Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Helm Crag Horseshoe

9th January 2012

My first Lakeland Walk of 2012 and it was Billy no Mates. Keith rang on the Sunday to say he had flu and couldn't go for a walk. It was if to or not for me but I decided to go with my camera and walking gear and either have a day of photography or if the weather was OK I would go for a walk. There can be no worse feeling than tramping up a fell side in bad weather on your own as no-one tells you to shut up when you complain.

I must admit that it felt a bit strange pulling up for a Bacon Butty at Pete and Dave's caravan on my own. First lay by on the Kendal Road from the M6.

Food for One Please

" Where's your mate then." Asked Dave.

" Got Flu." I replied.

" Soft beggar, I come here everyday even when I am ill." Dave said and I suspect truthfully.

" Where's Pete then." I asked, hoping he might say Pete had flu.

" Gone for some bread." The reply dashing my hopes my hopes of touche

Oh well spam tasted good as I contemplated where to go for the day. The morning was overcast but the promise by the usually nearly always, nearly right weather forecast said it would brighten. Taking this as true which in general Keith and I did to great disappointment I decided to go to Grasmere. I had often thought of doing a horseshoe up from Grasmere up Helm Crag and round to Steel Fell and descending back to the village.

However when I got to Grasmere village it was packed and lack of car parking led me to decide to start the walk elsewhere. I drove out towards Dunmail Raise but found all possible parking places taken. I was contemplating a change of walk when I noticed a turn off for Town Head:  NY332098 and found to my delight that the farmer there allowed parking for £1. It was of course not the planned point to start up Helm Crag but it would avoid the crowds.

Helm Crag is famous for the rock structure on its summit which is called the Lion and the Lamb and from a distance it looks remarkable just like a large Lion crouching over a Lamb. The mountain itself though not huge at 1299 feet is pretty impressive when viewed from Grasmere with its steep sides. It does have another secret that is not obvious at first but take a good look at the lion and lamb and you can see that there is a step down to the north eastern side of the summit. It is as though this side of the mountain has slipped away from the rest of it. Indeed if you stand on Cotra Breast on the far side of the valley of Greenburn Bottom you can actually see the lump of mountain that has slipped. This is due to the ice age and the retreating glacier that once carved out Greenburn Bottom and Dunmail Raise. When the glacier retreated the north eastern side of Helm Crag lost the support of the ice and became unstable. Eventually the weight of the rock on the unstable ground caused a huge piece of the mountain to slip a few metres away from the rest of the summit leaving the step we see today. I doubt very much if humans saw this happen but it must have been pretty spectacular when it did.

Town Head

I got the walking gear on pretty quickly as Helm Crag from this point looks exciting and I was eager to get going. I walked down the lane from the farm as if going to Grasmere but when I reached the bottom of the hill I crossed the bridge over the river and took a footpath right at: NY336092 and then it was back up hill to some cottages where the man made track enters the fellside through a gate. Here a path goes to the right but I went left following a wet and muddy path that followed a stone wall to a little foot bridge over the stream of Green Burn at: NY327094. The path from here climbs very steeply but thankfully in a zig zag up to the col of Bracken Hause between Helm Crag and Gibson Knott.

Climbing Up to Bracken Hause with Town Head Below

I was completely on my own when I reached the col and turned left to climb the slope up to Helm Crag. Looking back Dunmail Raise looked particularly good from this point.

Dunmail raise from Bracken Hause

It wasn't the most difficult climb to the summit of Helm Crag but once there the pinnacle of rock that forms the lion is pretty impressive and, evidence of the huge landslip is easy to make out as shown to the right of the lion in the next photo.

Crouching Lion with Landslip to Right.
Me on Helm Crag notice to my right lower down is the top of the land slipped piece of mountain
This is not exactly the summit of Helm Crag which is at: NY326092 but it is what I would call the top if you felt like standing on the lions head. I knew Keith would not believe me if I did not take evidence of my being here. He would probably accuse me of playing bingo in Ambleside !! Luckily a lady walker appeared and I asked her to take my photo. I don't know how she managed to get my normal jet black hair to look grey !!!

I had to reverse my route now back to Bracken Hause but then carried on up along the obvious ridge to Gibson Knott. It was a rocky undulating path and not the most pleasant as avoiding trips and slips was paramount and deflected a little from what was a nice ridge. The summit of Gibson Knot was hardly spectacular in itself just a simple pile of stones and a little plaque someone else had left. It was a Man Friday moment as I thought I was the only one to tread this way having seen no-one since the lady photographer.

People have gone this way before

Still when I looked back towards Helm Crag the view down Far Easedale was significantly better than the pile of stones.

Far Easedale
Grasmere glinted in the afternoon sun. It was either the lake or the glint of a few hundred car windscreens. How it could be so lonely on Gibson Knott, and looking around the other fells I could see no other walkers, made me wonder where all the car people went for the day. However my selfish streak made me glad they were not here with me. However I could no decry the beauty of the scene laid before me and decided this would be a nice place to eat lunch. As the occasion decreed I had to follow the dress code in this natural restaurant on a January afternoon and was soon ensconced in a fleece, followed by a heavy waterproof jacket, scarf and hat. Cool was not the fashionable aim, cool was the weather or bluntly should I say it was freezing.

It is amazing how quick Lake District walking can make you eat. Even in summer when long warm days allow relaxation and time to dine, after a couple of mountains under your feet you are ravenous. In winter speed eating is more of a quick way of refuelling and getting back on your feet as fast as possible.

The warmer clothes stayed on for the rest of the walk as the temperature followed the sun in going down.

I wanted to get onto Steel Fell before it got too late and I reckoned a couple of hours at the most would have me descending in the dark. Therefore I pushed on a  faster pace along the still rocky path above Moment Crag and onto Pike of Carrs: NY307103. I left the path at Calf Crag: NY303104 and contoured  the very boggy head of the Greenburn Bottom valley heading North East to pick up a wire fence that leads up to the summit of Steel Fell.

The bogs were the usual Lakeland high fell affair. It is an often asked question when non walkers look up a mountain and ask why big streams cut their way down from what looks like dry grassy ground.

"Where does all the water come from?"

It is sometime assumed that there must be a tarn or lake that feeds the tumbling torrent. In actual fact the ground that falls away from the tops into the stream heads is usually one big natural sponge holding millions of gallons of rain water. From this sponge rivulets of water seep out into watercourses eventually forming streams. Sometimes after really heavy rain the ground can hold no more and over   saturated it releases so much water that it forms spectacular waterfalls that crash down the steeper slopes.

This spongy ground is fantastic fell walking terrain in summer when its springy dry surface makes it easy going on the knees. On the damp January day I chose it is a lot different and it isn't too hard to find a calf deep peaty bog. The gore tex gaiters certainly earned their corn and I reached the fence very muddy legs but with very dry feet. Having waterproof boots is an advantage but without gaiters on this type of ground they can be an uncomfortable liability. The old saying that waterproof boots that keep water out are also brilliant at keeping it in if you should get in boot filling bog. Our cast iron stove at home has dried many a pair over the years.

The wire fence in bad weather is  a good guide to the summit but on a good day it also forms a barrier to the stunning views North along Thirlmere and into Wythburn it is worth crossing it to see these.

Wythburn Valley and Thirlemere from Steel Fell
Steel Fells Eastern aspect is also stunning. The wire fence turns North East from the summit then plunges straight down the very steep fell side to the road in Dunmail Raise.

Here usually in June brave fell runners doing the Bob Graham Round can be seen descending Steel Fell via this fence line to the applause of gathered team mates and supporters. Here by the road is fresh clothes, warm food and chance to rest for a few minutes. It is in most cases a long time since these lads and ladies have left Keswick at first light. They have run over the North Western fells of Robinson and Dale Head crossed Honister Pass and as well as other fells have scaled the giants above Wasdale of Great Gable and Scafell before running over more fells to this point by the road at Dunmail raise. Now usually as dusk approaches they set off to another warm round of applause to scale even more fells including the Eastern giants of the Helvellyn range and the Northern giants of Blencathra and Skiddaw. In all they will have run 42 peaks and around 63 miles and  around 27,000 ft of ascent and descent in under 24 hours. This is the anti clockwise way of doing the round and some do it the clockwise but whatever Dunmail Raise has a warm spot in anyones heart who has been involved in this magnificent achievement.

I have been involved in a couple of legs of the Bob Graham round helping John Serjeant one year and Phil Taylor the next both fell runners like me are members of Clayton le Moors Harriers. On both occasions I was the donkey. Let me explain how it works.

The person attempting the round runs all the way. He or she are there just to concentrate on the feat and to do this they are accompianed by a small team of fellow runners. These consist of a top rate navigator who makes sure the attemptee is guided correctly and saftely along the route. The other invaluable member of the team is the  donkey whose job it is to carry in a rucksack all the extra clothing for bad weather and food, and drinks that the attemptee may need. These two people generally do a leg say from Keswick to Honister Pass with the attemptee then hand over to another team who take over to Wasdale, then another team takes over to Dunmail Raise and this is repeated at Threlkeld and onto the finish at Keswick. There may be more runners in a team but the navigator and donkey are the key members.

The summit of Steel Fell: NY 399111 is marked by a pile of rocks and is special. Walk a bit to the East and grab the view with all your senses.

Steel Fell Summit
If you are a Bob Graham runner most of what you see in front of you with the exception of St Sunday Crag you have either to run up or run down. Then look North at Helvellyn, Blencathra, Great Calva and Skiddaw and realise these have been run or are yet to be run dependant on the way round.

 If you are a humble walker take in what these runners actually do then feel a lot more humble.

The view East

The sun was setting now and the fells lit up in the warm glow of early evening. I had only the long steep descent down Cotra Breast to negotiate and on a day like this even my stiff legs felt good.

Looking down Cotra Breast with Helm Crag on the right and far distant Windermere

I had been suffering from a sore knee for a while due to I later found out to be some worn out fell running shoes. As I descended I did what all walkers and runners have done and let my mind drift to the view instead of looking where I was going. All of a sudden I stepped onto a steep bit of wet grass and my left leg slipped from under me. I avoided falling but in doing so put all my weight including a full rucksack fully on my right knee. I swear I could feel the bones grind together and I suspect people in the pubs and cafes of Grasmere heard my scream of pain and quite a few expletives. I had to sit down while the pain eased a little but it was still very sore. Being a photographer I have a monopod, a single leg camera support that is strapped to the side of my rucksack. This is very strong and extendable so I converted it into a walking stick and hobbled the rest of the way down the fell to the cottages where hours before I had entered the fellside. It was then another hobble on tarmac to the car in now what was nearly darkness. It goes to show that its the simple slips and falls that could turn nasty. If you are on a crag or you know it could be dodgy you are aware of danger and concentrate. When you are doing what I did and daydreaming on a simple descent thats when problems can arise. It took almost an hour to get down from where I slipped. I had all the gear for a problem with extra clothes, torch, whistle, map and compass but if I slipped at the back of Calf Crag with no-one around it would have been serious.

Steel Fell and Town Head

I was truly tired by the time I got to the car and glad the day was over but it was and is a cracking walk and I will return with my flu ridden mate to do it again. The knee is fine now after investing in a new pair of fell running shoes and giving it some rest. I did enjoy the beer anaesthetic when I got home though. Dr Marston makes some grand medicine!!!!!!

Technical Bits

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cathedral Quarry and Hodge Close

14th October 2011

Keith and I invited our good friend Bob Shepherd to come to the Lakes. We decided he needed a break from his seven day job of running his business. He must have been ready for it as he agreed!!

What celebrations at Pete and Dave Butty Caravan when their turnover went up by a third. Only joking as the bacon was crisp and delicious as usual. It was actually very busy with truck drivers and a few walkers and it had taken the lads by surprise.

The Best Sight

They were falling over themselves as one cooked the food and the other buttered the teacakes and brewed up. Being in the first lay by on the A590 Kendal Road conversation is always being interrupted by the roar of trucks as they go past. It usually goes a bit like this.

"What do you" Whooooooshe !!!!! "Lads?"

"What" Whooooshe !!!!!

" Three Ba..." Whooooshe!!!!! "Tea" Whooooooshe!!!!! "Cris" Whoooooshe!!!!! "py" Whooooshe !!!!!!!!! " con"

The lads must lip read for fun as they never get it wrong. Bob was smitten and Pete and Dave have another convert. We may introduce him to Spam next time but we need to break him in gently first with crispy bacon.

We decided without telling Bob that we would take him to Cathedral Cavern and Hodge Close Quarry near Little Langdale as both are pretty spectacular. We just said we would do a circular walk from the village.

The weather was dull and overcast but warm and after days of rain it was thankfully dry. We managed to get what we thought was the last parking place on the roadside: NY319032  just below the Three Shires Inn and got into our walking gear. I proudly pulled out the Satmap GPS and set it to measure the walk. I pointed at the blue circle that appeared on the screen showing exactly where we were on the 25,000 scale OS map. Amazing technology that tells you how far you have walked, how much elevation and depression, how long it took, and how fast you walk. That is if you press the Start button when you set off.!!! Idiot 1 Technology 0 I think the score was when we got back.

Little Langdale

We knew the route anyway so it wasn't a problem but we decided to go the back way into Cathedral so walked a few metres up the road and at NY318033 we turned left and took the path to Stang End NY318028, a lovely hamlet with a look of Switzerland.

Stang End Switzerland
We then followed the path marked to Little Langdale to where it joins the main path to High Tilberthwaite at NY315028. From the back of Cathedral Quarry NY 313028 there is an old mine tunnel that goes alway through the fell and exits just off the path we were on. This was what we wanted to take Bob through and enter the back of Cathedral. The only thing was the tunnel does not appear on the map and though Keith and I had been through it before it had been from Cathedral not this way. It proved a little difficult to find. Bob realised we were looking for something but we didn't want to tell him what.

" Do you two know where you are going?" He asked

" Course we do. Anyway my Grandad was Apache so I navigate by the wind and sun." I replied.

I dont think he was fooled and we wandered around until eventually we ended up in Moss Rig Quarry NY313023. It was interesting but not where we should be but the old buildings were worth a look. As we were leaving a huge owl flew out of the ruined building we had just left. How we didn't see it in the roofless shell none of us could explain.

Leaving Moss Rig Quarry
We climbed the steep track and reached what seemed another main track at NY311025. Keith then said he and I had been here before. He was right and we were definitely in the wrong place from where we should have been. Bob was simply enjoying the walk guided by two navigators who simply gave the impression they knew where he was being taken.

" Lets go over the top and go to the proper entrance of Cathedral." 

Said Keith in a voice that Bob would think it was an pre-intended part of the walk. I just agreed in the same type of voice and off we set. At least we did know where we were going now and soon we were at the true entrance to Cathedral Quarry. NY313023. It is an amazing place. First you enter a mined tunnel little knowing the dramatic scene that awaits. 

Cathedral Quarry Cavern

The tunnel leads into a huge cavern lit by a massive hole in the upper wall. The roof is supported by a pillar of slate left there by the miners to do just the job it was designed to do. It is easy to imagine the noise of explosives in this confined space as the slate vein was blasted from the mountain. I should imagine too that the miners of the time had little in health and safety so ear defenders would not be used. They would probably have been deaf in their later years.

" Amazing!!" was all that Bob said, but it is so impressive that words do fail a little.

As Keith and I had been before we looked at it differently now as the surprise value was something we had already experienced. We noticed that the cavern followed the vein of good slate plunging South to North at an angle of about 45 degrees, and quarrying had stopped as the vein was worked sideways to the different type of slate that formed the East and West walls of the cavern. We had entered from the North through the tunnel and the South end had an exit tunnel that terminated in an open quarry with vertical walls and no obvious exit path. We entered this quarry and scrambled up a bit of a climb to an upper level. Here was the hole that illuminated the cavern and we could look down to the pillar of slate. At the South end of the quarry there is a hole in the ground with a chain across part of it. We climbed into the hole and a tunnel appeared leading into the mountain. Head torches on now, Keith had secretly brought one for Bob and we entered the tunnel. About thirty metres the tunnel forks and the left hand fork MUST be taken. The right hand fork disappears to who knows where while the left hand we took eventually leads to a point where in the distance a spec of daylight appears. It is advisable to place your hand on your head in these low tunnels so you feel the roof with your hand and not your skull. The spec got bigger and bigger until we exited into the daylight of Moss Rig Wood.


It looked blindingly obvious now how we had missed this tunnel exit an hour or so before. We had mistakenly thought it was further up the High Tilberthwaite path and we had walked straight past the little stile that we could see down the little path in front of us.

"What about your Apache grandad?" Asked Bob

"He met John Wayne." I replied.

We retraced our route back to Stang End and took the path marked Hodge Close. It was a good track and we were soon at Hodge Close. NY317018. Again we didn't say anything to Bob as we wanted to surprise him once more. We led him around the back of the cottages and into the disused wooded Parrock quarry. This is the approach into Hodge Close workings.

Parrock Quarry
In the bottom of this quarry was a huge boulder of new slate that had obviously fallen from the upper walls. It would have been a nasty experience to have been there when it fell as looking up there was a trail of new slate boulders lying on the older rocks.

Keith and Bob add scale to the fallen boulder

I climbed up the rock fall to see where the rocks had fallen from and it was quite obvious that a huge tongue of slate had fallen off. Quarries seem at first to be stable places but one has to remember that they were blasted from the fells and the cracks and shock damage actually create dangerous loose sections. All it needs then is frost, ice, water and vegetation to prise these sections from the rock face and send them crashing down. Explorers beware.

Me standing on new slate from above.  Photo Keith Butterworth
Further on into the quarry there is still evidence of the long gone quarrymen. A huge wire rope still dangles from above hundreds of feet long. Between tree roots and ferns lie abandoned railway lines twisted and half buried by past rock falls, and metal structures that must have been part of some machine the type of which is now unknown. Suddenly a dramatic scene opens in front as we entered the workings of Hodge Close Quarry.

Hodge Close Quarry Workings
Just like Cathedral the quarrymen left a huge pillar of slate to support the roof but in this case it is open to the elements on the approach quarry and through both holes on the Hodge Close side.

Looking at the same pillar from above Hodge Close

I think the second photo puts the whole thing into scale. The walls of the quarry are around 50metres high while the lake in the bottom is about 50metres deep. One beloved of climbers and the other beloved of divers. Below the water are further tunnels that extend into the quarry walls. Once of course this was all empty and looking at the left hand side of the pillar there is some ruined iron work. This once formed a vertical lift that was used to bring slate from the quarry bottom to the very top. The holes at the pillar must have been an intermediate loading and unloading point.

The remains of the vertical lift.   Photo Keith Butterworth
We sat on the ruins of the lift to have lunch. It was deathly quiet except for the sound of water falling from the roof of the cavern away to our left. A robin cheekily hopped around picking up the bits of bread we threw for it. At one point it perched on a ledge and started singing and the melody amplified by the cavern soon had other robins in the trees above the quarry sang in reply. We felt a little reluctant to leave our dining table as it felt so relaxing in what obviously was once a very unrelaxed place.

We climbed back out of Parrock Quarry and walked to the upper edge of Hodge Close. It really is impressive and the lack of fencing makes it feel rather airy when you look over the edge. I did start to wonder when Keith kept asking me to stand further back when I was already in a precarious place for him to take a photo!!!!!

Keith and Bob after telling me to step back!!!!
He had been admiring my boots and top and Bob my Satmap so I did wonder  at his photo directing.

Back a bit Lads !!!!!

We carried on walking down the track towards Coniston until we reached NY309011 where we turned right through a stile and followed the path over the fields to High Tilberthwaite Farm NY308018.

High Tilberthwaite
From here we took the rough track that leads over to Atkinson Coppice NY308013. The farmland soon turns into rough fell as the path climbs. We had to negotiate a slight problem of a huge Highland Cow sitting in the middle of the path. Bob and I had the brainwave of asking Keith to put on a red jacket and take a photo of it.

Bob and I make our escape.     Photo Keith Butterworth
The autumn colours were just starting to show on the fells. It needs a few more weeks before they are fully rich and golden. Keith's late father reckoned the first weekend in November and he was probably right with this. Keith and I are both photographers as was Keith's father and we missed it last year after promising ourselves all summer we would come to the lakes for the autumn photo shoot. Maybe we will make it this year.

Once over the top the path drops into the Little Langdale valley and usually the view of the Langdales are magnificent. It as a bit cloudy on the tops today and the view was muted.

Looking into Little Langdale Tarn near Atkinson Coppice
Keith and I as usual spurned the easy way back which would have been to reach the point where our path intersected the main path from Low Hall Garth Climbing Hut NY309028 and walk back past it to the Little Langdale Village. This would have meant turning right at the intersection so we turned left. We decided to go via Bridge End Cottage NY301029.

Bridge End Cottage
Then reach the main road which leads to the Wrynose Pass but go right then left up the road to the Langdale Valley. At NY300034 we turned right over the stile onto the lower reaches of Lingmoor Fell.
It would have been easier walking along the road back to Little Langdale but not half as much fun. Its a well defined path and the views are really good though today the low cloud tended to restrict them.

Looking over to Wetherlam and Wet Side Edge
We were on coasting mode now and the banter was good as we walked through the Autumn ferns now burnt sienna contrasting against the verdant green of the fell grass. As usual there was a little sting in the tail and this came just above High Bield NY312036 where the path takes a steep climb up to under Bield Crag NY313038. The leg muscles started to rebel a little at this point.

Keith on the climb
Bob on the same climb
Once over the uphill bit it was an easy walk to Dale End Farm NY316037 where we joined the road and strolled back to the car resisting all temptation to stop at the Three Shires Inn for a pint. As Keith puts it quite rightly. " It's not going in for one, it's staying for the next ten thats the problem."

A great day out

Technical Bit

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A Run From Settle


Settle is the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales and some very good running country. Almost all the competitors of the famous 3 Peaks fell race would have passed through here on their way to the start at Horton in Ribblesdale. Although having done the race in my younger days and run the route on numerous occasions it was not my plan today.
There is plenty of parking in the town centre and a few very good cafes The Old Naked Man on the main street being the most popular. It is possible to see nearly every type of bike from mountain to carbon fibre dream machines that would not look out of place in the Peleton in Paris. There are also a couple of very good running gear shops and a cracking bike shop.
The run starts at the market place in the centre of the town SD 819636 and the route takes the narrow back road to Langcliffe. At NY 821637 a small limestone track climbs to the left between high limestone walls. From here I started the long leg burning climb that eventually joins the road at a stile under Clay Pits Plantation. SD 829653.

Up From Settle

Once through the stile, after I had taken in the view over to Ingleborough. I took the obvious track to Jubilee Cave. This is one of those annoying tracks that is good running but after the climb I had just done the gradual incline was hard going until my body rhythm ‘s got back in balance.

Over to Ingleborough

Jubilee Cave SD 837655 is really quite an interesting though far from spectacular little cave. Named of course after Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and shares this honour with Victoria Cave named obviously after the Queen herself and is few hundred metres away on Attermire Scar. Apparently human remains from the Iron Age as well as evidence of Romano British and Celtic occupation have been found in Jubilee.

Track up to Jubilee Cave

Jubilee Cave

From Jubilee it is really good running on a very good track. Keeping the dry stone wall on my left the path is a joy with a fantastic view of Penyghent  the first of the 3 peaks in the race.

Looking towards Penyghent

The track has had a lot of improvement since I first ran on it years ago. Then sections of it were really boggy and a favourite of trail motorcyclists who churned into more bogs. I was once with a good friend John Serjeant when one of these lads sank to his handlebars in one. It took all three of us to pull the bike out and amazingly its engine started on the first attempt after its deluge of soggy peat. Now its hard work getting your feet wet on the well drained well made surface of the track.

On Our Way Home

At SD 851658 the track bears right at the path junction and rises and falls over the moorland to NY863657 where it bears right again at another path junction and climbs up to a gate at SD 875651 and it is here the spectacular views over the limestone country above Malham come into sight. Its at this point the path degenerates into its muddy old self but it’s fine as it’s a good bog jumping run down hill to the road at Langscar Gate SD 888648.

Malham Tarn from the path to Langscar Gate

I crossed the road at Langscar Gate and dropped down into the Watlowes Valley and from here things got really spectacular. It also got a bit greasy under foot as wet limestone matches ice as a medium to break your neck running on.

The Watlowes Valley was formed when the glacial ice of the last ice age melted and a great river ran through the now dry canyon. Gradually the water carved the valley into it present size but then as the ice sheet fully decreased the amount of water through the valley lessened and started to percolate into underground caves. Eventually the water disappeared all together underground but still flows out below Malham Cove witch stands at the far end of the valley. Cavers have proved this by putting dye in the stream where it goes underground and finding traces of the dye appearing from under the cove.

Watlowes Valley

It is easy to imagine the long gone river as I ran down the valley floor being a roaring torrent. It is probable that there would have been no vegetation, only the bare scoured limestone emerging from its icy prison and the pure silence that now enveloped me would definitely be shattered.

However at this point in the run the reason for the deafening roar is not yet apparent. At the end of the valley I reached the limestone pavement that is the top of Malham Cove and it is not a surface to sprint across.

Limestone Pavement

A harsh lesson in leg breaking could easily be learned here and the 80 metre vertical drop that appeared in front of me could in mist lead to definite death.

It is not advisable to stand close to the edge of Malham Cove unless the words head for heights are applicable.

The pavement, which is quite common in limestone areas is formed by the acidic action of rainwater eroding vertical cracks in the limestone. The cracks have often created a micro- climate within them that support their own vegetation and insect and animal populations.
I gingerly made my way across the pavement to the footpath that climbs down the right hand side of the cove looking from the top. It’s a steep man made staircase and was very slippery but at the bottom the reason for the once glacial deafening roar is obvious.

Malham Cove

Once the huge river that carved Watlowes Valley plunged over this massive scar in indescribable fury. It must have looked like England’s Niagra and the noise would have been heard for miles. Now the small stream that emerges is what remains of that river. This is one of the major tourist attractions of the Yorkshire Dales and thousands of visitors arrive here every year to see it.

It seems a world apart from when I rode here on my bike with a lad called Paul Kelly in 1963. We camped for a week and the only other people camping were two lads from Bradford. How the car changed the world!!!

It’s was a pleasant run into the village a beautiful little hamlet with good pubs and cafes. It was also the home of the now deceased Pete Livesey one of the best all round athletes of his generation he was an expert climber, fell runner, orienteer, cyclist and excelled I every other sport he attempted. It’s a case of read about Pete and simply say wow!!

At the Visitor Centre SD 900627 I took the path marked Pikedaw Hill that climbs between high limestone walls turning left at SD 899629 then forks left again at SD 895631. Eventually a stile appears on the right and once over it I began the long climb first though fields and eventually on a rough trod that leads near to the site of the old mine workings and tips of Pikedaw Calamine  mine SD 875639.

Old Shaft Pikedaw

The mines were dug to extract Calamine in the 18th Century. Calamine is zinc carbonate and was used in smelting brass and as a cream for rashes. It was when the mine was in full production that the miners broke into a series of caverns that run under the fell. These are accessible to experienced cavers via a trapdoor into the old mineshaft. Not the one in the photo.

The trod joins the main footpath to Stockdale Lane and it was fantastic running. It’s a very fast downhill on good ground climbing slightly only when I passed Stockdale Farm on the left. The tarmac of Stockdale lane is a bit of a knee shaker but it was still downhill and fast until SD 847638 where I left the lane and took the path that leads under the high escarpments of Attermire Scar and Warrendale Knotts.

Warrendale Knotts

There is a small mound at the foot of Attermire with some steel plates that once were used as targets for the army rifle range. All I can find is references to it being a rifle range but all I can say it was one big rifle that made these holes.

Target Plates

The Plates are almost 1.5 metres long so it’s pretty easy to see the size of bullet that made these.

The route had a final sting as it’s a short and not very steep run to SD 825.641 but at this point the legs were complaining and I was pretty tired. However once over the top it is a fantastic very steep descent back to the start. I love descending fast and this section certainly allowed me to do that. The view was pretty good too.

Sunset over Settle

Technical Bit