A weekend in God’s Own County, 23-25 February 2018

The prospect of a fine, but cold, weekend ahead and a desire to visit my father in his nursing home in North Yorkshire prompted us to have a weekend away in the Yorkshire Dales.  We booked into a guest house in the centre of Settle, a small market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with easy access to that most glorious of dales, Ribblesdale. Here was an opportunity to combine three of my interests: walking, photography and railways.

We drove up on the Friday and after contending with horrendous traffic in Bradford, and calling for lunch at the Cracoe Cafe in Cracoe arrived to see my father at a still reasonable time. Afterwards, we took the minor road to Settle via Airton and called at Scaleber Force, a 12 metre waterfall whose waters tumble over limestone cliffs before plunging into a deep pool a few miles outside Settle. This looked pretty impressive, but would probably look even better in other seasons with more colour. Still, I got a decent photograph of it.

Scaleber Force, near Settle
Scaleber Force outside Settle

The following day needed some careful planning as I wished to photograph two steam trains running on the Settle to Carlisle railway and photograph Winskill Stones above Settle as the sun set. That gave time for a walk first so we headed to Ribblehead for a shortish circular walk. This took rather longer than expected so I was not in a position to photograph the first of the steam trains. However, the locomotive ‘Tornado’ must have developed a problem as it was piloted by a class 66 diesel locomotive, not a good look.

Ribblehead is dominated by the magnificent Ribblehead viaduct that carries the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle railway line across Batty Moss on 24 arches. Fully opened in 1876 by the Midland Railway, the line very nearly closed in the 1980s. What a tragedy that would have been, but fortunately the line was reprieved, although it does not fulfill its potential as a fast route linking West Yorkshire with Carlisle and Glasgow. Also close by are the peaks of Ingleborough and Whernside.

A low level walk around Ribbelehead

Ribblehead viaduct and some limestone pavement

We then went back to Settle for a welcome cup of tea and then to Helwith Bridge, just south of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, to photograph the second of the day’s steam trains. This was a southbound train hauled by LMS Jubilee class ‘Galatea’ and looked a really magnificent sight in the late afternoon sun.

Southbound steam train at Helwith Bridge, Jubilee class no.45699 'Galatea'
Galatea heads south over Helwith Bridge with Pen-y-Ghent in the background

There was just time then to drive up to Winskill Stones above the village of Langcliffe, and about 325 metres above sea level, just outside Settle. I had been there before, but not at sunset, and despite the presence of two other photographers it gave some great opportunities for photography before and after the sun went down. There is just something so photogenic about a lone tree and limestone pavement. Although it was freezing cold, I found it difficult to tear myself away and got some really good images.

Sunset at Winskill Stones above Langcliffe
Winskill Stones after sunset looking across to Smearsett Scar (left) and – behind the tree – Ingleborough

On Sunday, we had time for a walk, before calling to see my father again and driving home before the worst of the traffic. We headed up the hill behind Settle to access an area of spectacular limestone scenery known as Attermire Scar. This includes Jubilee Cave where past excavations have revealed important information about the area over thousands of years of prehistory, from Ice Age cave bears to elephants and hyenas in warmer times. It was a freezing, but exhilarating walk to round off our time in Settle.

A walk from Settle along Attermire Scar
Approaching Attermire Scar, with the local sheep enjoying the hay that had just been put out for them
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