Today’s fieldwork for the Yorkshire Dales guidebook update involved the world’s oldest sweetshop, a remote cul-de-sac pub, a hidden gem of a gorge, plenty of lovely scenery, and a hedgehog abducted by aliens.
I cycled up Nidderdale from Harrogate via Ripley, a pretty village I’ve blogged about before. I enjoyed a pork pie from the shop – it was a bit chilly for ice-cream – and was delighted to be told about the Deliberate Mistake in the church’s decorated Victorian ceiling, which will add intriguing detail to the book update.
I’ve always considered Pateley Bridge a one-street town. On many previous visits I’ve admired the penny-farthing adorning the sweetshop that has been rotting customer teeth since 1661. But this time, research made me explore some of its side alleys and lanes.
In among them is Nidderdale Museum, a super little place run by volunteers and packed full of genuine old stuff donated by locals: tremendously detailed recreations of early-twentieth-century cobblers, joiners, haberdashers and much more.
I was particularly happy to see the transport section, featuring a monster trike circa 1904, and the bike used by a local cobbler, Chris Binks, who rode over from Coverdale every day to do his household rounds – an epic moortop journey, especially considering he carried a huge gladstone bag on the handlebars.
Gouthwaite Reservoir was a fine ride today, though I was disappointed to see the Yorke Arms – lauded in the last edition of the guide as a classy pub-restaurant – closed to the public in 2020; now it only provides its outstanding cuisine to groups by arrangement.
But Lofthouse and Middlesmoor, neighbouring villages at the end of the no-through-road up Nidderdale (and we mean up: particularly Middlesmoor, topping a 25% climb), are as charming as ever.
I had a quick pint in the Crown. (The one in Middlesmoor, not Lofthouse. Confusingly, most pubs round here are called the Crown.)
I camped at How Stean Gorge, a vertiginous gem where you can abseil, canoe, canyon, via-ferrata, and other daring verbs. You can also walk the gorge, though the admission for the specially built walkway is as steep as the sides: £7, which works out about a penny per metre.
So I enjoyed glimpses of the gorge from the road alongside, and the dramatic views underfoot through the glass floor panels in the good, friendly onsite cafe.
The evening supplied an unexpected encounter. I was woken up by the sound of my food bag rustling in my tent porch in middle of night. Thinking it was the wind, and not wanting to be disturbed further, I brought the bag inside.
Later, I went outside the tent to look at the stars. (That’s a euphemism, but also true.) Clambering back inside in the dark, I put my hand on something prickly.
Ah. That rustling had obviously not been wind, but a hungry hedgehog. A hedgehog I’d accidentally put inside my tent.
So I put it out, still curled up in ball, and set out a portion of banana and berries for it. It was all gone by morning, so the animal was presumably none the worse. And now it has stories to tell its disbelieving friends about how it was abducted by aliens while out foraging…