Click here to read Part One
I passed a couple of walkers scrambling up the hill and swapped a quiet greeting before we went our separate, sweat-drenched ways. The slope down to Yordas Wood felt steeper than the climb at the beginning of the walk and I didn’t envy these people their exertions, especially under a July sun that was feeling hotter every moment. As I passed the wood itself I could hear the sound of a small stream tumbling over rocks and I wondered how accessible the cave would be. A little online research had informed me that, in times of heavy rainfall, the cave can flood to the point where it isn’t safe to enter, though after several weeks of almost no rain I doubted I would have any problems. In fact, I imagined that the worst I would have to deal with would be whether there was anywhere comfortable to sit and eat my sandwiches and assuage my grumbling stomach.
The sky was beginning to fill with clouds and the view was beginning to look a little more photogenic. I will never think of the Yorkshire Dales as anything less than beautiful – which is a good thing considering that I’ve made them my home – and even in times of bad weather there is beauty to be found. What I love most of all, however, are the constant surprises. By that I mean the frequent times when I’ve gone for a walk and found a new vista or a new path to explore even in places I thought I knew intimately. Even waking on a morning and seeing Pen Hill bathed in sunlight or speckled with the shadows of passing clouds is an experience that has never dulled in the fifteen years I’ve lived beneath its slopes.
After much slipping and scrambling I left the path to cut over to a gate in the wall that surrounds Yordas Wood. The cave mouth is low with a slightly offset rectangle shape and only a few paces inside the light fails and you find yourself surrounded by darkness and the sound of the stream echoing around. I had brought my headlamp with me, but even with it on full beam I could not see the far wall of the main gallery where I found myself. Dancing in and out of the stream’s echoes were the sounds of people in another gallery somewhere. I found a level part of the floor to set my camera bag on and set up my camera on its tripod with the timer set to two seconds. I had brought my flashgun and set it up in what’s called optical slave mode. This is a mode that uses another flash firing as a signal to fire itself. I had the built-in flash on my camera set up and experimented with different settings to try to illuminate the cave enough for a decent photo; using the two flashes meant that I had more light to illuminate the cave in addition to using a thirty second shutter speed. Not knowing the size of the cave, I could only guess at the focus and so the one image that I’m remotely happy with is slightly out of focus because of this. I include it as a crude attempt to illustrate the wonder of the cave.
Indeed, I’m planning another visit to this cave one day so that I can explore more than just the main gallery and, hopefully, I’ll be able to take my time and come back with a far more impressive set of photographs. As with the photo of Rowton Pot, had I thought things through I might have stood in front of the camera myself or, at the very least, left my bag in shot to give a sense of scale. Obviously it wasn’t my day for great ideas.
Whilst I was in the middle of my experiments a group of school kids in full caving attire came out of a tunnel. They and the adults accompanying them seemed a little perplexed at the sight of a man in a t-shirt taking photos of the cave. I smiled and tried to look natural, though I think the effect may have been spoilt by several drops of water choosing that moment to fall from the roof and run down my face. They left the cave and I followed shortly afterwards, deciding that I probably wasn’t going to explore any further that day and wanting to get back to town to make sure the car hadn’t been clamped.
The kids and adults seemed even more perplexed when I went back into the cave to retrieve the pair of sunglasses that had fallen from my shirt pocket and were, mercifully, easy to find (not to mention intact).
I found a comfortable rock outside the cave and sat down with my ham sandwiches and the last of the orange squash I’d brought to quench my thirst on the walk. The kids and adults left with a few puzzled looks thrown my way, though one of the adults stopped to ask if I was going back in.
“I’m not really dressed for it,” I said.
“Well, if you go upstream you’ll be alright in your walking boots.”
Aha! I thought, at least I know I can go a little further next time.
My lunch finished, I got to my feet and felt the aches all down my legs from the day’s exertions. I could feel the beginnings of blisters on my feet and I made a mental note to investigate some replacements boots in the near future because the soles of my current pair were feeling uncomfortably thin for long walks. Of course, they’ve walked a good few miles over the years, so it’s only to be expected that they’ve been worn down a little.
I walked down the road, the tarmac feeling strange after so long walking on grass and earth and waved at the kids in their minibus as they roared off towards Ingleton followed by a white hatchback driven by one of the adults, who I assume was a caving instructor based on the amount of kit he had in the back of his car.
The roadside was covered in wildflowers and the constant drone of bees and other insects had a soporific effect on me so that I felt as though my feet were walking of their own accord and I was merely a passenger watching the view with heavy-lidded eyes. A gentle breeze blew and woke me from my half-sleep in time to take a few snaps of insects feeding on the flowers. Indeed, I was beginning to worry at the lack of photos on this walk even though I knew I was going to following part of the waterfall trail and would undoubtedly find a few scenes to shoot on that path.
I saw quite a few insects and butterflies that I didn’t recognise as I walked – the butterflies refusing to settle long enough for me to take a photograph – and my long lens saw quite a bit of use as I tried to get the right distance and focus.
The strangest feature on this walk was the Kingsdale Beck, a dry riverbed that looks almost manmade, were it not for the winding course it follows down towards Twistleton Scars and the end of the Dale. It eventually joins the River Twiss that flows down into the glen that forms part of the waterfall trail. Walking alongside the water I felt the urge to sit down and bathe my feet for a few minutes to ease the aches. It’s been quite some time since I last did a walk of this length and I was feeling considerably out of shape and practice. But time was marching on and I felt obliged to do likewise if only in the hope of getting back to the car park before a traffic warden decided to look at the ticket inside my windscreen and do their duty.
At this point I was beginning to feel almost faint from thirst, my drinks bottle clattering emptily from where I’d hung it on my camera bag. My first thought was that at least there would be somewhere in town where I could buy a bottle of water to quench my thirst. My second was is that really an ice-cream van?
I had just enough change for a bottle of coke and cider-flavoured lolly and suffered an almost instant case of brain-freeze as I devoured my purchases so greedily you’d have thought I hadn’t eaten for a week.
Leaving the ice-cream van behind, I followed the path down a flight of steps to the River Twiss and the first of the waterfalls. Even after a drink and an ice-lolly I was starting to feel the heat again and the constant sound of flowing water was a trial to resist. There were even people swimming in one of the pools and I so desperately wanted to join them (without my camera, before anyone mentions it). As I walked my legs began to feel weak and I had to stop a few times to rub a little life back into them; I suppose it was a reaction to the sudden sugar rush from the drink and ice-lolly, though I certainly needed the energy at that point.
One thing I love more than a good cave is a good waterfall and, as the name implies, this part of the walk has them in abundance. I lost count of the number of times I had to squeeze passed fellow walkers taking photos with DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones, always being careful not to get in the way of their shots. It’s a testament to the people who maintain the trail that this was one of the easiest stretches of path on the entire walk, though there are a few vertigo-inducing moments when the fence fails and you are left walking along the edge of a significant drop into the gorge below. I can only say that I was relieved when the path eventually petered out a foot or two above the river and I could relax a little. My legs were still feeling a little wobbly, but as I checked my progress on the OS map on my phone I felt better as I approached the end of the walk with a definite sense of achievement. I could have included more photographs of the waterfalls (I certainly included plenty in my post Searching For The Ingleborough Giant which takes in the other half of the waterfall trail), but I’ve come to consider that tantamount to film spoilers posted online. Yes, we all want to know how the film pans out, but we’d prefer to find out for ourselves.
I arrived in the waterfall trail car park and decided to be honest and confess to the men in the ticket office that I had not, in fact, paid for entry. I mentioned that I had only done half the walk and they were kind enough to only charge me half-price, saying that most people aren’t nearly so honest (I get the feeling a good many simply walk out nonchalantly in the hopes that no one stops them). I walked as fast as my tired feet would allow to the pay and display car park expecting to see a clamp around one of the wheels of my car. Thankfully, I had escaped the notice of the traffic wardens (if, indeed, there are any in Ingleton) and I drove home under the afternoon sun with Richard Thompson on the radio singing about life, death and motorbikes.