The city of Nice seen from the surrounding hillside bathed in sunshine

Home Travel StoriesThe Jernatter Rally 2015

Delightful Yorkshire Dales

By Ren Withnell

It was a little colder last night and sleep was a little hard to come by. Having discussed the merits of "Exped"s apparently amazing, comfortable, warm but very expensive sleeping mats I'm wondering if I should spend some money. Pfffft! I'm so tight I'd rather not sleep than spend my own money. What a silly thing to think, stupid boy. Might have a look on Ebay for a second hand one when I get home. Yeah, that's a better idea.

It is of course the morning where we all go home, as such there's packing and folding going on all around. The gf and I breakfast on Co-op porridge in a pot, think along the lines of pot noodle but with porridge instead. All things considered it's actually quite edible and almost filling. Add to this some pain-au-chocolat and I'm feeling pretty good so far. The tent is soon down, the bags are soon packed and many hands are shaken in friendship before we leave. The gf and I concur the rally has been a worthwhile experience. It's time to hit the road.

A variety of large adventure motorcycles and some tents at the takoda campsite
Time to load up and head off home folks!

Apparently Tan Hill is the route to take home. Not because it's on the way but because it's a lovely ride, or so we're told. I've found it on Google maps but it takes several stops and re-routes before I'm sure I'm on the right road. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be lost though. With hazy sunshine, a gorgeous rural setting, a whole day to kill and the best bike in the world to ride (the one you're on, it doesn't matter which one) I think being lost is just great. 

The village of Winton. Village green, stone built cottages and a large tree
We're lost in the bewildering gridlock of Winton. Oh dear, how terrible.

Yeah, yep, definitely. I can't remember who suggested we go via Tan Hill but it's a good call. The quiet empty road takes us up high across the northern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The hills here are massive fat big round bulbous mounds with deep cleavages between. Harsh grasses cover the land save for the occasional commercial cluster of pines that look rather misplaced. I feel wild and crazy as we loaf along at our slothful pace. We must be going slow, this Tan Hill pub seems a long way away.

Two 125cc motorcycles on a narrow lane high up in the Dales National Park

Aha, there it is. I'm told it's the highest pub in Great Britain, it's surely one of the most solitary. There is nothing else, not a shop nor a house nor a farm nearby, just the pub here on it's lonesome. I theorise that business comes in the form of walkers, bikers, tourists and holidaymakers rather than an established local clientèle. Our day has barely started and it's still early so rather than go in for a drink we stop for a photo-opportunity in the car park. The noises the pheasants make is hilarious! "Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! ... hallo hallo hallo hallo hallo hallo hallo hallo...Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii! Oii!" I'm reminded of a petulant child that's seeking attention from a parent engrossed in a conversation. The gf insists on playing in the small patch of snow too. I'm surrounded my muppets I tell ya.

Sharon in her bike gear plays in a patch of snow at Tan Hill
I'm surrounded by muppets, fools, idiots and plonkers I tell ya.

That's quite enough nonsense. The narrow Stonesdale Lane leads us through more sumptuous countryside towards Keld. I never realised this area was just so monumental and so noble. I can't believe I've never explored here before, I just presumed the whole of the Dales would be like Hawes or Grassinton, not that there's anything at all wrong with Hawes or Grassington. This area though has that little extra magic and a sense of being away from the rat race. I take a deep deep breath. Moments like this are what make life worthwhile.

I can't relax completely though. We fall down a steep hill then we're confronted by a severe switchback. I brace, feathering the brakes trying to judge the grip. Around we go, not so bad. Oh hang on, another! This is steep even by steep standards. Feather the brakes, the rear is not enough I need a dab of front but I'm concerned of overdoing it. I use the engine braking, the clutch, the front and rear brakes, trying to balance them all against speed, gravity, grip and cornering forces. I'm around, phew. The gf, oh gawd, please be careful sweetie, be careful! 

I don't know why I worry. As I search in my mirrors I see her come around, delicately and with a hint of nerves in her body language but she's got it all perfectly under control. She's done the switchbacks and taken on many other 2 wheeled challenges and yet ask her to do a "U-Turn" on a big empty car park and she falls to bits. The psychology of "U-Turns" runs far deeper than just raw ability. How peculiar.

After more narrow lanes and higgledy-piggledy farms we eventually roll into Hawes. I need a pee break and head to the edge of town where I know there's public toilets. The gf is ready for a brew though and as we're in no rush I reckon now is about the right time. We head into the Penny Garth Cafe and settle into a table in the corner. As I've pigged out on pain-au-chocolat this morning I'm happy with a brew, the greedy gf is having a bacon butty. We talk of the switchback corner and how thankful we are that we weren't on bigger bikes. We talk of the countryside then get distracted by articles in the free motorcycle newspaper on the table. Oooooh look, the Herald 250 Mutt does look like a tasty piece of kit doesn't it.

A line of motorcycles parked along the road at Hawes
We're not the only bikers having a break at Hawes. Not bad for February.

We follow the road from Hawes to Kettlewell. The last time the gf did this road she'd only passed her CBT 3 weeks beforehand. She stalled while climbing up a steep hill. It took us a while to work out she didn't realise she needed to drop a gear or two on the steep stuff, there's no steep hills in Liverpool or Bolton. This time she rides it without issue. We're off the main roads again so we're just bimbling along, taking it all in. This is another great road, we're down in the valley now looking up at the hills and following the river as it babbles, froths and bubbles it's way across the vista. 

The road from Hawes to Kettlewell. The river flows through the broad valley
We are down low now and still it's gorgeous.

Another pee break at Kettlewell and then the road starts to become ordinary again. I feel the weight of the increasing number of cars on my chest and restricting my breathing. I feel them behind trying to push us along ever faster, hurry hurry hurry! I feel them lurking in side roads waiting to pounce at the first sign of weakness. Why are people rushing to be somewhere relaxing? Start out by relaxing where you are.

I'm bored of the A59, we seem to end up coming along that road wherever we are going these days, I suppose it must be the road to all the good places. Today I'll take us back via another route. Big, big, huge mistake.

Coming back through along the M65 motorway corridor is painless enough on one condition, you use the M65 motorway. If however your gf is a learner and not allowed to use the said motorway then there are few other options than to come back via the delights of Colne, Nelson, Burnley, Accrington and Blackburn. Now it is not for me to bad-mouth these fine old mill towns but...ahem...oh my god they are dull, faded, characterless, downtrodden hellholes. There is nothing here that we want to see.

It is a long slow mind numbing drag through endless traffic lights, mini roundabouts, junctions and speed cameras. One terrace looks the same as the next and they all look the same as mine back home and I see more than enough of that. We try to break the grinding monotony with a stop at The Rocket Centre motorcycle shop but the cafe is closed and all the bikes are far too shiny and far too expensive. We have moved from the splendour of nature to the post industrial revolution wastelands of the forgotten North. Normally I relish such contrasts but I just want to get home. Enough already.

It comes as a great relief to get off the bikes at my mother's place. We tap her up for a brew, a warm and then some food. That's what mothers are for isn't it?

Apart from my colossal blunder on the return leg we have had an exceptional weekend. The weather stayed on our side, we were welcomed warmly by folks we've never met before, had a laugh, learned new things and discovered there is an awful lot more to the Dales than I ever expected. My thanks go to The Adventure Bike Rider members in attendance. I believe I have made some new friends, I've also joined the forum although I am somewhat green in finding my way around it as yet. 

Some members of the ABR at the Takoda room.
Cheers Folks!


Going to Takoda It's the first day of the Jernatter Rally for Sharon and Ren. But will they be accepted by real travellers on real bikes? Only time will tell.
A Day In The Hills Sharon and Ren enjoy the beauty of the Dales and the Cumbrian hills. Oh what it means to ride gently through the countryside.
Delightful Yorkshire Dales Sharon and Ren ride home from the Jernatter Rally. There's so much more to the Dales than they ever knew.

Reader's Comments

Vic Oliver said :-
Great write up, Glad you two had a good time, hope you can make the next one
1/1//2000 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Vic! I believe the Jawa ended up a little poorly?
1/1//2000 UTC
Austin said :-
I thoroughly enjoyed the write up of the weekend Ren. It was great to meet you and Sharon and glad you enjoyed Tan Hill. Hopefully I will see you around soon. And if you would like to meet some other like minded bikers try as well.
1/1//2000 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Austin. I think you sir for you kind words. Firstly I guess you mean as there's no ""? Secondly I haven't got a big trailie and I don't have any designs for a big trailie. A small one perhaps but not a big one. I'd feel like an intruder, an interloper.
1/1//2000 UTC

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Home Travel StoriesThe Jernatter Rally 2015