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6 April, 2007

Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Moughton Scars-Crummack Dale-Lancaster

Crummackdale, between Clapdale (above Clapham) and Ribblesdale, is one of the few valleys I'd yet to visit in the south-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales.  I'd wanted to visit for a while, not only for completeness but because of the spectacular features: the glacial erratics at Norber, the views across the eastern side of Ingleborough from Thwaite Scars and the limestone cliff of Moughton Scars.  It's surprising that it's not better-known.

As usual, I caught the train from Lancaster to Clapham Station, then crossed to Austwick by bike. Parking above Town Head was straightforward – it's worth noting that there's a secure bench situated just off the start of the main footpath to Norber.

After a few minutes of walking I reached the famous Norber Erratics, huge sandstone (greywacke, in fact) boulders perched on tiny pedestals of limestone. Frankly, those erratics I found were slightly disappointing, but there were several young families and picnickers around, so I didn't linger as long as I might have, and I suppose I could have missed the best examples.

My plan involved crossing to the western side of the hill, straight over the summit plateau of limestone pavement. There were no paths, so I was a little nervous about damaging the fragile landscape or myself by stumbling into deep, sharp-edged crevices. If I did the walk again, I think I'd revise this part of the route; I wasn't pleased (with myself) about having to vault a dry stone wall, either.

Once I was on the western side of Thwaite Scars, the route became easier (and more legitimate) and offered the expected views over the landscape I crossed almost exactly a year ago. It was particularly good to see the features I'd visited on that occasion from a different angle, even obtaining the exact reverse angles of earlier photos. Choosing my spot carefully to avoid disturbing nesting ravens, I sat for a while to study the view and watch distant walkers & cyclists on the more popular path.

Traversing the cliff edge, I soon joined the (ex-)green lane of Long Lane, climbing back over the hilltop to Long Scar and the head of Crummackdale. I recommend that easy track to everyone, for the panoramic views over an unearthly limestone plateau backed by two of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent), with the dramatic cliff of Moughton Scars overlooking the gentler Crummackdale valley, the latter almost lush compared to the utterly bare limestone. Unfortunately, it's understandably popular, including with off-road cyclists, so I was quite glad to leave the main path and crowd at Sulber Gate, heading south-east along the Moughton Scars cliff edge, alone again. Not to be antisocial about it, I simply don't enjoy walking alongside groups of 15-20 people who've loudly brought their daily concerns and mobile phones to the countryside.

As a regular (on-road) cyclist, I'm always slightly surprised how long it actually takes to walk modest distances over rough ground, which means I've wasted previous walks by impatiently striding past the very sights I'd travelled to see. It's not as if I need the exercise, so I consciously stopped myself a few times, taking in the view, investigating the limestone pavement, and thoroughly enjoying myself.

I stopped for lunch in the cliff edge, dangling my legs over the ~20 m drop before casually glancing across at the neighbouring and heavily fractured limestone exposure. Ah well; if it was going to collapse, it would have done when I first sat down.

I descended the cliff, rather more safely, via the footpath at Capple Bank, then followed the valley floor ~4 km directly back to Norber Brow and my bike. Only another ~38 km to ride home....

I reached home at 17:35, having been out for 6 hours 50'. My bike had been moving for 2 hours 10', covering 44.75 km (27.81 miles) at an average speed of 20.6 km/h (12.8 mph), peaking at 44.4 km/h (27.6 mph) at least once.

Nearly forgot to mention: I was carrying a camera....

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