Richard’s Booze Cruise II

14 01 2014

For the second year running, Richard decided that, for his birthday, he wanted another pub crawl (for last year’s, see Wilful Wensleydale Wandering post) – this looks to be becoming a permanent annual fixture. However, after the ‘fun’ we had this year on the roads, I’m thinking of moving his birthday to June!

All photos with Richard’s digi-camera (he took the castle ones)
This year, the main destination was to be Swaledale – a dale I haven’t ever been to so far as I remember. Unfortunately, as I had to MOT my newest car first (the Polo – and it failed! 😦 ) we were delayed leaving until after midday. Despite the MOT failure being suspension-related, we carried on for our potentially bumpy drive up the Dales – poor car – luckily, the roads were unexpectedly smooth – in places, too smooth!

I picked Richard up from the railway station and we headed off up to Kettlewell where we were to take the very minor road up Coverdale. I’d mentioned this to my mother the night before and she commented that we’d “have a time of it on that road!” – she wasn’t far wrong!

The road to Kettlewell was fine but there were no signposts whatsoever for which road to take to Coverdale. We eventually guessed the correct one and started off up ‘Park Rash’ – a 1 in 4 gradient hill complete with hairpin bends. Due to the hairpins I had to stay in first gear so it was quite hot work for the little car.

Before we’d left Kettlewell, we’d been eyeing the fellside of Great Whernside up above where we were due to head, because it was white… was it just limestone rocks? Or was it frosty up there at 2300 feet? Well it was frosty but also, when we reached the road summit at around 1500 feet, there was also a thin covering of snow! This was okay while heading along the flat section before the descent to Coverdale but, when we loomed at the brow of the long descent to the Dale, we found that, as it was north-facing, the thin layer of snow (which was slippy enough) turned to icy snow – eek!

It looked a long 1500 feet down to the valley, had a bit of a steep and grassy drop off to our left and in places the road was steep with bends. We slithered our way downwards, the poor car having to stay in first gear all the way down as well. At times I had no choice but to apply the brakes at which point the ABS made the car judder horribly – pretty damn scary really!

At the bottom of the hill, we found a pub (The Thwaite Arms) at a village called Horsehouse and called in for a rest. There was a group in there who’d tried the hill in the opposite direction and had turned back. There was no heating in the pub and it was pretty bloody cold so we only stopped briefly and then continued along the dale – luckily by now in bright sunshine.

Near the end of the dale, at a village called Carlton-in-Coverdale, we stopped at a pub run by the villagers called the Foresters Arms. It was very cosy and looked to have a great and extensive food menu. I had a pink lemonade which was lovely while Richard had another half of real ale.

We then headed to Middleham at the end of the dale where we joined the main road again at last – phew! We had a very quick look around the outside of Middleham Castle but decided not to pay the £4.50 each to go in. It was too cold a wind to do much outdoors anyway… While we were in Middleham, we visited the Richard III pub for Richard to have another half and me to shovel another unwanted drink down (I really don’t drink much liquid as I prefer to eat!)

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Middleham Castle
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We were now on the road to Swaledale and our next stop was at Grinton at the start of the dale where there is a youth hostel and the Bridge Inn pub. I think I passed on a drink here as I can’t keep up…

It was by now 1500 and the sun was thinking of going off the south-facing half of the valley so I insisted we hurry down the dale for a quick walk from Gunnerside (where there is another pub but it was shut). Richard waited in the car while I headed up Gunnerside Gill for an hour or so – in my fashion boots (quite a sensible pair).

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Gunnerside Gill – almost dark though

Half way up the gill path, there was another which headed off up the hillside slightly – it was quite dark and gloomy in the gill as it was so late in the day so I took the higher path instead. In the end, after the brow of a hill where I got a good look up the gill, I decided to head off up the hill to see if I could reach the old mine. All the drystone walls had broken sections so you could pretty much walk where you wanted without having to look for gates.

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Ruined Barn

There was some housing near the top of the hill – old farms – I wondered briefly whether someone would send me back the way I’d come but they all look unoccupied – I think they’re just second homes of the wealthy now…

I decided I didn’t have time to continue to the mine before dark so found a track joining the farmhouses together, assuming it would head back to the village. There was soon a split in the track where you could either contour round the hillside or descend. Obviously, I wanted to descend but the track in question looked like it was going to curve around to an occupied farmhouse and didn’t look like it continued on down to the village. Luckily, there was a pickup parked on the track which set off downhill so I watched to see where it went. It did head off down the hill towards the village so I followed on.

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I was surprised to see a normal car just parked up at the top of the track near the junction – as it was a bridleway, I didn’t know why people would be driving up there – I couldn’t see anyone about so assumed it was a walker. As I walked down the hill, I couldn’t imagine why people would want to drive up there anyway – it was about 1 in 4 all the way, very steep down to the river off one side of the track, pretty icy, loose and full of hairpins again.

I cautiously followed the track downhill, very afraid of slipping on ice in places and was soon hailed by a pickup truck coming down behind me. They asked if I was okay? I said fine but was just being cautious due to the icy surface. Turned out they thought the car up the hill was mine and that I must have broken down and was going for help. Nice of them to check anyway…

By the time I reached the car it was pretty much dark and we set off for a little road to take us back from near Muker over the hills to Askrigg in Wensleydale. We thought we’d picked the road with the least steep hills apart from the very first bit of ascent from the valley which we thought would be too low down to be frozen.

As soon as we set off up the road we ran into trouble. The narrow road was again 1 in 4 with hairpins and pretty soon the car started to really struggle for grip on more ice. I grimly ploughed on – there was no choice really as there was nowhere to turn between the two sets of stone walls on the narrow lane.

The car struggled up to the top of the steep rise where the road became flatter for a time. Soon we had a couple of smaller rises to go up and some descents which would have been south-facing all day so should have been fine. It was when I started to slide down one of these and was immediately met with a very icy rise around a bend that I decided this road was a no-go. I could see it had to rise quite a bit more before it started the descent to Askrigg and we had about 4 more miles to go. But of course, I really didn’t want to re-descend the icy 1 in 4 zig-zags we’d come up!

As I knew we’d never get up the icy rise around the bend, there was no choice but to turn around… I had to reverse quite a way back up the icy hill I’d just slithered down but we made it back up okay where there was a slight widening in the road – that would have to serve as our turning place. Luckily, no one else was daft enough to use the road in winter!

After about a 59-point turn on the icy surface, the reversing section of which hung over a steep ditch, we were facing back the way we’d come and tentatively heading back towards horror-hill to descend back to the valley.

I had a terrible time going back down the steep hill – I couldn’t use first gear as that would have been too fast and had to descend the hill in neutral with my brakes kept on, ignore the juddering and hope I made it around the tight bends without hitting any walls 😮 To say I was petrified was probably an understatement – Richard was somehow quite calm.

After two scares in one day, I insisted we stuck to main roads for the rest of the day! We flew back along the dale where we stopped at the Buck pub in Reeth (which was absolutely heaving) and had another drink. From there, we followed the road signs for Leyburn, believing it would be a main road but, for some reason, found ourselves on another little road going over the moor!

Luckily, this road seemed dry and unfrozen (the last one had been wet and frozen) so we continued. I let a couple of vehicles past to see what would happen and they roared off – I followed quite a bit more tentatively.

The road continued to seem okay so I did a cautious 30 mph or so and all was fine until we tried to stop at the junction at the end of it. I put my brakes on there and almost slid across the main road!

We just called at three pubs in Wensleydale – the Wheatsheaf at Carperby (very nice) and, in Askrigg, the White Rose Hotel where we had a superb meal, and then The Crown. Or at least Richard called at The Crown – I went for another walk up the other side of the road we’d have come down if we’d made it over the moor from Swaledale. That side was fine and dry – luckily as it was again 1 in 4 in places. Incidentally, Richard had by far his best real ale in Askrigg – it was very local stuff – the rest had all been pretty run-of-the-mill you could get anywhere…

All that was left then was the drive home on hopefully gritted main roads (although we weren’t sure for the Hawes to Ribblehead road). I was still going carefully just in case. We had a quick drink in the pub at Helwith Bridge and then headed for home – I thanked my lucky stars when we arrived safely back!

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16 responses

19 01 2014
rebecca2000

I love traveling with you. Seeing pictures is always nice, but hearing experiences is so much fun too. I’m coming next time.

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19 01 2014
mountaincoward

Thanks Becca – I have to say it was a much more adventurous day than I’d have liked!
Carol.

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15 01 2014
Dan

If you’re up there again, there is a very nice short walk at the head of the Dale, from Keld over the hill to Muker and back up the valley. There is a nice group of waterfalls at Keld and in Spring, there are flowers everywhere. You can combine it with a trip (or a longer walk) to the Tan Hill Inn

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16 01 2014
mountaincoward

Thanks for that Dan – I certainly intend to be up there again – I really liked Swaledale 🙂

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15 01 2014
smackedpentax

Great post Carol…you previously said you were looking for some ‘adrenaline sport’ to do – I think you have found it – driving around 1 in 3 icy roads in a (slightly) knackered car! I know Park Rash well – Dow Cave is located at the top and I have had several hair raising slides down the road in black ice and snow (once on a pushbike)…it is a scary road even in summer but horrendous in winter.

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15 01 2014
mountaincoward

I think what would make it worse in summer is meeting cars coming the other way – at least I was fairly confident at not meeting anyone much.

There’s too much at stake though as a new adrenaline sport – I’m probably less averse to risking myself than my cars – I’m really fond of my vehicles and would hate to break them!

It did look a really interesting place up at the top of the Coverdale road and there was a lot of parking if you couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way up Great and Little Whernside. I’d prefer to do the 2 hills from Kettlewell but the parking is pretty expensive and there isn’t any roadside parking anywhere I can see. Know of any?

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15 01 2014
smackedpentax

Last time I did The Whernsides I parked in Kettlewell, but in a small car park opposite the little garage – the owner let us park all day for £2, it was only a couple of years ago. I had a go at Little Whernside last year from Angram Dam in deepest Nidderdale, but it was very deep snow and I was forced to turn back as it started to snow very heavy and I didn’t tell anyone where I was going (silly me)….

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15 01 2014
mountaincoward

The Nidderdale Approach sounds interesting – might try that one 🙂

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15 01 2014
smackedpentax

I didn’t plan on doing it – I just saw the hill in the distance and thought I ‘would go for it’…I think there must be a proper route up there but under the snow I couldn’t find it (also some mine shafts in that area) so I abandoned it – but with a good map and decent weather I bet it would make a good walk

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15 01 2014
mountaincoward

That’s exactly the sort of thing I do when I’m out! 🙂

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15 01 2014
bob

You’ve got me there Carol as that’s one dale I haven’t been in either. I like the area though with the wide open views and big skies. I’m not a fan of real ales. It’s the Devil’s juice in a glass!

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15 01 2014
mountaincoward

I thought that was whisky! 😉 I must admit I’ve never liked any beer at all – my vices (when I used to drink) were always mainly cider and then whisky. But it was whatever I could get hold of really 😉

At least Swaledale’s the nearest for you marauding Scots if you decide to come down here 😉

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14 01 2014
McEff

He likes his pubs does your Richard. Seems like a good way of getting about and seeing the countryside, if you have someone else to do the driving, that is.
I cycled over that road from Coverdale to Kettlewell about five years ago. I say “cycled” loosely, because I pushed the bike uphill most of the way in the teeth of a freezing gale. But it was great free-wheeling down the other side.
It’s a nice area that above Gunnerside – all those little barns and houses.
Cheers, Alen

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15 01 2014
mountaincoward

I really liked Gunnerside – despite arriving when it was almost dark. I’ll definitely be going to Swaledale again, earlier in the day, and doing some walking up from Gunnerside and also Muker.

I’d have pushed my bike up over the Coverdale road too – very long hill one side and very steep the other! Mind you, I’m a cycling coward and I’d have got off down the 1 in 4 downhills too!

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14 01 2014
chrissiedixie

I know most of those roads you mentioned! Great fun in the summer, but not ideal in the winter!
Swaledale is actually my favourite Dale – apparently, a camping holiday in Muker was where I took my first ever steps. My parents weren’t really expecting this at that point, so I then spent the rest of the time tied to a tent post to keep me safe, as we were camped next to the river 🙂

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14 01 2014
mountaincoward

I really liked Swaledale too – I think the only reason I/we haven’t really been before is because it’s furthest away from us.

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