In 1853, the writer John Phillips observed that, looking north from Bentham, one sees "Several elevated fells, which in grandeur and variety of interest are second to few in the kingdom. These are Whernside (anciently Quernside); Ingleborough, the fire or beacon mountain; and Penyghent, or in Celtic Penygwynt, the Head of
the Winds. These three peaks shine with a mild glory over magnificent scars of limestone, penetrated by numerous and beautiful caverns, and give birth to sparkling waters which enliven the greenest of valleys. They are fondly imagined by rustics to be the highest mountains in England. On Jeffrey's excellent map [1775] Ingleborough is said to be a mile high"Limestone forming, 350,000,000 years ago


 Phillips continues: "These hills are easy of access
from a country full of comforts; where pedestrians and equestrians will find plentiful establishments for feeding man and horse. Yet how few Yorkshiremen who glory in their County have ever set foot on Ingleborough!" Although his remarks about local refreshments still ring true, Ingleborough has long since been discovered by walkers from near and far, and the scars of their boots on the mountain's summit are visible from here. However the damage is only skin-deep.

The summit of Ingleborough is a thick flat cap of millstone grit which has survived Ice Ages and Dales weather alike all these years, and will probably continue to do so. Below the cap you can see buttresses and bare "scars" of the Yoredale limestone series, and
these are supported on huge cliffs of Silurian strata. These oldest (Ordovician, slate) layers are vertical, upheaved by some geological cataclysm 400m. years ago, roughly. The join of slate and limestone is called the Unconformity.

 Bentham, blessed by rich soils deposited by the Wenning, and well-watered by westerly winds, lies at the crossroads of a fascinating landscape
(Broadband users can click this picture)

By 350,000,000 years ago, the Dales area was a warm shallow sea with coral reefs. The proof is in the limestone - which is just the fossil remains of the shells of the small sea-creatures who lived here for a very long time. Then the millstone grit layers formed above, from coarse blown sand. And then the Ice Ages arrived, with glaciers, carving out the valleys. Climate change is not a new phenomenon. 

During a warm spell between the Ice Ages, 130,000 years ago, hippos and elephants wallowed in the Wenning.


When the glaciers retreated, around 25,000 years ago, they left behind mounds of pebbles - terminal moraines, or "drumlins". These form the smaller, rounded hills of Wenningdale. Some have been excavated, as at Cowslip Hill. They also left many "Erratics" behind, boulders dropped at random. The Big Stone may be an erratic, but there is some controversy. It is the "Great Stone of Fourstones", but what happened to the other three? It's a mystery. Here's another. If you look round the back (south side) you'll see some even older steps.....

 Southward, the Trough of Bowland is a very different landscape, based on sand-stones and shales, and "provides numerous features of spacious dignity." From here one may drive the 25 miles to
Clitheroe through real wilderness and encounter only three small villages - an experience of "spacious dignity" almost unique in populous England. Westward lies the "Aire Gap", the principal route over the Pennines. Eastward, Lunesdale opens out onto the Irish Sea a mere 15 miles away, which contributes further to our local abundance of fresh air.  Silurian Strawberry-headed trilobites - 400,000,000 years ago.