That was a wonderful but tiring day! 12 hrs behind the wheel in the most spectacular home-grown scenery in England. The Yorkshire Dales National Park with my old adventuring pal Barry Walton.
I pulled into the petrol station at the J26 off the M62 in the direction of Hipperhome then up over the tops and down into Keighley and to the old clubhouse for a hot cuppa. Back at the garage Id topped up with diesel then found out Id left my wallet at home! Getting up at 06.00hrs was not something I’ve done for a while, Id got Garmin in black case..compass (just in case) in black case..notebook..in black case but not my wallet..in black case. I had to fill out a form and could ring up a day later and pay over the phone, failure to due this would result in an automatic £70 deduction (via reg plate and DVLA I imagine?)
Barry was just completing an e-mail to GLASS the off roading 4×4 site about our intentions meanwhile I sat with brown lab doggi whom Barry an Tina were babysitting and a hot cup of tea. We’d talked about doing this a month or so ago but had to cancel a few times due to one thing or another.
We have both moved on and in different yet parralel directions. Since those inseparable days starting back in 2005(ish) We as T1 & T2 of the APPY WANDERERS TOURING GROUP covered a lot of ground a lot of countries and a lot of fun. For me the group had just about run its course after some great years and in Europe especially. I wanted to visit different places travel further afield and not as part of a group. In fact we both agreed whist sittingon a hill top “park-bench” today that running the group had been more hard work and more consuming than either of us had realized. By now Barry’s three daughters had produced enough offspring to start his own TV series The English version of “The Waltons” perhaps?? Barry’s time isn’t quite his own anymore but on saying that he’s very proud and happy with his lot. Im very happily retired now and doing what I want to do, after reluctantly learning to drive at 50 something, I surprisingly found a new passion on four wheels..or should I say 4×4’s We are a bit different now on the surface and are both more happy inside, we both still have the urge to explore, I feel we arent done with each other just yet! So much water has passed beneath bridges broken and fixed us you wouldn’t believe!
We left the house at 10 and did our usual blast down the Skipton bypass and shouted encouragement and mild insults at each other on the radio’s..nothings changed there then!… We used to zip down here at ***MPH to blow away the cobwebs. Today we roared along at 65+MPH not as fast by a long chalk but still huge fun.
The weather had calmed a bit from the previous few days, in fact just four days ago on Boxing Day we had the first snow of the winter and we knew that high up in the Dales it would still be around. We took the road to Grassington then onto Kettlewell turning off the road just short to take a tiny tarmac track towards Halton Gill. The hills were speckled with snow pockets and dirty white sheep, we were still climbing and the sky was a bit on the filthy side but it promised to clear up, at this rate of climb we would be parting the cloud with our sleek swift Land Rover Defenders….my arse LOL!
First truck pose
We turned into our first gateway up and over the ancient bridge after passing and noting a proper pub that did proper food..for future reference you understand. It was a long steady climb up the side of the Dale, peaking at the rise where the wind made the old eyes water a bit. We’d just traversed our first water splash, not deep or huge by any means but they are all good practice.
The sun stabbed through here and there as though pointing the way!
Closing the gates is as important as opening them, otherwise the little white wooly chaps would have themselves away!
Barry rumbles away up the hill in the 110
The scenery I hadn’t seen for a few months so was gawking as I went to close the gate when suddenly I went ass over tit on the ice! Ahhh Man down man down! Looking back I saw fortune was on my side because Barry hadn’t seen me hit the ground, I got back up giggling and swearing to myself. Note to self…look down when walking and NOT into middle distance!!
I took photos of Barry going through the water, then gave him the camera and stone stepped over the stream got inot my truck and followed. It wasnt to be a harsh trip today so action shots were to be grabbed when available..but not the ones of me slipping on my ass!
Land Rover Defender 110 having a quick wash
Barry follows me with camera hoping for an action shot…but I got across ok! Note muddy left leg and left arm from earlier incident
Look out Land Rover Defender 90 coming through..just like Thunderbirds!
We stopped at the brow for another look around and more photos. The views from the tops are magnificent and free of clumps of bloody cyclists.
The Tour De France stage in Yorkshire has been a wonderful thing for the region promoting my Yorkshire and England as a whole to the great unwashed out there and for bringing wads of money into the region. The “knock-on” effect for tourism in 2014 and probably for a good few years to come is going to be huge, it will bring tourists and cyclists especially into the region by the thousand both as individuals and as part of clubs all wanting to ride on part of the actual Tour De France route. BUT It makes getting past them extremely hazardous and difficult for everyone else using the roads. I know just the merest of touches from a passing vehicle spells disaster for them. I know because I used to cycle to work everyday for the past ten years. I’ve come to the Yorkshire Dales many times both summer and winter and have done for years, I’ll continue to do so but the influx of cyclists are beginning to spoil my day. The Dales roads are not ordinary roads by any stretch of the imagination they are narrow twisty with high stone walls that cut down the view ahead so trying to get past safely can be a nightmare. Having a cyclist’s death on your hands cannot be a good thing to have, being dead is not good either! Switching from the weekend to a midweek seems the obvious way forward, easy for the likes of me but not you working folk out there.
My mate Barry, happiest when he’s insulting me…knobhead!!
The sun tries its best to break through
Pen-y-Ghent at 693 feet was almost always in view if only partially due to the low cloud and we found ourselves at another tea stop by a T junction of a footpath and tracks, we set up our temporary park bench and utilized two huge stones as chairs Id set up the tripod and camera figuring there would be nobody around to take a photograph on our behalf. When “Low and Behold” as Barry used to say a lot, three ramblers appeared we gave them some chokki biscuits as our jetboil brewed up hot water in a flash, I asked them to take the photo, thus saving me dashing across a large sheet of ice virtually ensuring a perfect ass over tit shot of myself with Mr Walton stood laughing his ass off! In the next minute another two guys ran by, yes that’s correct they ran by, these two were fell runners and as ‘ard as nails in shorts and trainers. A few minutes later a perky blonde lass from Bristol came by after slipping onto her bum in the gateway. Bloody hell it was as busy as MeadowHall, no surprise I suppose after all we were crossing the Pennine Way. Another two chaps walked past as we made ready for the off.
Old Explorers and their toys!
The gateway was covered in sheet ice and the stone posts angled in some direction other than straight up. Land Rover Defenders are quite narrow vehicles and can pass through these old narrow gateways with just a few inches to spare, Im not sure the later models could get through like the Freelanders and Im quite positive the Range Rovers couldn’t get through at all. We trundled through with ease at the crawl. Easy does it captain!
Still climbing but at a greatly reduced rate of knots
Ready for the downward leg to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
We passed the last two guys who were now stood holding the gate open for us, a wave and a thank you from us to them. The ground was very squiggly and very sunken in places, in places the ruts were up to my knees (no comments required) a slow descent in the deep ruts in low gear and just let both trucks crawl down on their own accord. At the bottom we joined the tarmac for the run to Horton-in-Ribblesdale along familiar roads, I remembered the dip into the tight right that many a biker had miscalculated, it was just after the house with the floor to wall window as one seemingly head straight for it just as the road veered away to the left. At Horton we say dozens of empty cars, people had come out for a walk around the long and famous Ribblehead Viaduct. There was no tea hut today so we carried on to Hawes, Barry nearly shunted an idiot off the road as he suddenly decided he would park up, remind me folks indicators are for what?…
The road to Hawes is still a great road to stretch the legs and we had great fun playing follow-my-leader although we didn’t get the trucks airborne at the two humpty back bridges that always got Julie out of her seat on the motorbike! Hawes was packed as expected and parking was difficult, we managed to find a couple of spots through the other side of town and walked back to the chip shop. We stood outside eating a bag of hot chips with scraps. A couple of lads came out of the cafe for a “natter”Barry knew these two quite well and we stood looking at the bikes and chatted about stuff. Bikers past and present always do this..stand around looking down at the engines and just chat about stuff! One of Barry’s friends unknown to me was offering witty comments the night before on FB and I joined the banter and here I was today speaking with him live. My my, what a big bloke he turned out to be!
We made our way back to the trucks and carried on with our adventure, driving out-of-town a short way before turning right through another gateway and went up the side of the hill. We were aiming for a big inland lake called Semer Water.
On Tarmac and heading to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
Barry pauses, you can see Semer Water to your right
Semer Water in all its glory on a cold winters day
On the shingle at Semer Water
We pulled off the shingle to continue our journey over the tops of the Yorkshire Dales, we saw a few birds against the grey and blue sky a few squished rabbits we saw too and dozens of sheep but nothing much else, eyes had to kept on the road and tracks to be fair! Just then a rabbit hopped across my front, I was going very slow up the hill so the little chap took his time, a flash of white showed as his back feet and tail bobbed up and over the grassy tussock and through the gate into the opposite field. A couple of sheep stood on the next corner looking at us, they didn’t budge an inch we had to drive wider around the bend to miss them. At the next gate we both got out for a look as we were right on the roof of the dales now. It was cold some snow and ice still visible, but mostly patchy, all of the snow had gone at the lower levels. I saw a couple of sheep looking at us, I shouted at them Oi Oi Oi! Then they began to run towards us! Aas my eyes got used to the snow dotted field I saw even more running in our direction, I looked behind and more still were running over to us until both stone walls were lined with dozens of sheep stood standing.. looking intently at us, even more came running from over the hill and the two we drove around earlier had followed us up the track and were stood just a few feet from me!!
Sheep sheep everywhere…..
They came closer…..
…And closer still!
This was really quite funny we were surrounded by a huge gang of sheep. I think maybe the sheep’s owner has Land Rovers’ too because on tick-over these Land Rover Defenders do have a distinctive rattle so maybe they associate it with dinner-time? Ah well after a few minutes stand-off we decided to get a move on as the light was beginning to fade.
The last scenic photo of the day. A sheep-less view for once ….I think!
We made our way to the last descent of the day, it was quite steep squirmy and tight but the ice had melted enough for out trucks to break it up, again we selected low box and second gear and just let the trucks crawl down the hillside on their own. At the bottom we pulled over before the tarmac and had a last cuppa, It had been a fab day out on this cold winters day. We both really enjoyed it and Im sure we will be doing it again! I think the Yorkshire Dales are as stunning in winter as they are in summer, les colours maybe but still gob shockingly beautiful!
Mr D Sharp & Mr B Walton
So with a goodnight from him and a goodnight from me we’ll say goodnight