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Posts Tagged ‘warfedale’

Mazzy at BuckdenI wanted to give the car a decent run this weekend, so drove the little road from Bolton Abbey all the way up Wharfedale, then on to Leyburn for the night. It was the weekend after the hugely successful Grand Depart, when the opening stage of Le Tour De France set off from Yorkshire. The aftermath had left all the dales villages still trimmed up and looking very festive with their bunting and yellow bicycles. It had also left the roads in various places scrawled with some very distracting graffiti.

I’d set myself the challenge of completing my own little tour de Yorkshire with the top down. I’m doing well so far, only having had the top up on a couple of journeys, and one of those was because I preferred the imagined security, and a bit of soundproofing, when I took to the motorway. On this occasion though I braved a bit of the M6 from Bamber Bridge to Tickled Trout and then the long stretch of the A59 from Tickled Trout to Bolton Abbey – all of it topless, so to speak – but it was an unnerving experience. I think if we all had to drive this way, we’d be driving a lot slower, and much more carefully.

First stop was the Abbey Tea rooms for coffee and to gather my addled wits. Sixty miles an hour in an old MX5 feels like ninety, and there’s always someone tailgating you. White vans were a particular hazard on that stretch of the A59, having taken over from the usual Beamers and Audis and flourescent Ford Focuses, familiar from the back lanes around home. One had bullied me from the Cross Keys, all the way past Skipton seemingly intent on bulldozing me into the ditch. It may be that I’m used to a quieter, smoother car, but sixty in Mazzy is my limit for now, and plenty fast enough for even the faster sections of the A59. Not fast enough for white van man though. I had fitted a dashcam for the journey but quickly realised it was pointing the wrong way. Instead of pointing out the front, recording potential head-ons, it would have been better pointing backwards. I’m not sure if there’s a You Tube channel called Mad Tailgaters, but I’m thinking of starting one.

Bolton Abbey marks the beginning of the run up the Wharfe, and it’s a great place to refresh yourself. I was too early for scones, so made do with a stiff Americano and some deep breaths. But already the day was shaping up for the better. There were old English roadsters on the car park here – Morris, Alvis, MG – all from the thirties and the forties, a much more civilised era for motoring, an era when the brakes were rubbish, there were no airbags and petrol was sixpence a gallon. I wondered how they’d managed the A59, and the tailgaters. The owners, rather well groomed, silver haired gentlemen – tweed jacket and cap types with clipped accents – looked calm and unruffled as they took their refreshment. Maybe I just don’t have the Spitfire spirit, and needed to buck up a bit.

Bolton Abbey is a popular tourist destination, but not the sort of place to visit if you’re touring. Part of a private estate, the entrance fee is now over £8 per person. That said, there are a lot of grounds to enjoy, a beautiful section of the river, and then there’s the Strid, where the Wharfe is squished down to a narrow passage between crags that you can (almost) leap, and most likely drown when you miss. But you need a full day to do justice to the visit, and the admission fee. On this occasion, I was not tempted. This trip was all about the drive – and a bit of walking. The price of a cup coffee was the only thing Bolton Abbey got out of me.

The road up the Wharfe was a delight, the car coming alive once more on the tight bends and through the rises and hollows. An overcast start to the day dissolved here into blue skies and sunburn, and by the time I reached Burnsall Bridge, both the car and my heart were singing with the joy of it.

You can’t go fast here – too many cyclists and horses, but thirty feels like fifty in Mazzy so you don’t need to be racing to feel like you’re flying. Burnsall is another popular tourist destination, a pretty village and a fine old bridge spanning the river, also partly the setting for my timeslip short story, Katie’s Rescue. It’s a good spot for picnics or for commencing a walk, but I was heading up to Buckden, at the top of the dale, so passed on without haemorrhaging shrapnel on the carpark.

The price of tourist parking tends to discourage touring. You can see most of these places in an hour before moving on to the next, but at the prices charged you want to settle in and make the most of them, which is perhaps not a bad thing. The National Trust finally got me at Buckden, charging me £4.20 to leave my car while I had a walk up the Pike. As an illustrative aside, a few hours later I was in Aysgarth, wondering about visiting the falls, but I didn’t because it hardly seemed worth the price of parking the car again, for what would have amounted to no more than an hour’s visit. It would have been good to see the falls, but I’ve seen them before, and you don’t need to pay money to experience the sublime. If you’ve not been to Aysgarth, ignore my tight-wad example here and pay up – the falls are spectacular and worth every penny. But remember the sublime is in you. You can find it anywhere, not just where the National Trust or English Heritage set up camp and tell you to.

waterfall buckdenThere’s a beautiful little waterfall in Buckden that’s not even marked on the map. It was by the side of the footpath that descends the Pike and must be known to many a walker, to say nothing of Buckden’s few residents. As I came upon it, the sun was hitting it just right and the colours exploding as if were something not quite real. My photograph here doesn’t do it justice at all. It may not be Aysgarth falls, but has its own water sprites who’s siren call lured me over to spend a grateful break with them.

Buckden was also decked out for the Tour de France, and takes my personal award for the most festive effort. I met a lady the following day who was looking for a supermarket, as she’d taken a cottage in Buckden for the week. We laughed, agreeing that there wasn’t a lot in Buckden, and it’s true, you’ll struggle to find a supermarket there, but there’s a whole lot more besides and, apart from that carpark, it won’t cost you anything. Buckden without doubt is my favourite Dales village – apart from all the others of course.

Finally it was on to Wensleydale, to Leyburn and a homely B+B for the night. It was my first time in Leyburn, a small, historic market town. I’d made a reconnaissance trip on Google Streetview the night before, and thought the place looked a bit dour, but nothing could have been further from the truth. They had the bunting up here as well – the Tour de France seems to have visited every town and village in Yorkshire! Leyburn’s a good stopping off place for a tour, with plenty of pubs and restaurants around the main square.

One’s always a bit self conscious, travelling alone and walking on spec into the first pub that takes your fancy, but I was at my ease in minutes, the landlady calling me “My Love” like I was a regular and settling me down to a fine, flavoursome Steak and Ale pie. I’ve visited many a UK town where the lone traveller’s self consciousness was not assuaged, and where the locals proved to be standoffish and downright queer. Leyburn is definitely not one of them. Both Mazzy and I received a warm welcome, and we’ll be coming again.

It was altogether the best day of the Summer thus far, to be bettered only by the day that followed it.

If there’s a heaven, I’d like it to be the Yorkshire Dales, and an old blue car to explore it in.

Topless, of course.

le grand depart buckden

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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.

Anyway,…

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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