Yorkshire's Three Peaks

Yorkshire's Three Peaks

Yorkshire’s Three Peaks – the Inside Story of the Dales by
Mike Appleton

Mike Appleton’s book charts a chatty tour round the 24 miles of the Yorkshire Three Peaks route, not in the familiar 12-hour dash, but in a leisurely stroll completed over a period of months, talking to the people who live and work in the area and who visit this popular corner of the national park.

The author’s style is colloquial: this is no high-literature analysis of the beauty of the area but rather an attempt to garner the views of the many people who come into contact, one way or another, with the three hills.

The now ubiquitous circuit of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent was kicked started by two public school teachers, Canon JR Wynne-Edwards and DR Smith in 1887.

And there was a time when the successful completion of the challenge of walking the route was a relatively uncommon pursuit, but now, during summer weekends, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of walkers and runners will attempt the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

This, of course, has an effect on the countryside, the paths, the villages and hamlets in the area and the national park authority sometimes struggles to keep pace with the sheer numbers as the Three Peaks’ popularity grows.

Appleton follows the trail, garnering interviews with farmers, business owners, residents, landowners, people who work in the area, and those who visit it.

Ironically, as the Three Peaks Challenge has grown, some of the businesses and homes in the area have declined, not just on the route itself, but in nearby towns such as Ingleton. The complexities of the rural economy are examined in a down-to-earth way in the author’s interviews.

Mr Appleton, who clearly is a committed caver from his intimate knowledge of many of the underground systems, ambles his literary way from Horton in Ribblesdale up Pen-y-ghent, across the bumps to Whernside, into the hidden corners of the hamlet of Chapel-le-Dale and finally back over Ingleborough and into his starting point.

He also makes a literary detour to the nearby villages of Ingleton and Clapham, both of which are close enough to the Three Peaks route to be affected by the influx of visitors.

On his way, he encounters almost universal criticism of the national park authority, for all sorts of reasons. Each interviewee seems to have his or her unique gripe about the body that oversees the area. But of course, it’s a national park, and national concerns have to be taken into account sometimes to the detriment of local interests.

It’s a perennial source of conflict but, you have to remember, most of those who have come to live or work in the area knew they were coming into a national park. The Yorkshire Dales park has been in existence for 60 years – predating many who now inhabit or make a living out of the area.

However, one repeated complaint is that the authority is seen to come down hard on the little people who contravene regulations but big companies are allowed to get away with bigger perceived sins.

The curious thing about this Yorkshire’s Three Peaks book is that there is little to reflect the viewpoint of the thousands of walkers who undertake the challenge or indeed those who just come for a quiet walk up one or other of the fells or an amble along some of the lower-level routes.

There’s an interview with fellrunner Joe Symonds who scoots round the course in less than three hours, but the ordinary fellwalker’s opinion is absent – a major omission of a book centred on such a popular walking challenge.

That said, there’s a wealth of historical, geographical and other information that will enhance a visit to the area. Even those who know the Three Peaks well will find insights into nooks and crannies they probably didn’t know existed; background to the inhabitants and history of the place; and perhaps a prick of the conscience to spend a little money with some of the small businesses that struggle to survive.

This is no conventional guidebook: it won’t guide you step by step round the route, but if you’re tackling the challenge or, better still, planning on spending a little more time in the area, it will provide food for thought and make those visits a little better informed.

Yorkshire’s Three Peaks – the Inside Story of the Dales is published by Amberley Publishing at £16.99.