Yesterday was an early start tramping alongside the mighty Ribblehead Viaduct before heading up through the sparse heather and Guinness black peat onto Whernside, wrapped in thin clouds. We looked down on a hawk or two as they hunted the great curving slopes. There is a small lake that invites the wild swimmer.
Crossing the railway just before the mouth of the Blea Moor Tunnel you walk on part of the Force Gill Aqueduct; a beautiful ‘S-shaped’ channel built to carry the waters of the gill off the moor and above the tracks, a series of drystone walls that echo the ‘S’ of the water channel with walkways and what look like paths for herding sheep safely through. The bed of the water channel is made up of tight-packed cobbles, with a series of rippling little rapids built in. All in all it is a thing of wonder, not on the scale of the viaduct, but nonetheless to be admired. (I later learn that a recent plan to renovate this aqueduct included laying a concrete ‘sleeve’ down the inside of this channel, which would have utterly ruined it; it was shouted down. I know working conditions were terrible and labourers frequently died, but the constructions, the scale, grandeur and simply epic nature of many Victorian enterprises are staggering even today.)
The route up following the trail north and then back round on itself past a gorgeously bleak waterfall (Force Gill) cupped and set back in some black rocks. Then over hundreds of the great stone paving slabs, so deadly in winter. Until finally you reach thin ridge and you can see over into Deepdale and Dent. Along the ridge and the massif of Ingleborough emerges in silhouette when the clouds passing through the valley allow.
Some early sandwiches and tea against shelter from the hilltop breeze and occasional spit of rain, in the lee of the spinal drystone wall. Watching as swallows grazed the grasses. Then the drop down a truly vertiginous ‘staircase’ – my thigh muscles are still grumbling this morning – onto the valley bottom. By now the sun is out and the air heavier and still. Then back under enormous arches of the viaduct and up to the Station Inn for a cool pint.