Searching For The Ingleborough Giant

It was a two word legend over a low spur of Inglebrough on an OS map (OS Explorer OL2) that caught my eye. It said ‘Giant’s Grave’ and I went online to look up information on any legends of giants associated with Ingleborough, second-highest peak in North Yorkshire and one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I found no information; no folk-tales or tall stories collected in pubs over a few pints. What I did find was a reference to neolithic burial mounds that, apparently, were thought by locals to be the graves of giants. I traced the footpath on the map and saw that it eventually joined up with part of the Ingleton Waterfall Trail. I can never resist a waterfall and here was a walk that had them in abundance. Be still my beating heart!

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My own map of the walk. Numbers correspond to images in this entry. (c) Kim Ralls

And so I drove from Thoralby to Ingleton via Hawes with Jimi Hendrix thundering from the van’s speakers. The sheep in the fields I passed looked decidedly unimpressed, though that might have been the weather. The skies were overcast and there was a stiff breeze blowing, but the forecast had promised that it would be dry, if nothing else. I parked at the Pay and Display in the village – there is actually a layby next to the start of the footpath on the B6255, but it’s on quite a tight bend and I didn’t like the idea of leaving the van there. On the map, follow the B6255 into town and the car park is in the very bottom left-hand corner.

I walked back the way I had driven into town, passing the turn-off for Clapham and Ingleborough Caves (a small, out-of-the-way network open to the public). Next to the afore-mentioned layby is the start of Fell Lane, a farm track covered in a hard core that winds up the lower slopes of Ingleborough before terminating in the intriguingly-named Crina Bottom farm. I slogged up the track, turning ever now and then to catch my breath and photograph the sun breaking through the clouds in the distance.

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1. Looking down towards Ingleton (c) Kim Ralls

If I had been feeling more adventurous, I might have stayed on this track and ignored the giant’s grave in favour of climbing to the summit of Ingleborough. Alfred Wainwright went on record as describing one of the routes to the summit as the finest walk in the Dales and, as I looked around at limestone crags and the distant ridge of Whernside (the highest peak in North Yorkshire) I could appreciate what he meant. A good walk isn’t necessarily about distance or difficulty, but what you can see and appreciate with your own two eyes.

My two eyes could see sheep in fields and walkers on the path ahead and rocks weathered by countless years of Yorkshire weather. I pressed on until I came to the junction where I had to leave Fell Lane (I would leave Ingleborough summit – and Crina Bottom – for another day).

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2. And I did (c) Kim Ralls

The above sign wasn’t just to do with not disturbing livestock, but because this area is chock full of shake holes and pot holes and caves going down hundreds of feet below the ground. The last time I was in this area was with my sister when we decided to visit Ingleborough caves. The guide asked if we’d ever seen Gaping Gill. We hadn’t and he gave us directions that took us up the lower slopes of the mountain and to a hole in the ground that opens up into a 322ft deep cave with the largest unbroken waterfall in the country. Once or twice a year groups of people set up a winch over Gaping Gill so that people can have themselves lowered down to the bottom of the cave – I’m not entirely sure why.

Suffice it to say, I stayed as close to the wall as I could and looked for the burial mound that, according to the OS map on my phone, I was virtually on top of. I reached the far end of the field and climbed a ladder stile. There was a large boulder in the next field that caught my eye, but no great mound or barrow like the ones I’d seen in other neolithic sites around the country. I wasn’t expecting rings of standing stones, or a collapsed entry or the neolithic equivelant of a blue plaque. Just a mound in the middle of a field would do; something that looked even vaguely man-made. But there was nothing but that boulder in the middle of the field. A boulder on its own in the middle of a field. A large boulder. On its own. In the middle of a…

Oh.

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3. Maybe he wasn’t a very big giant (c) Kim Ralls

I won’t say it was an anticlimax – I rode on the London Eye once – but I will admit to feeling a little deflated. I took a photo for posterity and to allow me I could catch my breath.

I followed the wall down towards the roadside and waited for the traffic to thin long enough for a mad dash to the other side. I found myself in a patch of woodland with a sign pointing the way to Beezley farm where I would join the Waterfall Trail. Over the sound of the wind in the trees and the cars on the road I could hear a rhythmic thumping and rumbling. After a few yards I passed through a gate and walked across a paved stretch of road, the entrance to the local quarry.

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4. Ingleton Quarry – somehow it looks less drab in black and white (c) Kim Ralls

Into a field and down towards a stile where, looking behind me, I could see the White Scar Caves visitor centre. This was one of the wet weather trips out my parents took us on when we first holidayed in the Dales in the mid nineties. It’s not a cheap attraction (nearly a tenner for an adult and six quid for a child), but the cave network is very impressive and, without spoiling it for anyone, the finale is definitely worth the expense.

I turned away from looking towards White Scar Caves and looked at the limestone crags of Twistleton Scars. I tried taking a photo of the scars, but with the sky overcast and being quite some distance, I’m afraid I couldn’t do them justice. Take it from me, they are beautiful and I’m planning to walk along their tops in the near future where I hope there will be plenty of opportunities to photograph their splendour.

The path sloped down to a wide stream with a set of stepping stones running across. I defy anyone to walk over stepping stones and not revert to a small child. I had to resist the temptation to go back and walk across them again, hopping from one stone to the next with a big grin on my face.

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5. (c) Kim Ralls

Over the stepping stones stood Beezley farm and the ticket office to the Ingleton Waterfall Trail. The price was £6.00 for an adult, though there was no one in the ticket office and my shouts of ‘anyone about?’ went unanswered.

The footpath was strewn with signs warning of the dangers of uneven surfaces and slippery patches and steep drops. At the first waterfall I saw a group of men in brightly coloured wetsuits and hard hats taking turns to jump from the rocks into the pool below. I will never understand this desire some people have to throw themselves off a perfectly safe patch of ground into deep water that is probably freezing cold, not to mention the necessity of swimming back to shore – my friends and family will no doubt ask where my sense of adventure is, but then I’ve eaten my own cooking on several occasions.

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6. (c) Kim Ralls

The path followed Twistleton Glen, rising and falling and offering spectacular views of waterfalls of varying heights and shapes and names (though not all listed on the signs). At some points the flow of water was almost hypnotic and it was a wrench to turn my eyes away and carry on walking. When not admiring the waterfalls, I watched birds and squirrels in the trees around me and wondered how much the coins in an acorn-shaped tree stump were worth (and whether anyone would notice if I pulled a few loose).

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7. (c) Kim Ralls

Probably one of the most thrilling parts of this walk for me was the viewing bridge over Baxengyhll Gorge. Leaving the main path, I walked out onto an iron footbridge bolted to the rock face out over the gorge. The waterfall flows a little distance away and if you look straight down you can see the river through holes in the metal. It’s not a place for anyone who doesn’t like heights and my legs felt shaky as I went back to the main path, but it was worth it for the view.

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8. It’s a long way down… (c) Kim Ralls
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9. Do look down (c) Kim Ralls

The cynical amongst us might imagine that I was bored with waterfalls by now and that I hurried to the end of the walk so that I could get back in the van and drive home in time for tea.

Despite an inability to swim in any direction other than straight down, I find waterfalls and rivers fascinating places. I walked along the path and marvelled at each new waterfall I came upon. In places I set up my tripod and took some long exposures to blur the water – yes, it’s an overused technique, but I do enjoy the effect. My favourite of all was Snow Falls near the end of the trail.

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10. Snow Falls (c) Kim Ralls

Framed by trees and bushes, the waterfall seemed perfect from a compositional point of view. I set up the tripod and took some long exposures, finding it hard to balance the light and dark portions of the image. Although the sun was still hidden by the clouds, the light levels kept changing and it was a challenge to get the photos that I wanted. I must have been there for fifteen or twenty minutes before I felt that I had got something that I could use. I made a few adjustments and got ready to take one last photo as a man in ripped jeans and a pair of white trainers ambled by. He glanced at me with my tripod and camera, whipped out his phone, snapped a couple of shots and walked away shaking his head. Each to their own.

I packed up and walked on, crossing the gorge on another vertigo-inducing footbridge before suddenly the trees and bushes opened out and I saw the river down to my right and grey cliffs to my left and the village ahead in the distance.

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11. (c) Kim Ralls

The photos of the river didn’t come out well in the grey light and I’ll have to go back when the sun is shining to do the scene justice. This seemed to be a day for failed photographs, but even when the images don’t work it advances the learning process and I gain a better understanding of how my camera works (and doesn’t work).

The path descended towards the river and then turned away into woodland where I took out the bacon, lettuce and tomato roll I had bought in Hawes and ate it as I walked. Bluebells carpeted the wood on either side of the path and I took a few photos, though I failed to snap the squirrel perched in a distant tree as it watched me with beady eyes.

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(c) Kim Ralls

A little way down I came across a tree studded with slates where people had written their names and little messages and then embedded them in the bark. I found a suitable piece and used another to write my name and the date and added it to the collection next to one that read ‘Ste ♥ Kerry’.

Say it with a bit of slate.

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(c) Kim Ralls
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And they say romance is dead (c) Kim Ralls

The woodland path curved through the bluebells and the trees until it came out at the very bottom of the gorge. This wasn’t the best day for photography out in the open and yet again I failed to get a decent photo of the end of the gorge. A project for another day, perhaps.

It was mid-afternoon by now and with nothing much in the town that I wanted to see, I walked back to the van and headed for home as Jimi Hendrix terrorised the sheep once again.

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