It had been a very, very cold night. I had to wear all my clothes and draw the sleeping bag up and round my head (as I now realised it was designed to do). I managed to doze just enough, and was all packed up and ready to go by half eight. There was nobody at reception this morning as there hadn’t been last night, so I couldn’t pay even though I wanted to. Does this count as a wild camp, then?
In Settle it was market day. It was a bit average, I thought: cheap manufactured stuff, bags, stationery tat, second hand tat… there were one or two reasonable cheese/fruit and veg stalls, though, and I bought some picnic fodder for later on. There was a bookstall too, in case I needed something to pass the time while, say, pushing my bike up a long climb.
Victoria Street and Albert Hill sound like a 19th-century pair notorious for something, eloping or poisoning or something. They’re actually thoroughfares out of the Settle on the WoR, but certainly notorious: they’re both Yorkshire-steep.
Hauling my heavy bike up was sweaty, slow work, and I pushed a lot. Sheepy Pennine views at cool, cloudy, rolling tops rewarded me.
There was an excellent downhill into Airton, which made me think uncomfortably of the racing driver Senna, especially when I looked at the dry stone walls. But there was good visibility, no nasty bends, and I could fly down – though the slightly soft caliper brakes made me wary: I can see why those who aim to use their pensions one day prefer V-brakes or discs.
It was all gently rolling Dales scenery with hill views. I had a picnic lunch in Cracoe, which didn’t resemble Krakow as much as its pronunciation might suggest, and did some laptop work downloading more maps over a teashop coffee.
There was a stiff headwind – so much for the prevailing westerlies – but I plodded through it along a lane that oscillated like a sinewave trace and, enclosed on both sides by dry stone walls, felt like a waste water conduit. I don’t know what that made me.
I snacked at Burnsall, a nice bridgeside village, its green overlooking the bridge gently buzzing with visitors. I snacked again at Appletreewick, pronounced ‘actually it’s pronounced “ap-trick”’, and admired its church with cycle parking. I was put in mind of one of John Major’s 1993 list of quintessentially English things: ‘long shadows on county (cricket) grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers… old maids cycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist’.
Talking of which, it was now misty, grey and damp, and threatening drizzle. I groaned up a big tiring climb to wide, sparse daletop scenery, gawped at by sheep. I passed the caves on Greenhow Hill and then had more reason to rue my underpowered brakes as I gritted my teeth down the 1 in 6 plummet into Pateley Bridge, where I had a quite superb scone and cream and jam, my sense of taste sharpened by the clear dales air, but also relief.
I’d originally thought Pateley Bridge would be my final station stop, but buoyed by the cream tea, I carried on. The manic nature of the moorland crossing – everything either a punishing climb or exhilarating descent felt like it was subsiding now, though there were still some nasty little climbs though.
The WoR took me along winding back roads past Brimham Rocks, which I stopped off to visit, and had all to myself. They’re an impressive sight: house-sized outcrops of ridged russet boulders, not fenced off or barriered, but just asking to be climbed by reckless, naive children and cycle tourists.
A few miles further on I found my inteded campsite, and my timing was perfect: I was nicely tired and ready to stop cycling after a good full day. But. Ah. No Tents No Tourers. Oh.
I had to strike on to Ripon, past Fountains Abbey and along some up and down back roads. Just outside the city – yes, it’s small but it has a cathedral – was a caravan and holiday home park by the river, but the friendly owner was happy for me to find a tent pitch between the trailers.
I walked into Ripon’s town centre, its handsome square dominated by an obelisk, and had a couple of pints. Blimey: to these jaded London eyes, it didn’t half seem quiet.
Miles today: 43
Miles since Morecambe: 78