Sell Gill and the Pennine Way

10 May 1998
Leader - Len Moody
Meeting Place - High Birkwith, Horton-in-Ribblesdale

Everyone who takes a walk in this area will be aware of the Pennine Way (first proposed 1935; opened 1965, a kind of bonus for the outcome of World War II). Some will have faced the challenge of the whole 250 miles, but there are endless possibilities of sampling it in shorter sections. For this Sunday afternoon walk we were given permission to park at the remote farmstead of High Birkwith, some 2.5 miles north of Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

First we walked south on the farm lane, and then branched off Southeast on a line of footpaths through High Pasture and Top Farm to meet the Pennine Way at Sell Gill Hole. Here we turned north to follow the Way for about a mile. Where it turns west we continued eastwards into Langstrothdale Forest, until at a spot height 410m we began to circle north and west, still on a public right of way, until we emerged to find ourselves looking across to the eastern parts of Ingleborough and, in the distance, to Ribblehead Viaduct.

We carried on westwards following a small watercourse which eventually brought us to the historic Ling Gill Bridge, where it is always a duty to try to decipher the ancient memorial stone on the parapet. This records that the bridge was provided in 1765 'at the expense of the whole West Riding' -how they must have appreciated its installation in those days. The great chasm cut by Ling Gill into the lime- stone (now a Nature Reserve) harbours a great wealth of plant life - 235 specimens of 'higher plants' have recently been recorded by English Nature, though passing walkers are discouraged from exploring the depths. We cautiously, but observantly, skirted along the eastern verge until the Pennine Way turns eastwards at Old Ing. At this point we turned downhill to return to Higher Birkwith.

The walk was a marvellous introduction to the Pennine ethos, enshrined in a wealth of rugged Pennine placenames! Our thanks go to the Morphet family for permission to park, and to Margaret Lowers of English Nature for providing a plant list.

Len Moody