The Pool of Ibbeth Peril
In 1869 the Midland Railway started building the Settle to Carlisle line as a way of getting its passengers to Scotland. For years it had been frustrated by the London and North Western Railway who owned the West coast main line. The final ding-dong with the LNWR came when they wouldn’t allow the Midland to use its station at Ingleton, resulting in two stations in one tiny town. The Midland had had enough and set out to build the line that most people said couldn’t be built.
Now although the Settle Carlisle line is a spectacular and astonishing engineering achievement it lacks something in terms of customer satisfaction. This is because, like an early version of a budget airline, the stations are nowhere near the towns they are named after. So if you get off at Dent Station you’ll have to walk four and a half miles to get to Dent.
(Fortunately they renamed Hawes Junction as Garsdale – it was twelve miles from Hawes!)
One benefit of the walk from Dent Station to Dent, however, is that it takes you through the beautiful valley of the River Dee. The river is pretty much invisible a lot of the time – heavily wooded and deep down in a gorge.
When I went to find the cave of Ibbeth Peril it was a damp autumn day. The leaves were thick on the trees, the brambles prickly and non-compliant and the rocks above the gorge were moss covered and slippery. I eventually found my way down to the riverbed by falling into it, after a brief, unplanned, but exciting journey, on my posterior.
I stood up, made sure that nothing vital had snapped, and found myself in a broad, deep, stone lined channel. There was no sky above – just a mass of trees - and there was only a slight trickle in the streambed. It seemed completely silent.
In the course of researching this book I’ve found myself in some extraordinary places but this took the biscuit. The whole pack of ginger nuts in fact! I walked until I found the cave. It wasn’t hard. There is a lovely waterfall, a round pool of deep green water and, beside it, a big black hole in the rock.
The story goes like this: If you got drunk the witch that lived here would find you as you were walking home. While befuddled by drink she would lead you, with suitable seductive promises, to this gorge. If you were lucky she would lead you into a deep, deep cavern (which, by the way, is about half a mile in from the cave entrance), and leave you there to sleep it off. You would wake up, hungover and disoriented in the dark, with a mouth like the bottom of a witch’s cave, and have to find your way out.
If you were unlucky she just drowned you in the pool.
The gorge is a very scary place. The atmosphere is cold and everything seems unnatural. It feels more like the surface of the moon that the Yorkshire Dales. You are acutely aware of being in a physically vulnerable position: in a water channel with plenty of evidence that sometimes the river here is a violent torrent. In fact a school party had to be rescued from Ibbeth Peril cave in 1990 when heavy rains made the river rise with frightening speed. The event led to a revision of safety procedures for parties going underground.
But who was the witch? There is very little known about her, but she seems to have been called Ibby, short for Elizabeth, and she’s buried in Dent graveyard. Her fame only grew after her death, due to her cruel and unusual stand on binge drinking. Whether she exists or not, Ibbeth Peril is an amazing place, but next time I won’t go there alone.
The Road to Penyghent
This story comes from:
Tales From The Dales
A major exhibition of new paintings based on stories from the Yorkshire Dales collected over the last two years. In addition to artwork the exhibition sees the launch of a book for children: The Penhill Giant, which is an illustrated retelling of events which took place on the hill overlooking the exhibition location. The exhibition will also see the launch of a book, illustrated with paintings created for the exhibition, which will include a collection of Dales stories, many of which will be appearing in print for the first time. The exhibition will be on at:
Wensley Church, Wensley, N Yorks.
10 am - 5 am 27 July – 11 August 2013
Preview: 7 - 9 pm Friday 26th July
A chance to see the paintings and meet the artist.
Stories of the Dales: 5.00 - 6.30 Saturday 27th July
Four Yorkshire writers read from and talk about their work.
Open Mic Night: 7 - 9 pm Saturday 10th August
A great evening of music with musicians from the Yorkshire Dales.
If you would like to perform CLICK HERE
Further details can be found on following me on Facebook or Twitter: