A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the tag “Yorkshire Dales”

Hibernation

I’ve decided to place my blog into hibernation. I started it as I wanted to share the difference in outlook that our tandem had brought to my life, now that MS is part of it. I hope that I’ve been able to get across how it’s helped me, not only to get outside again, but to actively try to be out in as many different ways as possible. And not just to be outside but to be immersed in the countryside once more, to get muddy and rained on and to smell the grass in sheep-nibbled fields again.

enjoying a summer evening

enjoying a summer evening

I don’t want to become repetitive so I thought I’d take a break. I shall only be taking a break from writing the blog though – definitely not from having adventures! We shall continue to cycle, bumping along uneven paths, to track down more bird-watching haunts and to splash about in the canoe. I might even try something new again if something catches my eye. I know it would be worth my while.

by Hebden Water

by Hebden Water

In the meantime, I’ve loved hearing from other people who have tried out new ways of adventuring, be it by adapted cycle, tramper or horse riding.

a little damp on the Camel Trail!

a little damp on the Camel Trail!

We have a weekend away coming up with EMpowered people which I’m looking forward to. It will be good to mix with others who have similar tales to tell again, and to swap our experiences. There are many more Lakeland tarns to glide across and the wheelchair is getting used to being pushed along unlikely paths.

muddy Pennine paths

muddy Pennine paths

Then there’s the Paralympics coming up soon, and when I start to feel a little bit inadequate in the face of their superhuman efforts, I can remind myself of just what I am achieving. Just as the Olympics inspire people to try something out, the Paralympics remind me that I have adapted my life to get out there and do something – there will be no hibernating for me!

tandem happy amongst the sheep

tandem happy amongst the sheep

Camping Wild(ish!)

It’s been nagging at the back of my mind for some time that the thought of going camping doesn’t appeal in the way it used to. Too much hassle for a body that has limited strength and energy. But the thought of sleeping outdoors still appealed in an abstract way …

dreaming of camping!

dreaming of camping!

Meanwhile, I’d been trying to arrange a night away for us at Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire. When I rang to book us in they laughed and said it was booked up for months but we could camp outside if we liked. I started to ponder … One night camping right outside a pub sounded like an acceptable way of resolving my problem.

And so off we went!

We headed north, past the Ribblehead Viaduct where we saw lots of people who were midway through the Three Peak challenge. Then it was on to Hawes, where the odd polkadot could still be seen fluttering on bunting, in memory of last year’s Tour de France. We stocked up with provisions for our night’s camping: bacon, bread, milk. Then it was time to go on.

Passing out of Keld, the road climbed and the landscape grew emptier. We passed beyond the stone barns of Swaledale and up on to the moors. The landscape was vast and wild.

leaving behind Swaledale's stone barns

leaving behind Swaledale’s stone barns

I hopped in and out of the car a couple of times to take photos but struggled to keep the camera steady in the strong wind. I quickly got back inside. We had definitely got on to higher ground!

open moorland

open moorland

At last, we came across Tan Hill Inn. It stood alone on the open moors. There was nothing else for miles around. I couldn’t even see any sheep.

We were blown inside by the wind. It was packed with people! There were bikers, walkers and cyclists. More people came in with presents, ready for a celebration. It was all a bit mad!

Tan Hill Inn

Tan Hill Inn

We found seats not far from the fire – it might have been July but its cosiness and warmth were still very welcome. Once Pete had put the tent up out on the moor at the more sheltered side of the pub (definitely camping wild – no facilities here!) we settled into our seats for the evening.

camping wild

camping wild

The reason for wanting to  come to this particular pub was that it is the highest pub in England at 1732 feet above sea level – it certainly felt that high! Also, we had camped there before (many years before!) when we had been walking the Pennine Way. It is an even more welcome sight after a long day’s walk! So it was good to be there again – and camping again!

the Pennine Way outside the inn

the Pennine Way outside the inn

The evening ebbed and flowed most pleasantly. The initial crowds, popping in as part of a day’s ride, headed off. People came in for a bar meal, more came for the party in another part of the pub, and groups of young men came and went, carrying camping gear. They were celebrating a 30th birthday and were camping out like us.

perfect fireplace!

perfect fireplace!

There was a slight lull for half an hour but it was all bustle again before we knew it. A girl singer provided entertainment later in the evening. Later still, one of the birthday lads began quietly strumming a guitar. Eventually, we decided it was time to find our tent.

happy customers

happy customers

It was now pitch dark – no street lighting here! Fortunately, we made it to our tent without incident. As I snuggled into my sleeping bag and Pete fell to sleep immediately, I discovered that my shoulder was on its own little slope which was pushing me towards Pete. I felt I had to cling onto the mattress to stop myself from falling on to him! It was going to be long night!

And then the birthday lads started singing along with their guitarist. Lovely songs – but not in the middle of the night! And sometime later, having heard a large array of songs, I heard a huge argument between four other campers. It was all happening at Tan Hill Inn!!

Thankfully for me, Pete woke half way through the night and agreed to swap over sleeping positions, so we each got a little sleep.

breakfast bacon with a view!

breakfast bacon with view!

It was all forgotten in the morning though, as it was breakfast time – the best bit of camping has to be the bacon butties for breakfast! These were excellent, as was the view from the tent. A most satisfactory night’s camping.

Hiding!

We decided that, if we were to consider ourselves proper birdwatchers, and not just people who were pleased to see birds when they hopped into the garden, then we needed to have a day Birdwatching. That, we decided, meant watching from a bird hide.

looks hopeful!

looks hopeful!

We discovered that there was a National Trust site with a bird hide at Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales. Perfect!

The hide was nestling right by the side of the tarn. It was very exciting – our first visit inside a bird hide. (We are easily excited!) We were about to become Birdwatchers!

We set about making ourselves comfortable, getting out our flask of tea, binoculars and bird book … and waited.

getting settled in

getting settled in

Hmmm … I am beginning to realise that an intrinsic part of birdwatching is the waiting.

After a while, we spotted some ravens in the distance, flying towards a rookery at the far side of the tarn. Some other birds flew across the sky. They might have been grebes … let’s say they were!

Malham Tarn

Malham Tarn

Well, our sandwiches tasted good. And it was great to be sitting inside on sturdy benches, with only our faces open to the air, feeling like ‘proper’ birdwatchers, even if we couldn’t see any birds!

Eventually, we saw a couple of tufted ducks – we definitely saw the tufts!

tufted duck - honest!

tufted duck – honest!

Sadly, we didn’t see much other birdlife but it was very restful sitting by the tarn for a while in a sheltered spot.

We decided to head down to Malham where Pete pushed me along the start of the path to Malham Cove. We’d hoped to be able to get further but, although the surface of the path was ok, it was too steep for much pushing. Still, we got far enough along to have good views of the fields and the cove itself.

Malham Cove

Malham Cove

Finally, we sat by the river, which was flowing fast after several days of rain, and watched some ducks resting at the water’s edge – no binoculars required!

clear view of ducks in Malham!

clear view of ducks in Malham!

Changing Scenes

We’ve just returned from our annual ex-student walking weekend, this time in Kettlewell in North Yorkshire. I’ll admit it, I just socialised!

I did get out to Hawes for the day with a friend who ‘sacrificed’ going for a walk herself to come with me. (No sacrifice really, I think she’ll admit – but thank you, ‘I don’t do hills’ Julia!)

sheltering sheep, Kettlewell

sheltering sheep, Kettlewell

The only fresh air I experienced on the weekend was being wheeled from one cafe to another and from the hostel to the pub, which suited me just fine! Especially when I saw how cold and windswept everyone looked as they gradually returned from various walks that seemed to have involved being clamped under low cloud for much of the afternoon.

We did experience our own wild weather in Hawes when we ventured out of our first cafe after a couple of hours’ catch-up on news. It coincided with the heavens opening and us getting very wet in the space of a couple of hundred yards. After taking emergency shelter in a shop we decided it was lunchtime and we really ought to find another cafe … and that was how our day passed really – in a most acceptable fashion!

fields above Kettlewell

fields above Kettlewell

The journey to and from Hawes took us past gently sloping fields, fast-flowing streams, and trees only just beginning to turn, and there were still several yellow bikes hanging from trees and pubs to remind us of the fantastic summer weekend of Le Tour. We even stopped to watch as bursts of water were blown up a waterfall by the strength of the wind.

We were staying in the YHA hostel in Kettlewell, the venue for several of our reunions. However, it’s likely to be our last one there as the hostel is up for sale – such a shame. I remember once, a few years ago, arriving back from a walk to be greeted by a pungent smell of pumpkins, and a roomful of happy children with one very happy dad, all making splendid Hallowe’en lanterns which became our table decorations for the evening.

Kettlewell youth hostel

Kettlewell youth hostel

There’s been a slightly different feel to this year’s gathering – caused by a lack of youngsters. After years of babies, who grew into toddlers, then primary age children and, most recently, tall teenagers, suddenly they’ve almost all disappeared – they are either (officially, at least!) adults now or are busy doing their own thing at weekends. It was almost like old times (but with more creaking limbs and less energy!). Although it felt quite strange at first, by the end of the weekend I was managing to cope quite well with the lack of responsibility!

A Tour of Le Tour

I couldn’t resist – I just had to see how other parts of Yorkshire were preparing for Le Tour de France! (Not a sentence I expected to write a year ago!) So we hopped in the car for a drive round as much of the area as we could reasonably manage in one day. It was a bit of a zig-zag, following our own route, and crossing freely over from Day One to Day Two sections. (How wonderful that there is so much beautiful scenery to detain the riders for two days!)

Tour de France bunting

Tour de France bunting

In Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which is a little off the route, the cafe owner was unsure how he would be affected – would no-one visit that weekend because they were worried about road closures, or would there be a mad scrum for bacon butties?

polka dots in Hawes

polka dots in Hawes

In Hawes, which nestles near the foot of Buttertubs Pass (or Côte de Buttertubs as the official route describes it!), has festooned itself in bunting to welcome Le Tour. In recognition of the fact that Côte de Buttertubs is one of the categorised climbs on the route, and therefore counts towards the King of the Mountains jersey, the village has gone polka dot mad! Shops have been painted white with red spots, all the bunting is spotty and flower pots are themed red and white. It is very cheery and welcoming.

polka dot bunting

polka dot bunting

not everyone went for polka dots!

not everyone went for polka dots!

We then headed up the Buttertubs Pass ourselves – by car! There were a few brave cyclists tackling the climb, but even at the lower part of the steep ascent they were struggling, and some had to give in to pushing. It made you realise just how crazy fit the Tour riders are.

Due to a late start on our own tour, it was fairly late in the day when we arrived at the summit, and we had the place to ourselves. It was beautiful and wild, just us and a few sheep. I felt very lucky to be able to savour the views and the solitude. It was very difficult to imagine just how different the scene would be in a week’s time!

Côte de Buttertubs

Côte de Buttertubs

We munched a picnic tea (until beaten back by ferocious midges!) by the Buttertubs themselves, which are scarily deep limestone holes just metres from the road, and contemplated just how easy it would be for a rider to crash over a barrier and into one of those deep, deep holes. In fact, I have seen a programme about how the local mountain rescue team has been practising a rescue from one of those potholes (more concerned about a spectator than a cyclist, I think … but, still!)

admiring the Buttertubs

at the Buttertubs

We then wended our way backwards along the Tour route, past fields and farms and villages, with beautiful empty fells rising gloriously on either side of the limestone walls. And all along the route, our journey was punctuated by dots of yellow. Yellow bikes were perched on roofs, and yellow bunting fluttered from gates and windows.

Driving along the route, knowing that elite cyclists would be hurtling down these roads in a week’s time, made you look at them with different eyes. You really noticed how narrow some of the route is, and how twisty, and how steep are some of the hills – both up and down – and just how close are the unforgiving-looking stone walls!

Our favourite village was Bainbridge, where pale yellow bunting hung along every roof, and little t-shirts grew from one bush and mini knitted jumpers decorated one house. I didn’t get a picture as you couldn’t really capture the loveliness of the whole scene in one shot (and we were tired – it had been a long day!).

We made a final stop at Skipton, which was worth it for the church. All the grounds were full of yellow bunting and a giant t-shirt decorated the tower!

Skipton church tower

Skipton church tower

I am now full of Tour de France spirit. Allez, allez!

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