Hardraw Force

Spotlighted by a beam of sunlight and framed by a blaze of autumn colour against a clear blue sky, Hardraw Force makes an appealing subject for the movie option of my camera.

The waterfall, with its 100 foot drop, can claim to have the highest unbroken drop of any waterfall in England, at least above ground: Fell Beck plunges three times as far down into Gaping Gill, 14 miles to the southeast of Hardraw, on the slopes of Ingleborough.

Hardraw Force is an extreme example of the stepped landscape features found on rocks of the Yoredale Series in Wensleydale, Swaledale and elsewhere: near horizontal layers of hard rocks – in this case Carbonferous limestone – are interspersed with softer strata and erosion acts on these, undermining the more resistant layers, to produce a stepped landscape.

A Step into the Past

fossil shells in a stepripple marksThere are echoes of past environments in the steps and the paving stones of the footpath across the fields back to Hawes with fossil ripple marks (right) and what look like the outlines of brachiopod shells (above).

We climb one of these steps on the north side of Wensleydale out of the village of Hardraw up to Simonstone and then follow the terrace through sheep pastures almost as far as Sedbusk, taking the footpath down the steps to Hayland packhorse bridge on our return to Hawes.

I’m fascinated by a twin-engined military aircraft making its way up Wensleydale, military aircraftfollowing it with binoculars until it flies directly in front of the low autumn sun! It probably helped that I’m wearing my 100% UV proof varifocals and that I turned away the instant that I was dazzled.

Murrenbach Waterfall

Mürrenbach waterfall, drawn from the kiosk cafe at Stechelberg at the top end of the Lauterbrunnen Valley 

WITH CLOUD swirling over the upper slopes we make our way down to Lauterbrunnen. We’re surprised to find hoof-prints, and fresh cow-dung, on the winding path through the woods – surely they don’t take the cows up and down this path for milking every day!

Talking to Barbara (another Barbara) who serves us coffee at the Jungfrau Hotel, we learn that today is the day that the Lauterbrunnen Valley cattle are taken to the upper pastures on the Wengen side of the valley. On the Mürren side they were taken up a week earlier. This proved premature as an usually late snowfall meant that they found themselves up there in the snow.

Looking at my drawing of the Altetsch Glacier, Barbara tells us that she runs in the Aletsch half marathon which involves 21 kilometres along the lateral moraine of the glacier at over 1000m altitude.

Sand martins, house martins and swifts swoop low over the river.

Folk Evening at Wengen

Wengen Bell Ringers parade along the main street with their enormous cow bells, creating a rhythmic racket. As we’re in the mountains their procession reminded me of the ceremonies that Tibetan Buddhist monks perform to frighten off evil spirits.

The Alpine horn also resembles and instrument played by Buddhist monks but in Switzerland to mellow, rather than other-worldly, effect. The Buchel horn resembles a curled up Alpine horn. The soloist performed a piece called ‘The Guy from Mūrren’ which a friend had composed for him.

The Wengen and Mūrren Yodel singers didn’t go for the sort of yodelling that would echo across the valley; their songs were rather gentle and harmonically complex, about homely, Swiss country life, such as ‘The Saturday Evening Meal’.

The event, the first of a series this summer, was held in a large marquee by the tennis courts.

The band finished with a Dixieland jazz piece and the evening finished with dancing to an accordian trio.

Lace-makers and spinners demonstrated their crafts and there was a chance to sample local food and drink.