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Hijinks Ensue

Camping in Ribblesdale

Last week I went on a short camping/walking trip to the Ribblesdale area of the Yorkshire Dales.

I stayed in the field attached to the Helwith Bridge Inn near Horton in Ribblesdale. That's Penyghent in the background. The inn is next to the River Ribble and the Settle to Carlisle Railway, a particularly scenic mainline that was nearly closed in the 1960s but now carries a fair number of freight trains and a regular passenger service. Five minutes after I arrived, I was surprised to see the weekly steam train go past. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand.

Of course I took one of my classic camping stoves with me, this time my cute little Monitor 17b which I fettled last year but hadn't yet taken camping. There was a stiff breeze coming off Penyghent (some say the name means "hill of the winds") and I found the stove struggled a little without a proper wind shield. I later rearranged things so that the stove was low down in the porch of the tent and I sat outside, and it ran a lot better.

There was a gorgeous red sunset - this is interesting in hindsight because it was the day before the fuss broke over volcanic ash in the atmosphere grounding jet planes. I read for quite a while in the tent by the light of my new torch, then when I stepped outside to go to the loo I was greeted by a gorgeous clear night sky full of stars, and a very obvious satellite passing over to the east.

As well as the camping field, the inn boasts this cute little bunkhouse.

The next day I lay in until 8am, then had breakfast, made a packed lunch, and was out walking by 9am. I had considered driving up to Horton in Ribblesdale and climbing Penyghent from there, but after studying the OS map I decided to instead walk from the campsite up Long Lane (a rough track that leads gradually up the hill to the south of the mountain itself), and then later return from Horton along the river. This picture was shortly before I got to the steep bit of the climb; somebody has laid a wooden pathway over a boggy section of the track.

Here is the summit. The trig point has been artfully encased in stone, and there are a pair of shelters built into the dry stone wall that separates the eastern and western slopes. Unfortunately I don't seem to have got any good pictures of the view (I left quickly when a group of around twenty walkers arrived shortly after I sat down to eat my packed lunch).

After descending to Horton and having a fried egg butty in the famous Penyghent Cafe, I walked back to the campsite along the River Ribble in the bottom of the dale (valley).

The railway line also follows roughly the same path. Here's one of the regular passenger trains. Someday I'd like to ride the length of the line just to see the Dales from a different perspective (the steam service sounds nice but is out of my price range).

After getting back to the campsite it was still quite early in the afternoon, but since I'd already walked about ten miles and climbed a mountain I didn't feel like going on another walk. I instead decided to go on a bit of a drive (I had Lintilla with me). The plan was to go back to a town wibble_puppy and I visited on the way back from the MITHOS, but I misremembered its name and went to Kirkby Lonsdale instead of Kirkby Stephen. Still, it was a nice little place with some interesting shops. I picked up some Westmorland sausages from Dales Butchers (though I was tempted by their award-winning pork and caramel sausages!) and headed back by a nice scenic route from Barbon to Dent, then along Dentdale and down to Ribblehead.

Back at camp I fried up the sausages, then added some beans and a couple of eggs.

Would you believe some people have said they don't think this meal looks particularly appetising?! My mouth is watering just remembering it! ;)

The next day I drove up to Horton and found a place where I could legally park on the road (there is an official car park but it costs something like £5 to park there all day), then I set off to do Walk 27: The Birkwith Area from Wainwright's Walks in Limestone Country. This went slightly wrong when I failed to spot the starting point of the track behind the Crown Inn car park and instead set off along the tarmac road to High Birkwith, which Wainwright recommends doing last. By the time I realised what I'd done, I'd already gone a fair distance along the road so I decided to just do the whole walk clockwise instead of anticlockwise. In hindsight I think this was actually preferable because it saved the prettier bits of the walk for the end.

This is God's Bridge, where I sat down on the grass in the sunshine and ate my packed lunch. It's a naturally-formed limestone bridge over Brow Gill Beck. This is a very cool thing for a fan of bridges, caves, waterfalls, and pretty scenery like myself.

This photo shows the stream running under God's Bridge.

Broken-down old stone buildings: the Dales is littered with them. This one doesn't look too bad, does it?

Actually, this is the other side of the building in the previous shot.

The return leg of the walk took me past Calf Holes cave, the very first cave I ever did on a trip run by Burnley Caving Club, about 17 years ago (has it really been that long?). It's a nice little pothole that you can climb down into on a wire ladder, with an easy through-trip to Brow Gill cave so you don't have to climb back up the ladder to get out (IIRC the trickiest part is a squeeze called the Letterbox where you have to bend 90 degrees part way through).

In total I walked about 20 miles over the couple of days (I keep wanting to say 'weekend' though actually it was mid-week) and didn't feel too tired afterwards. My dodgy knee, if anything, felt better afterwards than it did before the trip. Moderate exercise certainly doesn't seem to be one of the things that triggers it. I'm hoping to work my way up to doing some more ambitious walks over the summer.

The trip was in part an experiment to see how cheap a holiday could be while still being enjoyable. The accommodation was surprisingly cheap: £2.50 a night for basic camping (a field, a stand pipe, and a single shared loo with washbasin). The petrol cost about £20 in total, though it would have been significantly less if I had stuck to walking near the campsite (the side trip to Kirkby Lonsdale probably used nearly as much fuel as getting to and from Ribblesdale in the first place). Food was a mixed success - cooking in camp and making sandwiches to eat on the walks cost roughly £10 for the ingredients, maybe less, but then I spoiled it by spending about £5 on lunch in the Penyghent Cafe, and eating dinner in the Shambles chippy in Settle on the way home, which surprised me by costing nearly £10 for a main meal, dessert, and a pot of tea (I've often eaten there before but when I was earning a wage I didn't pay as much attention to the cost). I spent roughly £40 on replacement camping equipment before the trip, but I'm not going to count that because they will (hopefully) be useful on many other trips in years to come.

So the total cost of the trip for a couple of nights away was about £50. In hindsight I can see ways I could cut that further (particularly not having any meals out! ), plus if I went on a longer trip (and didn't drive around much) that would spread out the transport costs, thus reducing the per-day cost of the trip, but on the other hand I'd like to also visit places further afield, eg. returning to the Scottish Highlands, and that means a lot more cost to get there in the first place. I have even been wondering about leaving the car behind and taking the train to places, but my current car camping setup is way too big and heavy to take backpacking. The alternatives are camping barns (which I'm not as enthusiastic about) and hostels, which I like (I've been to dozens of them) but are a fair bit pricier than camping albeit still much cheaper than B&Bs.


No offence, but that was a lot more interesting than I was expecting before I clicked on the cut :-)

Sometimes it's nice just to sleep in a tent in a field without being disturbed, isn't it?

That dinner looks grim tho - mainly because the egg is mixed in with other stuff. Glad you enjoyed it... *backs away carefully*
The second night I had the field to myself; the first night there was another bigger tent already there. Some time after I'd gone to bed but before I'd quite got to sleep I heard about five blokes arrive at the other tent, complaining loudly about sponsored walks and how they'd never do another. After a few minutes stomping around the field and slamming car doors, they spotted my tent and quietened down.

I admit the meal looks messy, partly because I cut the sausages up and mixed them in with the beans, and partly because I cooked the eggs in the beans (they were effectively poached). Tasted just fine though. If I'd been cooking the meal for someone else I might have fried the eggs separately and placed them on top.
*laughs at techiebabe expecting 'less'*

Isn't it funny though, how foods can look terrible when they are cooked together, but the taste can be surprising.
Like techiebabe says, you made the trip sound much more interesting than you might expect upon hearing the words 'camping' and 'walking' ;-) This is a really nice piece ~ I wonder if you could get it published somewhere? Your phots are so picturesque too ~ the Ribble River one, and the hotel one with Pentygest in the background would make great paintings.

It must have been amazing to actually see a steam train go pass(?)

I couldn't help wondering if 'Hotel Paradiso' was only that small building, or if it connected to the building behind it?

And I'm the first to drool over sausage sandwiches, and eggs and bacon for brekkie ~ but all together in a pot does look a bit revolting ;-)

Glad to hear your knee isn't suffaring after 20 miles! And it sounds like you made a pretty cheap trip out of it already without reducing costs, treats are worth a little extra sometimes :)

Thanks. :)

The steam train even blew its whistle as it passed the pub. It's very cool when you unexpectedly see a steam engine on a mainline. I once made a bit of a fool of myself in a lecture at university when a steam train went past and I leaped up and pointed it out to the class.

Yes, the bunkhouse really is just the tiny building in the foreground. It had a bizarre roofline. I couldn't really see inside but I doubt there are more than two pairs of bunks.
That's a good point. I wonder if any of the travel magazines (either print or online) would be interested in your work. Or, with some slight modification, a local tourist-type publication.

You certainly present your material well, and as is pointed out above, this is a very interesting account of a trip. I was quite drawn in, and also really enjoyed the way you closely related the pictures and text (rather than having a couple of 'generalist' photos illustrating the lot). For me, that made it meaningful, and connected it together for me - reading it, I felt like I had almost been there too.

I'd be interested to see how you go setting out to write something deliberately for a magazine.
Brilliant. What stunning photos - I wanna go there right now!

The food actually makes my mouth water too, at the same time as looking as though you'd eaten it once already. I love food that's all gunged up together like that.

Your food costs always will be high when you insist on not eating proper food like pulses and cereals.

I love God's Bridge, how exciting, and that building in the following photos looks like a nice dooer-upper - coat of paint, sorted :D

The camp site looks gorgeous, and steam trains into the bargain! epic bonus! :D

You're gradually convincing me about camping; and I adore your stoves.
and vegetables.
Baked beans are vegetables, right? And I just ate cereal (Weetabix) for breakfast! ;)

I was actually thinking of your weird one pot concoctions when I made it.
I have been drawn towards a sense of intrigue and wonderment as you mention these curiously inexact 'one pot concoctions'.
Your food costs always will be high when you insist on not eating proper food like pulses and cereals.

Assume that's an in joke with Alex?

The food actually makes my mouth water too, at the same time as looking as though you'd eaten it once already.

Although I might not have expressed it like that, I seriously agree. I just try not to think of what else it might be.

The stove does indeed look very funky!
Alex and I eat very different food. ;)
Oh yes, and the comment I forgot.

Clearly I want and need to come to Yorkshire.
I do love it there. Have you ever visited the UK? I've never been to Australia.
Have not made it outside the mainland yet. Keep being distracted by bits of here!
Funny - I have holidayed in that part of the world but you didn't go anywhere I did!!