admire a tiny wren which was singing with great gusto from a sapling on the embankment.

Ingleborough dominated the view…

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Handily, Force Gill crosses the railway line via an aqueduct and the path slips across the same way.

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The path then climbs Force Gill Ridge towards Knoutberry Hill and ultimately Whernside. I left the path however, to follow Wainwright’s suggestion of an ascent beside Force Gill itself. The immediate reward for such a choice is an encounter with ‘the lower fall’….

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..which is very impressive. I’ve climbed Whernside many times over the years, why don’t I remember seeing this before? I watched a dipper which seemed to disappear into a spot near the top of the falls. This was the first of several dippers I saw, or perhaps the one dipper several times, or maybe a few dippers a few times each. Whatever: they’re birds I associate with mountain streams and I’m always pleased to see them.

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The stream was a delight to follow, with many small cascades and falls.

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I suppose progress was slow – I took lots of pictures and, where the banks closed in a little, found myself frequently crossing the stream to find an easier passage – but then, what was the hurry?

Soon enough, I’d reached the ‘upper fall’, which Wainwright calls ‘The Mare’s Tail’.

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This was a superb spot and since I had it all to myself and the sun was shining I decided to stop, break out my stove and kettle and have several brews. Once again I was entertained by wheatears – three of them were chasing each other around rather vigorously. A skylark (or similar LBJ) joined them on the far bank for a while. And another dipper seemingly disappeared into the rocks by the waterfall – a nesting site?

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It was very pleasant sitting there, taking photos of the birds and the waterfall and the miniature rainbow in the spray near near the base of the falls.

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It took me quite a while to decide to move on and climb past the Mare’s Tail.

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I got a bit of a shock when I did, because now I could see the main path above and to my right and see also the steady stream of bobble-hatted hikers, lead-dragged dog-walkers, Lycra-clad runners, and bike-wielding mountain bikers who were variously promenading to the top. The quiet of Force Gill had me suffering the delusion that I had the hills all to myself, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

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Not to worry: I still had a little more of the stream to enjoy.

I was quite surprised to be regaled by another enthusiastic wren which was perched on a mid-stream boulder. I can’t help thinking that wrens are garden or hedgerow birds and therefore a little out of place so high in hill-country.

Hereabouts limestone predominates and the stream disappears and reappears in entertaining fashion. There’s also some pavement…

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…and some potholes too, though I didn’t find those.

Perhaps the reason why the crowds were all further north on the flagged path is the fact that the area around Greensett Tarn….

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….is very wet and boggy. It is called Greensett Moss and the word Moss in a place name never leads one to anticipate sand dunes, wadis and distant caravans of camels.

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A short steep climb brought me on to the highly populous path and since the chill of earlier was decidedly banished, I waited for a lull in the convoy and switched my trousers for my temperature-regulation ultra-high air-permeability leg-wear -  otherwise known as shorts.

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There’s a little walled shelter by the trig pillar on Whernside, and fortuitously, nobody was using it. Out of the wind there it was really quite warm. Soon the kettle was humming again and all was right with the world. There were quite a few people about: there seemed to be a bicycle maintenance class in progress, and a small party underway nearby, but a couple who joined me in the shelter told me that I was lucky to be there on such a quiet day, when no charity Three Peaks walks were mobbing the area.

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Wainwright advocates a very direct route down from the top. I opted for the main tread down the ridge a little and then steeply down into the valley. The wander back to Ribblehead via Broadrake, Ivescar and Winterscales Farm was balmy and butterfly blessed.

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This engaging bird posed quite obligingly on a wall-top. A meadow pipit?

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Soon I was back at the viaduct and having yet another brew. I’d promised to be home in time to cook tea, but the kids had been invited to a party and would be out all afternoon, leaving me with a fair bit of leeway. So – what next?

PS this post has been brought to you via the inspiration of…

Walks In Limestone Country

…of which, more to follow.

Whernside from Ribblehead