There has been a record turnout so far this year for the archaeology summer tour programme of the Ribblehead Viaduct and Blea Moor Tunnel area, run by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line. Everyone is welcome on these free walks, and they provide a fascinating insight into how the engineers and navvies won their hard-fought battle against the elements to build the rail line at this bleak and dramatic location.
The tours will take place every Wednesday for the remainder of August. Anyone interested
should simply turn up at the Ribblehead Station Visitor Centre by 1025 - connecting
out of trains from both Leeds (depart 0849) and Carlisle (depart 0853).
There are two tours to choose from. The first takes approximately two hours and is
around the area of the Ribblehead Viaduct. On the tour visitors will learn about of the
history of Ribblehead Station and be taken on a conducted walking tour of the site of
Batty Green Shanty Town. The tour also takes in the hospital, the locomotive
inspection pit, the stone sorting area, Sebastopol Brickworks, and the site of the Iron
The second tour takes about four hours. It also visits the various points in the first
tour and then continues to Blea Moor Tunnel. The tour does not enter the tunnel, but
visitors will learn how the tunnel was constructed, see the ‘false shaft’ (built in the
wrong place!), and go to where the stone was extracted for the construction of the
For both tours it is essential to bring boots or strong footwear, together with
waterproof clothing. Both walks cross rough ground and it can be very wet in places.
On the full day tour, a packed lunch is essential.
One of the guides for the tours will be Peter Davies, who has been a walks leader for
the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line for over 20 years. Peter says “These tours are
an ideal way to help people picture what it was really like for the thousands of
navvies and their families who lived and worked in this harsh landscape. Time and
the elements have eroded much of the remains of their endeavours, but if you know
where to look there is still a fascinating heritage to discover.”