Walking from the Settle – Carlisle Railway – August 16th – 20th
Our first walk using the Settle Carlisle Railway was from Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and was to end at the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. The geological features of the limestone, sandstone terrain, with its sinkholes and fast flowing disappearing streams, were explained by Simon our Leader.
In the afternoon, our party divided into two by those who wanted to catch the 3.20pm train back to Settle, and those who opted for the later train at 5.40pm and who would have the chance to explore the area beneath the famous viaduct. The Midland Railway Company petitioned Parliament to construct a new railway on the west coast, to allow passengers to travel between London and Scotland on its own track.
The Ribblehead Viaduct is 104 ft high, 440 yards long and it has 24 arches. The highest was 100 ft, with the piers sunk onto the rock through 25 feet of mud and clay. It was built in the six years between 1869 and 1875.
Standing beneath this massive structure, one’s imagination began to appreciate how our Victorian ancestors accomplished this great project. The impact of the navvies and miners living in their squalid, shantytowns on various parts of the site, must have been overwhelming on the small village farming communities of this remote area. These workers fought an intractable terrain. Disease was present all the time.
One can imagine the pressures on these communities. Records show that drink, gambling and fighting were common and local raw materials were exploited. Limestone was quarried from the local mountainside and supplies were transported by train from Ingleborough. Bricks were made on site, indeed there are many scattered around today. There was a hospital and school, where now stands a car park and an ice cream van.
The Ribblehead Viaduct was completed in six years and opened for goods traffic on 1st May 1776. A fantastic achievement! Margaret and I were very pleased that we opted to catch the later train, as exploring the site proved to be a memorable experience.