Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A series of randomly connected events

It all started back in the middle of last November.  We decided to fit one more trip with the campervan and the bikes up to the NY Moors before the end of the year.  I had my eye on a route starting in or above Farndale and I was on the laptop late one evening googling for likely looking places to park up on the Friday night.  It used to be you could camp at the Lion Inn at Blakey but they stopped that a couple of years ago.  Anyway, after a few attempts with different assorted keywords I ended up on  a campervan forum, where people mostly seemed to discuss knitting patterns and fishing and I noticed a post about a place called The Band Room in Farndale.

My curiosity was curiossificated and a bit more googling quickly led me to their website.  The Band Room ("the greatest small venue on Earth") is a wiggly tin hut that was built for the Farndale Silver Band in the 1920s.  Nowadays it serves as a kind of village hall but a chap called Nigel programmes music gigs there, mostly folky/bluesy kind of stuff.  As luck would have it there was something on for that Friday night - a solo violin recital by a young Icelandic violinist called Eva Thorarinsdottir. A quick exchange of emails and txts with Hilary and we agreed I would try and get tickets, since hearing some world class fiddling in a tin shed in the middle of nowhere seemed a surreal experience too good to miss.  And indeed it was.  We even parked in the car park outside for the night and strolled in with our bottle of wine to a couple of seats close enough to the stage to count the strings in Eva's bow (I hope there isn't too much innuendo in that statement).  And Eva was splendid - we became Eva groupies overnight and vowed to follow her career (though not as obsessively as  one of Hilary's friends follows that of Cliff).  We were treated to Bach, Paganini, Vaughan Williams and Ysaye (no I'd never heard of him either but he was Belgian and a mate of Debussy's ) and some others but I've forgotten who at the moment.  And we tripped back over the car park to the campervan, very happy and contented.

Saturday dawned foggy, as forecast, and we left the van outside the Band Room and headed out of Farndale up the 1 in 5 onto Blakey Ridge.  It was fortunate there were some beaters standing at intervals up the hill, waiting for the start of a shoot, as it gave us a legitimate excuse to stop a couple of times to chat with them,  without looking too much like we needed a breather.  We cycled up the road past The Lion, which was barely visible in the fog before heading out over a short section of Moor to White Cross aka Fat Betty.  When I was making various attempts on the Lyke Wake Walk, back in the 70s, we used to pass here in the wee small hours and sing Black Betty by Ram Jam.  And here it is, if you fancy groovin on down while you read the rest of this nonsense



And here is Fat Betty, err that's the cross I'm talking about (I could get into a lot of trouble here)


I should probably mention that in the half mile we had done off road by this stage, I had lost Hilary in the fog, she had come off a couple of times and I had buried my front wheel in a bog and flown over the handlebars. By the time Hilary had caught up with me I was rolling around in the heather clutching both shins and uttering some fairly immoderate language.  It was an unpromising start to the ride and the singletrack heading out from Fat Betty looked overgrown and uninviting, rather like this in fact


Singletrack from Fat Betty

But looks can be deceiving and after a very short distance it opened out into a splendid piece of track across Danby High Moor with fine views to the north and clearing skies. 


Danby High Moor

The route crossed the road and then started to plunge down and down (and down) into Westerdale.  So now we were low and as we had started low, we needed to finish low, only to get back there we had to gain all that height again.  This starts with a hill climb on road with increasingly fine views and an increasing sense of remoteness or maybe that was just due to my unfamiliarity with any part of the Moors north of the Ralph Crosses.


Looking north along the road out of Westerdale before it plunges down to the ford at Hob Hole

There is a dearth of photos from this this point on but we romped along as far as Baysdale Abbey (with no evidence of an abbey, not even a bit of ruin) before slogging up though some very clarty woods to have lunch in the sunshine up on the moor.  Some fast cycling on doubletrack with rapidly plunging temperatures, even though it was only two in the afternoon, brought us to Burton Howe.  East from here looks towards the start of the Lyke Wake, 10 miles away, and to the north, Roseberry Topping, one end of the White Rose Walk, stood out in the skyline


Burton Howe
Roseberry Topping is in the middle of the picture (yes, it really is!)

From here it was a short drop down onto the green lane, where I thought I'd photographed a monument to someone* but clearly I didn't as it's not there now (the photo that is, I'm sure the 8' high stone hasn't moved).  This is part of the Cleveland Way and an old road running down to Kirkbymoorside.  A mile further on is Bloworth Crossing, where the road meets the fast, flat section of the Lyke Wake Walk at
the course of the old iron ore railway that used to go down to Rosedale.  I think this was the first time I'd ever seen Bloworth in daylight.

From here we had a choice, although we had already chosen (well I had).  We could follow the Lyke Wake route west, round the head of Farndale, back to the Lion Inn and then down the road or we could go south along Rudland Rigg and take one of two off road routes that drop steeply down into the valley.  This seemed the more attractive option. 

Rudland Rigg goes on a long way (and much further than we went) and although the contours on the map suggest it's mostly flat, it had a surprising amount of unrelenting uphill, especially for the end of the day.  It also offers the rider a number of long and sporting flooded sections to negotiate, either by going through them or by doing a wall of death round one side or the other.  The descent into Farndale by the side of West Gill Head was satisfyingly fast and pulse elevating and was only marred by the sign on the gate at the bottom which said the land was private and we were not welcome and we had been photographed.  We didn't see a camera and in any case wondered what they were going to do with our mugshots.  As far as I can tell (and I checked when I got back home) we had come down a green lane, for which there is a right of way to all vehicles.  I suspect they were trying to put off the 4x4 off roaders.

This is nearly the end of the story except that as I drove into the office the following week, I had the radio tuned to Classic FM and they were advertising the final of the Northern Royal College of Music violin competition.  Eva had mentioned that the pieces she had played were also the pieces she would be playing in the very same contest.  And so it was that we ended up going over to Manchester for the competition final at the NRCM where we were treated to violin concertos by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and Brahms played by 3 hugely talented young musicians and supported by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.  Eva only reached the semi-finals and we didn't get the chance to hear her play a second time but she did win best semi-finalist.
And there you have it.  How a weekend's cycling in North Yorkshire led, totally unexpectedly, to two nights of culture.  The route we did was based on the Blakey Bank Circuit taken from the North York Moors Mountain Biking guide published by Vertebrate.  Our route was 22 miles and 2850 ft of ascent

*I've since found a picture of it here - the one with the big F - and some interesting facts about the area.

2 comments:

Phreerunner said...

Very good, Tony. Brought back memories of Lyke Wake Walks and many passings of 'Fat Betty'. Must return with bike...

Tony Bennett said...

Yes, I can recommend it. I did a lot of walking up there in my student years and revisiting the area on a mountain bike is a great way to get re-aquainted with the place as well as being a huge amount of fun. Like those for the Peak District, the Vertebrate guide has some excellent, well researched routes.