Reginald Farrer of Ingleborough Hall, intrepid and dedicated Victorian plantsman, travelled all over the wild lands of China, Tibet and Upper Burma to collect seeds for the out-of-doors plant collection he established around his family home in the North Yorkshire village of Clapham. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Some thought him mad, especially when he took to firing seed out of a shotgun to scatter it evenly along the crevices of Clapdale. It was a pleasing picture to have in the mind on our way up the cobbled lane that travels in tunnels and artificial stone-walled canyons through the grounds of Ingleborough Hall and on up to the limestone fells beyond.
The walled lane ran between the sullen grey cliffs of Robin Proctor’s Scar and the broad sunlit valleys to the south. We turned up the sloping fields and found the path up to Norber, a slanting upland where the retreating glaciers dumped hundreds of sandstone erratics – square boulders as big as tanks – on the limestone pavements 10,000 years ago. One boulder had been left delicately perched on limestone blocks like a barn on staddle-stones.
Pen-y-ghent’s lion face poked out of a welter of dark grey cloud ahead as we made for the lane up Crummack Dale in a spatter of rain. A great heavily-muscled bull lay beside the lane, but although he cocked his ears towards us he didn’t deign to turn his head. A grass track brought us up to the ridge at Long Scar, where the tremendous view encompassed Pen-y-ghent, the elongated purple back of Ingleborough ahead in the north, and away to the south the bulk of what we guessed to be Pendle Hill far off in Lancashire.
On the way down to Clapham we stopped off for a tour of Ingleborough Cave. It was an impressive moment when our young guide Sam blew out his candle and plunged us into the profoundest possible blackness. Candles were all those first explorers had to light their way in 1837 when they first ventured into this now famous tangle of caves and cramped passages. Brave as lions, or mad as hatters? Like Reginald Farrer, probably – a good stiff dose of both.
Start: National Park car park, Church Avenue, Clapham, N. Yorks LA2 8EF (OS ref SD 745692).
Getting there: Bus – Little Red Bus service 581 (01423-526655, littleredbus.co.uk); Malham Tarn shuttle service 881 (Sun, BH Mon, April – Oct)
Road – Clapham is signed off A65 Ingleton-Settle road
Walk (7½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL2): From car park, right up Church Avenue. Right by church (‘Austwick’ fingerpost) and on through tunnels. In ⅓ mile fork right (751694, ‘Austwick’). In another ⅔ mile, where wall angles in on left, turn left off walled lane over ladder stile (760692, ‘Norber’). Aim half right for far corner of wall; cross ladder stile (763695) and on to 4-finger post (766697). Left (‘Norber’) up to plateau and erratic boulders (766700).
Return to 4-finger post; left, down to wall; left along it. Right over wall by stone steps at marker pole on crest (768698); down to cross tumbled wall, on below Nappa Scars to gate/stile into Crummack Lane (772697). Left for 1¼ miles to Crummack. Through gate by farm drive entrance (771714); on past first fingerpost (‘Bridleway’). At second fingerpost, left (772715, ‘Sulber’) uphill on grassy track. In 300m it bends right (770716) and runs to right below scar. At crest (768719), meet track; left past cairn, down to go through gate in wall. On down to far left corner of wall (758716); left through gate and down walled lane.
In 200m, right over ladder stile; steeply downhill to ladder stile into stony lane in valley (757715); left to Ingleborough Cave Centre (754711). On beside beck; in 250m, just before gate across lane, right through another gate (753708, blue arrow/BA). Climb bridleway to Clapdale farm. Left (751709, BA) through farmyard; follow track back to Clapham.
Lunch: Reading Room Café, Clapham (01524-251144; claphambunk.com)
Accommodation: New Inn, Clapham, N. Yorks LA2 8HH (01524-251203, newinn-clapham.co.uk) – stylishly refurbished; friendly and comfortable.
Ingleborough Cave: 01524-2581242, ingleboroughcave.co.uk; tours £7 adults, £3.50 child).