Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Waterfalls of Ingleton

Rock Music for Connoisseurs

(part two)

The second half of the Ingleton Waterfalls trail is, for many, even more impressive than the first.  Following the valley of the Doe as it emerges from Chapel-le-Dale, the water has carved a fabulous succession of cascades through the ancient rocks exposed by the North Craven Fault.

This aerial view shows the narrow valley of the River Doe where the stream is hemmed in between walls of greywacke and slate.  Locals have been aware of the nature of this rock for centuries - though the quarry which exploits it is getting a little too big for comfort.  In fact, quarrying operations have caused rock piles to move inside Skirwith Cave - a show cave which opened in the 1960s (see my post from April 2013).  The cave has long been closed to the public, but can still be explored with care.  This picture also shows clearly the massive wedge of limestone trapped between the Craven Faults - forming Swilla Glen on the western branch (River Twiss) - and exposed at the old Meal Bank quarry just south of Cat Leap Falls.

Above the famous Thornton Force, visited in part one, the landscape is dominated by the massive terminal moraine barrier of the Raven Ray, seen in the photograph above as a huge 'hump' in the landscape.  Some 15, 000 years ago, when the glacier occupying Kingsdale began to melt, it dumped this great mass of debris across the valley - blocking the exit for the river escaping beneath the snout of the glacier, and eventually causing a narrow lake to form in the valley above.

The clay and rock fragments making up the moraine are clearly seen in this picture.

It's almost as if a giant dumper truck has let it all go in the not too distant past!

Here, the limestone benches of Kingsdale can be seen clearly.  As the glacier began to melt further, the water deepened and eventually overflowed over the lowest part of the Raven Ray barrier - with the river taking a new course: it's old one having been covered over and hidden by the moraine barrier (left on the picture above).  Eventually  the overflow cut down through the Raven Ray, as can be seen clearly here - and went on to form Thornton Force!

This aerial view makes things a bit more clear.  The old course of the River Twiss can be seen in blue, with the new course of the River flowing slightly to the east.  A massive rush of meltwater carved the little gorge above Thornton Force - so the waterfall we see today is a young feature in geological terms - no more than about 14,000 years old.

Here is the gorge above Thornton Force.  Already the Twiss is begining to escape into fissures in the limestone as they are widening over time.  Water escaping in this way eventually emerges out as a small cascade called Little Thornton Force, to the left of the main waterfall.

A view from a precarious position of the River Twiss - showing how its has eroded the lip of limestone below the Raven Ray to form a gorge before plunging over Thornton Force (off the picture to the right).

The powerful action of the meltwater can be seen in this photograph.  The water has cut through the Great Scar Limestone and is about to plunge over Thornton Force.  

A series of superb cascades precede the main waterfall.  Geologists have prediced that, as more and more water sinks through the limestone river bed, Thornton Force will eventually become a dry, abandoned waterfall rather like Malham Cove and Easegill.  

At the present time, though - the water plunges 46 feet over the Great Scar Limestone as it has done since it broke through the Raven Ray barrier all those thousands of years ago.  The fall is actually several yards further north than it would have been originally - and has been cut back over many centuries by erosion.  Eventually it will keep cutting back into the gorge, the water falling further and further to the left of the photograph.

The original waterfall was probably in the vicinity of the camera!  You can see clearly how it is cutting back and eventually will be inside a narrow gorge which will fully dry up as the limestone cracks in the river bed widen.  Only in flood will the waterfall then be active. Mind you - it will be thousands of years before that happens .....

It's difficult to leave one of the greatest geological wonders in Britain, but let's follow the track beneath Twistleton Scar End and head for the valley of the River Doe - and the 'return leg' of the waterfalls trail.

Ingleborough dominates the landscape now - resting on its plinth of Great Scar Limestone - with the superb glaciated valley of Chapel-le-Dale running from left to right across the photograph.  The glacier which formed the valley would have nearly reached the top of the mountain itself.  It has scoured away all the covering rocks to leave the pavements bare. This is classic limestone country by any standards.

Chapel-le-Dale from the waterfalls trail.  The full width of the glaciated valley can be seen, and the 500 feet thick Great Scar Limestone resting on the basement rocks along which the River Doe is flowing. 

We first enter the enchating valley of the Doe at Beezley Falls.  Here the River Doe wanders over the upturned basement rocks in a series of stunning waterfalls, easily matching those of the River Twiss.

The Beezley Triple Spout is one of the highlights of the walk.  Here the water rushes over a rib of greywacke into a deep plunge pool.

With the coming of the railway to Ingleton, the stunning potential of the falls as a tourist trap was recognised, and paths were cut into the rock allowing the public access to an otherwise inhospitable glen.  Notice the vertical ribs of the ancient rocks here.

Every twist and turn brings another delightful view.  These are the Lower Beezley Falls.

Downstream, we approach the cascades of the Rival Falls, competing for glory and status.

The Rival Falls are an enigma.  The two cascades are separated by a plunge pool believed to be 80 feet deep, and known locally as 'The Black Hole'. 

A lovely monochrome view of the Rival Falls.

The River Doe then pierces through a joint in the greywacke, forming the impressive Baxenghyll Gorge.

A small bridge allows the visitor a privileged peep into the depths of Baxenghyll Gorge - and it is one of the great sights of the Three Peaks: far better, in my view, than the Strid at Bolton Abbey.  Certainly more beautiful.  

Man has been quick to exploit the Ingletonian rocks along the valley of the Doe, as this old quarry testifies.

As the path climbs steeply upwards, we get the first tantalising glimspe of the beautiful Snow Falls, hanging like a brilliant white cornice over the dark rock.

The Snow Falls are shyly hidden from the main path, and need a zoom to see properly - but they are a stunning sight in any conditions.

Looking downstream below Snow Falls - where the river at last begins to calm down as it approaches the limestone below the North Craven Fault.

Vertical ribs of Ingletonian slate, brough to the surface by the North Craven Fault, and wrenched into the vertical position by earth movements that must have shook the area to the core - or at least caused one heck of a Tsunami!

The quarries show the vertical beds of these fascinating ancient rocks splendidly.

The path has been ingeniously engineered into the old quarry face.

As we cross the North Craven Fault we arrive back the same downthrown limestone that we met in Swilla Glen in part one of our adventure.  Here Skirwith Beck crossed the path ....

Before plunging down the ribbon-like cascades of the Cat Leap Falls.  These are missed by most visitors, and just need a short diversion down the steep hillside to the right of the path.

Looking back up th evalley of the River Doe.  The Great Scar Limestone plateau of Scales Moor can be seen at the top right.  The rest of that limestone has been eroded away to leave the lifted basement rocks exposed (covered by the trees and occupied by the waterfalls).  On the left is the next big 'slab' of limestone, downthrown by the North Craven Fault - and which once lay completely level with the skyline at top right.  The 'slippage' due to the fault can clearly be seen in this photograph.

The old Meal Bank limestone quarry is fascinating to look at.  Notice the general curve of the limestone, on the same anticline that we saw in Swilla Glen.  There are also very thin seams of coal in the limestone where sea conditions became boggy and swampy allowing vegetation to flourish for a time - way back in the Carboniferous Period.

The dip of the limestone beds in the quarry. Very thin coal and shale layers are present in the rock.

And finally - all drama disappears.  We cross the South Craven Fault back into Ingleton and the limestone is now hundreds of feet below - the Ingleton Coal Field lying to the south of the area.  The Ingleton Waterfalls walk has to be one of the geological wonders of Europe.  For sheer beauty, too - it is up there with the very best.    Go and enjoy every step.

Stephen x

1 comment:

  1. It is a classic and one that I enjoyed a couple of times with my mum when I was a youngster way before I rediscovered the Dales in my early 30's.