For my last main day of fieldwork updating the Slow Travel Guide to the Yorkshire Dales, I took advantage of the last day of the year of the Dales Buses. I took the 875 direct from York to the top of Wharfedale (a three-hour journey via Leeds, Ilkley, and then some spectacular scenery; it goes on all the way to Hawes) and the 822 back from Grassington to York (two hours of fine views via Greenhow Hill, Pateley Bridge and Ripon) cycling in between on a folding bike.
I started cycling at Cray, heading down the valley (downhill, obvs) towards Grassington. I detoured first via Hubberholmle, whose sturdy little stone church is the burial place of JB Priestley’s ashes, though nobody knows exactly where.
The Yorkshire propagandist, author and playwright is commemorated in a display inside, but I was also drawn to the fabric model of sheepy Dales fields, supplied by local knitters. (Cue needle-wielders crossly shouting ‘that isn’t knitting, it’s crochet’.)
At Cray I’d been saddened to discover that the renowned White Lion pub is closing down in a few days’ time. It’s up for sale, but its future is uncertain – yet another potential victim of the onslaught of Covid, energy prices, staff shortages and empty customer pockets.
So it was heartening to see, at least, that many of the other pubs down this and neighbouring dales – the Buck at Buckden, the George at Hubberholme, the Falcon at Arncliffe (aka ‘the Woolpack’ in early-era Emmerdale), plus Kettlewell’s Blue Bell, King’s Head and Racehorses – are apparently still going OK.
Two gloriously attractive journeys – well, apart from Leeds, obviously – for just £2 each under the current flat-fare scheme. Throw in a meat pie from Buckden village stores for £2 and I had a day out for £6, which wouldn’t even buy you a pint in London. Hah, take that, metropolitan elite!
Not that I did have a pint today, though, despite the profusion of those excellent Dales pubs with local cask ales. No toilets on buses, of course.
Priestley’s plays often explore timewarp themes, loops and distortions. Certainly there’s something timeless about much of the Yorkshire Dales, and it’s often not clear what the time is, or indeed the decade, in many of the pubs or on many of the empty back lanes and roads.
But whatever the case, I’m having a lovely time exploring them, and I hope I do justice to it all in the guidebook.