On the walk today I decided not to have a ‘formal’ walk as such, and to have more of a gentle stroll and my map perusal is led me along the flanks of Ingleborough. The main reason behind choosing this area was a work colleague saying that he thought the Old Hill Inn, at Chapel le Dale had been recently refurbished (according to a friend of his) and not having been in their for many a year, I thought this a suitable location to finish the stroll and rebalance the fluids.
We drove up to the Old Hill Inn via the road from Ingleton and we found a small layby just on the left after the pub were we managed to find a space to pull over and park. We proceeded to get out of the car, change our footwear and load our rucksacks onto our backs with the intention to head off along a Bridleway at Philpin Sleights. This was the intention, but the magnetic attraction of the pub was stronger than that of the Bridleway and we ended up being drawn into its comfortable depths.
We entered through the front door and were greeted by what seemed a recently refurbished, traditional pub interior which didn’t look too bad at all. I went to the bar and ordered a couple of beers from the barmaid who was ‘on duty’ and started to engage in a little chitchat with her, I asked if they were serving food later, thinking it would be useful to get an idea of the fayre on offer prior to calling in after our walk, to which the response was they “had a party of twenty four people coming from a nearby bunkhouse and that they would be too busy to accommodate anybody else“; it wasn’t quite service with a scowl, but I knew my place. We took the hint, and our beers, and Mrs Muddy Boots and myself went and sat in the “conservatory” which was affixed to the side of the pub to try and come up with a Plan B for our tea. I put the word conservatory in quotes, because in its widest sense the construction we went and sat in was akin to a home-made greenhouse from the 1950s and was desperately in need of refurbishment. Even a lick of paint would have made a huge difference, although this did not stop people coming sitting in it which is probably due to the view which it afforded down the valley, and not the charm of the structure itself. I slowly sipped at my pint of Black Sheep bitter and watched a group of children and their parents playing on the grass adjacent to the car park, and as I got to the bottom of my pint the loud shrieking and screaming from the children made the decision for us to move on, get our walk done and plan for our evening meal somewhere more conducive.
I exited the pub from the front door and turn right back up the tarmac road and after a short while turn right again onto work very well made Bridlepath that led in the direction of Ingleborough and past a well made and substantial Lime Kiln.
As we both made our way along this path we were quite aghast at the numbers of people who were undertaking the Three Peaks challenge walk. As we squinted into the distance, and followed the path that rose rapidly up the flanks of Ingleborough we could see a long line of people that look like ants which were progressing slowly up to the flat top summit of this noble mountain. If I hadn’t known it was the 3 Peaks challenge walk I would have guessed at it being a pilgrimage to a site of religious significance. There must have been several thousand people out that day undertaking this twenty six mile circular route involving Pen Y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.
I shouldn’t really complain as I have done the three Peaks about five or six times now, although the last time was perhaps 15 years ago, maybe even longer. Way back then, whilst the walk was popular there didn’t seem to be the same huge numbers of people undertaking it as there are now and I can’t really establish why there has been such a rise in the popularity of this arduous trek. It could be down to the Internet and social media allowing a greater number of people to hear of it, but who knows really? What I do know was that I was truly shocked to see such large numbers of people out on the side of the hill. We ambled along the path and after a short time took a left turn alongside a dry stone wall to take us away from the pilgrimage and this lead us to the top of a limestone plateau where we managed to make out a path which didn’t seem to be marked on the map and followed this along the grassy pasture.
We arrived at a large group of limestone boulders which made an ideal seating arrangement so we sat. Whilst sitting in the warm sunshine, we looked eastwards towards Souther Scales Fell were we thought we could see a paraglider pilot setting up his wing. We sat for quite some time trying to work out if it was a paraglider pilot or not, when out of absolutely nowhere, and appearing like an apparition would, were two cavers with the knee pads, boots and helmets they wear when underground.
These two human moles came sauntering past us without a care in the world and then proceeded to disappear out of sight again in the middle of a field. We turned away as they walked past us, and within ten seconds looked back and they had vanished – into thin air! We were quite intrigued now and we got up to continue our stroll and headed back across the field, where we once again came up on the two human moles who had reappeared, and we got talking. They explained that they were just exploring the chambers in caverns in the limestone beneath our feet and then proceeded to point out several holes in the ground which led to this subterranean world and these were the holes in which they were disappearing into.
They did indicate one in particular which was at a field boundary that was so large you could walk into it and progress beneath the field on which we were just walking. We found it where they had described and decided to enter the little chamber. It started to get much darker probably due to the fact that our eyes were not accustomed to the darkness it was quite easy to make your way along although there was a little stream running through the bottom of the cave. We went in for about 50 m but it was becoming quite difficult with a rucksack on my back and the decreasing amount of light so we decided we should turn round and make our way out. After being underground for just a short time the sunlight seem quite blinding and after much blinking and squinting we again became accustomed to being outside.
We climbed back out of this little cleft in the earth and continued walking towards Ingleborough on the top of the limestone plateau and we progressed until we reached the path that formed the main route of the three Peaks. The numbers of people undertaking the 3 Peaks had not declined much in the time that we are away from this route and more were still coming. When we go out walking we tend to choose Saturday because it is less busy than Sunday, and we seem to see very few people on the routes which we take which is sometimes more by accident than design, however today proved the exception and we became a little disheartened by the numbers of people around us so we decided to make our way against the flow of the ‘pilgrimage’ back to the car and to come back another day when it was less busy.
We made rapid progress against the flow of bodies, and were pleased to reach the car parked on Low Sleights Road, where the decision was made to go down into Hawes, have a pint there and call in Hawes Chippy for our tea – a rare treat, but one that always seems to tick all the boxes. Chippy Tea here we come!