Crummackdale, a lesser-known dale in Yorkshire, boasts a fascinating geographical oddity. Hike uphill from Austwick, a classic Dales village, and you’ll stumble upon fields filled with giant boulders, many of them curiously perched atop smaller, differently coloured rocks.
These massive rocks, some weighing up to two tonnes, are older boulders of Silurian basement rock resting on top of younger limestone. During the ice age, a glacier transported these rocks from an outcrop half a mile away and deposited them across the limestone shelf. Thousands of years of erosion have since produced extraordinary natural sculptures, thanks to the Silurian rock’s resistance to erosion.
Starting at Austwick village centre, take a 20-minute walk up Townhead Lane, passing the Gamecock pub. Take the left turn at the crossroads of lanes, and after about 50 yards, cross the stile and follow the well-defined cart track over a field. Ascend the steep slope, following the wall until you reach the guide post, then follow the Norber direction. Soon, you’ll find yourself below a green shelf of limestone littered with Silurian rock blocks.
After exploring the rocks, descend back to the stone wall and look for a group of larches. There, you’ll find a step stile to begin your descent back into Austwick via an alternative route. The path will take you past another rocky feature, the non-conformity of Nappa Scars, making it a geologist’s dream walk. The walk is four miles long and takes two hours to complete, with a fair difficulty level.
In Austwick village, you can grab refreshments at The Gamecock pub, which specializes in food. Additionally, in Harry Sleight’s Craven and North West Yorkshire Highlands, there’s mention of a bygone tradition in Austwick where a medieval local could be seen endlessly pushing an empty wheelbarrow in and out of his barn, claiming to be wheeling sunshine into it to dry his hay!
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