Ribblehead Landscape Enhancements

The iconic Ribblehead Viaduct is probably England’s most famous railway viaduct. The 400-metre long viaduct with its 24 arches was one of the most impressive feats of engineering on the Settle-Carlisle railway line. The foundations for this huge structure had to be dug deep (up to 7.5 metres) into the peat and clay down to solid rock. The limestone masonry brought from nearby quarries was laid on concrete foundations. Steam-powered cranes were used to lift the blocks into place. Contemporary photographs show the complicated wooden scaffolding required as the huge arches were built.

At its peak, construction of the Settle-Carlisle railway line employed 7000 men. Nearly a thousand of these worked at Ribblehead on the major engineering tasks of building the viaduct and Blea Moor tunnel. The area is bleak and isolated and so accommodation had to be specially built to house this army of workers. Construction camps, or shanty towns as they are popularly called, developed between 1870 and 1875 and their remains can still be seen as low earthworks and flat building platforms.

What’s the problem?

The site is well visited and heavily used by thousands of people accessing the peaks and supporting charity walks, often in large numbers. However, this usage, together with ad hoc parking and camping, has led to significant erosion problems and seasonal vegetation damage around the viaduct, historical construction site and roadside verges, with this damage increased by severe weather events.

What did the project do?

Ground works were carried out with the aim to enable better traffic management and car parking, prevent informal verge parking, and improve pedestrian access in the vicinity of the Ribblehead Viaduct.

The works included installing earth bunds to protect ground features; creating a short pedestrian link to the public footpath to reduce the need for road walking; repair of vehicle damage and erosion; and repair of parking areas to reduce the impact of cars and other vehicles in the area.


Key partners in this project include the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Historic England, Ingleborough Estate, Ribblehead Graziers and North Yorkshire County Council (Highways Department).