Waterfalls near Stainforth

THIS is a short walk but full of interest. Two waterfalls provide the focus for the walk (Stainforth Force and Catrigg Force – force not falls because of its Viking heritage and nothing technical about the waterfalls) but in addition there are some splendid views over Ribblesdale and beyond to the Forest of Bowland.

Catrigg Force in particular is a mystical place and will conjure up visions of fairies, goblins and the like. Stainforth is a pretty village and well worth exploring in its own right.

Start the walk in the village of Stainforth, there is a car park and toilets. Instead of heading into the village, take the path under the road (B6479) and beside the river in order to visit Stainforth Force. The path climbs over the train lines (the famous Settle to Carlisle railway) before meeting a quiet road and dropping for 300m to the River Ribble. Cross the pack horse bridge and turn immediately left towards the cascading waterfalls. It is an idyllic spot to spend some time; when I was there in October the salmon were leaping and I saw a brightly coloured kingfisher while a few months earlier some children from the local campsite were leaping in to the deep (and no doubt cold) waters below the falls. There is always something going on. Return to the car park the same way.

From the car park it is worth having a browse around the graveyard of St Peter's Church, which is very impressive.

Stainforth Beck runs through the village and follow this for 150m to a river crossing over some stepping stones. Crossing the stepping stones is good fun but after rains it may be more prudent to follow the road over the bridge and out of the village from here.

The road peters out into a track as it exits the village, a signpost pointing uphill towards Catrigg Force. The initial steep track soon flattens to a more gradual and pleasant gradient as it heads parallel but above the river to the left. The views are disappointing at first due to the high walls alongside the track but soon open out.

After following the track for just over ½ a mile, a gate will bar your way and a signpost to the left will point down towards Catrigg Force. After 20m, a pleasant open picnic spot marks the top of the falls while to the left a stile leads in to some thick woodland. The path here drops down to the idyllic Catrigg Force, a single 7m waterfall plunging in to a deep and secluded pool. In spate this is a remarkable site, one of the best in the Dales. In 2011 the waterfall was put up for sale and the local paper described it as “one Dales beauty spot, no mains supply but plenty of running water. Price £35,000.” The composer Edward Elgar was just one of many big fans of the falls.

Return via the picnic spot to the gate with the signpost and carry on over a large open field along the farm track. The views now become the outstanding feature of the walk. All three peaks of Yorkshire (Pen y Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside) are in view as well as many other outcrops of pale limestone rock, rocky scars and shake holes where the land has sunk in to a crater shape. This is classic limestone country admired by, among other, Alfred Wainwright ,the guide book writer. The track passes through another gate before bending right and arriving at the lonely farm of Upper Winskill. It may be lonely but the views are extensive.

A path skirts the farm for 100m south west towards Lower Wiskill Farm before turning west and then north west towards an escarpment. The escarpment is typical of the area, the limestone forming these scars following erosion sheers off chunks of the friable rock. The path passes easily down the scar, through some pleasant woodland before entering the outskirts of Stainforth village. On entering the village, the Craven Heifer pub awaits.

Fact box:

Distance: Roughly three miles.

Height to climb: 180m (600 feet). Initial climb is steep

Start: SE 821673. There is a pay and display car park in Stainforth.

Difficulty: Easy walk on good tracks throughout. The path to Catrigg Force in the woods is often slippy and care near the waterfalls is needed.

Refreshments: The Craven Heifer in Stainforth is usually open all day.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales.

Jonathan has written his own book, the “Dales 30” which describes the highest mountains in the Dales.

He also runs One Day Navigation Courses for Beginners and Intermediates. Join his Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill Weekend in the Dales. To find out more details on any of the above and details of many more walks in the area visit his popular website, Where2walk.co.uk