“The mule way, straining closer to the watershed, strung as a tightrope upon the scrambled edge of an ominous gully, elicited within an unquestionable feeling of intrusion upon the faceless frontier; consciously reinforced by our running from the car to clank open yet another of the four gates, each one a test passed in pursuit of our next watery destination.”
While most Yorkshire travellers traverse Cumbria’s border at the grey slate of Kirkby Lonsdale, we slipped in through the back door at the cobbled village of Dent, a place of mixed identity; in the South Lakes but actually part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
After much gate-opening exercise on the nine mile crawl from Ingleton, when even a mini peloton of cyclists managed to keep pace, Dent was beginning to feel like the most well fortified village in the Dales.
I was hoping all the effort would be worth it, as we had come to engage in one of my favourite pastimes, waterfall-spotting.
After a brief amble downhill, we clinked across gravel and waded through rustling leaves, still only ankle deep in October; to the banks of the Dee, Dentdale’s river.
The placid, peaty flow seemed eminently suitable for tough swimmers; the mist smothered fells refracting the autumn light into a soft focus upon the sinking leaves.
The riverside path squeezed through an archaic slot, clearly not designed for the average twenty-first century waistline, as we pushed uphill to Flinters Gill, a deep ravine with the promise of a chain of waterfalls.
The voluminous creek now resembled a dripping tap, as we slithered upstream on rock as slippery as ice. The absence of water hinted at the menace that this beck must present to the villagers in high flows.
Immediately outside Dent, we stumbled upon the most magical waterfall by the road. I scrambled beneath the overhang to crouch behind a curtain of water, sheltering like a goblin beneath tons of Cumbrian rock.
The beautiful beck was reminiscent of my earlier explorations in Borrowdale, and to my untrained eye, geologically similar.
Downstream of the over-full, dish-like plunge pool, the cataract smoked beneath the tarmac into a secret, inaccessible underworld; entirely detached from the oblivious motorists, whizzing above.