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On the road again.. or, Northumberland to Derbyshire in one not so easy lesson

21 Oct

Back in the car again, and time to head back south. As you might expect, I don’t go the easy way..

Cross the Pennines (19)First off I drop down back to Alston, following a similar route to yesterday’s bike ride. It’s funny seeing where the cycle path crosses the road and dodges back into fields and woods on the old train track. The South Tyne disappears, and I find myself alongside the Tees in Teesdale, a wide glacial valley that takes me all the way down to infamous Barnard Castle. I’d wanted to stop at High Force waterfall, but there seems to be a film crew in attendance, so it’s onwards again. Now it’s time to zig again, and I cross right back over for a brief flirtation with Cumbria and dropping into County Durham before zooming back across the North Pennines for a while.

There’s something tremendously peaceful about travelling alone – there’s no need for words, no need to remark on what I’m seeing. Our words can limit our experience, and sometimes, it’s not necessary to use them – beauty just coalesces in a thumping torrent just above my heart, threatening to overwhelm it with majesty and gorgeousness.

Cross the Pennines (5)Butter Tubs pass is almost overwhelming – up until this point the roads have been beautiful, tranquil, lovely – but Butter Tubs cannot fail to impress with twists and turns to map onto to sheer drops and high cliffs.

Hawes (2)A stop for coffee in Hawes – the town comes to a standstill when hundreds of sheep are driven through the main street, herded by four collies and one little collie pup in training. This is quite clearly a regular town occurrence.

Ribblehead Viaduct (2)Another quick stop to photograph the Ribblehead viaduct snaking across the valley, and then time to drop down to the Peaks. We’re out of the parks, but my old friends Skipton and Keighley are still lovely, and there’s even a pretty bypass route round Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield, although I’m continually fighting Batman the satnav: once we’ve agreed a route he then decides he knows better and reroutes us without telling me he’s changed his mind.  We are going to have words at some point. “Turn around when possible.. let’s keep the Joker guessing”.

To The Peaks (13)Finally we edge into the Peak district, rising to cross Holme Moss. It’s windy here, and I’m not hanging around. Now it’s reservoir country. half a dozen reservoirs mark my path on the way down to Glossop. Batman routes me away from the route I wanted to take – on retracing my steps I find that Snake Pass is actually shut, and so as evening gathers I drop down into Chapel-en-le-Frith and then into my home for the night at Hartington Hall. It’s been a long, beautiful and awe inspiring day.


Once Brewed – Alston – Middleton in Teesdale – Barnard’s Castle – Reeth – Hawes – Ingleton – Keighley – Holmfirth – Glossop – Hartington


All the leaves are brown . . one day, three national parks

15 Oct

Falling Foss Waterfall (3)Time to move on. I pack everything back into the car and set off on the next leg of my journey – but I’ve been told that I should visit Falling Foss waterfall before I leave, so I do. It’s a fabulously tranquil spot – the waterfall is lovely but the surrounding woods by the side of a burbling and lively river are also a joy. The trees are starting to turn a wide range of browns and reds now, and the waterfall seems to be in full flow. The rain hits, and I decide to get on my way.

To Northumberland (31)Still following the bikers’ routes, I head off  across towards the centreline of the country. There are plenty of direct routes to get where I am going, but this is not a day for taking them, This is a day for savouring those swooping, soaring roads that take you a bit off the beaten track but still allow you to make progress. Some of them are straightline roads through open country. Some of them twist and turn as they hug the sides of hills, or weave their way through tiny villages. All of them are beautiful.

To Northumberland (21)I shun Darlington and Middlesborough for a line that drops me right into the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, stopping off at Aysgarth for another waterfall. My route takes me up through the centre of the Dales and into the North Pennines. It’s all too gorgeous to describe.

To Northumberland (11)I see sheep huddled in the lee of a wall high on the Pennines. There’s a sign that exhorts me to ‘SLOW! Free range children’. While painted tyres ask me to be careful – ‘sheep in road’ my eye is drawn to the 6’ snowpoles that will in a few short months be the only indication of where the road ends and the long slow rolling drop to the bottom of the slope begins. Up on the hills a row of conifers parades like a proud mohawk standing against the run of the mill hilltops.

To Northumberland (40)It’s another gloomy day, where rain showers stab across the hiss. But a slice of sunlight drifts lazily across the hill, promising new colours. If grey was the order of the day just a short while back, today’s colour is brown. The heather explodes with every shade known to man, while the leaves are starting to turn and bring their own vibrancy and colour to the scene.

To Northumberland (33)At some point I start to run low on fuel, and it’s at this moment that the satnav and I have a falling out – or a misunderstanding – convinced I have gone too far north across the Pennines at Muggleswick (still loving the names), I retrace my route ten miles over some of the most gorgeous countryside in the world back to Stanhope. I don’t want to go fast, I just want to drink in every moment. When I get back to where I was convinced I had gone wrong, it becomes clear that my determination to avoid the beaten track has failed me, so I turn myself north again. I’ve seen this road three times, but I think I could travel it every day and never get bored.

I refuel (phew) and make my way to my hostel in a little place nestling in the gap between the North Pennines and Northumberland Parks called ‘Once Brewed’. No, really, it ‘s called that. Curiously, if you approach from the east, the village sign says ‘Once Brewed’. Approach from the west, and the sign reads ‘Twice Brewed’.

There is a pub there called, appropriately ‘Twice Brewed’. I shall test it later.


Whitby – Falling Foss – Helmsley – Thirsk – Leyburn – Aysgarth – Hawes – KIrkby Stephen – Eggleston – Stanhope – Haydon Bridge – Once Brewed

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