And at the last minute we suddenly had 4 unexpectedly free days.
Except that on Monday night I’m still in the Lake District and Kane is working in Lewisham on Tuesday… The best option of course is to meet half way in Sheffield and escape to the Peak District!
This meant that I had one day to get from the Lakes to Sheffield, which is only a 3hr journey. I nearly went back the way I came via the Forest of Bowland but at the last minute changed my mind and decided to explore the Yorkshire Dales; that’s the point of van life isn’t it!?
After a lovely quiet night spent in a field behind a pub I realised I was parked under Pen Y Ghent, a peak I wouldn’t have noticed had Rachel not mentioned it the day before! I decided, comparing it to our treks over the weekend, that this would be a good ‘leg stretch’ for Tuesday. As I woke up at 6am and had little else to do, by 7.30am I was near the Peak of Pen Y Ghent. After a lovely chat with a gentleman having a rest on his morning dog walk I was first to the cloudy summit. Shortly I was joined by some ‘3 Peaks’ lads who couldn’t quite understand why I was up at that time, especially when I said that this was my ‘recovery’ day. Explaining that my future plans for the day revolved around finding cream teas on the way to dinner they decided I wasn’t completely insane.
And that’s what I did; I drove through the gorgeous Dales, happy that the van needs to travel at a stately pace; this allows for more viewing of the scenery, and less cleaning of mess on arrival. Aiming for Malham Cove I stopped to marvel at the epic rock, picturesque village and large scones. Then on to Sheffield for tea and puddings with cousin Jen. Where, thanks to the National Express, Kane joined us in time to finish up (the pudding player was a struggle even for us!).
Then Kane and I took the van off into the Peak District for a largely unplanned, on the hoof week of Spas, afternoon tea, crag hunting, climbing, geo caching and cinema going.
We did both some wild camping and the vans first campsite stays. The decision to do either is a very careful balance, the van is essentially off grid as long as I have fuel (although a solar panel shortly to be fitted will improve that again). For a campsite £10 seems to get you basic facilities (water or a toilet, probably not both) but the prices scale up quickly for little more than decorations (if there are gnomes out front add another tenner.) A hot shower can be found at some of the cheaper sites if you look carefully but ‘hot’ is a variable term. It was however nice to relax in the knowledge that we weren’t going to get moved on, a feeling I have not yet managed to quell when out in the wild. Interestingly I’m quite happy when staying in towns, the van disappears into the backgroundwhereas in the country I feel it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Maybe I just need to see how we go, we are pretty strict with the ‘take nothing but pictures leave nothing but footprints’ ethic and I tend to remove more litter from stops than I’ve taken with me. In addition a lovely Yorkshire lad (age between 8-11 at a guess) informed me as he rode up to the back to have a gander, ‘I just thought someone were aving works done, but it looks right cosy on the inside!’
Campsites, Cafes and Crags
Cafes (and pubs etc.):
I parked at the Golden Lion pub (http://goldenlionhotel.co.uk) when walking Pen Y Ghent, it looks like there’s a lovely little bunkhouse there and the pub has good facilities and provides dinner and breakfast (if ordered in advance). They are very welcoming to walkers, including dogs, but please don’t feed the resident Trotter – finally found somewhere that has a guard pig!
Tea and Scones were eaten at the Old Barn Cafe in Malham, it has a builders cafe feel which I like, welcomes walkers and dogs, and the portions were generous which is always a plus. Malham itself is definitely on my return visit list.
We visited Losehill Hall (www.losehillhouse.co.uk) for Spa and afternoon tea; I got an offer last minute through Groupon and have no real reference for cost comparison etc. But the service and food were impeccable.
In Sheffield we went to the Graze Inn (www.grazeinn.co.uk) for dinner , it seemed pricey to me but then the food arrived and I took that judgement back! There speciality are the flatbreads which are essentially large pizzas freshly made; we had Linguine and Salads which were fresh and generous. Oh and the pudding platter was huge and excellent.
We stopped briefly at Greenhead House farm in Oughtibridge, this isn’t really a site however for a tenner you can stay on a graveled area and have use of a loo. The owners are lovely and are shortly to have their own farm shop say up to sell their own home grown pork (it wasn’t quite ready when we arrived early May). At the moment it’s just eggs and we didn’t stay as the road was a little busy for me.
We stayed at Windy Bank Hall which actually had fewer facilities; it’s really just a field, but they have drinking water and a good set up for emptying the portaloo (which yes got used!). The field is well kept and there are reasonable flat areas, though some in campers will need ramps.
We also stayed a night at The Pudding Room south of the Peak District, our plan being to climb on some of the limestone cliffs in the south if the weather was good. Unfortunately it didn’t hold up well but for future reference this is a good site. The site itself is a little rough around the edges but the facilities are clean with toilets and showers. The main set up is the cafe and small shop which is small but really well set up with local foods and homemade puddings.
It was particularly windy last week so we were hunting for wind free crags. Yarncliffe is excellent, being low and a quarry so naturally sheltered, there is a little parking within five minutes of the crag. However being the ideal spot there was also a University group there, sadly taking up the crag and also doing what the guidebooks specifically ask people to avoid – setting up top ropes on the slab as erosion is already obvious.
We tried again at Rivelin but were stumped by the fact that the parking highlighted in the guidebook has a height restriction! There is parking on the road above the crag that’s around a 1-2km walk in, not really a problem but to be saved for another day.
We then went North to Wharncliffe outside the town of Deepcar – there is about a 15min walk in to the Crag which is through beautiful woodland and runs under or across an old deserted railway (depending on whether you follow the tunnels – there are stalagtites to find if you look carefully!). Be prepared for some boulder hopping when you get there as the terrain is a little rough, but being lower and West facing it was beautifully sheltered from the chill East wind. The routes are short and therefore terrifying as there is very little gear. I took particular affront at one route that stated it was an HS (Hard Severe) but unprotected! Apparently most people solo the routes on that section so I have no idea why they were given a Trad grade. It’s a good testing ground but one I probably would head back to only on a similarly windy day.