4. Jun, 2021

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FRIDAY 4-06-21

What a lovely peaceful night that was, total silence all night long. Even the owl didn't start twit-tawooing until 07:30, now that's what I call considerate.

We awoke to a lovely sunny morning though we didn't hurry to get up, we only had a hike along the footpaths in the valley planned with a light lunch along the way. We didn't want too much to eat as we were still recovering from yesterday's large evening meal.

There was a cool breeze blowing before we set off and it was difficult to know what to wear, so all we could do was take a guess and hope for the best. What a lovely day it was to stroll amongst such beautiful scenery. We walked down to the base of the viaduct before passing under it and heading down the valley.

So a bit about the Ribblehead Viaduct:

The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle-Carlisle Railway across Batty Moss in the Ribble Valley at Ribblehead, in North Yorkshire. The viaduct, built by the Midland railway, is 28 miles (45 km) north-west of Skipton and 26 miles (42 km) south-east of kendal. It is a Grade II listed structure structure. Ribblehead Viaduct is the longest and the third tallest structure on the Settle–Carlisle line.

The viaduct was designed by John Sydney Crossley, chief engineer of the Midland Railway, who was responsible for the design and construction of all major structures along the line. The viaduct was necessitated by the challenging terrain of the route. Construction began in late 1869. It necessitated a large workforce, up to 2,300 men, most of who lived in shanty towns set up near its base. Over 100 men lost their lives during its construction. The Settle to Carlisle line was the last main railway in Britain to be constructed primarily with manual labour.

Ribblehead Viaduct is 440 yards (400 m) long, and 104 feet (32 m) above the valley floor at its highest point, it was designed to carry a pair of tracks aligned over the sleeper walls. The viaduct has 24 arches of 45 feet (14 m) span, the foundations of which are 25 feet (7.6 m) deep. The piers are tapered, roughly 13 feet (4 m) across at the base and 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 m) thick near the arches and have loosely-packed rubble-filled cores. Every sixth pier is 50 per cent thicker, a mitigating measure against collapse should any of the piers fail. The north end is 13 feet (4 m) higher in elevation than the south, a gradient of 1:100.

The viaduct is faced with limestone masonry set in hydraulic lime mortar and the near-semicircular arches are red brick, constructed in five separate rings, with stone voussoirs (wedge-shaped stones). Sleeper walls rise from the arches to support the stone slabs of the viaduct’s deck and hollow spandrels support plain solid parapet walls. In total, 1.5 million bricks were used; some of the limestone blocks weigh eight tons.

By the end of 1874, the last stone of the structure had been laid; on 1 May 1876, the Settle–Carlisle line was opened for passenger services.

By 1980, the viaduct was in disrepair and many of its piers had been weakened by water ingress. Between 1981 and 1984, repairs were undertaken as a cost of roughly £100,000. Repairs included strengthening the piers by the addition of steel rails and concrete cladding. For safety reasons, the line was reduced to single track across the viaduct to avoid the simultaneous loading from two trains crossing and a 20mph speed limit was imposed. During 1988, minor repairs were carried out and trial bores were made into several piers. In 1989, a waterproof membrane was installed.

In the 1980s, British Rail proposed closing the line, citing the high cost of repairs to its major structures. Vigorous campaigning by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, formed during 1981, garnered and mobilised public support against the plan. In 1989, the line was saved from closure.  According to MP Michael Portillo, who took the decision, the economic arguments for closing it had been weakened by a spike in passenger numbers, and further studies by engineers had determined that restoration work would not be nearly as costly as estimated.

In November 1988, Ribblehead Viaduct was Grade II* listed. The land underneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument; the remains of the construction camp and navvy settlements (Batty Wife Hole, Sebastopol, and Belgravia) are located there.

Regular heavy freight trains use the route avoiding congestion on the West Coast Main Line. Timber trains, and stone from Ingleton quarry, pass over the viaduct when they depart from the yard opposite Ribblehead railway station. The stone from Ingleton is ferried to the terminal at Ribblehead by road. Limestone aggregate trains from Arcow quarry sidings (near Horton-in-Ribblesdale) run to various stone terminals in the Leeds and Manchester areas on different days – these trains reverse in the goods loop at Blea Moor signal box because the connection from the quarry sidings faces north.

Major restoration work started in November 2020 as a £2.1 million project to re-point mortar joints and replace broken stones got underway.

Once we passed under the viaduct and took a less popular route things became less crowded and more peaceful, we had only the sheep and the odd walker for company. Having watched the television series 'Our Yorkshire Farm' we certainly have a better understanding of the hard life sheep farmers have. One could be forgiven for thinking all they have to do is graze the on fields most of the year and get them sheared annually. But it's much more than that and I do hope with all the new trade deals the UK are now actively negotiating, we don't sell our farming industry down the river. We have some on the highest welfare standards and traceability in the world and I'd hate to think we lost all of that just to buy cheaper meat from animals fed and jabbed with who knows what.

Lunch was taken just past a farm where there was the one and only wooden bench available for folk to enjoy - and we did. After that we walked on a path which ran alongside the railway line for a while before turning back. I think we'll walk a bit more in that direction tomorrow.

After a few more unsuccessful attempts to capture video clips using my new camera, I have now given in and referred to the users guide, it seems I'm suppose to press the record button briefly to begin recording and press it again to stop recording, whereas I was keeping my finger on the button the whole time, so we should be all set to go from now on.

On our return to the Railway Inn we treated ourselves to a drink sat in the beer garden which was very nice, before setting indoors for a spell. I used that time productively by not only downloading today's pictures, but also to enter two of them for Britstop's monthly photographic competition. I entered once before and one, the prize being a free book for the following year, but as the pandemic kicked in, with all the financial perils for small businesses I didn't have the heart to claim my freebie, and instead paid full price like other people.

This evening The Chef and I had a much smaller meal at the Railway Inn, a shared Ploughman's lunch, which was half the price of last night's meal, and still more than we could eat, but far less wastage.

This evening we may well watch a DVD as I have had the folding solar panel in the front windscreen since we arrived and it does seem to be keeping the habitation battery topped up fairly well.

Tomorrow we are off for another hike, taking comfort from the fact that school half term is at an end and things may be a bit quieter next week.