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The Norber Erratics and Sulber Nick from Austwick

We headed out from Austwick to explore the surrounding limestone pavement and one of Yorkshire’s other famous geological features – The Norber Erratics.

Parking outside the Gamecock Inn on the Green in the picture postcard Yorkshire Dales village of Austwick, we walked out of the village along the road before taking a road off on the left to Town Head. Just past Austwick Hall and where the houses ended we took a path off on the left which climbed across two fields to the bridleway known as Thwaite Lane.

Turning right, we passed some dry stone wallers repairing the old wall, before taking a steep path up towards Nappa Scar towards Norber.

We climbed up towards the limestone scar in front of us, taking a path between the gap between Nappa scar and Robin Proctor Scar. The path climbed steeply here, but the views back to Austwick were stunning and we started to see evidence of the erratics.

So what are the Norber Erratics, I hear you say? Well believe it or not they are one of the finest glacial boulder fields in England.

Huge boulders carried by glaciers during the last ice age, were deposited as the ice sheets melted. As the glaciers lost their thickness and power to carry the rocks, they were dropped where they now sit now about 12,000 years ago.

So what we find are huge hard gritstone or silurian greywacke boulders, perched on small blocks of the native limestone. These deposited rocks are not native at all to the area and are over a 100 million years older (c.430 million years old).

The deposited boulders protect the carboniferous limestone beneath so it doesn’t erode at the same rate as the surrounding limestone pavement, allowing geologists to work out the rate of erosion of the surrounding limestone which is about 30cm lower than the protected pedestals.

Erratic means “uncertain in movement, irregular in conduct, habit, opinion” (Oxford English Dictionary) and these huge rock erratics certainly look disorderly. They are sometimes referred to as ‘boulders in the wrong place’.

We headed up onto the Norber Erratics boulder field, where over 100 boulders can be seen and sheltered from a brief shower whilst tucking into a still slightly warm pork pie!.

After exploring the boulder field we retraced our steps to the foot of the Scar below, following its base before returning further down Thwaite Lane. Eventually we met Thwaite Plantation where we turned right picking up a long rough track called Long Lane.

The path steadily climbs up past Thwaite Scars on our right and runs parallel to Clapham Drive (the path from Clapham to Ingleborough). Part way along you get a clear view of the entrance to Ingeborough Cave.

Where the track ends, we passed through a gate bearing right up to Long Scar and a huge cairn.

From here you get great views down over a massive area of limestone pavement known as Thwaite Scars and look down in to Crummockdale.

The path follows a high path over the limestone pavement, and whilst the sun was out by now it was really windy as we climbed up on the Pennine Bridleway past Sulber Gate to meet a crossroads.

Here we met a path known as Sulber Nick turning right towards Horton in Ribblesdale.

This high path had superb views back to Ingleborough and across the valley to Pen-y-ghent, two of Yorkshire’s famous Three Peaks.

Following our walking rule of not stopping for lunch until we are two thirds of a way around, at almost 8 miles in we decided to take twenty minutes to eat our butties, have a cuppa and feed & water the dogs.

The next part of the walk takes a right turn following the sign back to Austwick.

After about half a mile we came to the edge of Moughton Scar – where a path snaked down the scar not too steeply taking us down into Crummockdale. The view from up here is a photographers dream and with clouds and blue skies to help highlight the wonderful greens of the fields in the bottom and the sun hitting the surrounding limestone, you can see why people call Yorkshire “God’s own County”.

As we walked down Crummockdale, we were followed by a herd of inquisitive bullocks for quite a way, until the valley narrowed into a narrow walled lane.

No more than a couple of meters wide and with 5ft tall walls on either side, the path descended along the edge of the valley into the village of Wharfe. From here we walked back past Mill Bridge along the road into Austwick.

The walk was 11.8 miles and whilst it was steep in some places it wasn’t too hard. It is a lovely part of the Yorkshire Dales and definitely showcases the best of Yorkshire’s limestone country.

Sadly the pub was shut on a Monday, but we did manage a quick pint in Long Preston on the way home.


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