A Diary from the Dales – Part 1

With another Twittercamp over, it was time for us to head north again – as we have done for the last couple of years – as our school’s Easter holidays continued.

This time though we weren’t going as far, deciding this year to give Northumberland a miss and heading instead for North Yorkshire in general and the city of Ripon in particular to a campsite on it’s western extremities. This was a part of the UK we had barely set foot in before so were very much looking forward to it.

The run up itself was pretty straightforward – with the vast majority of the journey being straight up the A1, although a one car ‘pile-up’ at the A14 junction and the inevitable road closure meant us heading south first and joining the A1 further down.

I’d punched in Ripon on the sat-nav app and with our diversion we were looking at a couple of hundred miles or so. Trev took the wheel for the first stint, stopping after a couple of hours to replenish our tug Rosie’s dwindling reserves and to swap driving duties.

The earliest arrival time at the site was 2:00pm and with it being so small I didn’t want to risk arriving early and causing problems, so soon after we turned off the A1 we paused to ring and check. Fine, no problem, the warden said, our pitch was ready and waiting.

I checked the route on a map prior to setting off and it looked a straightforward trundle along a road to the south of the city, so was a bit surprised when the sat-nav steered us around the market square, but even more surprised when, on passing the town hall, the app announced proudly that we had ‘reached our destination’. Great.

And then it dawned. I’d not bothered to put the site location into the sat-nav, just ‘Ripon’. Pillock. Fortunately a large vacant loading bay gave us a chance to sort ourselves out and we were checking in just a few minutes later.

The complex is largely given over to holiday homes in the form of static caravans. There are two seasonal pitches and just seven hardstanding pitches for tourers, all with mains electric, water and waste hook up. Which would have been great if our fresh water hose was not sitting in our garage nearly 300 miles away. Doh. Leaving something behind is becoming a habit. One of these days we’ll turn up on site and wonder where the caravan is.1424467_530678873771241_2727094981791461439_n

Having set up, a foray to the nearest supermarket was as far as we ventured to stock up on grub for the next few days, along with a selection of locally brews for my seemingly never ending ‘research’ project.

The facilities are worth a mention at this site – they are fantastic. Clearly very new and immaculately clean, the shower cubicles are spacious although the push button fixed temperature showers can’t be cheated with the usual the awning peg/ladder combo. There’s also a laundrette with iron and pot wash area – all immaculate.

Wednesday and after a nice lie in, we decided to stay local, travelling no further than the car park by Ripon’s Cathedral. Extremely reasonably priced – for someone who lives in the south east anyway – at just £2.00 all day.

The Cathedral was the main focus of our interest looking stout and extremely substantial from the outside, somewhat of an illusion as it is not as tall as many.

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DSC_0019The original cathedral dates back to Saxon times – some 1300 years ago – but all that remains of that is the spooky little crypt. One can only wonder how many have passed through over the years, whether for prayers, or as visitors like us.

It’s well worth a visit – basic entry is free all though you encouraged to leave a donation which seems reasonable. A couple of quid buys you a permit to take photo’s and a guide at three pounds helps you make the most of your visit.

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At the front of the cathedral a narrow road led into the market square. Trev had spotted a tailoring repairs and alterations shop which I was on the look out for since the zip in a pair of my leathers gave up the ghost last week. Two pairs of heavy leather jeans may be excessive in a caravan, but I like to alternate – anything that is stretched to it’s limit across my substantial backside and thighs deserves a day off, if only to retain it’s shape. Anyway, I had them in the car just in case and they promised they’d have ‘em done by the weekend. Superb.

We spent another couple of hours strolling around the city. The centre is not big and under grey skies didn’t look it’s best but pleasant enough and clearly very functional with plenty of folks going about their daily business. Like many places we have visited, it would look so much better devoid of cars.

Keen to press on with my extensive research project, we called in at a pub for a couple before heading back. Timothy Taylor brew one of my favourite ales – Landlord – and this was available but I took the chance to sample another couple of their ales instead – Bolt Maker and Ram Tam. Both tasted divine and will appear on my Ale Archive. Eventually!

Thursday, and it was time for our tug Rosie to take the strain, although mercifully for her, without the caravan on her back as we made our first foray into the Yorkshire Dales.

First up was Richmond – a Georgian market town passing overlooking the River Swale and recommended to us by a friend on Facebook. Perched on the edge of the dales it is a real gem of a town, it boasts – apparently – the largest cobbled market place in England and the town’s name is the most duplicated in the UK with over 50 Richmond’s found world wide.

Whilst the castle was closed, there was a lovely walk around it’s perimeter giving fantastic views down to the river below.

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Clearly they breed ‘em tough up here – they need to. The sight of several old dears making short work of Richmond’s’ steeply sloping paths against a strong icy wind was impressive.

DSC_0109Next up was Reeth – another recommendation and further into the dales. Another real picture postcard of a place but the rain, which had been threatening had now appeared, so we didn’t stop, but pressed on.

We were heading towards Tan Hill, a high point in the Dales and home to a pub that can boast to be the highest in the British Isles at 1,732 feet above sea level. We remembered seeing this on some TV programme a while ago and I’d made a note on my phone, but had, predictably completely forgotten about it.

The weather got worse and worse as we climbed – driving rain and howling winds gave a stern reminder of how bleak – as well as beautiful – the dales can be. On a better day the drive would have been really fun, however the sight of the pub standing against the stark landscape was a welcome one. Of course there was no point coming all this way just to have a look….

That’s all for now, look out for the second part of our adventures in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales coming soon.

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