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Massive stone flags replace scar on Pennine Way mountaintop

Penyghent path before – reduced to rubble and after the work (credit Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority)

[Y]orkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) rangers have laid more than 200 locally-quarried stone flags on one of England’s most visited mountains.

Pen-y-ghent in Ribblesdale – a favourite for charity fundraisers – is climbed by an estimated 80,000 people a year.  The high footfall had led to a scar the size of a football pitch opening up on the north side of the mountain.

The two-month, £58,000 repair project saw the flags being lifted to the summit by helicopter and being put into place – often in driving wind and rain – by rangers operating diggers.

Penyghent path during – digger at work (credit Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority)

Kate Hilditch, Area Manager for the YDNPA’s ranger service, said the project had drawn on decades of upland path management expertise: “The sheer number of walkers enjoying Pen-y-ghent meant that we had to think very carefully, and put in a path that would not only last but mostly importantly be used.  I think we’ve successfully balanced the long-term conservation needs of the area with the demands placed on it by walkers.”

Millions of pounds are raised each year by people scaling Pen-y-ghent, as well as Whernside and Ingleborough, as part of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.

The British Heart Foundation’s Fundraising Event Manager, Andy Coles, praised the work: “For many years now British Heart Foundation walkers have enjoyed the Yorkshire Three Peaks experience, which is heightened by the quality of the paths and the ongoing work by the Yorkshire Dales National Park to prevent scars and erosion. The annual event is a very important fundraiser for us and this year alone, our walkers have raised in excess of £100,000 for our fight against heart and circulatory disease.”

A total of 206 ‘Whitworth Blue’ sandstone flags were supplied by Fairhurst Stone of Settle.  The stone came from the company’s quarry in Whitworth in the south Pennines, and was dressed at its factory on Stainforth Road, near the foot of Pen-y-ghent.

Managing Director Edward Fairhurst said: “It was really nice to be involved in a local scheme that benefits both the visitors and those that live here. Most of the schemes we get involved in are for London and major towns and cities throughout the UK, so it made a great change and an interesting challenge to do something very different and for the local area.

“We worked very closely with the Park Authority to supply what was needed and to now see the flags in situ and bringing so much pleasure to everyone visiting the area is very rewarding.”

Pennine Way Ranger Colin Chick helped to create the 200 metre path. He said the flags were new cut stone but would soon weather, and were from the same source as used elsewhere in the National Park.

“If you look closely, you can see lots of black bits.  That’s coal.  We had the surface of the flags heated with an industrial blow torch to ‘pop’ the coal seams and produce a really grippy effect.

“We have tried more traditional stone pitching in the past but people kept leaving the path, as they found it awkward to walk on and difficult  to establish a stride pattern. We accept that these flags are perhaps more ‘regular’ in appearance, but we’ve found that if you don’t make steps comfortable, people just won’t use them.”


  • Each flag is 100-150cm long, 100cm wide and 20cm deep.
  • The smallest flag weighed in at 561 kg, the largest at 765 kgs (more than three-quarters of a tonne)
  • It was one flag per pallet for transportation, ‘double-strapped’ for the helicopter lifts.
  • Pen-y-Ghent  is ranked by Ordnance Survey as the 7th most popular walking route in Britain.

The project was funded by Natural England through the Pennine National Trails Partnership and the YDNPA.

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