Monday, 23 June 2014

A Bus ride and Waterfall walk, Hawes, Wensleydale


Now that I have finished my trio of Welsh posts, I'd like to follow that up with a group of three individual posts. As with the last series, the reasons will become obvious by the third post.

I have been loosely associated with a West Yorkshire social and walking group for some time, My friend, known to you as the Scarborough Sandcastle manager has a similar friendship to the people in the group. The Leeds link asked him to organise a Yorkshire Dales day event and this is the ... err ... timing challenges that he came up with. Apologies for the ordinary bunch of images but due to the snapshots, constant catch up and exhaustion of the day ... I'm putting a bit more effort here into the autobiographical writing style on this occasion, hope the variety holds it.

At the start of the day, I had my unfounded doubts on some unknown variables such as how many people would turn out for an early start so far from their usual stamping ground and was the day too ambitious ?

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We descended with our cars in Leyburn and caught up with old friends before the vintage bus arrived from Ripon in mid morning. Thankfully there were enough seats for everyone.

It was a pleasant journey along some less well known roads through Wensleydale  from Leyburn in the East to Hawes in the west.

For those interested in the route here's a link for the current ...  Vintage Dales bus timetable

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Not the most vintage bus in the fleet but reliable nonetheless !
Essentially the bus covered the tourist hot spots along the way such as Castle Bolton, Aysgarth Falls and a connection point with the Wensleydale Railway car park at Redmire (above). A suitable photo opportunity and a quick stretch of the legs while we waited for the arrival of the train from Leeming Bar.

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On arrival at the Hawes Railway station car park, it was somewhat surprising to be greeted with the above scene considering that the railway currently terminates at Redmire.

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Transport of the past going to places in the future !
On closer inspection, it turned out that this was a static exhibit realising the dream for the public of the hopefully not too distant future... I was left wondering whether in turn that would retire the vintage bus service for good.

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The narrowest but longest shop award ... in my opinion
Readers may remember that I've been here before in an autumn deluge of rain ... (Hawes 2010)  and covered a few shots and history of the town including the rope makers. The weather was that bad on that day that I chose not to photograph the front door of the unusual Ropemaker's shop. Hope this redresses the balance.

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Enough of transport and history, it was time to stock up on some packed lunch as there was no time to shop in Leyburn. We were inspired to pick up some local delicacies in this Butcher / Baker's shop.

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Can I have some please ?!
Unfortunately though not everyone was welcome in the shop despite the longing eyes wondering what the contents of the paper bags were.

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My friend and organiser for the day is known for his walks and to be fair the next leg of the journey was only a flat 4 miles (6.4km) round trip on flat terrain to a waterfall. The group of 9 people that turned out from the Yorkshire social group (plus myself, the organiser and another friend) had experience in walking and those that were just interested in tourism seemed to stay away.

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Despite the short distance, there was always the thought in the back of my head about what time the bus departed at and whether or not this short distance was achievable or not. The scenery was quite pleasant anyway crossing over the fields.

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It wasn't long though before we arrived at the toll point of The Green Dragon Inn.

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13th century Inn

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The land to the rear of the pub which includes Hardraw Force is maintained by the owners of The Green Dragon Inn. A quick look at the website reveals that the fee has increased with inflation to the princely 2014 sum of £2.50.

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Hardraw Force at the end of a short wooded ravine walk is reputed to be England's highest single drop waterfall. Visiting here on a school geography trip when I was about 14 years old, I remember walking behind the waterfall on a ledge. Sadly today with erosion, water spray, slippy rocks, Health and Safety, that is no longer possible or even inviting for that matter.

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Time for lunch followed by a communal dessert sample of Yorkshire Curd Tart that one kind person bought in the shop earlier.

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... and enough time to sample the delights of The Green Dragon before the walk back to Hawes.

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We made good time and had about 30 minutes spare to have a quick look around before the bus departed. It was an opportunity to catch anything I missed or couldn't take because of the weather on the previous occasion. Come to think of it, I've never ever been here on my own before to look ... and wait ... for the best shots, it's always been a rush !

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As I didn't have the time to lose myself in what I was doing I opted to retake the shepherd sculpture in the middle of the street.

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Accommodation all full !
 It is apt to mention at this point that the Tour de France cycle race has an opening leg in a foreign country and this year part of that is in Yorkshire. Le Tour passes through Hawes on July 5th 2014 en route to Swaledale at the northern end of the clockwise Dales circuit.

The bus journey back to Leyburn between 3 and 4pm seemed less memorable than the outward one partly because we were covering the same ground in reverse, but more importantly with the talking all done and the constant drone of the engine, most of us to nodded off for a snooze at various intervals.
However everyone had a rude awakening on the rickety approach turning off the main road and award winning reversing manoeuvre into Redmire Railway station car park.

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One thing that kept me going was the thought of a pub meal at 6pm in Leyburn square. However little did I know what was in store for me next. Some of the girls fancied the freedom of a 1 hour shopping spree ... not something that readily comes to mind in Leyburn considering the flagship shop is an Ironmonger !!
The town wasn't conducive to photography as there were too many cars parked everywhere so I went with the alternative plan from my friend who doesn't give up easily on walking.

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Pen Hill through the trees
The Leyburn Shawl walk is one of the most subtlest inclines and is essentially an extension of a walk to the park where the visitor is constantly enticed to go a little further for a slightly better tree free view. I knew I had to do this option as I was the reins on this walk that looked like galloping away and missing the 6pm gastro appointment. I distinctly remember saying "We need to go back, it's 5 o'clock now" and "It's ten past five now" !! The downhill section in 50 minutes seemed more acceptable !!

We were met by the shoppers 3/4 of the way back in the park who didn't know what else to do, so thought they'd wait for us with the immediate view of Wensleydale to enjoy.

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All in all it was a great day out, but we hardly had any slack in the timings to send a postcard ...

... and we could have done with the services afterwards of one of the Leyburn businesses...

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

A bike ride around Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), North Wales.

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Bala is known as an activity destination to the lover of the outdoors with the Lake at the southern end of town being the beauty spot attraction. The weekend I signed up for with the group of people I was partly acquainted with, but largely didn't know, was an activity weekend involving canoeing, cycling and badminton. The accommodation we were staying at offered Table Tennis, Volleyball and Putting.
As there was enough focus, time and expense on the first three afore mentioned activities, the group gave the nearby exciting White water rafting (www.ukrafting.co.uk) a miss this time.

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I shared a room with another three men, one from Manchester who liked his bed !!, he had a friend who seemed illusive to his room and everybody else and someone from Leicester who liked early morning walks amongst the other sports activities he indulged in.

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On the saturday morning, as I was rousing from under the duvet, I heard Leicester lad rustle out of the room at an unearthly hour ... well it was a long car journey the previous day and social interaction with so many new people (that seem to know each other from past experiences) can be tiring after a day like that.

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He returned later with excitement in his voice as I was about to leave the room for an amble down to breakfast. Recognising that I had been wielding a camera on images of the house (previous Bala post), he inspired me to get up sooner the following morning to watch the mist burn off the lake with the rising sun.

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I was inspired enough to join him for an early morning sunday walk and share in the additional spectacle of Bala Lake beauty.

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The assistant co - host for the weekend joined him for an early morning chat at a picnic table while I was otherwise engaged !!

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Along with the title image, the last shots before breakfast.

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My Saturday morning machine !
Just to fill you in on some biographical background, My walking friend that I have referred to in many posts (aka The Scarborough Sandcastle manager !) had not only encouraged me to go on different social walks as opposed to the mountainous solo routes I did, but he also encouraged me to buy a bike on numerous occasions over the years. He had an idea in his head that a group of us could go cycling for the day in nearby countryside.

I had the thought in my head of buying a bike when I moved house in early 2006 as I was 5 minutes ride away from a long distance cycle track. However the pressures with house renovation, refurbishment and regular trips to Bristol at the time kept the reality at a distance for quite a few years. I had a bit more time on my hands in 2010 and caught up with both some serious solo and group walking, a bit more with the camera and ... errr ...  I started writing a blog ... haha. (so many blogposts in that last sentence !!)

This advertised activity weekend appealed to me as it included the optional bike ride around Bala Lake. The number of people were limited proportionally to the amount of bikes hired from R.H. Roberts Cycles (7-9 High Street, Bala). At the time of booking the weekend those requesting the bike ride were allocated into groups of three half day sessions by the organiser and because I booked late, I was fortunate enough to get a cancellation on the saturday morning as a few more opted for the only session of canoeing. As I made a day of travelling to Bala on the friday, I arrived earlier than most at the accommodation and was asked by the weekend organiser to go and help collect the bikes just before the shop closed at 5pm. It wasn't the experience I had wanted to ease myself gently into ... cycling down Bala High street in ... errr ... rush hour as it had been more than half a life time since I was last on a bike !!

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There are many cycle routes from Bala, the professional would probably prefer the circular tough route over the hill to Lake Vyrnwy but as this was a sampler for a mix of grades, including myself as the least experienced, a 10 - 14 mile (depending on which guide you read) clockwise tour of Bala lake was on the agenda.

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The direction of travel was chosen so that riders could get used to the bike on the quieter roads before a half way coffee break, returning on sections of a main road where there were occasionally no adjacent cycle paths. All of the lake shots were taken in the first third of the journey where the views seemed more interesting, ideal stops for those unfamiliar with cycling !!

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It may be a surprise to know that this beauty spot has links with the industrial revolution as Thomas Telford had his hands on it. It was at one time the largest natural lake in Wales until he raised the level to assist the water flow of the Ellesmere canal. Not an obvious thought considering the Shropshire Union canal system is miles away and essentially in another country !! Regular readers will remember from previous posts that the engineer Thomas Telford was no stranger to Wales. There's a link to him in the right hand side bar of this blog under "Labels : general" with two pages of posts.

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In keeping with the engineering theme, that leads me nicely into the scenic Bala Lake railway running along the south east lakeshore. The only other occasion I have been in this location was when I pushed my holiday day tripping to the limit back in 1992. I just caught the train with 5 minutes to spare travelling from Llandudno by car.

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Slate mining was at one time one of the most common industries in North and Mid Wales. Railways were built to transport the slate on narrow gauge track. There are at least 10 of these narrow gauge railways throughout Wales (http://greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk) that now give the tourist a different kind of day out whilst attracting steam enthusiasts from further afield. Bala Lake railway doesn't quite fall into that category as it was once a conventional railway that was closed due to the infamous Beeching report of 1963.

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These days railway preservation is taking off as more than just a weekend hobby for engineers, but back in the day (1972), an engineer and a councillor had the foresight to see the potential in using nearby regional abandoned narrow gauge slate mining railway stock to start a business.

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Time for that half time coffee break at Llanuwchllyn  !

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Signal box moment
We left refreshed and ready for our assault on the main road back which I was now prepared for in many ways.

The journey to a bike purchase was a little more difficult as it wasn't a case of picking one from off the shelf. It was some time later when I could meet up with my friend and spend a day looking in bike shops. Other than my knowledge of a mountain bike versus a racing bike, it was a whole new world I was introduced to of the hybrid, the hybrid road and the hybrid off road. The first shop essentially had mountain bikes, the second had two suitable bikes, a budget version and a one well outside what I expected to pay. The final shop was packed with bikes but apparently none were suitable except one that I could buy from the internet site for trial ... I wasn't keen on that idea as I felt pressure to purchase. I was a bit despondent about it all and put the issue behind me as other life concerns raised their heads.

My interest was rekindled with the bike hire from Oban last year to Island of Kerrera (blog post ... A plane trip and bike ride) and my friend later gave me a magazine from a cycle chain store with an article about a budget version. I followed it through on my own but chose the next model up which took six weeks to arrive from the initial order.

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2013 ... investment !
Little did I know that the extras fitted onto the bike cost half the price of the bike again ... so much for the budget. Was I tricked ? ... my friend said it was an investment but I was pleased to wait for the better version.

In conclusion, buying a bike is never quite what it seems in the same way that I learned an inversely proportional lesson in photographing my first heron on the Bala bike day ...

I was maintaining a comfortable speed cycling into Llanuwchllyn looking for the railway station when all of a sudden I spotted a large heron in a field standing next to the river bank. Trying to bring the bike to a halt quickly, I just about fell off with excitement. I retraced my tracks quickly by about 20 - 30 metres and was delighted to notice it was still there, surely it would fly off as I got my camera out .... no, it was still there ....

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Then I noticed something about it that wasn't quite right, I had been tricked ... it was a plastic one !
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