South Dartmoor CTC


Sunday 19 July 1987Weekend ride: Beer Youth Hostel Day 2Wet start
15 present: Richard Burge, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Philip Humphreys, John Iles, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Warren Masters, Jason Morris, Mark Morris, Mark Moxham, Andrew Simmons, John Stuart, Jeremy Weston
After a late start the rain cleared almost instantly and we all set off for the famous Buttered Scone cafe. Here we bumped into Exeter A-Section and we all sat out a short bout of heavy rain. After lunch at Woodbury Castle we proceeded to Dunchideock in the hope of finding the day riders.

Meanwhile, having found Gappah devoid of any sign of life, the damp duo who constituted the day ride (John Iles and Jeremy Weston) were soon on their way, enjoying the long descent past Mamhead before taking to the lanes to Exminster and Ide en route to the 'alternative rendezvous' at Dunchideock church. After about half an hour at this tranquil corner the first of the hostellers hove into view and the assembled throng was soon tackling the climb to Lawrence Castle.

The occasional gateway revealed extensive views over the Teign valley and it was possible to pick out the cyclists' spiritual home, Blackingstone Rock, on the distant skyline. The takings of the sweet shop in Chudleigh were boosted considerably as ample quantities of tooth-rotting stomach-churning 'goodies' (?) were purchased to provide sustenance for the homeward leg.

Tuesday 21 July 1987Evening ride: BroadhempstonDry / showers
11 present: Simon Barnes, Wayne Bolton, Richard Burge, Catherine Hopper, Richard Hopper, Toby Hopper, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, John Kettell (Adult, Devon), John Stuart, Neil Welles
Neil badly dented his rear wheel, making the brake inoperative, and the squeals of his front brake on the descents haunted us all the way round.

Sunday 26 July 1987Day ride: Mothecombe BeachCloudy / dry
14 present: Nick Buchanan (Adult, Devon), Richard Burge, Richard Hopper, Toby Hopper, Philip Humphreys, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Mark Moxham, Martin Olney, Andrew Simmons, John Stuart, Mark Williams
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of this ride, apart from the obvious pleasures of building sandcastles, was the discovery of the Erme Mill centre near Ermington. Open all the year round on Sundays this excellent new cafe will no doubt feature in more of our write-ups.

Friday 31 July 1987Evening ride: HolneSunny
14 present: Simon Barnes, Graham Burge, Richard Burge, Tim Dolley, Catherine Hopper, Richard Hopper, Toby Hopper, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Mark Morris, Andrew Simmons, Neil Smith (11, Devon), Andrew Welles (13, Buckfastleigh), Neil Welles
Our younger members coped well with the stiff climbs through Scorriton, where the now familiar dog was awaiting our arrival. The thought of another cuckoo chase at Venford was too much for Richard, so a return via Holne Chase brought us home before dusk.

Sunday 2 August 1987Afternoon ride: Avon DamSunny
10 present: Richard Burge, Paul Hamlyn-White, Richard Hopper, Toby Hopper, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Mark Morris, Neil Smith, Andrew Welles, Neil Welles
Our usual scramble across the Abbots Way provided the anticipated excitement for all concerned, with the usual water splashing at Cross Furzes.

Tuesday 4 August 1987Evening ride: Kingston HouseDry
14 present: Simon Barnes, Guy Colston, Paul Hamlyn-White, Catherine Hopper, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Toby Hopper, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Julian Juste, Mark Morris, Andrew Simmons, Colin Smith (9, Devon), Neil Smith
The outward route through Caddaford, Abham and Sparkwell introduced members to some new and interesting routes, but it was the return route that proved most eventful. Firstly, a lad on a horse raced past the group along Beaston track and left a couple of cyclists in the hedge: he then rode along with us, causing havoc all the way. Secondly, a passing tractor managed to remove young Colin's pedal near Well Farm! He managed to push up the hill to Chuley transmitter, however, and got home at a respectable time.

Saturday 8 August 1987Weekend ride: Camping at East Allington Day 1Sunny
6 present: Richard Burge, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Luke Rake, Andrew Simmons, Mark Williams
This year's camping weekend, which got off to a bad start when Michael was unable to accompany the youngsters on the ride to the farm, turned out to be somewhat disastrous: some of the participants seemed to think that the farm implements lying around the camping area were destined for the scrap heap and treated them accordingly. Fortunately the missing parts were later located, but it is hoped that the youngsters concerned will have learned how to behave on other people's property should they ever find themselves in a similar situation in the future.

Sunday 9 August 1987Weekend ride: Camping at East Allington Day 2Sunny
6 present: Richard Burge, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Luke Rake, Andrew Simmons, Mark Williams
We rode to Elender Cover where we joined the Day Ride.

Sunday 9 August 1987Day ride: Elender CoveSunny
11 present: Nick Buchanan, Richard Burge, Richard Hopper, Simon Hopper, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Luke Rake, Andrew Simmons, Mark Williams
The five from Totnes met with the campers at the destination, where there was plenty of time for swims and walks. The water looked particularly inviting from the overlooking cliff ridge, but a few were not to be persuaded to take the plunge.

Return was via Torcross cafe (of course), Forces Cross cafe (this is getting silly) and Corkscrew Hill near Tuckenhay. We regret to report that Richard and Simon Hopper chose the road in preference to Corky!

Friday 14 August 1987Evening ride: StavertonSunny
8 present: Richard Burge, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Julian Juste, Craig Nichols (13, Bristol), Darren Nichols (11, Bristol), Luke Rake, Andrew Simmons
A pleasant meander through the Colston Road lanes brought us to Staverton Bridge, where the footpath to Staverton proved too tempting to resist. Unfortunately there was insufficient time for Luke and Budgie to swim, so they made the most of stone-skimming instead. Return was via Abham and Caddaford.

Sunday 16 August 1987Day ride: Nutcracker StoneHot
8 present: Dawn Brewster (Adult, Bovey Tracey), Richard Burge, Philip Humphreys, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Warren Masters, Graham Moates
Philip Humphreys and Richard Burge
Richard Burge, going well on tea in Lustleigh Cleave
Richard Burge and Graham Moates, splashing each other
Graham Moates at the footbridge over the River Bovey
Philip Humphreys crosses the bridge - with caution!
Graham Moates leads Gary Johnson and Brett Jamieson over the bridge
The anticipated barbed wire fence and minefields at the entrance to the Lustleigh railway track did not, in fact, materialise. Instead we were greeted with a pleasantly gentle slope, completely free of obstructions. When the new road is completed the area will be far from peaceful, but at least some consideration has been given to the walkers and cyclists who like to enjoy the path.

The great adventure began shortly after departure from the Primrose cafe (it was a wonder that Budgie and Gary managed to climb the first hill after their tea-drinking competition). Firstly, however, Brett had to draw attention to himself by braking one of his brazed-on gear lever bosses, rendering his rear derailleur useless. He spent the rest of the day grumbling about the hills!

We took one of the footpaths that cross Lustleigh Cleave, discovering (when it was too late) that the area was overgrown with ferns and other tropical vegetation. The trek to the Nutcracker Stone would have involved leaving what there was of a path, so we decided to continue down the steep slopes to the river Bovey, gurgling noisily through the woods (the river that is).

An interesting footbridge, consisting of a slab of wood with a rail on one side, provided a useful crossing point when lunch and water fights had been completed to everyone's satisfaction. Then began the arduous ascent through Houndtor Wood to Becky Falls. Philip had a few problems with the gradient, as his shoes had very little tread on them - he seemed to slide back one step for every two steps he took forwards!

The final descent to the falls took us along forestry tracks and was particularly enjoyable. There was time for light refreshments at the cafe before continuing along a 'new' road from Manaton to Hound Tor: it was a bit narrow in places, so we had to go back when we met a large van. A very hot climb to the rocks themselves meant that another ice-cream stop was called for, but eventually we set off again for the return route via Cold East Cross.

Tuesday 18 August 1987Evening ride: Chalk FordDry
5 present: Simon Barnes, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Julian Juste, Andrew Simmons
Summer holidays seem to be taking their toll on attendances, but that didn't affect our enjoyment of the breathtaking Dartmoor scenery near Scorriton.

Thursday 20 August 1987Tour: Dales, Pennines & Southern Scotland Day 1 Devon to SlaidburnSunny
13 present: Matthew Burrows, Jeffrey Ellis (15, Barry), Chris Hall, Michael Hall, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Aidan Neary (12, Saxtead), Matthew Nunn (13, Debenham), David Parry, Stephen Parry, Mark Williams
Michael's first ever tour to the Yorkshire Dales got underway at Newton Abbot railway station in Devon where the six from Devon boarded the 11:10 service for Preston. The air conditioning on our carriage was faulty so the journey was very hot. We passed the time enjoyably enough playing Liar Dice.

Jeffery Ellis joined us at Bristol, but then we ran into a slight problem when our engine broke down near Birmingham! We had to wait a considerable time until a following train could push us into Birmingham. When we finally arrived, Stephen Parry was waiting for us. His brother David was too ill to join us for day 1, but he hoped to meet up with us after a few days if he was sufficiently recovered.

We were now considerably delayed, but at least we had an electric train for the final leg of the journey to Preston. Michael and Chris Hall were waiting for us when we arrived - significantly later than the planned 16:45. The ride to Slaidburn via Longridge and Chipping therefore turned out to be something of a mad dash, and even then we arrived after mealtime. Fortunately the warden had held our meals back for us: they were really tasty, with plenty of soup for everyone.

Our dormitory was a Spartan affair, accessed via an outdoor staircase from the courtyard. It really had character though, so the night was enjoyable.

Aidan and Matthew were dropped off at the hostel by their parents during the evening, so now our group was almost complete. Gary was suffering with a bad cold and David was still ill at home, but we hoped for better health as the fresh Yorkshire air took control.

Friday 21 August 1987Tour: Dales, Pennines & Southern Scotland Day 2 Slaidburn to MalhamSunny
13 present: Matthew Burrows, Jeffrey Ellis (15, Barry), Chris Hall, Michael Hall, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Aidan Neary (12, Saxtead), Matthew Nunn (13, Debenham), David Parry, Stephen Parry, Mark Williams
The courtyard at Slaidburn YH
The courtyard at Slaidburn YH, steps leading to our dormitory. LtoR: Matthew Burrows, Graham Moates & Gary Johnson
Taking the lane northwards towards High Benton (probably)
Aidan Neary in the street outside Slaidburn YH
The stream from Malham Tarn disappears into the cave system below
Investigating the sink hole near Malham
Friday morning dawned with bright sunshine, and we were all looking forward to our first full day of cycling. Graham was waiting around, joking about how funny it would be if he had a puncture - then to his dismay he found he had one!
We set off along the lane leading northwards towards Lamb Hill fell. The scenery was different to anything we had seen before, characterised by dry limestone walls wherever we looked. This was true Dales countryside, exactly what we had come to see.

Just as we were climbing the last hill, near Tatham Fell, disaster struck: Michael Hall managed to break a crank. This was not good news, and a bike shop was needed urgently if the day was to be saved. Jeffery kindly volunteered to push Michael along on the climbs - it was indeed a comical sight - but fortunately it was mainly downhill now to the junction at Forest of Mewith.

Being a local lad, Michael knew of a good cycle shop in the town of Settle, so to avoid delaying the group he set off eastwards along the back lanes to Settle while the rest of us continued northwards to High Bentham, which offered a good selection of shops. Aidan bought some athlete's foot cream from the chemist, then we bought cakes from the bakery and spent some time and money in the cafe - the wealthy ones even bought lunch there.

Three more miles brought us to Ingleton, where another bakery provided lunch, then we rode the mile and a half up the hill to White Scar caves. This was a show cave, very cold inside (like call caves) and very impressive. We were told how the original founder of the caves had struggled through cramped and submerged passageways for months to get as far as we were standing.

When the cave tour was finished we ate lunch outside in the sunshine and then headed back through Ingleton and on to Clapham, where Michael Hall had planned to meet us at 3pm. He wasn't there yet, but we decided not to walk to Ingleborough cave and Gaping Gill (a wide open sinkhole where a river drops into a deep cave) as it was a long walk and there were no potholers around to show us the way.

It was on the way to Settle that Brett managed to cause an accident that broke Mark's front forks. We hobbled on towards Settle, meeting Michael Hall on the way. He showed us to the cycle shop, Settle Cycles, which fortunately turned out to be one of the best we had ever seen. We spent hours in there - if only we could have such well equipped shops in Devon! Michael bought a new derailleur and Mark got his new forks fitted for £17. Michael had to drag everyone out when the repairs had been effected, otherwise they would have spent all their money!

The hills from Settle towards Malham were steep and not exactly what we wanted at this time of day. Eventually, however, we reached Malham Tarn, a huge lake from which a stream emerges. The reason for coming this way despite being rather late was to investigate some words on the map: "Water sinks". We followed the stream about 100 metres from the road and, sure enough, the stream just disappeared into the river bed. It was actually going down into the Malham cave system, emerging a few miles away at Airehead Springs. Sink holes are one of the typical features of limestone scenery and we were pleased to have seen one for ourselves, even though some of the youngsters thought it wasn't the most exciting thing they had ever seen!

After our busy day it's not surprising that we were late for supper - again. At least we felt we had some reasonable excuses. David still hadn't joined us so the youngsters were fighting over who would eat his meals!

The evening was passed with some games and a discussion about Mark's forks: the youngsters thought it was unfair that either Mark or Brett should have to pay for them, as it would have left them short of money for the rest of the tour, so they unanimously agreed that everyone would make a contribution! Michael was very impressed.

Some dramatic thunderstorms made an interesting display overnight for those unable to sleep through them.

Saturday 22 August 1987Tour: Dales, Pennines & Southern Scotland Day 3 Malham to AysgarthCloudy start, then rain
13 present: Matthew Burrows, Jeffrey Ellis (15, Barry), Chris Hall, Michael Hall, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Aidan Neary (12, Saxtead), Matthew Nunn (13, Debenham), David Parry, Stephen Parry, Mark Williams
Malham Cove
Malham Cove, from the start of the path
Some rock climbers, enjoying the Cove's challenges
Malham Cove
A tricky obstacle on Mastiles Lane
Aidan Neary & Matthew Nunn, taking a dip at Gordale Scar
Mastiles Lane
Michael Hall has problems negotiating the flood on Mastiles Lane
Mastiles Lane - the climb
Boggy sections on Mastiles Lane
Mastiles Lane - the descent
The beginning of the rocky descent of Mastiles Lane
Aidan Neary at Aysgarth Falls
Kilnsey Crag, just before the heavens opened
There was still thunder in the air as we crossed from our annexe dorm to the main building for breakfast, with heavy showers keeping everything wet. It was a little surprising therefore that the youngsters should engage in water fights as they got ready for departure. Jeff made a big mistake when he accidentally got Michael wet!

We weren't going to be deterred from visiting the interesting features of the area by the unpromising weather, so first stop was Malham Cove, a curved crag of limestone formed after the last ice age. Originally a river ran over the edge in a waterfall which, eating away the the centre part more than the sides, led to the curved shape. Now all the water sinks into the cave system farther back and emerges at the base of the cove. The water temperature is four degrees, and for some reason Graham and Matthew competed to see who could stay in the water longest. Judging by the rock climbers we saw, the sheer rock face is ideal for climbing. We noticed that the famous Pennine Way footpath passed right through the cove.

Next on our agenda was Gordale Scar, a dramatic limestone ravine just over a mile from Malham which also boasts two impressive waterfalls. A thunderstorm broke out just as we arrived, forcing us to take shelter under the rocks, and somehow we didn't then feel much like exploring. Matthew N and Aidan were determined to have some fun, however, and went for a dip in the frothing pool at the base of the larger waterfall. Needless to say, they didn't stay in long.

As soon as the rain stopped and the boys had dried off we set off up the hill for Mastiles Lane, a CTC recommended track that crosses Kilnsey moor. It turned out to be a kind of grassy road bounded either side by typical stone walls for much of the way. The overnight rains led to our first obstacle: a flood that stretched right across the path and offered no walking alternative. A number of us got wet feet, including Michael Hall who was even caught on camera. There were a few more boggy sections at the top of the hill, where Graham and Matthew had their usual fun, and the downhill section on the far side was quite rocky, but the views were excellent and all in all the track made a very interesting shortcut.

We reached tarmac again at Kilnsey Crag, a huge limestone cliff that actually overhangs the road. We found this quite interesting - but only for a few minutes: the rain started and showed no signs of wanting to stop. We raced the mile or so to the tiny village of Conistone, looked around desperately for shelter and ended up buying chocolate at the Post Office in order to have an excuse to stay inside. It was all rather pointless however, as the rain was just getting heavier. There was nothing else to do but accept the inevitable and continue with the ride.

Kettlewell looked like the kind of place that would have lots of cafes, and it was on our route, so we sped along the back lanes through the strengthening rain and scoured the village to find the best cafe for lunch. There was in fact only one, so we dived in, removed wet coats and settled down, feeling rather pleased with ourselves. When we came to order however we were informed that they don't serve meals on Saturdays! Great! And so it was that we spent an hour in the cafe eating nothing but toasted teacakes and crumpets. It was better than being outside in the rain though - and the hot chocolate was actually very good value for money.

We had planned to take the lane route to Aysgarth through Horsehouse, but in view of the appalling weather we opted for the main road, which was reasonably flat. Graham tried being clever by pushing Brett along while riding but ended up knocking them both off. What they couldn't understand was how Michael seemed to know about it even though he wasn't near them at the time! Fortunately, Michael has his spies in the group!

When we had climbed the final hill to the village we saw the hostel immediately. It didn't look much, located as it was right beside the main road, but it was excellent inside, with good showers and small dorms.

After a good meal there were, incredibly, more water fights, although this time Jeff seemed the main target. We then walked down to Aysgarth Falls during the evening. They were indeed spectacular today, more because of the huge volume of water than the depth of fall. The water was a kind of brown colour, but we couldn't understand why.

On return to the hostel Michael was not at all pleased when the hostel phone took 53p of his money without once connecting his call. And the youngsters argued over what David would be having for breakfast (he still hadn't joined us).

Sunday 23 August 1987Tour: Dales, Pennines & Southern Scotland Day 4 Aysgarth to DentdaleWet start, gradually clearing by late afternoon
13 present: Matthew Burrows, Jeffrey Ellis (15, Barry), Chris Hall, Michael Hall, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Aidan Neary (12, Saxtead), Matthew Nunn (13, Debenham), David Parry, Stephen Parry, Mark Williams
Hardraw Force
Prepaing to leave, at the rear of Aysgarth YH
Brett, Stephen, Matthew B and Graham, bathing in the river Ure, at Appersett in Widdale
Our youngsters behind the Hardraw Force waterfall
Dentdale YH
A train on the Dent Head viaduct, part of the Settle to Carlisle railway
Games in our cosy dormitory at Dentdale YH
Dentdale YH
The information centre at Aysgarth is not far from the falls, and since the rain was falling again we thought that a browse around its interesting posters, information sheets and postcards would not be a bad idea. Matthew bought several posters and the staff kindly packed them into a waterproof tube with several layers of polythene bags - he looked quite funny cycling along with the tube on his bike!

We followed quiet (but wet) lanes along Wensleydale to Askrigg with the intention of stopping at a cafe, and were rewarded with the best cafe of the tour. Just the descriptions on the menu were mouth-watering: "Toasted waffles oozing with thick syrup and topped with fresh whipped cream" for example! The decor was pleasing and prices very reasonable. When we emerged the rain had turned more showery but was still not ideal for cycling, so the shop next door to the cafe provided further entertainment. Matthew saw maps for sale at lower prices than he'd previously seen, and Brett bought himself some fluffy toy creature. But then, Brett buys a fluffy toy creature on every tour!

Another few miles of riding brought us to Hawes, and since it was still raining we went in search of cafes again for lunch. We ended up splitting across two cafes. Matthew felt pleased with himself when he ordered three sandwiches and was brought three platefuls of sandwiches. He wasn't quite so happy when he got the bill though - £3.50!

Hardraw Force waterfall, just a couple of miles from Hawes, was to be our main attraction today. Entrance was just 10p and it turned out to be very impressive despite the slight drizzle. Well of course there was twice as much drizzle near the falls, so the weather didn't really matter at all. We could actually walk behind this waterfall, allowing us to fully appreciate the huge power of the water - which was still a funny colour by the way. On the way back we had plenty of fun on the tarzan rope, swinging out over the raging river!

On the way back to Hawes we passed a delightful riverside spot at Appersett that for some reason proved too tempting for some members of our group, determined to have a swim even if the weather wasn't that great. We pointed out the colour of the river, reminded them that it was called the river Ure and that it got here through Widdle-Dale (Widdale actually, but our version sounded more appropriate), but still they went in. The sensible ones watched from the bank with great amusement.

Returning to Hawes, Michael H bought his tube of travel laundry-washing cream and then we set off up the B-road through Widdale. This was a long drag and took us past several spooky-looking deserted houses, but at least the rain seemed to have cleared up. We took the right turn at the top of the hill for Dentdale and quickly found ourselves confronted with an impressive viaduct that now forms part of the Settle to Carlisle steam railway. There was a train enthusiast poised with his camera so Steve and Michael J, who both like trains, decided to wait as well. It wasn't long before the anticipated train arrived and we all got a photo of it on the viaduct. It was only a diesel today, but it still made an impressive sight.

Dentdale itself is generally considered the most unspoilt of all the dales, and it certainly felt very special as we descended through tree-lined lanes to the hostel. Perhaps it wasn't surprising therefore that Dentdale youth hostel turned out to be the best of the tour in almost every respect: it was in a quiet, secluded location with its own grounds, there was a 2-metre waterfall nearby, the meals were excellent and our dormitory was very cosy. When the youngsters had finished playing in the waterfall we settled into our dormitory for some enjoyable games of liar dice.

David was finally feeling well enough to join the tour, and he arrived during the evening with his father. Now at last our group was complete. We kept our dorm window wide open during the night: the strong wind outside ensured that everyone slept soundly.

Sunday 23 August 1987Day ride: DoddiscombsleighSunny
5 present: Nick Buchanan, Richard Burge, Simon Hopper, Philip Humphreys, Andrew Simmons
With Michael leading the summer tour and Richard H cycling across Wales it was left to Andrew to lead the small band of riders from Buckfastleigh. After a personal call upon Richard B the group met Nick and Philip on their way to Chudleigh Bridge. Riding up the Teign valley the Section then took a different route to Doddiscombsleigh from Lower Ashton. On the way someone noticed what sounded like a noisy swarm of bees. Stopping, everyone poked their heads over the hedge to see a motor-scramble course complete with motorcyclists and a steep incline.

After watching one loud race the riders cruised into Doddiscombsleigh where Philip found he had a puncture. While he fixed it the others had their lunch and soon they were relaxing in the Primrose cafe in Lustleigh with a cup of tea. Returning via the old railway and the Bovey by-pass (part of it), Andrew and Simon managed to get back in time for the end of the great Buckfastleigh bed race.

Monday 24 August 1987Tour: Dales, Pennines & Southern Scotland Day 5 Dentdale to KeldMainly sunny, but windy
13 present: Matthew Burrows, Jeffrey Ellis (15, Barry), Chris Hall, Michael Hall, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Aidan Neary (12, Saxtead), Matthew Nunn (13, Debenham), David Parry, Stephen Parry, Mark Williams
Dentdale YH, from the road
The roadside near Dentdale YH
Brett Jamieson armed with his water bottle outside the cafe in Dent village
Brett Jamieson, David Parry & Stephen Parry on the limestone riverbed near the hostel in Dentdale
View into the next dale, Garsdale
View back to Dentdale from the climb near Dent station
Today's mileage was not at all high so we allowed ourselves a leisurely start at our favourite hostel before heading on down through Dentdale towards Cowgill and Dent village. Along the way we stopped to explore the small river that runs past the hostel and right down the dale beside the road. The riverbed had an interesting limestone bed that just seemed to be begging us to walk across.

At Dent we discovered another excellent cafe (Stone Close) hidden in a seventeenth century building complete with flagstone floor, exposed beams and home baking. It was situated off a delightful cobbled street in a village that had character and charm. Once again we were in no hurry to leave, but when the youngsters' now traditional water fight began to get a little out of hand Michael decided it was time to go.

We returned to Cowgill in brilliant sunshine using the parallel lane on the other side of the river, then Michael Hall and Jeff returned to the hostel to collect their shorts and socks while the rest of us started the climb past Dent station. We were reunited by the time we reached the top at Galloway Gate, and here, at a height of 537m, there was a strong wind. The descent into Garsdale was followed by a small climb, bringing us back to .. Hawes again! The youngsters are getting to know it quite well now.

It was here that Gary's tyre burst. Michael patched it up and fitted a new inner tube, and then we just couldn't resist another visit to that fabulous cafe. This was certainly a leisurely day!

The ascent to Buttertubs Pass was not so leisurely, and when we finally reached the top the youngsters rested by having a mud fight! Unfortunately Steve got in the way and as a result his camera was broken. He wasn't too happy, but hopefully everyone realised that their games were getting a little too rough.

An interesting group of fluted limestone potholes known as Buttertubs lies a little way down the other side. Michael did tell the leading riders about them, but they were so excited by the downhill that they flew straight past them by mistake. The rest of us spent a good ten minutes investigating their dark and dangerous depths and took great pleasure telling the others later what they had missed. According to the locals, the correct way to pronounce the name is "Boowta-Toowbs".

The descent quickly brought us into Swaledale. We turned left towards the head of the dale and soon found the remote Keld youth hostel. It didn't look too brilliant from the outside, being a bit on the tatty side, and it wasn't exactly fabulous inside either. But the wardens were very friendly and prepared good meals for us.

During the meal, which was served in the flat-roof extension at the front of the hostel, we were surprised to find what looked like a large fluffy cat wandering around under the table. Closer investigation revealed to our amazement that it was in fact a very large rabbit! The wardens told us that he was called Henry and was fully house-trained. Naturally we all fell in love with him immediately - especially Brett, who, as we all know, loves cuddly creatures.

Washing up took a little longer than usual when Matthew broke some plates. It wasn't really his fault though - too many cooks break the plates! Eventually we set off for our short evening walk to the Catrake Force waterfall on the river Swale. The path was a bit muddy after all the recent rains but the waterfall was quite good.

Tuesday 25 August 1987Tour: Dales, Pennines & Southern Scotland Day 6 Keld to Langdon BeckGrey
13 present: Matthew Burrows, Jeffrey Ellis (15, Barry), Chris Hall, Michael Hall, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Aidan Neary (12, Saxtead), Matthew Nunn (13, Debenham), David Parry, Stephen Parry, Mark Williams
Henry the rabbit, VIP pet at Keld YH
Keld YH
Mark Williams at Kisdon Force
Aidan, Gary, David and Matthew Burrows at Kisdon Force
Typical Dales scenery in Swaledale
Kisdon Force
Gary Johnson & Brett Jamieson
David Parry & Matthew Nunn on the road to Arkengarthdale
Matthew Burrows at the top of High Force waterfall
High Force
Langdon Beck YH, from the road
David Parry & Chris Hall at the top of High Force waterfall
View back to Teesdale from Langdon Beck
Our longest day dawned grey and overcast. When Henry had posed for several photographs we walked along another path from the hostel that leads to Kisdon Force waterfall. At one point there was a huge rock overhanging the path. The falls turned out to be a very scenic spot and kept us amused for a considerable time. Some swam (the water was very deep under the falls) and others took photographs but everyone enjoyed the visit.

Returning to the bikes for a rather late start we rode through Swaledale, passing Muker along the way, a village that is used in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small. We didn't have time for any cafe stops so we pressed on up the steep climb over Feetham pasture and an interesting ford to Arkengarthdale.

The village of Langthwaite had a shop where we bought various cans and packets and ate lunch outside in the chilly air. Then we were off again up another northwards climb that took us out of the Yorkshire Dales national park and onwards to the market town of Barnard Castle. Here we found a kind of bike shop come toy shop where Gary bought a new tyre, Aidan fixed his mudguard and others bought various bits and pieces.

Tonight we would be self-catering for the first time, as the hostel did not provide meals, so after a major purchase of food supplies from the excellent range of shops we pressed on through Teesdale, which took a good deal longer than we had expected. The ride was made more tedious by Matthew's blow-out and Gary and Matthew's first gear games, but eventually we reached our final attraction of the day: High Force waterfall. This was very spectacular, possibly one of the best in England with a 21m drop and a very respectable volume of water. We could even walk on top, although Michael insisted that nobody got anywhere near the edge of course.

A final few miles brought us to Langdon Beck hostel. It was located in a perfect setting, near the head of Teesdale where the valley becomes flatter. The hostel was modern inside with a nice warden and good dormitories. There was much mayhem in the kitchens on our first evening of self-catering.

Highlight of the evening was David fighting off Brett, Matthew and Gary in a play fight in the dorm!

Wednesday 26 August 1987Tour: Dales, Pennines & Southern Scotland Day 7 Langdon Beck to NinebanksHeavy rain all day
13 present: Matthew Burrows, Jeffrey Ellis (15, Barry), Chris Hall, Michael Hall, Brett Jamieson, Gary Johnson, Michael Jones, Graham Moates, Aidan Neary (12, Saxtead), Matthew Nunn (13, Debenham), David Parry, Stephen Parry, Mark Williams
We awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain beating down outside our dormitory window. The prospect of riding in such weather was not pleasant, so there was a subdued atmosphere amongst the group as we dragged out our breakfast for as long as possible. Eventually all our hostel chores were completed with our usual efficiency and the time came to set off. Waterproofs were applied and then we were off, heading for the top of the dale.

The top was just a few miles away and 220m higher, but this was almost the worst cycling conditions Michael had ever experienced with a group. There was cold, driving rain all the way to the top and right down the other side - they don't call it Windy Brow for nothing! We had to pedal downhill on some occasions. Our brave youngsters endured it all somehow and eventually we reached the town of Alston.

The chip cafe seemed like the best bet for hungry youngsters: it was very cold, but at least it was dry and the meals were reasonably good value. Not surprisingly we stayed in Alston for some time, taking it in turns to use the hot air hand driers in the public toilets to keep ourselves warm. We made a pitiful sight!

Michael was irritated that he had to buy a phonecard to use the public telephone, which wouldn't accept coins. Anyway, he made a quick call to the next hostel and obtained permission for us to arrive early - the warden said it was a simple hostel and we could make ourselves at home! With this encouraging news we stocked up with some basic provisions and set off once more with the rain still pouring down. After a while Michael J realised he had left his waterproof shoe covers (spatts) back at Alston, but there was no way he was going back for them now.

David, who was still not 100% fit after his illness, struggled up the hill, but at least it wasn't too far to Ninebanks. Never were so many cyclists so pleased to see the hostel, even though it was very basic. There was a single common room with an open fireplace, so the first task was to get a fire going. Once this had been done the place felt very cosy and we started the long process of drying all our clothes. Some of our less intelligent members clearly weren't too familiar with open fires and left their trainers too close. Several pairs of trainers melted that night!

Our dormitories were unfortunately in the annexe, situated on a bank behind the hostel: they were a bit cold, but at least there was an electric heater there that we could use. When we came to the warden for our pre-ordered milk he looked aghast, checked his records and admitted he hadn't noticed our order until now. He then proceeded to scurry around the hostel in search of dried milk which he reconstituted for us. He looked pleased with himself as he handed over several jug-fulls, clearly thinking he had solved the problem for us, but whilst we were grateful for his efforts, the stuff he had made up really wasn't a good substitute for fresh milk.

Shortly after that the gas ran out so he had to scurry around again to find a new gas cylinder. Then we discovered that his "shop", which was actually little more than a small cupboard, was virtually empty, so the basic provisions we had brought with us had to suffice for supper. To add to the other problems, David and Matthew succeeded in breaking a hostel mirror at one point during their horseplay, but they offered to pay for the damage so the warden wasn't too unhappy.

Despite all these difficulties the atmosphere in the common room was fabulous during the evening. We almost had the whole hostel to ourselves and spent the time playing various games by the fire. After one of the roughest cycling days we had ever experienced it was great to be tucked up warm and dry at last. We hoped that tomorrow would bring better weather, but this evening we didn't really care.

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