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
There 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, following 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.