The weather looked bleak yet again when we spoke on the phone, “Barry I’m bloody fed up with this, let’s just go shall we?” He too was fed up as our last plan was kyboshed by the December snows and an exploding engine. “Yeah bollix to the rain lets go for it!” With the mature conclusion having been made, I rummaged around for my stuff, filling my hip flask with Jaegermeister first then packed an overnight bag and said “Kiss kiss, see you Sunday” to Julie, Pooka and Lightning. The rains belted down over Keighley on Saturday evening as we settled down indoors and drank Marks gift between us, stopping short of emptying it! I’m glad we did too because we were both a little ill first thing on Sunday, perhaps the bottle was past its sell by date? Anyway we left a shot or two for another rainy day!
As the dawn light squeezed under the low rain soaked skies the clubhouse stirred, first up was Heather the yapping dog then Barry, me, Tina and daughter. The girls were joining in with an organised charity walk along the canal to Leeds, we on the other hand were making ready to take Barry’s newly restored British Army spec Lightweight Land Rover up into the Yorkshire Dales, the engine had been fixed and today Janet (as christened by Barry) donned extra large wheels that gave her even more height. So come on you rain clouds give it your best shot! Several cameras were packed along with Mars bars, Cadburys cream eggs x6 flask, two boxes of fairy cakes and a hot flask and of course 2 hip flasks to keep hypothermia at bay! We had already packed a couple of bacon sarnies in our bellies and felt on top of the world.
We said goodbye to the girls climbed up into the sparse cab. This was the first time I had sat in her now she was complete and she looked pretty good, Barry had done a “proper job” She started her up first time and the big engine purred into life. The inside was very army, green and comfortless, some switches and knobs and two lights sat in front of us, a gear stick the size of a pogo stick stuck out from the floor next to the metal hand brake, two more metal rods protruded from the floor, one had a white knob, the other had a red one, Barry said something about four wheel drive. I recognised the speedo, engine temp and fuel dials. A big metal box separated us, this had a sticker on that warned against getting acid burns! “Don’t worry mate that’s just a cover for the batteries” just under my right elbow sat two huge old 24 volt batteries and they carried enough acid to melt me down to jam! At the garage he showed me the petrol tank under MY seat and the piffling little army green extinguisher at my feet, I suppose I’m to grab that as I put my head down and kiss my ass goodbye as Barry’s fag ash ignites the tank and I’m propelled skywards through the ragtop on a fiery mushroom, singed to fook and melting from acid burns! Jesus H Christ I hope to god I don’t fart!
Barry opened her up on the Skipton bypass and reached a lung crushing 50 mph, it was so loud even Barrys voice was in competition, there was a light drizzle as we looked at the flood plain to our left and right, there had been some serious rain it was like the Humber estuary. “Maybe we need bigger wheels Barry?” I shouted across. The huge bus like steering wheel just about rested on his knees and was just a couple of inches from his body standing nearly vertical. Hmmm, Ok so if we crash..I am blown up by MY own personal petrol tank and melted down by acid as I’m sent flying through the canvas roof rag whilst Barry is pinned to his seat and gets squashed to death by this huge steering wheel. I slid open the tiny side window and sucked in the wet air I was getting used to Barry’s SLR and practiced taking photos. Yeah today was going to be an adventure I can feel it in my bones!
We turned onto the B6160 and rode towards Grassington, to our left and right the hills were weeping with rain and the grey clag just hung in the air going nowhere, we rode through ever larger puddles, the water had run down the hillside onto the road then found itself trapped by the stone walls until it grew in depth before leaking through the other side to race on downwards to the full and fast flowing River Wharfe at the very bottom. Kettlewell was our first port of call for a cup of tea and toasted tea cakes at our usual stop, we picked up some local knowledge of the road conditions. “Oh no lads you can’t go on that road it’s flooded”. We grinned saying “That’s the road for us then!” Off towards Buckden we went. The river was in quite a rage and white horses danced all along it. Today was going to be a day of informed judgements and river watching, it was going to be quite a day. We drove on until we saw the little road had seemingly turned into a canal for as far as the eye could see. It was a foot deep in water, the walls holding it in, the fields to either side looked sodden, Barry wrestled the gear stick down the box and we trundled along for at least half a mile at times it rose another foot but the extra height we had carried us through. At the other end we paused to look back at one or two ordinary vehicles stood. Some fell runners and a dog came jogging through the foul weather having taken the path across the fields missing the canal! It’s true what they say about “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” it seems!
It’s quite serene along here in summer, cars and folk are usually dotted here and there having a picnic as the slow running shallow river twists and turns round huge boulders, the river bed is often exposed to the dippers and waders, today though it was a different scene the river was full, very full and just a few feet from the road, an old farm house up ahead was cut off by it, the river was maybe two foot from the front door! Nobody seemed about so we assumed they had moved out for the moment, we started off again and we crossed the bridge. This was Hubberhome in winter! We now climbed up and away and over the top towards Hawes on our favourite little B road, the Cam High Road, this also ran part way on an old Roman road. The wind was so strong in places that the rivers of water falling down off the rocks were getting blown back up and turned into spray. I’ve never seen anything like it. I tried taking a photo but all came out blurred, very hazy and misty. The rain was like a ribbed shower sheet as it swept along the hillside and blasted us really hard. We could see the village of Gayle below us, the river was just about contained as it swept through the narrow channel, the short cut across the ford looked to be under about three foot of rushing mad water so was out of bounds for all traffic even tractors. We stopped in Hawes for another cuppa at the bike café and let Janet’s temp gauge come down a bit, we chatted with a solitary biker out for an hour, he was sticking to the main roads and had all his kit wired up for heating so was quite snug. We asked about the road over the next couple of water bridges just after Hawes turning north on a minor road towards The ButterTubbs, folk thought it may be a bit flooded. This comment proved to be an understatement!
We zipped up and wiped the cab out before climbing back in, water was dripping everywhere! The River Ure looked quite broad and very high, a couple of ladies flagged us down to tell us the road was flooded ahead, we rolled over the little bridge its archway nearly covered by the river, Hmm we may turn back here we thought as we stopped and looked at the scene unfolding in front of us.
A two hundred yard stretch was under water and the river was beginning to pour over the top of the wall, a freelance photographer sat waiting for a stranded car to photograph when we spoke to him, he said it didn’t come over his wellies yet. I asked him to go check the depth for us, off he waded and true to his word it wasn’t, most was managing to flow through the wall into the fields beyond, however it was spreading and WAS getting higher, I walked on the stone wall to film Barry as he drove through, unfortunately I hadn’t used Barry’s video camera before and failed to capture the moment, In hindsight It’s not so surprising as I balanced on a slippy stone wall as a river gushed over its lip whilst trying to keep me and the camera from falling in as I tried to concentrate on working a strange camera, I guess the odds were against me! The photo freelancer however got some brilliant shots. He’s asked if we would turn around and come back through only this time would I hang onto the bonnet and wave as we came by. Barry thought I was having him on when I told him what the guy wanted us to do! But with the usual egging on he easily agreed and the landi was swung round, I climbed onto the bonnet and held on tight to the wheel strop as Barry set off back across the raising flood! The guy clicked away with his two long lenses and got some really good shots, we gave him a card and are waiting for him to send us a copy or two. I was soaked now and squished back into my seat, Barry drove the landi across for the third and last time! Our kit was reasonable but both our asses were soaked? Apparently water surged up from under the seats when fording at a particular speed. The heater was to military spec and just about kept the window clear with its two plastic pipes, it was a noisy thing that clattered a bit and added to the cacophony of noise that meant we had to shout at each other…nothing new there then eh?
The high winds rolled us about a bit and when we were stern on to it the rain was driven through the gaps in the canvas to slop about the floor in the back. What few sheep we saw today apart from the flock being fed by a farmer out on his 4×4 were pressing themselves into the walls in a effort to get under cover, imagine wearing such a coat and soaked through to the skin, they must have weighed a lot don’t you think? Speaking of wildlife I hardly saw any today, the occasional couple of crows I saw were tumbling about like sheets of black bin bags, we saw a pheasant shoot across our bows low and fast, these guys are not the best shaped to fly in this weather! As we got to the outskirts of Keighley in the fast fading light we spotted hundreds of Starlings in one huge flock, they were flocking ready roost, it’s actually called a Starling “Moot” it’s like a huge saggy balloon the shape of it shifts and changes as they circle around before finally diving down to roost for the night. It was brilliant I have only seen this on TV before. it’s a fantastic sight to see.
The water from the last bit of flooded road was in the brake drums and she pulled to one side as Barry dried them out on the downside of the tops, that was exciting as we veered to the edge of the Buttertubs precipice he was working hard constantly tugging and pulling the old girl back onto the road, I was doing my best with the camera but was getting bounced about, I think I have subsequently deleted about half the shots as blurred or smeared! We rose above it still laughing and cracking jokes just happy finally being out and having an adventure! We drove over Black Moor and Stone Dale Moor before we finally saw todays objective ahead through the driving rain.
This was Tan Hill and the famous pub of the same name. It is generally recognized as being the highest inn in England at 1,732 feet above sea level. The second highest is the Cat and Fiddle Inn near the Derbyshire Cheshire county boundary and with an elevation of about 1,690 feet (520 m), though recent measurements dispute Tan Hill’s supremacy. In 1995, the Tan Hill Inn became the first public house in the UK to be granted a license to hold weddings and civil ceremonies, after new laws were brought in to allow couples to marry in places other than churches or registry offices. The pub has appeared in Everest double glazing window adverts. More recently it has appeared in a Vodafone advert. I stepped out and was blasted by the strong winds, I managed just one good shot with the camera, we dashed inside to be met with warmth from the landlady and the open fires, a few folk had made the effort too and we huddled around eating a hot lunch. We went into the candle lit back room to dry out by the fire and drink tea, we were joined by the staff for a chat, some remembered us from last year when we told them about our bike group. Janet drew great interest with the young lads who had just arrived to live and work here for a while.
Suitably warmed and watered we bid farewell promising to return with better weather on our bikes. The guitar man started to entertain as we strode out into the weather. The wind speed indicator above the bar read 80 mph with severe gusting!
We made our way down off the tops on the Long Causeway passing the ruins of the old tin mines finally reaching Reeth. We were heading for Leyburn now via the army ranges just off the Old Tank Road, the red flags were still out and cracking in the wind, maybe they thought it better to leave them on the flagpoles in such high winds. I certainly wouldn’t have fancied hauling them down! The market town seemed full of cars, or should I say the pubs seemed busy! We pulled onto the cobbles and shut everything we could, leaving the engine on and the heater to do its job hopefully, we were met by a couple of old boys and showed them around Janet, they were both impressed, in fact one guy was in the market for just the very thing and was ready to make Barry an offer. They said it was a very nice restoration and looked a little envious. We stood about and stuffed ourselves with tea cakes and Mars bars until the inside got nice and warm. I was reluctant to open the window much as we set off again. We chuckled as folk looked at us and did a double take, a policeman in his patrol car nearly broke his neck looking as we passed him! It was really funny. A Motor home was struggling along as we passed the loft Spigot Lodge horse stables and drove through Melmerby.
The motor home was making a pigs ear of things as he wobbled slowly along the lanes, he was constantly on the brakes when large puddles appeared, evident as his red lights kept winking at us. The clumsy white box he was driving is not streamlined at all and not suitable for these narrow lanes, it must be the worst thing to drive in these conditions. He pulled over and let us go past, I stuck my arm out quickly and gave the man a thumbs up for his courtesy. We both nodded in agreement and wished more motor homes would do this!
Barry pointed out some farms and remembered the pub in Horsehouses where he saw Tina first get sloshed. It’s been downhill since then hasn’t it mate especially when I turn up eh? We pass along the lip of some pretty beak land now for a while, there isn’t a dwelling or barn in sight, this is called Walden Moor, maybe I’m being a bit unkind but with today’s murky top cover and the ever present rain that’s how it looks! It’s a bleak twenty minutes before we arrive back at Kettlewell for a last pot of tea and a chat with the owner and his daughter about our day and the road conditions, we looked back over the video footage and giggled like two big kids, bloody hell what a great day we’ve had messing around with Janet. She behaved herself and came through with flying colours.
What bit of light there was began to fade, it was just after four so we made our way back along the opposite bank of the River Wharfe. We kept up a nice pace and dodged under Kilnsey Crag rounding the bend and cracking on towards Skipton then the bypass to Keighley and the clubhouse. I thought I’d stepped into the wrong house for a moment; Tina was changing her hair colour again and looked like The old Lady of the Lane. I’m confident she will look beautiful again in 24 hours, it was just a bit of a shock and I’m sorry for laughing and taking a photo. Yes I still have it so you’d better behave young lady!
I took a shower and had a last cuppa before I changed into my bike kit and said goodbye to my fellow explorer before setting off home on the last 60 miles in darkness and rain. The M62 and M18 was quiet so toddled along at 70 mph before landing at about seven in dry South Yorkshire but guess what? My ass was wet again!
I know today wasn’t a bike thing but an adventure I thought you might like to read before we start the biking season, a plus side also was that we saw the condition of our little roads, I have to say because they are not used as much that they are in a much better condition than the A roads believe it or not!