Bridgnorth and the Severn Valley

Weekend away to test out the new ‘cuppa shelves’ in the camper. We now have two small shelves in the corners above the bed to hold a morning coffee or tea so it would seem ungrateful not to get away and test them out! Our plan was to meet us with our Tribby friends, Phil and Jan, and catch up with news of their 6 week trip down through France and Switzerland and enjoy a bit of sightseeing around the Severn Valley.

Arrived at our campsite, The Squirrel, in Alveley just outside Bridgnorth on Saturday afternoon. The forecast was to see the tale end of Hurriance Bertha but the sun was shinning and all was good with the world. Just off the main road to Kidderminster there were 10-12 pitches set behind the pub and a bowling green. All looked good with the exception of a very small child who popped over and stole our step! Luckily the culprit was apprehended and said step returned amidst lots of tears and tantrums (hers not ours!). After an afternoon sat in the sun we had a meal in the pub followed by a few drinks, and were impressed that the pub was happy to serve 1/4 pints for those of us not able to drink in large quantities.

Sunday morning was fairly bright but storm clouds were looming. Deciding that it would be fine we dressed in waterproofs and headed to the Severn Valley Country Park. What appeared on the map to be a 10 minute walk turned out to be a mile or so up hill and then down the other side. Well worth the effort though as the park stretches for miles on either side, a total of 51 hectares. Well maintained footpaths lead you down to the river itself where the Severn Valley Steam Railway runs alongside the river and a multitude of paths and trails. At this stage Bertha kicked in with vengeance – it wasn’t just raining, it was hammering down, accompanied by thunder and lightening. We decided the best plan was to head for a cafe at the station, this would have been a good plan if our route has arrived at the station rather than a Halt.  By now we were all soaked so Plan B and head back whence we came to the visitor centre for well earned coffees and cakes and to try an dry out a little. By the time we left the rain had gone and the sun was out so we walked back to camp with steam rising from us as we walked feeling rather smug that we had managed 4.5 miles in the tale end of a hurricane.

By Monday the storm had well and truly passed so we decided to take a bus trip into Bridgnorth. A lovely market town in the heart of Shropshire, its split into two towns – High Town and Low Town. Whilst they are joined by a road they are also joined by a funicular cliff railway, the only inland one in the country, so that’s the way to travel between the two, only £1.20 return with amazing views. The low town runs along side the river and there are a few shops and cafes, we took the picnic option and bought supplies from M&S and sat on a bench by the river to watch the world walk by as we ate. Back up in the High Town we walked along the town walls and stopped for a quick look in the church of St. Mary, designed by Thomas Telford, before heading over to the main attraction, being the Severn Valley Steam Railway. Not sure what it is that beats the sight, sound and smell of a steam train? For us it was the icing on the cake of a fabulous day. The train runs down to Kidderminster but we were tied to a bus ticket back to camp so we didn’t take the trip (we will next time). So it was back up to town for a wander around the shops for an hour, plenty of independent shops and old fashioned bakers and delicatessens, before heading back on the bus for a well earned afternoon nap.

Monsal Trail

Last day today,  and to make sure if wasn’t a gloomy one we had saved the Monsal Trail bike ride for this morning, we have been looking forward to riding this one for several months.

Our campsite for last night and tonight is Beechcroft Caravan Park in Blackwell.  A beautiful site that has just undergone a £400k upgrade,  everything is shinny new and looks wonderful, we have a pitch on the top tier looking over the Derbyshire Dales.  Our reason for choosing the site was its close proximity to the Monsal Trail,  although it is only 3/4 of a mile away we didn’t know that it was down a very steep track on the Pennine Bridleway – steep enough for there to be an advisory notice for horse riders to dismount, which means way to steep for us to cycle.

We successfully pushed our bikes down the bridleway and arrived at the start of the Monsal Trail.  Yet another former railway line, this one was the Midland Railway line running between Buxton and Bakewell.    The trail has been open was years but a couple of years ago the four closed tunnels were re-opened and lighting put in. All together there are 6 tunnels, the longest two are just over 500 metres each – really spooky to ride through as despite the lights you cannot see from one end to the other.

The whole 17 mile trail is off road and runs through some stunning countryside, the views over the dales from the viaducts are amazing. Probably the best part is the view from Headstone Viaduct below Monsal Head, way to deep for me to be looking over the edge. Although a former railway line, as always there is a gradient. We made a slight miscalculation in that we started at the highest end of the trail. Therefore a wonderful run down to Bakewell but a slight uphill all the way back.

We stopped for coffee and cake at Hassop Station just into the return leg to build up the energy levels for the climb. The station buildings have been converted into a cafe, book shop, bike hire and restaurant.  Possibly the best and biggest piece of pistachio and apricot flapjack ever and also the purchase of a book with “30 Traffic Free Cycle Rides” so that should keep us going for a while.  After our break we set back out and the trail had gotten really busy with walkers and cyclists, whereas on our way down we hadn’t seen more than 1 or 2 people the whole way.

We were  nearly at the end of the trail when a small puppy escaped its lead and came chasing after us. Iain shouted me to stop, I did so a little too quickly and I was off.  A fair part of my knee is  still down on the trail, we have spent half an hour removing the gravel that I brought back in my leg, however the bandage does look impressive 🙂   Home tomorrow morning before any more ailments (still smothered in midge bites that are not going down) but loving Yorkshire and Derbyshire for the brilliant holiday they supplied. As Arnie says – “we’ll be back”.

The Longdendale Trail

Both Iain and the awning successfully made it off the roof last night. The awning is now stowed under the van, will try and jam it in tomorrow when we move on. Iain suffered no ill effects from his stint on the roof – I on the other hand am smothered in midge bites several of which have been swelling beautifully all day.

This morning we woke up to an absolute scorcher of a day, so we took the bikes off and went out to find the Longdendale Trail. The trail was only a mile from the campsite but the direct route meant us cycling down the Woodhead Pass. As its like the highway to hell with so many lorries and no pavements or hardshoulders it was never going to be worth the risk for us. Instead we took the diversion up the Pennine Way (pushed the bikes) down a flight of steps (carried the bikes) and through a small wood (wobbled on the bikes) then finally cycled across the dam to reach the trail.

Longdendale Trail

Longdendale Trail

Woodhead reservoir

Woodhead reservoir

All worth the effort as the trail is on the opposite side of the reservoirs to the road and totally traffic free, brilliant views of the five reservoirs along most of the route. Just over 15 miles in total its on the former Hadfield to Woodhead train track bed. First off we went down to the Woodhead Tunnel end. All closed up now and where the trail ends so we then turned round and headed down to Hadfield at the other end. The trail is part of the coast to coast Trans Pennine Trail, the Pennine Way also crosses it so its really busy with walkers on both routes plus cyclists.

 

No cafes on route so we made do with our picnic and were then back at campsite early afternoon. I am currently feeling totally vindicated in wimping out on the cliff edge part of our hike the day before yesterday – the yellow sea king rescue helicopter has just spent half an hour winching someone off from that cliff.

Half way on the Longdende and a bit hot

Half way on the Longdende and a bit hot

Tomorrow its time for our last move and we are going further down into the Peak District near Buxton. We have 2 days there and our plan is to get the bikes off and ride a trail we have been wanting to do for ages – The Monsail, before its time to head home.

A day out in a tunnel

For our day of rest today, we did a trip in a tunnel! Iain’s choice, how better to spend the sunniest day of the holiday so far than in a tunnel? The tunnel in question was to be fair no ordinary tunnel, it was Standedge Tunnel at Marsden on the Huddersfield Canal. Its 3.2 miles long and is the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in the UK (and, except a slightly longer one in France, in the world). The boat trip right through in one direction takes 3 hours – luckily we did 500 metres and that took 40 minutes for the round trip. All I can tell you is its very dark, fairly cold, not that straight and a bit damp. Worth a visit? Yes for £4 its an experience and the cafe outside sell lovely coffee and cakes.

There was a converted mill building on the site which house a canal exhibition and the whole top floor was a craft shop and workshop, more to my liking. We have passed over the A62 before and didn’t realise that Marsden even had a town centre as such, its just off the canal and worth a visit.

To get to Marsden we went over Holme Moss where the roads are still covered in TDF slogans. The summit is at 1719 ft above sea level and the views stretch for what must be 60 miles. We saw at least 50 cyclists emulating last weekend trekking up the hill, we made do with sitting smugly at the viewpoint with a coffee discussing whether we could ride up it and if so how quickly (we so couldn’t really but its ace to pretend).

TDF graffiti

TDF graffiti

Holme Moss - still full of cyclists

Holme Moss – still full of cyclists

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Holme Moss views

Holme Moss views

Also on route was Holmfirth and we had intended to stop and have a look at Compo and Cleggy’s haunts, the cafe etc. However we met another campervan couple who told us they went the day before. They went on an organised coach tour as all the places on the tv series are spaced out over 8 miles and most of the buildings you couldn’t recognise without being told what they were as they are radically altered just for filming days.  So that one was out as didn’t really seem worth seeing something we wouldn’t know what it was without someone telling us, type of thing!

Our day finished back at campsite where all was going smoothly until we tried to wind in the awning – its not going to happen. Somehow its stuck so Iain is currently on the roof trying to remove it, fingers crossed Iain does get off the roof at some stage this evening before he gets eaten alive by midges.

The Black Peak District

Wednesday morning we were away from Selby fairly handy as we wanted to spend our last week in the Peak District. We took the most direct, if least scenic, route over the M62 then down the M1 to the Woodhead Pass. Much quicker trip than we estimated and we arrived in Crowden by lunchtime.

We are back with C&CC at their Crowden site. A real little gem that takes 20 vans and another 20 or so tents. Lots of Duke of Edinburgh groups in and out but still fairly peaceful. Its just a few yards back from Crowden Reservoir and the Pennine Way passes the top end. Nothing else around, no pubs or shops for miles but luckily we had stocked up for the week on the way over.

Ready to climb a mini mountain on the Pennine Way

Ready to climb a mini mountain on the Pennine Way

This morning we decided that as were on the Pennine Way and it was a blue skies day we really should take advantage and go for a bit of a) stroll in Iain’s opinion b) hike in my opinion. We bought a copy map sheet from the wardens and headed out just after 9.30 in a northerly direction. An easy amble for the first 1/2 mile then things got a bit steeper. It was literally like steps carved out of the hillside and it went on and on until we reached a plateau and then more climbing! The views are incredible in all directions and the track is right under the Manchester flight path, the planes coming in seemed nearly close enough to reach out and touch. Other than a few sheep and some ravens it really does feel like being a million miles from civilisation.

The Pennine Way

The Pennine Way

After 2 hours we were at 1750 ft and the path went way to close to a sheer drop for me. To be frank I bottled it there was no way I was risking the next bit, not so much the going up that bothered me, more the how the hell do you get back down! There was another path to our left (obviously trodden by the other like minded cowards) so we took that for a while out onto Middle Edge Moss at the southern end of Saddleworth. We stopped for a half hour lunch break near Chew Reservoir then started the long haul back. Its so much tougher coming down, a guy with two dogs raced past us making us look like a right pair of old slow coaches stumbling along. We had a few stops on the way down to admire the views over the Moors and catch our breathe as it was way too hot to be clambering around on rocks by mid afternoon.

Made it back to buy a celebratory Magnum lollies by 3 o’clock and now sat watching other walkers on their way down, most of whom long somewhat fresher than us. Tomorrow is definitely a rest day.

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Selby-York-Selby bike ride

The bike path from Selby to York is 15 miles, it was going to be slightly longer as our campsite was a few miles out of town on a farm. We set off for town, I think the TDF has been sending subliminal messages to Iain that he is part of the Tour as he shot off at top speed. Managed to catch him up in town where we saw the first signs for the route. All good except there was a diversion to follow. I took the lead and we were doing really well until several miles on the sign ahead said Hull ( the sign behind us said York – ooops). So apparently I had taken a few wrong turns and Iain took over and found us a route back towards the intended cycle path.

This was one to cycle

This was one to cycle

Once we found Cycle Route 65 it was brilliant. Part of the Trans Penine Trail it followed a former rail track and was away from the roads. A gentle incline all the way but we saw this as a positive as it meant a decline going back. The cycle route goes right through York racecourse, a bit surreal as you cross the track, then a short section through a housing estate then just before you are in the city centre you pass Terry’s of York. An awesome building that is now closed up and for sale, hard to describe the scale other than to say it would dwarf most stately homes.

We arrived in York 21 miles after leaving the campsite and parked ourselves on a bench by the river just up from Rowntree Park. Time for a scoff of our picnic and a rest to ease the aching bones. We decided against traipsing into the city with bikes and thought we would aim for a leisurely ride back and a stop for a coffee.

The only place to stop was Naburn Station cafe. No longer a station its the house in the old station buildings. No one at the cafe but it was a ‘trust hut’, help youself to tea, coffee, cakes, ice-creams etc and just leave the money in a tube. The set up was brilliant, really eclectic with the hut looking like something from the Caribbean and the furniture in the garden like Central Perk withe sofas and garden chairs dotted around the side of the bike path (will post photos when we next have internet).

We left Naburn and the heavens opened – no coats of course so we rode as fast as we could between the tree covered sections to dodge the rain. After half an hour the sun was back and we made it back into Selby mid afterrnoon. A few miles later we were on the campsite, an absolutely brilliant ride that in the end totalled 41 miles. Well worth the effort to see bits of York other than the city centre and a fabulous cycle path made all the better by the amazing Naburn Station.

 

Naburn Station Trust Cafe - on the Selby-York cycleway

Naburn Station Trust Cafe – on the Selby-York cycleway

Whitby was wet

Sunday morning was a bit overcast. So we decided on a driving day and headed to Whitby. On arrival its ceased being overcast and instead became downright wet. A gentle stroll along the north cliff looking down over town for half an hour then we decided to head inland for some sunshine.

Yorkshire Moors are a fairly bleak landscape but on a misty day even more so. Not sure whether the cloud was low or the moors are high, either way at times it was just plain eerie. When the sun did pop out there is some stunning scenery. Grosmont is a bit picture postcard, especially as the steam train had just pulled in as we arrived. The roads over the moors are a tad challenging – even in our little campervan the narrow lanes, tight bends and very steep hills made for some fairground style driving at times. We skirted Goathland as we have been before and posed outside the Aidensfield landmarks as it was mid afternoon we were on the hunt for a campsite but not seeing anything at all.

We pulled over at the Hole of Horcum for a brief stop – an incredible natural amphitheatre (must be a mile wide). The blurb said it was formed by natural springs sapping away layers of limestone – or by a giant scooping out earth! We firmly believe the latter to be true :).

Finally found an ace CL just above Pickering. Marfit Head Farm had pretty much every thing in the space of 50 yards – donkeys, cows, goats, pot bellied pigs, ducks, the biggest scariest chickens we have ever seen and the facilities block in an old farm building that was like something in a 5 star hotel. And all for £11 – Iain is finding his Yorkshire roots and loving saving a quid or two.

This morning it was onto Pickering, a busy little market town that actually had a market on. We bought some scrummy looking bread and scones and went down to see steam trains of the NYM railway, the train for just leaving and the next one wasn’t a diesel so maybe next time. We had exhausted the town and market by lunchtime so went off to find somewhere to make lunch. Castle Howard signs appeared (home of Brideshead Revisited). Turn off the main road and step back 100 years, narrow roads through the estate with stone archways at each junction. We pulled into carpark and made some lunch before going for a look around. Sadly only the shops and. Cafe were free – £30 for the two of us to go in (“how much?”) so we gave that a miss and peeped over the wall instead.

Late afternoon and pitched up on a farm near Selby just South of York. Only us on site and its just about an ok site. Stopping purely so we can get the bikes off and make use of some the brilliant trails around this area tomorrow.

Pickering for the morning

Pickering for the morning

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