#59 – “Water, water, everywhere……….”

Thornton Force in spate

The plan had been to go to the Peak District for our next hill day.  However, the ‘breezy’ day with ‘sunny intervals’ turned out to be ‘blowing a hoolie’ and ‘light rain’.  Our last outing to Malham on Boxing Day {26th December) had seen us blown and buffeted round the hillside.  I for one wasn’t especially keen to repeat the experience, but didn’t have an alternative ready.  It was Chris who saved the day by suggesting the Ingleton Waterfall Walk.

Starting out

The logic was simple – if we were going to have a wet day, we might as well see the Ingleton Falls at their most dramatic.  It seemed that we had got that bit right when we spoke to the bloke at the car park – he said that there had been one rain-free day over the past four weeks.  Well, we wanted the spectacular, but you should be careful what you wish for!

Pecca Falls

The Waterfalls Walk is the kind of outing that hardy hillwalkers would usually sneer at – the walk is at low level, starting at about 115 metres and reaching a high point of about 285 metres. It is also fairly short, at a bit less than 8 kms (five miles) but on the plus side the route is sheltered from the winds by the twists and turns of the valleys.  There is one major drawback, though – you have to pay to get in!

It’s not a question of being mean, after all there are many other places in the world where payment is required for access to a trail, but it just doesn’t sit well with the British freedom of the hills ethic – with emphasis on the word free!   However, the promise of a dramatic watery day was enough to overcome this objection, so securely wrapped in waterproofs we set out. The walk has been a popular outing since 1885.  The outward section ascends alongside the River Twiss, walking through woodland with the river always close by.  The first incident is Pecca Falls, where a series of five cascades drop 30 metres through rocks that are 500 Million years old.  The cascades are impressive enough when the water level is normal, but the river in spate made an impressive display.

Thornton Force in spate

Thornton Force in summer

Beyond Pecca comes the impressive Thornton Force – the word Force comes from the old Norse word Fors and is a reminder that the Norsemen settled here just over 1000 years ago.  The English artist Turner was an early sightseer, and he visited the falls in 1808 and 1816 – his sketch of the falls in spate undoubtedly led to the Waterfall Trail’s eventual popularity.  Thornton Force is impressive enough in normal conditions, but our view must have been similar to the spectacle Turner witnessed.

After Thornton Force, the route meanders up to its high point at 285 metres before dropping down to the River Doe, with Beezley Falls, Rival Falls, Baxenghyll Gorge and Snow Falls following in rapid succession.  In places the path hangs above the torent, adding to the drama.  When the route eventually moved away from the river we could still hear the sound of rushing water.


The decision to follow the Waterfall Walk was a good choice in the conditions – the falls were all the more impressive, and the weather eventually started to ‘fair up’ as we say in the North of England.  I even became reconciled to the idea of ‘paying’ to go on a walk!

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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6 Responses to #59 – “Water, water, everywhere……….”

  1. stan bonnar says:

    hi paul,
    gorgeous gorge!

    on the issue of paying, you were quite circumspect;
    on the other hand they might well claim that
    paths do not themselves maintain –
    (not that seasoned climbers, hard paths expect).
    but i’m with you on this, (outraged)
    and (being seasoned), when you were in that meager glade
    i was opening chrismas presents on the buchel –
    or was that when i was just a lad
    in 1963?


    • Gorgeous gorge indeed!

      Got to say that they do keep the route well maintained, but they can get very ‘health and safety’ about it – we turned up with a friend a couple of years ago, and they said it was closed because it was too late – “you haven’t got time to get round before dark”. We did it in reverse instead and there was no one to take our money when we finished!! Very satisfying 😉


  2. conjensen says:

    Super pics Paul- even more spectacular than usual. I’d like to do this walk!


  3. Ah – the wonderful Ingleton Waterfalls Walk – just the place to go when it’s been raining like it has (or any other waterfall walk). I very occasionally don’t pay as there are ways and means but normally am happy to pay as it does help with the upkeep of the paths. I usually go behind Thornton Force and have a little sit and watch the world through a wall of water… but not THAT wall of water on that day! That would be scary!

    I actually think it’s a reasonably hard walk for such a short one and class it as quite good enough exercise for one of my outings when I can’t get further afield. You’ve got some superb photos there though – wish I’d thought of going! I haven’t been getting out much and found myself very unfit going up our crag today 😦


    • I agree about the grading, Carol. It catches a lot of casual ‘strollers’ out, and the day we went there were a surprising number of people out without waterproofs, despite the rain being on and off.


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