~Ribblehead to Garsdale~
3rd March 2012
At 10:30hrs on this morning I was sat in the lounge at home watching the rain outside and something mind-numbing on the box. There would be a live game on the tv at lunchtime, I'd made a brew and the cat was purring away like happy cats do. There was still an option to drive to Hellifield, catch the 11:37 for Ribblehead, walk four miles, stand (maybe in the rain) and wait for the scheduled steam train to come through Blea Moor Tunnel. What would you have done?
Scroll down for photos and a description of the walk....
The 20 mile drive to Hellifield usually takes about 30 minutes, however it was very slow at first and I arrived here just in time for the service train northbound to Carlisle.
Passengers wait for the driver to take the train towards the viaduct before crossing the track. The weather has changed as the band of rain has cleared away leaving the post cold-front favourite of .... sunshine and showers! But how much of each?
Ribblehead Viaduct with Whernside
Many folk were on the route up to the signal box, including a French couple, giving me an opportunity to practice my French and make a fool of myself. How do you say "steam train"? I think the man got very confused when I started talking about le train avec ... un, er, kettle?
Route over Blea Moor
The track is a muddy mess, it's clearly been recently used by something with caterpillar tracks. The air shafts were put next to the footpath, or was it the other way round?
Railway Tunnel Air Shaft
Two of the three air shafts have been adopted by other parties, the one I had a close look at appeared to be a weather station, but why does one cable descend deep into the air shaft? The weather is fairly constant in the tunnel.
Weather Station on the Air Shaft?
Stonework on Blea Moor
Dent Head Viaduct
Great Knoutberry Hill
The summit of Blea Moor is quite close to the path, but I have an eye on the time and so don't visit the top. Another air shaft on the way down is covered in scaffold and fancy apparatus.
Route down to Mossy Bottom
The line emerges from Blea Moor Tunnel close to Mossy Bottom. It takes some effort to get to the tunnel's north portal and that usually keeps the numbers down.
Blea Moor Tunnel
One other photographer has beaten me to it (out of shot) and got the best spot. I have to settle for a position just in front of him, checking, of course, that I wasn't in his way! Just as I take this test shot, we hear the sound of the steam engine - I arrived with two minutes to spare.
70000 Britannia Class 7, "Britannia"
Many of the "Britannia's" were named after famous Britons and in this case, the first off the production line carries the eponymous title. These stars of the preserved steam engine fleet are always turned out in immaculate condition.
Heading for Dent Station
Dent Head Farm
Tourists in Dentdale
The River Dee
The train is made up of different carriages from the last few weeks; the farm has been recently restored as I can remember taking a look around a derelict wreck a few years ago; the Japanese tourists getting a soaking were amazed when I "hello'd" them and I got a giggly chorus of "lello!!" in return and the river has many of these stepped falls in upper Dentdale.
Well, that's heavy shower No.1 out of the way and as sunshine takes its turn, I'm heading for Artengill Viaduct.
Another very impressive engineering feat, completed in 1875. Ribblehead looks relatively accessible compared with Dent Head and Artengill. A keen eye will spot some fundamental design differences between the Ribblehead and Artengill Viaducts.
Artengill Coal Road
As I head up here, I have the option of taking the path over Great Knoutberry Hill or following the coal road around the flank of the fell and landing close to Dent Station.
Looking back I can see more rain heading over here. However, I decide to take the route over the fell as I'm going to get wet either way.
Great Knoutberry Hill Summit 2,205ft asl
I'm now wet through and wishing I was somewhere else. How's that football match going on? The ascent of GKH is quite straightforward as walkers only need to follow the wall - I might have given this one a miss in poor weather without the navigation aids of walls and fences. The term "quagmire" comes to mind.
Cairns on Great Knoutberry Hill
As the rain eases, I can consider the option of going to Dent Station and having over an hour to spare, with "Things to do at Dent Station" being a very short list; or heading over the fellside to Garsdale Station and hopefully getting there before the train.
Aye Gill Pike
Wild Boar Fell
The photo on the left show Aye Gill Pike beyond the blue roof at Dent Station. The route to Garsdale Station has Wild Boar Fell in view.
Coal Road to Garsdale
Soon enough I join the tarmac coal road to Garsdale. It's only about 3.5 miles from Dent Station to Garsdale Station using this road, so I know have enough time to get there for the 17:27 service.
Garsdale Railway Station
Visitors may remember I arrived here at much the same time last Saturday after the walk from Kirkby Stephen Station. I think I'll apply for a Garsdale Station Loyalty Card.
Garsdale Station used to be called Hawes Junction and a line used to connect from Wensleydale. I had 15 minutes to spare before the train arrived, that's about right, gives you time to relax and anticipate the journey home.
That's the second time I've walked from Ribblehead to Garsdale, the previous time being a very different route way back in April 1997.
Nest Saturday, March 10th, there are two steam-hauled charter trains heading south over the S&C in the afternoon. I dread to think what the numbers will be like at Ais Gill, there could be scuffles and disorder. A bright spark would be selling tea and cakes at the roadside.......
Walkers: Just Me.
Time taken: 5hrs 5min over a distance of about 12 miles. 2,405 ft of ascent.
Route: Ribblehead Railway Station, Batty Green, Blue Clay Dale, over the tunnel to Mossy Bottom, Dent Head Farm, Stonehouse, Artengill, Great Knoutberry Hill, Clay Road to Garsdale Railway Station.
Weather and Conditions: Sunshine and Showers.
Greetings Count: Lots of folk heading for Whernside, including the French couple, the man in my place taking a photo of the train, the giggly Japanese and I met a chap at the foot of Artengill who had been high up there taking a photo of the train. After that, I saw no more walkers until I got on the train at Garsdale.
Richard's Refreshment Review: Many Settle/Carlisle trains have a trolley service operated by "volunteers" (I think), rather than Northern Rail staff, the tea is very good and this helps passengers stay awake and therefore not miss their station on the way home.
Walks from the Settle & Carlisle Railway.
Steam trains on the main lines: uksteaminfo and then click "This Week"
All photos copyright Richard Ratcliffe 2012 ©