Yorkshire Dales National Park
Trail starts at National Park Centre in village of Clapham on A65 between Settle (6 miles) and Kendal (23 miles)
Map reference: SD745
4-41-mile trail illustrating social, historical and geological impact on a limestone landscape. National Park Centre open Easter-early November (mid-morning-late afternoon)
Illustrated trail brochure; car park; exhibition in Centre; (small charge made for entry into Ingleborough Estate grounds)
Nestling under the imposing bulk of the 2375-foot-high peak of Ingleborough, is the tiny Yorkshire Dales village of Clapham, clustered around the waters of Clapham Beck outside the gates of Ingleborough Hall. The hall was for five generations the home of the Farrer family who interpreted their responsibilities to tenants in a benevolent style, rebuilding the village and landscaping the Ingleborough grounds as a recreational benefit for people from miles around for over more than a hundred years. The major work was the creation of a landscaped ornamental garden and artificial lake in the deep valley carved by Clapham Beck’s passage through the soft limestone rock of the Dales. Walks and carriage drives took visitors up the valley to the natural attraction of Ingleborough Cave and these old roads and paths form the basis for today’s Reginald Farrer Trail, designed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park to commemorate both the family’s most famous son and European Conservation Year (1970).
Reginald Farrer was an extraordinarily talented man. Successful as a painter and novelist he was also a noted explorer and botanist. For much of his life he explored Asia and collected and identified several hundred new plant species, many of which he brought back to Ingleborough to enhance the shrubberies. Rhododendrons, of which he found twenty-four new varieties, were a particular favourite of his. Loving the east so well – he became a practising Buddhist – it is fitting that he died in Burma in 1920 but a tragedy that he was only forty years old.
The commemorative trail sets out from the National Park Centre in the village and follows the line of the Clapdale carriage drive up the valleys and into the lower slopes of In-gleborough peak. Clap Beckon the valley floor is dammed to form the 700-yard lake to the right of the track. The lake provides the village with water and gave Clapham electric street lights by hydro-electric power long before this was commonplace. The first wood you reach contains ornamental species such as red oak silver fir and the spiral barked trunks of sweet chestnut. More dominant are somewhat displaced trees such as the south of England’s evergreen holm oak , Weymouth and Scots pines and yew.
The north tip of the lake, where the path begins to rise, marks the line of the North Craven geological fault where slabs of Ordovi-cian rock are thrust through the limestone cover of the Dales. Here the ground becomes more acidic enabling Farrer to vary his garden with some rhododendrons that prefer these conditions. Another Farrer import is a patch of himalayan bamboo. It is probable that neither would survive if the valley were not sheltered from cold winds blowing over the moor tops.
The path passes a curious stone grotto of the kind many landscapers would design to provide amusement and talking points to estate visitors – this one is in a Moorish style. Around here are coniferous plantations of Scots pine and Sitka spruce among which you will see ash and sycamore. The Ingleborough woods are managed like those of Felbrigg (p32) in cooperation with the Forestry Commission. In another 200 yards or so is Ingleborough Cave.
Opened up by James and Oliver Farrer in 1837, the cave was once sealed off by stalagmites of water-deposited lime and contained a considerable volume of water which was released to allow entry into the main cavern. Guided tours are taken around the cave at certain times which are displayed on a board at the cave mouth. This is the lower end of a mile-long underground water system of interlinked caverns and passages eroded out of the hillside from the point at which Fell Beck plunges 365 feet down the pot-hole of Gaping Gill. This system, not yet fully explored by pot-holers, is the source of Clapham Beck and several other nearby springs which tap into the mass of water held in this limestone hill. The narrow Trow Gill, which the trail now enters, is the previous path of the stream that has now disappeared underground and sensible walkers will be wearing stout shoes to scramble up the ravine. Mosses and liverworts grow in the wet sheltered habitats of the limestone rock piles and there is a considerable undergrowth of nettles in parts thriving on the minerals of freshly broken, phosphate-rich rock.
Trow Gill is the trail’s furthest point – the easier return is by the same path back to Clapham. Only slightly longer and more energetic is to skirt the foot of the Clapham Bottom’s heath pasture to the east and join a good section of an old pack-horse and drovers’ road called Long Lane. If you are a more ambitious walker you will have picked up the leaflets at the park centre that will guide you on to Gaping Gill and, perhaps the summit of Ingleborough itself.
Long Lane is at about 900 feet high on the valley side and offers excellent views down to the mouth of the valley and, on fine days, to the steep rise of the Forest of Bowland. The trail passes from rough sheep pasture to border tree plantation areas before joining another ancient right of way called Thwaite Lane which leads back to Clapham through a couple of unusual tunnels taking the travellers under the grounds of Ingleborough Hall. Clapham church at the path’s end was substantially rebuilt by the Farrer family and contains memorials to most of Reginald’s forebears, although, as a Buddhist, he has no stone here – the grounds he helped to create are his best tribute.
Clapham is close to the National Park’s western boundary. At the heart of the park is the beautiful setting of Malham, its Tarn and the grandeur of Malham Cove where 300-foot cliffs form a bowl in which the source of the River Aire lies. Tarn House, its drive forming part of the 250-mile Pennine Way longdistance footpath, is where Charles Kingsley wrote part of It is now a teaching centre of the Field Studies Council which has designed a nature trail around the lake’s north and east shores on National Trust land. Malham village hosts an annual autumn sheep sale that has been in existence for over 200 years and if you still have your walking boots on you will be welcome in the hikers’ bar of the Buck Inn.
Campers fare very well within the National Park. There are sites in picturesque settings at Skipton, Stainforth, Threshfield and, just outside the park, High Bentham. Skipton is an attractive Airedale town with an 1 lth-century castle which is still partially lived-in. It is open to view. The town is on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, the last remaining navigable trans-Pennine waterway and it was at Skipton that