Excerpts from: Climbing In The British Isles, Part 1 - England

By WP Haskett Smith, MA (published in 1894).

Alum Pot, the name of which is also found in such forms as Allen and Hellan, lies just west of the Midland Railway, about halfway between Horton and Ribblehead stations, and on the north-east side of Ingleborough. It is one of the most striking and most famous of the Yorkshire potholes, being an elliptical opening in the limestone, 120 ft long and 40 ft wide, with a perpendicular depth of 200 ft. The exploration of it was begun by Mr. Birkbeck of Anley in 1847, who, assisted by Prof. Boyd Dawkins and a large party including three ladies, made a complete examination in 1870.

Beck. -- In the north of England (except in Northumberland and Durham, where burn prevails) this is the usual word for a brook. It differs from a gill in being more open, and having banks less rocky and a stream somewhat more copious. A gill may contain only a few drops of water, or none at all, and still preserve its self-respect, but not so a beck. Camden speaks of "Beakes and Brookes".

Craven. - Camden remarks that the country lying about the head of the river Aire is called in our tongue Craven, "perchance of the British word Crage, that is a Stone. For the whole tract there is rough all over, and unpleasant to see to; which [with?] craggie stones, hanging rockes, and rugged waies." Modern climbers, however, find it hardly rocky enough for them, at least above ground, and have been driven to invent a new variety of climbing - the subterranean. Exploration of the numerous potholes which honeycomb the limestone hills has of late years become a favourite pastime, and, in truth, it combines science with adventure to a marked degree.

Any one who tarries for any length of time among these Yorkshire dales should read Mr. H. Speight's handsome volume, which gives a very complete account of the beauties and the curiosities which they have to show.

Dale: curiously used in Derbyshire for each separate section of a river valley, which elsewhere would form only one dale.

Gaping Gill Hole, in Yorkshire, on the south side of Ingleborough, is most easily got at from Clapham, on the Midland Railway. It lies higher up than the well known Clapham or Ingleborough Cave, and both should be visited in the same expedition. The actual funnel is about 8 ft. by 20 ft., and Mr. Birkbeck, of Settle, partly descended it many years ago. There is a ledge of rock about 190 ft. down, from which a plumb line drops a further distance of 166 ft. Strangers often pass close to the place without finding it.

Gordale Scar - a magnificent limestone ravine near Malham Cove, in Yorkshire, on the line of the great Craven Fault. Bell Busk is the nearest station, but Settle (6 miles) is generally more convenient. It has been prosaically compared to a winding street between enormously high houses, with a river falling out of the first floor window of one of them. It is easy to pass out at the head, leaving the water on the right hand; but on the other side of the water there is quite a little climb, which, however, the writer has seen a lady do without assistance.

Ingleborough, 2361 ft., one of the most striking of the Yorkshire mountains, of which the poet Gray spoke as "that huge creature of God." Readers of the "Heart of Midlothian" will remember how it reminded Jeannie Deane of her "ain countrie". The most exaggerated ideas of its height formerly prevailed. Even in 1770 it was commonly reckoned at 3,987 ft., and Hartley actually gives 5,280 ft.

Its top is only about four miles from Clapham, and ponies can go all the way. It is ascended far and away more frequently than any other Yorkshire hill, and consists mainly of limestone cliffs and slopes of shale, with a certain amount of millstone grit.

Here are some very remarkable caves (see Alum Pot and Gaping Gill Hole), and of some of these there is an early description by Mr. Adam Walker in the Evening General Post for September 25, 1779, which is quoted by West, and an account of an ascent of it made in the year 1761 is also extant.

Limestone is abundant in Derbyshire and Yorkshire, and forms the fine cliffs in Cheddar in Somerset, Berry Head in Devon, Anstis Cove and others; indeed most of the south coast of Devon and Cornwall east of Penzance is of this material. Chudleigh Rock and Morewell Rocks on the River Tamar are very striking. West, speaking of this rock in Lancashire, says, "The whiteness and neatness of these rocks take off every idea of horror that might be suggested by their bulk or form." In England it is very rare to find limestone which is a satisfactory material on which to climb.

Malham Cove. - A fine example of the limestone scenery of the Craven Fault. The River Aire gushes forth from the base of the cove, which can easily be seen in the same excursion as Gordale Scar. The nearest town is Skipton-in-Craven and the nearest station is Bell Busk, but Settle is very little farther and will generally be found the most convenient starting-point.

Penyghent. - The sixth in height of the Yorkshire hills, but long supposed, on account of its finer shape, to be the highest of them all. As late as 1770 it was reckoned at 3,930 ft. It can be ascended from Horton station in little over an hour. Celtic scholars revel in the name; they practically agree that it means "head of something," but cannot accept each other's views as to what that something is. When Defoe was in this neighbourhood he saw "nothing but high mountains, which had a terrible aspect, and more frightful than any in Monmouthshire or Derbyshire, especially Pengent Hill".

Pot-holes are frequent in the Yorkshire limestone. The rivers for considerable distances have underground courses. At each spot where the roof of one of these tunnels happens to fall in a 'pot-hole' is produced. They are very numerous about Settle and Clapham. Some are of very great depth and can only be explored with the aid of much cordage and many lights. The explorer of pot-holes has to face all the perils of severe rock climbing, and, moreover, to face them for the most part in the dark. It would be hard to imagine anything more weird than one of these darksome journeys, rendered doubly impressive by the roar of unseen waters and the knowledge that abrupt pitches of vast depth are apt to occur in the course of the channel without the slightest warning. (See Alum Pot, Dunald Mill Hole, Gaping Gill Hole.)

Whernside, in Yorkshire, was considered even as late as 1770 to be the highest mountain in England, 4,050 ft. above the sea.

Yorkshire (see Attermire, Calf, Craven, Gordale, Ingleborough, Malham, Micklefell, Penyghent, Pot-holes, Whernside) - a county whose uplands fall naturally into three great divisions, only one of which, however, demands the attention of the mountaineer. The chalk Wolds in the East Riding, and the moorland group formed by the Hambleton and Cleveland Hills, may be dismissed here with a mere mention. The third division, which constitutes a portion of the Pennine Chain, and, entering the county from Westmorland and Durham on the north, stretches in an unbroken line down its western border to Derbyshire on the south, approaches more nearly to the mountain standard. Even in this division, however, only that portion which lies to the north of Skipton attains to any considerable importance. It is in this latter district - in Craven, that is, and in the valleys of the Yore, the Swale and the Tees - that we must look for the finest hill scenery in Yorkshire. Most of these mountains consist of limestone, capped in

Although the climber may find little opportunity to exercise his art among the Yorkshire mountains, yet the ordinary hill-lover will discover ample recompense for the time spent in an exploration of these hills and dales. The ascent of Micklefell, of Great Whernside, of Penyghent, or of Ingleborough, whilst not lacking altogether the excitement of mountain climbing, will introduce him to many scenes of novel character and of astonishing beauty. It is only fair to mention that the Yorkshire waterfalls are second to few in the kingdom.

Extracted by Ron Bury and published in Craven Pothole Club - Record 36


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