Feb 12 2011

Walk 22: Blea(ve) It or Not

Looking between two spoil heaps as the mist rolls in

route: Blea Moor from Ribblehead
Date: 12th February 2011
distance: 6.5 miles
ascent: 931 feet
time: 3 hrs 10 mins
walkers: Dave, Graham, Leanne, Mick, Sandra & Tony

It only seemed like a few weeks since we were at Ribblehead to finish our Yorkshire tops challenge, but it had been nearly five months. We prepared for the off in thick mist and things weren’t looking too clever weather wise. The little bit of rain we had on the journey had stopped and the forecast was for a dry day but it didn’t look like we would get to see much of the surrounding scenery. It was at this point that I realised I hadn’t brought any batteries for my GPS so things were going to be done the old fashioned way, the problem is I don’t really know the old fashioned way. The Rambling Badgers exploits have been within the last year and I used the technology available to me rather than learn the traditional skills. With visibility at 20 yards and no GPS to point us in the right direction this was looking like long old day. Fortunately I knew the route was about as simple as countryside walking could get so I wasn’t too worried as we made our final checks before setting off.

We set off into the wall of grey in front of us hoping that the rain would stay away and the sun would eventually have his hat on, although I wasn’t holding out much hope.

Within five minutes of setting of, as we made our way to the far end of the viaduct (that we hadn’t been able to see even though it was 30 yards to our left) we were suddenly in the clear as the mist relented. The speed with which things change can sometimes be scary, especially if it happens the other way around and you aren’t prepared.

We climbed the few steps leading to the path that runs parallel to the Settle to Carlisle railway and enjoyed an easy start to proceedings.

There was plenty of water about after a recent wet spell and as we continued we had to cross numerous little streams that ran over the path using the various man made methods provided. There were stepping stones, a little bridge with hand rails and even a big plank of wood or beam stretched across one gap. These aren’t always needed though as in dry weather you simply walk across the dried up bed as if nothing was ever there. Anyone who has done the three peaks of Yorkshire will no doubt have walked this way on the ascent of Whernside.

As we neared the aquaduct that crosses the railway line we paused for a map check. The route up to Blea Moor was somewhere to our right but not having the luxury of a fixed position on a screen in front of me we had to be patient and hope that it would be as clear in real life as it was on the map. Sure enough after another 30 or 40 yards the track angled off the main path and started to climb up towards Blea Moor. We joined this and began to rise gradually and before long we could Force Gill away to our left.

The path itself was a good one but the previous rainfall had made certain areas very wet and boggy which as anyone who had read any previous reports will know, L’Autobus hate!

I reached the first of the spoil heaps along the route and climbed up them to see if anything would reveal itself to me from the top of this little mound. I could see that the path continued up to another spoil heap that must have been formed when the Blea Moor tunnel was built. To the right was a fenced off area that had a sign on it saying “DANGER – Keep Out – Hidden Sha” It was mentioned that the “sha” may stand for sharks but even though it was wet I didn’t think it was that wet, but you never know.

With the team all caught up and the route clear, we made our way up the path towards the next spoil heap where we would again regroup. At times the ground was like a river as the water ran down the path but eventually we made the next meeting point and took time to have a look at the air shaft chimney.

From here we had a similar journey up to another air shaft and we debated how deep they were and how they managed to hoist up all the earth that now formed two giant humps. We didn’t have the answers to our question but that didn’t seem to matter as the day was going well so far, we had made good time and the weather was clearing all the time. As we left the second air shaft behind and continued I was at the rear of the group with Wu Tang as she had been struggling with her back. I was hoping that the others would wait when they reached the stile rather than carrying on over and sure enough they did.

I had another check of the map and while it was showing there was some form of track or something the other side of the fence the trig point was this side meaning we would only have to cross back higher up. We decided to just go straight for it and made our way across the soggy terrain towards the trig. It would normally be at this point where our destination would be on my screen and I would know we were close to our goal. With the lack of GPS however, I was unsure where exactly we were going so it was a case of keeping an eye out and there it was in the distance. We changed our course, and after climbing a little lip we reached the plateau where we found the nicely painted, white trig.

We took the usual pictures at the top (they can be found by clicking on the tick lists and selecting the date we did the walk) and noticed that the mist was closing once again so we only stayed 10 minutes before heading off the top. We decided to not follow the route back to the stile then down to the air shafts, instead we would go for the direct route and did so quickly in case the weather closed and we couldn’t get our bearings.

After reaching the path near the fenced off area we decided we would cross the stream that flowed nearby and take a slightly different path back to the aquaduct. As we reached the water it became apparent that it was a bit wider and deeper in places than we had initially thought so we searched for a decent crossing point.

I thought I had a spot and got half way across using some stones to keep my feet out of the water. At this point I realised it might not be quite as easy as I had first thought and took off my rucksack and anything I wanted to keep dry and threw them to the bank I was trying to reach.

There was a flat stone sticking out of the bank and I thought that if I got my foot on here I could step up to dry land. I composed myself and then with one big stride I lunged for the stone and safety. Unfortunately, the stone wasn’t quite as secure as I had hoped and I ended up stood in the stream before hastily pulling myself up onto the bank.

L’Autobus found it funny but they still had to reach the other side. Tony seemed to be over lower down and Mick was still walking upstream looking for somewhere to cross. Sherpa G-String trusted me and attempted to follow me over at the same point, but with the stone I aimed for gone, I would have to grab his hand and pull at the same time he jumped. The extra downward force as I strained caused the bank to collapse and I fell backwards to safety, leaving G with nowhere else to go but into the water. Thankfully he managed to stay upright and he pulled himself out as I had done five minutes earlier. By now Mick was over and L’Autobus were attempting to cross in the same spot but seemed hesitant. I walked up to assist them and as I was already soaked I simply stood in the middle of the stream and helped them across.

Once we had all mamged to cross safely we followed the footpath which was clearly visible to the aquaduct before joining the path back to Ribblehead. In all honesty it had been a bit of a waste of time crossing that stream but it spiced things up a little and gave me chance to see how waterproof my boots are! I know it doesn’t really count when you have water running into the top of them anyway but it was fun none the less and that is what it is about to me. As long as we are all safe then why not experiment with pointless water crossings.

The path back was a familiar one both to us and to other people and there were a few coming the other way. Some were doing the three peaks whilst others no doubt were just out for a leisurely stroll. I said morning to each and every one as they walked by. It seemed a little weird to still be saying morning but we had made good time and we still had fifteen minutes left until noon. We went through the little gate and said goodbye to the train tracks as we turned back towards the cars. We just had the little stretch taking us alongside of the Viaduct and we were done.

Another successful walk complete we changed and went to the pub for a drink. Today had been a reminder of what last year was all about. Recently the trigs we had done were small scale and pretty without having the vast expanses that this walk did. Although we never actually got to see the top Whernside was a reminder of the size of some of the peaks in the Dales. The walk itself was easy and nothing compared to past adventures but this year we were allowed a couple of easy walks to start with as this time last year we hadn’t even done one walk. In fact this was our anniversary weekend, the Rambling Badgers are a year old on Valentine’s day and that is a love affair worth celebrating. Here is to many more happy years!

Sir Edmund


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