50 Gems – An Extract

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As part of the launch of 50 Gems of the Yorkshire Dales I decided to walk to the Cheese Press Stones – with Johnny Hartnell from Inglesport.

The idea was to round-off the official celebration of the book being available, after a successful day in the Ingleton-based store, and to revisit an old friend.

The Stones have featured on this site before – I have bivvied under them after I penned a chapter on these fine pieces of geology for the Gems.

The route we took was much more of a circular; heading out of Ingleton towards Thornton Hall, but cutting across a field to follow some of the waterfalls walk (from above), before emerging at the ‘base’ of Kingsdale.

We then climbed to the Stones, headed to the Turbury Road and back to Ingleton via Edith’s Wood and the Marton Arms.

Avoiding the pub was the best option considering the celebratory night in the Wheatsheaf the night before!

The walk was probably no more than five miles or so and considering it was Bank Holiday weekend, we didn’t cross more than 10 people on the entire route – and that is probably an overestimate.

For all my protestations in the Dales being too busy at times, particularly around the Three Peaks region, to find solace whilst combating a significant hangover was very pleasurable indeed.

The entry in 50 Gems of the Yorkshire Dales for the Cheese Press Stones is:

Karst scenery by its very nature can be very varied. From the sweeping scars of Twistleton, White Scar and Southerscales to the Norber Erratics near Austwick and the caves and potholes at Ease Gill, it can be very haphazard and dynamic.

Taking the path to the Turbary Road, this scenery is among the finest. You climb into an area of dense limestone, boulders and pavement, before reaching a fairly flat area with Gragareth stretching ahead. Here, in this superb karst, are the Cheese Press Stones.

I’d been in this area too many times to mention and just took the stones for granted. They were marked on the map, and Alfred Wainwright noted them in his book Walks in Limestone Country. However, I was far more interested in the Turbary Road itself and Kingsdale with its flat valley floor and steep limestone scars either side, one of which I was climbing, the dale itself the almost perfect definition of glaciation and its results.

Indeed, Kingsdale is a gem in itself. It is probably 3 miles in length before it finishes and encloses itself in glacial drift. Its caves – Rowten Pot, Swinsto and Simpsons on the left, all of which link to Kingsdale Master Cave and Valley Entrance, and Heron Pot, King Pot and its cousins on the right – are legendary in caving circles the world over. And even then, Kingsdale Beck is dry in most conditions until it meets Keld Head – the resurgence for those subterranean journeys.

Yet, approaching them with Tow Scar (SD684760) on my left, I wondered where they had been all my life. Two stones, almost laid on a plate, with Ingleborough and the Dales stretching behind them. The perfect photograph.

The stones – one large, perhaps 9 or 10 foot in height, and one smaller by about 2 feet – were more than likely left stranded in this location by ice movement in the Ice Age. Since then, unlike the limestone which is nearby, they have been shaped and smoothed by the elements, not contorted or cracked.

Spend an hour exploring them, lie flat on the ground with a backpack for a pillow and just take in the noise, smells, openness and exposure.

There isn’t an easy way to get to the Cheese Press Stone other than under your own steam! Follow the road to Thornton in Lonsdale (signposted near and from Ingleton), and when you reach the Marton Arms take Thornton Lane on the right. From there, take the lane upwards until the landscape opens out. On your left will be a radio tower, but don’t take the road past it, continue onwards for a couple of hundred yards and there will be a lay-by on your left.

If you have gone past the obvious parking point on your right after the road dips and the lane that stretches back towards the waterfalls walk, you have gone too far. Take the path over the stile to the Turbary Road, which will take you over a wall and then into an area of limestone boulders, pavement and other scenery.

The Cheese Press Stones are at SD688761.

To buy a signed copy of 50 Gems of the Yorkshire Dales, click here.