This walk was something of a double act led jointly by two members of the local team researching and writing a history of Clapham and its parish. We gathered in the car park at the top of the village on a fine, dry day, overcast but with good visibility. Our route was to take us to Ingleborough Cave and Clapdale Farm, about 3½ miles with 460 feet of climbing.
Before starting off we considered the car park itself, created in 1963 from the kitchen garden of Ingleborough Hall, bordered to the east by the village tennis court modelled on Lord Rothschild’s at Gunnersbury Park and to the south by the Old Manor House probably built by the Claphams who improved it in 1701. Setting off up Gildersbank and Church Avenue we peered through the gates of Ingleborough Hall, built by the Farrers in the 1820s to 40s as a gentleman’s country residence complete with gardens, pleasure grounds and an extensive sporting estate stretching from Ingleborough summit to Bowland Knotts. The house is now an outdoor education centre closed to visitors.
We paused for a moment to admire Fiona Bowley’s Millennium Stone outside the Hall gates. This records some significant aspects of Clapham’s story, including the Witch featured in the Trust’s 2006 Journal. From here we moved the few yards to the towered church, trashed by Scots raiders in 1319, enlarged in 1812-14 but found to be too big when part of the old Clapham parish was hived off in 1879 to become the new parish of Austwick.
Over the road bridge, widened in 1798, we turned off the road to pass the estate’s water-powered sawmill, a former cotton mill then bobbin mill, to join the Reginald Farrer Nature Trail where a small toll is payable and a guide leaflet to the Trail is available. This indicated the several points of interest along the old carriage drive as we walked through open woodland beside the lake, once the village water supply, to climb gently above Farrers’ plantings of rhododendron and bamboo and to cross the line of the Mid-Craven Fault accompanied by the sound of rushing water in the beck below. Passing the Grotto, a Victorian folly and one-time viewpoint, we emerged from the woods via a kissing gate into the lovely little dale of Clapham Beck. Here we became aware of the regular thud of the hydram pump in its concrete bunker beside the beck, raising water the 150 feet to Clapdale Farm. A few yards further on we reached the entrance to Ingleborough Cave, opened up and first explored by the Farrers in 1835.
At this point we decided against continuing to Trow Gill, a spectacular collapsed cavern or glacial overflow channel leading to open moorland on the flanks of Ingleborough. Instead we returned to the hydram and climbed the short steep path to Clapdale Farm. Here we paused to appreciate the massy stone structure with its 5 foot thick stone walls and adjacent dovecote. There are at least three suggested dates and builders for this, Clapham’s original fortified manor house. An early 13th century date seems the most likely at present. It was built as part of the buffer zone defences between English and Scots or possibly between Normans and Scots.
From Clapdale we had extensive views south to the Bowland Forest skyline and the Lancashire border. Our way now lay downhill, past signs of pheasant rearing, vestiges of the Ingleborough sporting estate, past an old quarry and limekiln to a point where views opened up to the east. Here we had an excellent profile of Robin Proctor’s Scar above Austwick and the scene of Robert Proctor’s fatal riding accident in 1677.
The road brought us back to Clapham as we joined the curiously named Eggshell Lane, so called as one of the original roads to the village church (ecclesia) or as part of a route used by monastic travellers perhaps going to and from the Furness grange at Newby. Near the junction lies the site of an old turnpike trust tollhouse abandoned in the 1820s. From here it was only a short distance to the attractive Brokken Bridge, repaired in 1913, where we were able to cross the beck and return to the carpark.
The afternoon had an interestingly varied mix of scenery and history, with special thanks to Jim Hall for his research and commentary.