November 2017 -
There’s a notice on the wall outside the Pen-y-ghent café in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, the traditional start and finish point for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. It provides a list of all the things that groups of walkers completing the route shouldn’t do: don’t cheer as people finish; don’t make too much noise; don’t cheer loudly when people finish.
Pen-y-ghent summit (and my favourite of the three)
It raised a smile when I spotted it. It could be tongue-in-cheek – a blast of stereotypical curmudgeon, put up to ensure visitors feel they’re getting the full Yorkshire experience – but it still seems a little bit stern for what is supposed to be a fun, if hard, day out. But at the same time, it’s easy to sympathise with the locals getting exasperated with the steady stream of hikers all finishing at the same place, and making the inevitable, exhausted racket.
Yet there was one thing missing from the long list of gripes: cars. I don’t have any statistics for the numbers of cars in the village (for some reason, the latest year covered by online stats is 2008), but judging from a quick view of the village car park, and the number of vehicles in the village’s main campsite, there are a lot during summer weekends. Surely these must also disturb the tranquillity of the place? Certainly as much as the visitors outside a café.
Nor is there any need for so many cars. Horton-in-Ribblesdale has a Dalesbus service from Settle, and a station on the exsquisite Settle–Carlisle railway. The railway also provides an easy way to get to Ribblehead, from where you can tackle Wherside or Ingleborough. There are supermarkets in Settle, a short journey away, for fetching supplies. And who knows? If demand increased, maybe there would be enough trade from passing walkers and fundraising groups for the village store to reopen.
However the Three Peaks are completed – in a long, gruelling day, or one by one over a long weekend – there is little doubt a trek over Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside is hugely worthwhile – and demanding enough to merit sponsorship for any chosen causes. But the numbers arriving in this small settlement each summer weekend undoubtedly have an impact on the local people and environment, both positive and negative. This is being felt not just here, but in all popular ‘challenge’ locations, notably those that are part of the UK Three Peaks events.
So here’s a challenge for Three Peaks Challengers – why not plan your expedition for 2018 as a car-free event? It’s easily done, and will help to reduce the environmental impact of your efforts. If you need any tips, then get in touch!
Top of Whernside
Alternatives to the Three Peaks
Not everyone wants to walk 25 miles in 12 hours. Some people are sensible, after all. If you're looking for something a little more relaxed on your trip to Yorkshire, have a look at this walk list. All options are accessible from Ribblehead or Horton-in-Ribblesdale stations.
Ribblehead viaduct, photo by Geoff Hopper