Wharfedale at its Wildest
Great Whernside, at 2310 feet, is not as high as 'Whernside' itself - but far more splendid as a mountain. It is Wharfedale's highest spot - and today I set off to climb it the classic way, from Kettlewell via the Tor Dyke.
Kilnsey Crag is Yorkshire's most famous truncated spur. The end of a protruding nose of limestone was effectively trimmed off by the Wharfedale Glacier some 12,000 years ago.
From Kettlewell, an old lead mining village - I wandered up the ancient Top Mere Road, with a fine view down the dale towards Kilnsey Crag and the distant Cracoe Fell.
Peeping through this interesting old gate on the right, Great Whernside's massive sprawl dominated the landscape, passing in and out of shadow.
I loved this particular view - with the clouds parting to generously allow light to spread over Wharfedale.
A massive apron of Great Scar Limestone can be seen here to the west of the mountain, cut by two very obvious meltwater gills: Caseker Gill on the left - and Dowbergill over on the right. The two are infamously connected underground by Dowbergill Passage - a confusing two dimensional maze that has baffled - and trapped - many a caver. I'll take you in one day.
The gills of Great Whernside are well worth exploring in their own right. This view is of Hay Tonge Farm, with Caseker Gill and Park Gills splitting the limestone to the left.
The sun has arrived at last - and what a road to paradise Top Mere can appear to be at times like this.
As the path swings to the east we meet the impressive Iron Age earthworks of the Tor Dyke. Reputedly created by the Brigantian leader Venutius in about AD 70 against the Romans, it basically follows the contours of the hillside and presumably tried to prevent attacks from the valley below. You can spend hours exploring this and it is certainly one of the best archaeological sites in Yorkshire.
View from the Tor Dyke down Fears Gill Beck - a great name. Perhaps the Romans approached up this - bringing more than a few fears with them!
A great view opens up along the tail of Great Whernside - sweeping across the fell to the cute summit of Little Whernside. This is wild country - but breathtaking in its beauty.
This view is looking south-east along the ramparts of Tor Dyke with the gritstone uplands of Great Whernside sweeping down to the valleys below.
This view looks along the length of Tor Dyke. The gills would have provided natural defence - so this huge open sweep was vulnerable and needed a lot of work !!
Leaving the dyke behind - we head up onto the steep Yoredale slopes of Great Whernside itself - and the first gritstone boulders begin to show.
It's another world as we pull ourselves onto the summit ridge at Blackfell Crags. Here we meet moorland birds such as the dunlin - surprisingly plucky despite the approaching Oldfield!
Views open up to the east with Penyghent and the cap of Ingleborough becoming more prominent.
Then, at Blackfell Rocks - the summit ridge of Great Whernside is the give away to its name: the Old English cweorn side meaning 'the hillside where millstones were got.' The gritstone here was formed by rivers washing gravels into a shallow sea in the late Carboniferous.
This precariously balanced bed of Grassington Grit contains the 'Old Man' - but can you spot him?
Attempt at a self portrait. Actually the fifth attempt as the wind was constantly blowing the camera over - hence my annoyed look!
The well-worn wind shelter on the summit of Great Whernside - 2310 feet above the sea - and still effective against the westerlies at least ...
Dowbergill is an impressive ravine cut out of the Great Scar Limestone - and containing the old Providence Lead Mine. The pothole of the same name follows Dowbergill Passage to Dow Cave, in Caseker Gill to the north.
A glimpse down Dowbergill towards Kettlewell and Wharfedale - with tributary meltwater valleys cut into the limestone.