High on a lonely hillside stands a stony herd – the Norber Erratics. These great boulders, deposited by passing glaciers during the last Ice Age, have dotted the landscape for thousands of years. Being made of sandstone, the weather had affected them differently to the surrounding limestone pavement – rain erodes the limestone at a much faster rate, leaving the erratics perched atop narrow stone pedestals that look rather like legs. I can’t help but feel that they might just wander off on some new adventure.
Distance: 3 ½ miles
Start and Finish: Austwick (SD 76733 68414)
Access: Bus 581 between Settle and Kirkby Lonsdale stops in Austwick. Roadside parking is available in the village.
Start at the crossroads in the little village of Austwick (SD 76733 68414). The village’s name means the “East” village, referencing its location from the nearby larger village of Clapham. Follow the road north-east through the village, signed for Horton, then turn left onto Townhead Lane. The road continues steeply uphill here, but just as it leaves the village you will come to a stone stile across the wall to your left at a sign for Clapham. The footpath crosses the field with the high cliff of Robin Proctor’s Scar straight ahead.
Robin Proctor was a local farmer who often liked to visit the local inn for a pint or two after a hard day’s work. He was lucky; his clever horse knew the route home, and so he need never worry about falling asleep in the saddle after a night of heavy drinking. One fateful night, however, he mistakenly mounted someone else’s horse when leaving the inn. Not knowing its way across the moor, the horse soon became lost and strayed across the edge of the cliff sending horse and rider plummeting to their deaths.
After crossing a ladder stile, turn left onto a track known as Thwaite Lane. This was once an important byway linking Fountains Abbey with its holdings to the West. Continue along the track here until you reach another ladder stile on your right at a signpost for Norber. The grassy path leads to the corner of a stone wall near the foot of the Scar.
Upon arriving at a wall running across your path, cross the stile to enter the Access Land. The ground becomes littered with boulders as the path climbs gently uphill to reach a junction with signs pointing in four directions.
When you reach the signs, bear left onto the path signed for Norber to climb more steeply through a narrow gulley. Continue straight, then bear right near a large cairn to reach the vast expanse of erratics.
It’s possible to wander around the erratics for a great deal of time. Each looks different depending on the angle. In less pleasant weather, you can often find sheep taking shelter from the elements between the rocks.
When you have finished examining the erratics, return to the previous signpost. Take the path signed for Crummack, aiming for the point where the wall ahead meets the base of the ridge on your left.
A narrow path climbs between wall and cliff to reach a stone stile. Climb over here, and the path continues to a small wooded cliff known as Nappa Scars. A gap in the wall leads onto a path along the cliff edge that soon joins a wall on your left.
As you follow the wall, look over it for fine views of Pen-y-Ghent, one of the famed Yorkshire Three Peaks.
Cross another stone stile and descend a steep verge to reach a road. Cross this and then follow the sign for Austwick across another stile. Near a barn you will cross the small stream known as the Norber Sike, then enter a second field. Another stile leads back onto Thwaite Lane and another stile in the wall opposite.
The path now leads towards the edge of Austwick, passing through a small garden at Town Head Farm, before rejoining the road at Town Head Lane. From here, retrace your steps downhill and back into the village.