The Reginald Farrer Trail

3 September 2006: Leader - Keith Bolger

When we visit a famous garden or a big horticultural show, and even sometimes when we stand in our own humble plot, we marvel at the enormous variety and beauty of the plants which are available to us today. We are aware of the work of the plant breeders who seem able to produce new varieties or different flower colours almost annually but we seldom spare a thought for the pioneer plant hunters who a century and more ago travelled the wild places of the world to find and collect exciting new species for enthusiastic British gardeners. Reginald Farrer of Ingleborough Hall, Clapham, was a prominent member of that company of courageous adventurers and a prolific author and artist too. Sadly, he died from diphtheria in the mountains of Burma in 1920. He was only 40 years old but left a legacy of 19 books, many watercolours and a huge catalogue of new plants. It was fifty years later that the Reginald Farrer Trail was established and many of us have walked it with great enjoyment several times since then.

On this occasion a group of members met in Clapham and paid the small entry charge to the Ingleborough Estate at the woodyard at the top of the village. We then followed the path through the woods to join Clapdale Lane which took us past the lake and all the way to the entrance to Ingleborough Cave. There are small detours from the track to viewpoints from which we could admire some of Reginald’s clever plantings of bamboos and huge rhododendrons in a limited area of acid soil provided between large tracts of limestone by the upheaval of the North Craven Fault. We resisted the temptation to explore the cave and pressed on over the bridge and into the narrow confines of Trow Gill. It is possible to climb up this impressive ravine to emerge onto the moor above and to reach the famous cavern of Gaping Gill but we turned our backs on that adventure and took a path from the foot of Trow Gill which follows a wall and leads up through a shallow ravine to the open grass moor of Clapham Bottoms. The path soon levels out and joins a well-marked tractor track. Here we turned sharp right, doubling back diagonally up the valley side to a gate leading to a rather muddy lane from which we could see our outward route and the hills above it across the dale. The lane soon became walled on both sides but the open country gave us wonderful views of the nearby limestone scars, the green fields of the Wenning valley with Burn Moor beyond and the distant Lonsdale hills. Long Lane passes pheasant-filled plantations to reach a T-junction with Thwaite Lane. Here we turned right and descended into Clapham via the Estate’s tunnels, thankful for such a fine day amid so many wet ones, glad of each other’s company and grateful for the achievements of Reginald and all the Farrers in this special place.