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30 April, 2006

Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Ingleborough-Clapham-Lancaster

At 723 m asl, Ingleborough is the nearest 'big hill' to Lancaster, or at least the most readily accessible.  I've climbed it several times over the past decade, but I'd only followed the route from the south-east once before today.  That's an odd omission, as the path from Clapham is probably the most pleasant, avoiding the duckboards and crowds of the Hill Inn footpath and passing more landmarks than the direct route from Ingleton.

Saving a lot of effort, I caught the train to Clapham station and cycled to the village. I suppose it'd be possible to do the whole trip by train and on foot, but be aware that Clapham's railway station is about 2 km from the village and the usual start of the walk. The disadvantage of the alternative was parking: I wasn't entirely happy about locking my bike to a fence adjacent to the unofficial car park, both for reasons of security and imposition on private land. It was still there when I returned, but it wasn't ideal (I've since discovered a proper car park, with cycle parking facilities, on the other side of Clapham).

The first part of the standard route follows a private 'nature trail' through the Farrer* estate of Ingleborough Hall, and a nominal fee is imposed. I object to that on principle, and nor did I especially want the company of young families, so I found a public footpath around the boundary of the estate (on my second attempt – it's clearer on the map than on the ground). That's a pleasant route in itself, with amusing signs, stiles and wild flowers probably not apparent on the more heavily-used path. Give it a try.

Rejoining the main track near Ingleborough Cave, I went on via Trow Gill and Gaping Gill then ascended Little Ingleborough on the ridge to the main summit. As usual, the sunny, clear sky at the start of the walk became cloudy as soon as I gained any altitude (I don't think I'm jinxed), then cleared as I descended, an equally familiar experience. Hence, though I obtained a few good photos, or rather, adequate photos of good views, none of this published set were taken at the top. In fact, as soon as I emerged onto the summit plateau, I seriously regretted not bringing a compass, as it could have been difficult to rediscover the start of the correct return path after visiting the summit shelter. I took extra care to note the position of minor cairns and studied the layout of the start of the path, which seemed to work. Could have been awkward, though.

After lunch staring out at a grey vista extending only 15-20 m from the shelter, I started back the same way – there isn't really a practical circular route on Ingleborough. Descending from the cloudbase on Little Ingleborough, I tripped, bruising one knee and grazing the other palm. That's a risk I take when walking alone – if I'd really hurt myself with so far still to go (it happened seconds after I'd taken this photo), I'd have been in trouble. I don't think that's really avoidable in itself, but perhaps I shouldn't have been running on a loose surface....

The rest of the return route, including the diversion around the private path, was straightforward; perhaps too straightforward, as I was back in Clapham much earlier than expected, not remotely coinciding with the rail schedule. That left one option: after wandering around the village for quarter of an hour or so, I reset my bike computer at 17:30 and simply cycled home. That was surprisingly and pleasantly easy, even after the walk, and the 34.6 km (21.48 miles) took 1hr 40 non-stop, at an average of 20.6 km/h (12.8 mph), peaking at 43 km/h. It's good to know that's practical after a walk, and that I'm not reliant on trains.

*: Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) introduced over a hundred new plants into Europe from the Far East, including the Himalayan Rhododendron. So it's his fault that Snowdonia was overrun by the species.

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