Date - 2nd March 2008 Distance - 7.5 miles
Map - OL2 Start point - Ribblehead (SD 765803)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Whernside 2416 736 SD 7385 8141


The Walk

It was Sunday again, so we were out walking, but on our own as Uncle Bob was away for the weekend in his caravan. The plan was to climb the hill Whernside, the highest in the Yorkshire Dales. In our club Shaun and Tetley had climbed it before, but Allen and Grizzly needed to bag this summit to catch up, so Dad agreed to take us all up there again. Our start point was on the road towards Hawes, at Batty Moss where the mighty Ribblehead Viaduct backed here by Whernside carries the Settle Carlisle railway over the valley.

The wind was blowing fiercely as we set off and not without a little trepidation we wondered what the conditions would be like on the summit some 1500ft higher.

However we were able to put that out of our minds for a while, as Dad told us and pointed out some interesting facts about this area in relation to the construction of the railway. When work started in 1869 on this section including the viaduct and the long tunnel under Blea Moor, hundreds of workers came to this remote place and Shanty Towns sprang up to house them. There were nine in all the names being –

Salt Lake, Batty Green, Inkerman, Sabastapol, Belgravia, Jericho, Jerusalem, Tunnel Huts and Blea Moor.

The materials for the construction were manufactured and gathered here and moved around using small steam locomotives. Little evidence remains after all this time, but the area has been surveyed by archaeologists. On an information board is a drawing of what the Locomotive Shed and Brickworks might have looked like.

Once construction was complete all the towns and structures were removed and nature took over once again. But if one is observant some things can still be discerned.

Look closely at the above picture and you will just be able to make out a groove in the centre foreground. This is all that remains of the Locomotive Shed inspection pit. The rising ground behind was the site of the shanty town called Sabastapol.

In the rather unprepossessing picture below you can see two mounds left and right. These are the spoil heaps of the brickworks chimneys.

Well, armed with all this knowledge we now suggested to Dad that we had better get on with climbing the fell, however there was still more for us to learn. We climbed up past where "Sabastapol" was located and came alongside the railway at Blea Moor sidings passing the lonely signal box. One wonders what tales it could tell about the wild conditions experienced over the many years.

Our path took us eventually over the aqueduct crossing the railway line. Here we had a view of the entrance to Blea Moor tunnel.

This tunnel is the longest on the line being some 2629 yards (1.5 miles). As we walked on we could trace its line under the moor from the metal tops of the ventilation shafts. Beside these are spoil heaps of the earth and stone removed up the shafts during the construction of the tunnel.

The track continued quite steeply up and we reached this three-armed sign post by a stile.

As you can see we had come 2¼ miles, and our onward route for the 1¾miles to the summit was clear. Over the stile the path continued up, coming beside a wall for a while before striking half left. Here the path had been restored with stone slabs making it easier to ascend this steep section to the ridge. Heading on left and up beside the wall, we then reached the summit where the trig point is just through a pinch stile. It was terrifically windy up here but we showed true grit and hung in to have our picture taken as always.

Now the observant among you may just notice that standing between Allen and Grizzly is another little companion. Well we have to tell you that the day before we did this walk was Dad’s birthday and Aunt Wendy, who made Grizzly had sent Dad this little bear for his birthday. He is called Eric and is wearing a hat and scarf and has his own walking stick. He has joined our club and this was his first walk and first summit too. Despite the wind he posed here on his own.

Dad was very concerned that we would be blown away in the wind, so was very relieved when we were all safely tucked in his rucksack once again. Sitting in the shelter Dad had a sandwich before continuing along the ridge over High Pike and then steeply down to the valley floor. This path and the one we had used to climb up are on the route of the famous "Three Peaks Race" held on the last Saturday in April. We marvelled at how people can run down such a steep slope. The race starts and ends in Horton in Ribblesdale and takes in Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough too. In all 24 miles and about 4900ft of climbs. The record for the current course was set in 1996 and is 2hrs 46mins. Wow!! See www.thethreepeaksrace.org.uk

Once in the valley we could look back and see where we had been.

Passing through a gate to a track we then took a further gate on the left, that led us over fields and past farms to eventually come into sight of the Ribblehead Viaduct again. It is the longest on the railway being 440 yards, having 24 spans and standing 169ft at its highest point.

The track led under the viaduct where this monument stands marking the completion of its restoration in 1991.

Just a short walk took us to the car. We quickly hopped out of Dad’s rucksack and into the calm and warmth of the car.

On our many journeys between Ingleton and Hawes Dad had noticed that there was a sign for homemade cakes at Newby Head Farm that was just a few miles away. Now you know how much he likes cake, so we were not surprised to soon find we were there. Eileen the lady who makes the cakes made him welcome and he purchased a huge chocolate cake and ginger cake. We can tell you that they were absolutely delicious if the oohs and aahs are anything to go by! Where now? Yes you have guessed it – a café. He went to the Pen-y-ghent café in Horton in Ribblesdale, a favourite haunt of his and Uncle Bob’s too. Here he had sausage egg and beans, then a piece of cake and a pint mug of tea. Well we did reckon he had earned it on such a cold and windy day.


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