Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 3: Ribblesdale and the viaduct

February 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Journey to Yorkshire 2017 – Part 3: Ribblesdale

Would I be able to see the viaduct?


Would I be able to photograph that majestic viaduct without getting soaking wet? 


But that’s jumping forward.  Some background:

The Ribblesdale viaduct is just on the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria.  It’s a stunning feat Victorian engineering from the golden age of steam.  It’s on the branch line between Settle and Carlisle, which for many years was closed.  Now reopened it carries passenger and freight, but if you ever visit, notice how slow the trains move over those arches.  Which is a good thing as I guess the views from the top must be impressive.  Not today though!

The viaduct opened in 1875.  This information from the Visit Cumbria website:

“Hundreds of railway builders (“navvies”) lost their lives building the line, from a combination of accidents, fights, and smallpox outbreaks. In particular, building the Ribblehead (then Batty Moss) viaduct, with its 24 massive stone arches 104 feet (32 metres) above the moor, caused such loss of life that the railway paid for an expansion of the local graveyard.”

Grim stuff!

Under the viaduct I believe there used to be some kind of old railway depot.  Now it’s given over to the moorland.  I knew where I needed to be to start my hike.  A very useful photograph online shows the road junction  sign with the majestic structure in the background.  The junction of the B6255 and B6479, near Ribblesdale railway station.

On the approach the weather was getting worse.  The grey getting thicker as drizzle hit the windows.  Here perhaps only once, and maybe never again, I had to get something.  The scenery of the high hills of the Pennines on the road up, and of Ribblesdale itself, would have been splendid, had the weather played ball. 

The B6255, the road running through the dale, was closed a few miles on.  After we turned off the B6479 ‘No Through Road – Access Only’ raised its very ugly head.  It didn’t say why, but I can guess.  There was a BT wagon in the lay-by at the edge of the dale. +%&/()=.  Yes, they were at it here too…there were also a couple of trucks parked under the viaduct!  In August, closing roads where tourist and holiday makers want to go.  Opppf!

We couldn’t cross the dale, as was our plan, we’d have to find another way back.  But for the moment we pulled up in the in the lay-by near the dreaded white vans.  I got out, donned my waterproofs and began to take some distant shots, before my hike across to the viaduct itself.  Depending on the weather, I would cross the dale to shoot from the other side, and straight on from distance if I could.

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Taken on LG G4

While I was there several train rolled across, sadly no steam!  What a grand sight that must make!  A couple of passenger units, and a freight train that seemed to tip-toe over those majestic stone arches was all that went passed.  It was drizzling again.  Mist was rolling across the hills of Whernside opposite.  Whernside was becoming hidden by the low cloud.  Off I went.  Over the years as a child, we’d often had picnics in the car as the weather was spoiler the day.  Make the most of it, the English holiday approach.  Today would be no different.  Would we see anything more of the Whernside hills that we're being swallowed by that all encompassing cloud before leaving?

The more I walked, the more it seemed to rain.  Across the grassy moorland for the distance square on shot was out of the question, it was boggy and the weather was getting worse by the minute.  I had to play percentages and try to get shots that I knew would work.  Onward.  A couple of shots fired from this new angle.  These had to be taken handheld.  My makeshift rain cover (plastic bag with a hole cut at one end - very effective) was keeping the rain out of my lens and camera body, but keeping the glass drip free was tough.  No, not tough, impossible!

Strangest thing of all.  I wasn’t the only lunatic doing this hike in the rain. The dogs really didn't mind, is he wearing shorts???  Must be a local!

I reached the centre point and darted off the path and fired off a number of shots to make a pano.  Again, handheld as the rain was too heavy to set up the tripod and keep everything dry.  I had no hope for this pano, the scene wasn’t what it should be as there was no detail in the landscape at all.  I am glad I hadn’t tried for the square on distance shot.  It would pick out nothing but the dim outline of the arches against an ever shifting mass of formless grey.  There was no landscape, just cloud and rain! which was now very heavy, with a strong squally wind whipping around.

I approached the arches, perhaps up close was my best (only) hope of a usable image.  A contrasty shot of the arches at a dynamic angle was my best composition.  The image below had to be cleaned of water drops.  What else could I do?  I had to photograph it today, when would I be back?  Rain was still falling, from the sky, and from me - the problem with waterproofs is that they drip! 

If anything, I think I did well to get some shots and return with a usable camera! 

Under the archesUnder the archesThe Ribblesdale Viaduct, Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire. Also know as the Batty Moss Viaduct, on the Settle-Carlisle line.

f/11 - 1/1600 - 15mm - ISO 800

I am certain that the grim weather actually made this shot more impressive than it would've been on a dry clear day.  Some good can come out of bad weather!  Persist!

With the weather conditions the rest of the day was abandoned as far as photography was concerned.  After finding another route back to the hotel, with telecoms company causing us to redirect several times, we adjourned to our rooms to meet later for dinner. 

After dinner, back to that ominous churchyard.  Not as atmospheric as the night before.  It was earlier than last night and the cloud was breaking to show the sun setting, albeit out of view.  The forecast had said a cloudy, dry evening.  It lied! 

The forecast for the next day was the same.  Disappointing, it didn't look good.  The plan had been to walk from Malham village to Janet’s Foss waterfall, then to Gordale Scar, an imposing cut in the hillside with a waterfall running through it.  I had planned then to hike from the Scar through the valley to the imposing limestone cliffs of Malham Cove, and then over the top of the cove and down to Malham Tarn for some waterside shots. 

Find out how successful this plan was (or wasn’t) next week!

Got any similar stories or comments about weather spoiling, or enhancing, your shots?

Please share!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


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