Posts Tagged ‘kettlewell’

Mazda MalhamBreakfast is slow at the Buck, the dining room dominated by one overlarge group of family and friends who manage to monopolise, confuse, and run ragged our genial host while the rest of us wait our turn. It is irritating to me, this proximity to the assertiveness and the voluble presence of others,  and I wonder what part of my shadow I am revealing by it. That I am not assertive enough in establishing my own presence in the world perhaps? I don’t know, but at least this observation of human nature, in the wild so to speak, provides rich mining for the writer.

So,… checked out, bags dragged to the car, which has survived the night unscathed. Slept well, comfortable bed. The morning tastes fresh.

It is 10:00 am and a cold start to the day for July. Grey clouds. I wear a coat and drop the top for the sporting run to Kettlewell, across the bleakest of moors, a long and lonely road. Change comes but slowly here. A photograph taken in the 1940’s would look no different to one taken today. I recall I have driven this road before, long ago, did it in an underpowered Mark 4 Cortina, but recall nothing of this narrowness, this zig-zagginess, this up and downness. I meet only two cars, going in the opposite direction. Both are fat four by fours, in the middle of the road, and going too fast. My how we moderns like to armour ourselves against the world, and in particular against the wild.

A topless roadster renders us more vulnerable, and appreciative. The sound of birds as I drive is as memorable as the dynamic, buttery light illuminating both the near and far distance.

Kettlewell is a coffee stop, the coffee not worth a mention beyond the odorous, Lycra clad cyclist with whom I share the tearoom. My anosmia can pick the most inconvenient windows into the world of scent.

kettlewell church glassKettlewell is also the Parish church, St Marys, which is definitely worth a mention, and a visit if you should be passing. Original construction is around 1120, but nothing of that founding Norman architecture remains, the whole of it being flattened in 1820. The whole of it was flattened again, excepting the tower, and rebuilt in 1883. Most striking about this church are the stained glass windows, by William Morris (but not that William Morris). Both Morris’s were good at stained glass. One achieved celebrity, the other did not.

After Kettlewell it’s the long run up the higher Wharfe, over the tops and down into Wensleydale, and finally Leyburn. Leyburn is the charity shop for books – a Paulo Coelho for 50p! Then the ubiquitous Cooperative store for this evening’s dinner, and finally a welcome return to the welcoming Grove for tonight’s bed, and tomorrow’s breakfast.

Leyburn is looking festive this afternoon, making preparations for its 1940’s weekend. I’ll be in Scarborough by then, and wish I’d timed my visit a little better.

The Voyo crashes within a few minutes of settling down to write. I am definitely auto saving every minute now, so lose nothing. I tickle through the Queen of Carrickbar (not sure about that title now) while overlooking the market square. Also, I recount the day in the journal, comb it for impression and meaning: lonely farms, quiet lives, a lonely land toured by armoured cars for the insulated rich to eat the roads.

I note the picture illustrating the Times (2) supplement is of a well heeled, nicely suited gent (with six figure salary) and his squeeze, a dauntingly posh looking woman in a figure hugging dress (who has a PhD and her own company). It’s a feature on an upper class dating site. They are posed to exude an air of aloofness. “You want to be like us”, they say, “but you aren’t affluent enough, darling”. I wonder if they are in love; undoubtedly they present a sexy aura, but I wonder if their lovemaking is as premeditated and utilitarian as their search for a suitably dynamic and wealthy match. We know the foolishness in this but we just can’t help ourselves indulging in it. Perhaps Ouspenski is right and we are indeed doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Is it because most of us are in life for what we can get out of it, rather than for what we can give?

So, day 2, and a spectacular drive, top down all the way, ending in a sunny Leyburn, a pretty little market town that is fast becoming my second home.

I retire early, and write.

The house was up the hill he supposed; he’d not bothered to seek it out yet, and would not be bothering unless his mood improved in the next half hour. Instead he had pulled in here by the promenade where he remembered being raised upon his father’s shoulders, on the evening of the last day of their holiday.

“We’ll come again, Finn? Eh boy? We’ll come again next year.”

Finn could hear him now, the enthusiasm in his voice, something durable, heroic even, and the firm feel of his father’s shoulders beneath him, and the certainty the man would not let him fall.

“They say you can see all the way to Ireland from here, Finn. Well, do you see it boy?”

And Finn replied that he could see it clearly, and that they must come again. But they did not return; his father was dead by winter, taken by a sickness that must already have been eating him hollow, even as Finn sat tall upon his shoulders, and it was just a myth that you could see all the way to Ireland from here. Words were just words and mostly empty. And on a day like this, you could see no distance at all.

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Where? To Kettlewell. You know Kettlewell? You take the M6 to the Tickled Trout, you turn right on the A59, drive as far as Skipton, then turn left up Warfedale, and count the villages off one by one. When there are only three left before you reach the head of Warfedale, and everything’s become green and lovely, and the road disconcertingly narrow, you know you’re in Kettlewell.

Kettlewell, Starbotton and Buckden, three waypoints on the Dales Way, three of the most beautiful, unspoiled villages in England (except for all the other villages in Warfedale of course – including Burnsall and Bolton Abbey). Anyway, three of the most beautiful settings, in the upper valley of the Warfe! I’ve been coming here for years, but recently it struck me it had only ever been in the winter months, when the hills around were bleak, hard with frost and white with snow, when I took to the high trails with my walking companions to do stuff that grown men should have known better than to do, risking frostbite and broken legs. It was time instead, I thought, to bring the family – numbers one and two sons, and the good lady* Graeme, and to simply kick back and enjoy the scenery for a change.

Kettlewell is an impressive stone bridge over the River Warfe. It is a delightfully traditional garage, it is a pub, it is a tea shop, and a bus-stop. It is an unspoiled gem. Grasmere was like this once, maybe a hundred years ago. Now Grasmere’s touristy and trinket shops and hotels at two hundred quid a night. Not Kettlewell. With Kettlewell, what you get is a pretty little Dales village, a place where people live, where people farm. All right, there are holiday homes popping up here – and I wouldn’t mind staying in one or two, but the place retains a genuine edge that the more well known towns and villages of the neighbouring Lake District have now completely lost.


I’ve been guilty of mistreating old Grumpy recently. For the past three years I’ve been driving it like a girl (sorry girls, but you know what I mean), fearful of burning too much precious petrol, or hammering it so hard I’ll blow a fragile gasket, because you’ve only to look at the damned thing and you’ve broken something! I’ve also been prowling car-parks, scrutinising the tax discs of other cars to find one that’s paying more than me, and sad to day, I’ve yet to find one. Even a lip-smackingly sexy Jaguar I parked next to recently was paying less road tax, which makes me wonder if old Grumpy is actually a super hot-rod in disguise, that only the government knows about its deadly secret powers, and I’d be better  appreciating it more, instead of merely shaking my head in dismay and claiming plaintively that there’s been a mistake – that it’s only a 1.8 litre Vauxhall Astra, and not a Mercedes, like the one I parked next to on the car park at Kettlewell, and that was paying the same road tax as me.

Does anyone pay more than £245 a year? Please, dear readers, confess it, and put me out of my misery!!!

So,.. I finally decided to get my money’s worth, and I’ve been flooring it a bit more, zipping merrily along, and not caring if I broke it, not caring if my average MPG dropped nearer to 30 than 40. We picked a hot day for the trip, 25 degrees by noon, and I cast caution to the winds, cranking the aircon up, ignoring its pathetic squeals for mercy,… and that was how we arrived at Kettlewell, in a cloud of dust, after pasting it for an hour and a half from my humble abode in the west of Lancashire. Cost of parking was £4.00 for the day – not cheap, but neither was it in the same league as the Broadgate Meadow carpark AT GRASMERE, which charged me £6.50 a year ago! (did I mention that?)

Our visit to Kettlewell began with lunch, at the Cottage Tea Rooms, and the finest steak barm I think I’ve ever tasted – thank you Jayni. Then followed what I assured the good Lady Graeme would be a short stroll up the valley of the Warfe to Starbotton. (about 2 miles) There are two ways you can tackle this. If you’re feeling energetic, you cross to the western side of the valley and follow the paths up to Moor End farm, then down to the wooden bridge at Starbotton, and back along  the Warfe – a pleasant 1/2 day’s circuit. If you’re less of a fell-athlete, and prefer a flatter walk, like the good Lady Graeme, then you take the eastern side of the dale and follow an easy path that meanders through meadows and across one quaintly gated stile after another, until again you reach Starbotton.

Starbotton is a gem, but be warned apart from some beautiful abodes, there’s not much here – no tea room, no ice-cream parlour – only the Fox and hounds Pub, which is great if you’re a drinking man, but otherwise not much use of course.

The return route was via the Dales Way, which keeps pretty much to the River, and then a celebratory ice cream, back at the Cottage Tea Rooms in Kettlewell. (thank-you Michael).

It had been a long week, a hard week, the dayjob sticking in my craw more than usual – to the extent that I deliberately cut it short and took the Friday off in order to escape to the Dales. So, you get in the car and you drive fifty miles with your nearest and dearest to a countryside haunt. You have lunch, and you take a walk, and the pressure and the stress melt away, as if by magic. But you have to ignore the price of fuel – it doesn’t matter that the round trip cost me £20.00 (damn, I wasn’t going to work it out). On the upside, it would have cost more than that at the cinema for just a couple of hours’ entertainment, including adverts. What I mean is, don’t neglect the power of the countryside to refresh you. If money’s tight, if money’s disappearing down the drain on your gas and electrickery bills, and your council tax, which is it to be? A bit more retail therapy? Line the pockets of those cigar smoking fat-cats? Or will it be a trip to the Yorkshire Dales? I know which one will cost you less, and do you more good. Retail thereapy is a con – don’t fall for it. Get some fresh air instead. Don’t be a consumer. Be a human being. Visit Kettlewell.

Graeme out.

* “Lady”: WordPress proofreader tells me this is bias language.  I beg to differ. Or am I hopelessly out of touch?

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