It was sad to hear that Pen-y-ghent cafe in Horton in Ribblesdale has been closed this year (see John Lester’s comment). Peter and Joyce Bayes not only ran the cafe for many years before handing over to their children but also founded the Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club. I first posted the following article in 2009:
Left: Peter Bayes (centre) watches as Iain Main enjoys one of the cafe’s trademark pint mugs of tea, while a walker clocks in after completing the Three Peaks challenge. About his walk along the Three Peaks route in the summer of 2009 Iain commented: “I have been coming for many years. I come to be quiet, for solitude and to commune with nature. But at stiles and gates it was like queuing to get into the Marks and Spencers January sales. Sometimes there were 50 people waiting to get through. I don’t begrudge the charities but over a thousand people in a space of 12 to 14 hours is going to take a toll on the undeveloped parts of the path. It’s a great service to the charities but there needs to be a debate with the National Park Authority about the wear and tear on the landscape and the amount of litter.”
On Saturdays throughout the summer Horton in Ribblesdale is overflowing with walkers taking part in the Three Peaks challenge to raise funds for charities. It has been Heart Research UK’s biggest annual fund raising event for 15 years and, like many other charities, it provides its own support and safety systems.
But for many undertaking the Three Peaks challenge there is still nothing like clocking out and in at the world-famous Pen-y-ghent cafe and enjoying its trademark pint mugs of tea and home-made cakes. Since 1965, when Peter and Joyce Bayes moved to the village, they and their children have turned the cafe into an institution among the walking fraternity. And many are proud to wear the shirts or badges that go with completing the trek over Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent within 12 hours. This entitled them to join the Three Peaks of Yorkshire club instituted and run by the Bayes.
The ping of them clocking back in is a constant background noise throughout summer afternoons except when the cafe is closed on Tuesdays. The family bought an old clocking-in clock from a Lancashire mill many years ago to keep up with the number of walkers who wanted to use their free safety service. For after a long day the Bayes don’t close at 5.30pm and put their feet up. Instead they remain on duty waiting for the last tired walkers to sign back in.
The Bayes family are concerned about the impact of big charity events upon residents, landowners, other walkers and local businesses. In a letter to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in 2008 the Bayes stated: “Our business adheres to a guiding set of principles and ethics which are informed by a sense of responsibility for the impact that our customers have on both the immediate locality and the wider landscape.” They have helped large groups to find alternative routes by collaborating with the department of physical education at Leeds University.
Footnote: Joyce died in 2012 and Peter died on January 28 2022.