After a second hearty Yorkshire breakfast we settled our account at the New Inn at Clapham and began our journey east across the Dales.
One structure that I have always wanted to see is the Ribblesdale railway viaduct and as it was conveniently close by we (I) took that route and we arrived there after about thirty minutes, high up in the Yorkshire Dales with a fierce wind that filled our lungs, tugged at our clothes and rearranged our hair.
The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle railway across Batty Moss Valley and was built by the Midland Railway a hundred and fifty years or so ago, it is 28 miles north-west of Skipton and 26 miles south-east of Kendal and is a Grade II listed structure.
The land underneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument. Because it was so far from any major settlements the workers and their families lived in three navvy settlements called Sebastopol and Belgravia and best of all Batty Wife Hole – there is an appropriate monument to commemorate them below the arches.
It may just be the most famous railway viaduct in the United Kingdom just because it is so panoramic but at four hundred and forty yards it is by no way the longest because that distinction belongs to the London Bridge – Greenwich Railway Viaduct which is an three and a half miles long.
At one hundred feet high it isn’t even the tallest because at seventy feet higher that is the Ballochmyle Viaduct in Scotland which carries the former Glasgow and South Western Railway line between Glasgow and Carlisle.
It may not be the longest or the tallest but it is almost certainly the most photogenic, a fact that requires car parks to be provided close by, thankfully without charge. On a blustery mid morning in October the car park was surprisingly full but I when a steam train comes through and amateur photographers descend upon the place in their droves then I imagine finding a parking spot might be very difficult indeed.
There were no theatrical steam trains today but we were delighted to see a scheduled diesel service obligingly cross the viaduct for us.
Moving on we drove east now into the heart of the Dales towards the town of Hawes in Wensleydale. The Dales is one of the twelve National parks of England and Wales. The area is so called because it is a collection of river valleys and the hills in between them. ‘Dale’ incidentally comes from a Viking word for valley.
Most of the dales in the Yorkshire Dales are named after their river or stream, Swaledale, Wharfedale, Ribbledale etc. but not Wensleydale which is named after the small village and former market town of Wensley, rather than the River Ure, although an older name for the dale is in fact Yoredale.
The Yorkshire Dales rivers all run west to east from the Pennines draining into the River Ouse. The Ouse is in fact a continuation of the River Ure, and the combined length of of 129 miles makes it (after the Severn, the Thames, the Trent, the Wye and the Great Ouse) the sixth longest river of the United Kingdom and the longest to flow entirely in one county. The Ouse eventually joins the Trent to become the Humber Estuary and drains away into the North Sea.