Yes, my worst fears were realised - it was a very wet day up there on the watershed of the Pennine Chain. But did it deter walkers crossing the Ribblehead Viaduct - not at all - more than three thousand crossed over the quarter of a mile viaduct yesterday.
This is only the second time that people have been allowed to walk along the railway track. Network rail were doing repairs lower down the line and all trains were cancelled for the day, so it was opened up and well-advertised. Tickets were £15 each (I bought the farmer two for his Birthday) and the whole event was very well-organised.
We had to drive to a car park in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, where a fleet of busses stood waiting to ferry us to Ribblehead station a few miles away. After walking the quarter of a mile we came down and walked back for about a mile along a footpath before being collected again by shuttle bus and taken back for our cars. We never had to wait longer than a couple of minutes - there were thousands of people and a whole fleet of busses.
Of course I have seen the viaduct many times from the road - indeed I posted it on my blog some time ago. Here are a few details:- it has twenty-four arches, it is one hundred and four feet high and it was completed in 1875, having taken five years to build. There was a time, a few years ago, when British Rail planned its closure. At the time (1983) only 93000 people a year were using the line. There was a public outcry and the line was kept open. Six years later
450,000 were using the line each year - it is a spectacular journey of which this viaduct is really the jewel in the crown.
However, there is a downside. During the building of it the workers suffered the most appalling conditions, there was a dreadful toll in casualties, several hundred died, most of them from cholera or smallpox. Some are buried in the churchyard at nearby Chapel-le-Dale, others have no known grave having been buried somewhere on the moor by the viaduct. Many of the men did not even give their names, but were called by nicknames, so there was no chance of contacting any relatives.
It cost over three million pounds to build - a huge sum for those times.
But what a spectacular building it is. The rain poured down, the wind howled, but there was a real Dunkirk spirit about - everyone laughing and joking. The farmer has a fear of heights but the parapet, as you will see in the photograph, is high enough to dispel that. It was not easy walking. We were warned not to tread on the tracks, as they were slippery. We walked by the side on large stones with sharp edges. But it was good to see the beautiful workmanship, The stones on the parapet were huge and all were carried up their by hand, there was little or no machinery available in those days.
Friends farm down in the valley, so you will see a misty view of their farm.
When we arrived home we were totally wet through to our skin - in spite of wearing waterproofs. But it was worth it!