Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales is a haven for tourists

PUBLISHED: 19:11 23 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:52 20 February 2013

A peaceful rest by the lake for walkers enjoying the village's Nature Trail

A peaceful rest by the lake for walkers enjoying the village's Nature Trail

Tourists keep returning to Clapham, one of the most popular centres in the Yorkshire Dales for hikers, cavers, climbers and pot holers, which makes the village almost recession proof, reports Bill Hearld

You just can't do Clapham in a day - not if you are going to do justice to this sparkling jewel of the Yorkshire Dales. There's so much to do and see and, like a good wine, it should be savoured.

It's not that Clapham is even a big village. It has a primary school, village hall, one pub, post office and village store, a small number of businesses, B&Bs and guest houses.But it is set in a dramatic landscape at the foot of one of Yorkshire's famous three peaks, Ingleborough, and is an ideal base for hiking, caving, potholing and climbing.

The pretty, stonebuilt village straddles Clapham Beck, which starts life high on the slopes adjoining Ingleborough, plunges to subterranean depths, emerges to run down into Clapham's man-made lake, down a waterfall and through Clapham, passing beneath its four quaint, old bridges.

All this frantic aqueous activity has formed such natural wonders as the huge Ingleborough Cave, which is festooned with stalactites and stalagmites and is reached along the nature trail just outside Clapham. Then there's the three-kilometre Gaping Gill, the most dramatic of North Yorkshire's pot holes, where water hurtles down in a single jet over 365ft to the floor.

Both are magnets for hordes of tourists and enthusiasts. The excess water runs into Clapham's manmade lake, built and expanded in the late 19th century. This provided pressure for water turbines to supply electricity to the Ingleborough Estate and, legend has it, to provide Clapham with the first public street lighting outside London.

The village's one pub is the not-so-new New Inn, which started life in the 18th century as a coaching house and is now an hotel with 19 bedrooms. And its landlord, Martin Brook, reckons Clapham's natural beauty renders it recession-proof. 'We have a lot of retired people living here and, apart from their savings, they are not so badly affected by the recession; neither are the farmers,' he said.

'Local people working in the building trade have been badly hit, but the tourists keep coming back because Clapham is set in such a beautiful, interesting area.'

Martin's New Inn features a collection of cartoons by renowned early cave explorer and author, Jim Eyre, who died last September. Several of the irreverent cartoons, with their trademark knobbly-kneed characters, are themed on the pub and its characters.

And Clapham has never been short of characters. One of the most eccentric was the late Anne Davies, a reformed 1960s hippy who was friend and confidante to well-known Yorkshire playwright, Alan Bennett.

He still has a country cottage in the village and Anne, his former cleaner in London, moved to Clapham with her family soon after him. She turned her front room into the intimate Caf Anne, which later became entirely - ceilings and all - decorated in gallery posters given by Alan after trips back to the capital. Anne always wore black and went barefoot in all weathers and it is said if the caf became too busy, she would tell customers to get their own food and drink and then she would disappear. Her family are now considering re-opening the Caf Anne in her memory.

A character who died in the 1920s was Reginald Farrer, son of local gentry who became a renowned botanist and brought a range of exotic plants back from his travels in Eastern Asia and planted them around Clapham. Some fine Himalayan specimens can still be found on the village nature trail beside the lake.

Despite its wild setting, Clapham has managed to hang on to its railway station, even though it is more than a mile from the village and has five trains each way, Monday to Saturday, between Leeds and Morecambe.

But the very things which attract visitors to Clapham can mean danger and even death. Hikers, climbers, cavers, potholers and animals become trapped or injured and have to be rescued. The Cave Rescue Organisation, based in the heart of Clapham, provides the cave and mountain rescue service in the Three Peaks area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as well as westwards into Lancashire and Cumbria and eastwards as far as Malham and Gordale.

With around 60 call-outs a year, the experienced volunteers go to the rescue of people who are trapped, missing or injured. They are fullyequipped to free trapped potholers deep underground, treat injured hikers or climbers, or join in searches for people who are reported missing on the rugged terrain. The volunteers work with police, fire and ambulance services and often risk their own safety to help others.

Dave Gallivan is a duty controller with the rescue organisation and was out until 3.30am searching for a missing woman the day we met. 'Outdoor activities can be dangerous but the danger can come from bad luck or stupidity,' said Dave.

'But whatever the reason, it is our duty to help find or rescue people and we do take that very seriously.'

With the sophisticated equipment needed to tackle all kinds of rescues, it is a costly business and the CRO is a charity that depends on public donations for its finance. 'We do our best to raise funds but it is a struggle,' said Dave, who runs Yorkshire Dales Guides, which specialises in caving, climbing, abseiling and navigation training.

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