I have named this ride "Nice Cheesecake Gromit" as the lunch-stop is at Hawes, home of the Wensleydale Creamery where they make Wallace and Gromit's favourite cheese. When we arrive there I'll tell you which café to visit for a lovely slab of cheesecake. No need to worry about the calories as you will work them off on the hills. Oh, didn't I mention the hills? Well, to get to Hawes you will be climbing up Cove Road [gulp], Nab End [ouch] and Fleet Moss [ooh er]. And then you will be returning back over the harder side of Fleet Moss so you can have the cream on the side and not have a care in the world.
You simply have to face facts - to get the best views in The Dales it requires a little effort to get up and over the hills. And on this ride the views will take your breath away - that's if the hill climbing hasn't already! Like my Kettle Hell ride, I have mapped this journey from Gargrave Railway Station so that it opens the route up to anyone wishing to use public transport. In my case I was cycling with friends with whom I was staying at Mill Lodge in Bell Busk. This is only a short distance away from Gargrave.
Gargrave is a large village so you can pick up water and snacks in the Co-op supermarket before setting off. The shop also has a cash point machine. You will pass the Masons' Arms as you cycle into heart of the village and you may wish to check in here on the way back before catching your train. It is a fairly traditional pub with Timothy Taylor Landlord Bitter and Black Sheep Ale generally on tap, along with a guest ale. Pub food is served at reasonable prices. It is good to see that traditional pub games are upheld at the Masons' Arms, a tavern that supports five crown green bowls teams who play on the green between the pub and the River Aire.
The A65 road to Kendal is a very busy main road so I am going to suggest making your way through the lanes to Airton. I assume the Second World War diverted funds away from the implementation of a planning application that was approved in June 1939 whereby a two-mile by-pass was going to be constructed to the north of Gargrave. It was decided that the existing entrances to the village were narrow, and there were two difficult corners by the Swan Inn and the Grouse Inn. Anyway, we'll be avoiding the main road and, consequently, the start of the ride is similar to that of the Kettle Hell route. The ride passes over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and on towards Eshton Hall, a large country house rebuilt in 1825-7 by the Kendal-based architect George Webster. Designed in the Elizabethan revival style for the Wilson family, the property has since been converted into apartments.
Within two kilometres you pass Newfield Hall, a mansion built in 1856 for William Alcock, son of the man who founded the Craven Bank. In the late 19th century the house was occupied by William Illingworth, a former Bradford manufacturer who also acquired the Manor Hotel in Airton. The Morkill family were the last domestic occupiers of the house until, like many large estates, it was sold off in the 1930's. Newfield Hall was acquired by the Holiday Fellowship, an organisation established in 1913 by London-born Thomas Leonard with the aim of providing walking holidays for all. Influenced by the Christian Socialist movement, he was also a key figure in the establishment of the Youth Hostel Association and served as President of the Ramblers Association.
The route goes along a small lane to the hamlet of Calton. The hall here has medieval origins but the present building is largely the result of 18th and 19th century modifications and rebuilding. Calton Hall was once the home of Major General John Lambert, an important figure who fought for Parliament during the English Civil War. Succeeding Lord Fairfax, he commanded the Northern Army before his instrumental role in the politicisation of the New Model Army. Following the armed conflict, he was appointed Lord-Deputy of Ireland, though his relationship with Oliver Cromwell subsequently became fractured. In the post-Cromwell years, he was involved in the last republican stand against the Restoration of the Monarchy, an act for which he was tried for high treason. His death sentence was commuted and he subsequently spent the remainder of his years in prison. He died at Drake's Island in Plymouth Sound in 1684.
The ride crosses the River Air as you enter Airton where, from the bridge, there is a good view of the former mill complex. The earliest corn mill here was operated by Bolton Abbey. The aforementioned Skipton banker William Alcock acquired the mill in 1785 before selling an interest to a consortium including Margaret Williams, John Hartley and John Brown. Continuing with the corn mill, they established cotton spinning at Airton and erected large premises by the end of the 18th century. In the 1830's the mill complex was further enlarged following its acquisition by Isaac and John Dewhurst of Skipton. This firm continued in business at Airton until they became part of the English Sewing Cotton Company. The mill ceased production around 1904. The buildings were used for a variety of businesses in the 20th century, from engineering to disinfectant production. In 1942 Reckitt & Coleman moved production of the famous Dettol brand to Airton, with disastrous results for the wildlife of the river. The mill has subsequently been converted for residential use.
Historically, Airton is a Quaker village, though there was a pub many moons ago. The 17th century Quaker Meeting House was formerly a barn. Today, the building hosts a number of events and exhibitions. In addition, it provides overnight accommodation for Duke of Edinburgh groups, climbers, walkers and cyclists - the old barn and garden has also been used for a refreshment stop on audax events. Following the river, the route heads in a northerly direction to Kirkby Malham. Constructed with millstone grit, the parish church of Saint Michael was built in the 15th century on the site of an older place of worship. Around the site of the church was an old tavern called the Sun Inn. Today however, the village is served by The Victoria which has the date of 1840 above the entrance, along with the letters G.S. These are the initials of George Serjeantson who, having inherited his father's estate, established a new tavern in the village. The date is also featured in roman numerals on the lovely sundial above the entrance.
Opened in the same year that Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Goth, the pub formerly traded as the Prince Albert and also the Albert and Victoria Inn. By 1866 the trading name had changed to the Victoria Hotel and since those days the locals have affectionately called the pub The Vic. I am focussing on The Victoria here because, although it was too early in the day for us to seek beer, we did call back here for an evening meal and had an agreeable time. Therefore, you may want to consider coming back to The Victoria later in the day on your way back to Gargrave. The pub serves a simple menu from which I enjoyed the Cheese, Onion and Potato Pie for £9.95p. Billed as homemade with locally-produced cheese, this was really good. There were six of us and everyone enjoyed their meals. The star of the show at The Victoria however was the beer. This is mainly sourced from the Dark Horse Brewery of Hetton. Craven Bitter and Hetton Pale Ale were on sale during our visit. I couldn't quite make my mind up which was the better so I just kept ordering two halves, one of each, instead of a pint each round.
The Victoria had undergone a bit of a spruce up in the autumn of 2015. The gaffer we spoke to told us she had been there a few months and was enjoying it. Although she had worked in pubs previously, this was her first spell as a tenant. She was working the bar alone and having to rush about but remained calm and warm-hearted throughout.
Walkers, tourists and cyclists like us possibly dominate the pub during summer evenings but a crowd of local regulars do seem to patronise The Victoria during early doors. Throughout its history The Victoria has had to cater for large groups who suddenly descend on Kirkby Malham. For example, in August 1872 members of the Fulledge Wesleyan Chapel Choir, along with their friends travelled via train from Burnley to Bell Busk before walking across muddy fields to Airton, but there being no place of refreshment, they continued their journey to the Victoria Hotel, at which they ordered breakfast. As their summary stated "a party of 30 arriving at a village inn without previous notice takes them some little by surprise, and we consequently had to wait some half-hour before breakfast was ready." Nowadays, most pubs would get in a flummox when expected to suddenly provide breakfast for such a large group so why this lot were so frustrated is anyone's guess. Anyway, whilst breakfast was being cooked for them the choir went to look at the church. The sexton inquired as to who they were and where they had came from, and being informed that the majority of the party were members of a choir, he requested them to sing the "Te Deum." The choir at once ascended the orchestra and gave several pieces, at which the old man seemed highly pleased and enjoyed the singing very much. They then piled back into the pub for breakfast and were so pleased with the food and pub they entered their names in the visitors book.
Sadly, it has not all been so cheerful at The Victoria, a pub that has witnessed some tragedy. In 1927 Fred Magnall, a former dairyman entered into an agreement with Massey's Brewery of Burnley in which he took out a substantial loan from the company to add to his investment in order to run the Victoria Inn. Although frowned upon both then and now, this was a fairly standard business arrangement in the licensed trade. Brewers would not only ensure an outlet for their products but secure the loan with the building. In many cases, when publicans ran into financial difficulties the brewery would simply take control of the pub and add it to their tied estate. It is thought that Fred Magnall was struggling to maintain this agreement and, as a result his wife took her own life. On Saturday morning, October 29th 1927, she was found hanging from a beam in a wash-house. It was reported that on the previous evening she had seemed in good spirits. Fred Magnall stayed at the Victoria Inn with the help of his sister Mary Maud Broughton who moved into the pub with her family. The publican however hit the bottle and within two years of heavy drinking he also died. Massey's took over the Victoria Inn to wipe the debts of the Magnall couple. Mary Maud Broughton, however, remained at the Victoria Inn and, together with her husband Sandy, took over a tenancy agreement. The couple kept the pub until June 1951 when Sandy Broughton was found dead in a barn adjoining the hotel. A gun was found nearby. His widow continued to run the Victoria Inn for a couple of years before moving to Airton.
Massey's Burnley Brewery Limited were based at the Bridge End Brewery. Founded around 1750, the company traded under the name of Lord Massey until 1889 when, like many larger brewery concerns, they registered the business in order to raise capital for further growth. At this time the brewery already supplied a tied estate of 118 public houses. Despite fluctuations in business conditions, they continued to acquire rival breweries in order to expand their estate. In 1928 the firm took over Astley's of Nelson with 75 public houses. Four years later they added a further 120 pubs to their portfolio when they acquired the Keirby Brewery of Burnley rivals J. Grimshaw Ltd. In the same they swallowed up Kenyon's Rossendale Brewery in Barrowford, adding another 78 pubs to the estate. Massey's would eventually be mopped up themselves by Bass Charrington during the merger madness of the 1960's. This resulted in The Victoria selling Bass ales for twenty years until it returned to free house status in 1984.
Now that you have plenty of information about The Victoria it's time to get cycling. We pedalled northwards along Kirkby Brow and headed into Malham. A group of club cyclists appeared up the road having emerged from the car park. Surely they were not about to climb Cove Road without having undertaken a warm-up? There are two climbs out of Malham, both of which take you to a road junction at Streets. I am told that The Raikes, to the east of Malham Cove, is a slightly easier climb but I have not ridden up there - yet! So, my friends, I have routed this ride up Cove Road which is a little more difficult than some grimpeurs let on. It certainly isn't a climb to be underestimated. The good news is that there are sections where you can recover from the steep elements of the climb. I took it fairly steady as there was a lot more cycling to undertake on this day and found it a lot easier than my previous ascent in which I was pushing hard. So, take it easy and enjoy the views where there are gaps in the dry stone walls.
Once you over the top you'll pretty much have the road to yourself for a good number of miles. Seemingly, few people venture along the road to Arncliffe. There's a fair amount of gentle downhill to the crossroads at Streets. It is straight ahead for a lovely road skirting Malham Tarn - though it would be great if the road went a little closer to the water. However, it is still a great ride down to Darnbrook Beck. I pushed on during this section so that I could take some photographs of my friends riding up to The Nab [see above]. This is quite a steep little number but, as you can see, the surroundings are fabulous. Maybe my friends were playing for the camera, but they all climbed well up here. The reward was a great ride looking across to Yew Cogar Scar before the steep drop down into Arncliffe, home of the magnificent Falcon. This is a pub you MUST visit when you are in The Dales.
Arncliffe is the stuff of picture postcards. What am I talking about? The Victoriana and Edwardian photographers would queue up to take snapshots of the picturesque village green. In more recent times, location hunters picked out this pretty Littondale location when Emmerdale Farm was first filmed in October 1972. When the location became known to the public, filming was moved to Esholt - bad news for tourist numbers but, then again, who would want hoards of soap opera fans tramping around the place.
Arncliffe was visited by Charles Kingsley and it is thought that he drew his inspiration for "The Water Babies" from the locality whilst staying at both Malham Tarn House and the vicarage in the village. Indeed, the river in which the main protagonist fell into was the River Skirfare. The novel was for many years a staple of children's literature in Britain. However, it was of its time and the prejudices featured within the book led to its eventual demise from the curriculum.
The cycle route turns left, past the school and old vicarage before crossing the river on the 18th century bridge and heading eastwards. This results in a circumnavigation of Saint Oswald's Church, though the dense trees can make it hard to appreciate from the road. Much of the church dates from the 19th century, the nave being rebuilt around 1800 and restored in 1841. The work of Anthony Salvin, the chancel was rebuilt two years later. However the 15th century tower of limestone rubble, acknowledged as the building's one redeeming feature, was spared by the Victorians. The tower now consists of three stories, the upper one lighted with two light windows, trefoiled, and terminated with plain battlement and pinnacles. It is supported by diagonal staged buttresses. The windows of the chancel were entirely composed of stained glass, the work of William Wailes, the Newcastle-born Gothic Revival artist.
When you cross the river there's a great temptation to turn left and cycle towards Litton and Halton Gill. On another day you can then skirt around Pen-y-Ghent and down to Settle to create a lovely loop - we'll do that! For now we are heading down through Hawkswick and into Wharfedale. The route then heads north up to Kettlewell - maybe nipping into Zarina's for a quick cuppa. Or, if you are ready for a pub then there are two close to the bridge over the beck just before it joins the River Wharfe. Tell you what ... we'll look at one pub on the way out and the other on the way back. So, first of all, let's celebrate the Blue Bell Inn, a pub that I have frequented a couple of times and enjoyed the experience.
On the pub's website, it states that "a warm welcome awaits you at the Blue Bell Inn, Kettlewell's oldest and best-loved hostelry. With its log fire, excellent locally-brewed ales and substantial Yorkshire style meals, we've everything the walker looks forward to after a long day on the hills." Hey! What about the cyclists? Well, there's no arguing about the beer. I assume that they always stock a beer from the Grey Hawk Brewery in Skipton. I loved the Nirvana Pale, a delicious bitter with a superb mix of cascade and challenger hops but with a nice balanced finish. Grey Hawk Brewery is a relatively new brewery joining in the frenzy of artisan microbrewers eager to make their mark. They have bored for their own water source which, filtered through sandstone, helps to create a unique flavour. The brewery claims that the properties of the water are similar to that of Burton-on-Trent. On the evidence of the Nirvana Pale here, they are on to a winning formula. The Blue Bell Inn was also selling a dark ale from Naylor's of Cross Hills between Skipton and Keighley but I was only seeking refreshment not on a session! You have to have a bit of discipline when cycling! Anyway, it's great to see the Blue Bell Inn supporting local breweries. But if you're not into all this new-fangled beer stuff, the pub also sells some recognised brands from regional brewers. The pub sells up to eight real ales so the choice here is incredible for a village pub.
The Blue Bell Inn is one of three surviving public houses in Kettlewell. I would think that the pub dates from the late 17th or early 18th century. With its position I doubt if any older building survived the flood of 1686 in which many of the households were swept away causing the inhabitants to flee for their lives. The Race Horses Hotel across the road has been dated 1740 so the Blue Bell Inn is probably of a similar age. The village could support several taverns as Kettlewell acted as an important junction where a coach road from Richmond over Park Rash joined the road along Wharfedale. Park Rash would be a hairy ride in the coaching days!
Kettlewell's taverns did not rely solely on trade brought from travellers. In the early 17th century a lead mining industry was developed and operated until the end of the Victorian era, resulting in many a thirsty miner requiring refreshment in the village's pubs. The Blue Bell Inn, Racehorses Hotel and King's Arms remain but there were other establishments. The Masons' Arms and Stone Trough Inn are names listed in trade directories. The Windmill Inn was located at the bottom end of Sally Lane. In the mid-19th it was kept by William Wetherall. And a sale notice from 1777 records a White Lion Inn, advertised "with closes of meadow and pasture land, in total about 20 acres in a flinted pasture called Kettlewell-Cam, the whole in the tenure of Henry Guy." One establishment that didn't quite get off the ground was at Dale House, built as a hotel for the proposed construction of the Skipton and Kettlewell Railway. One of the first meetings for this project was held at the Mechanic's Institute in Kettlewell in February 1880. Edgar Ferguson, engineer of the Settle to Carlisle railway, attended the meeting to explain the route to local inhabitants. Many of the movers and shakers in the area were keen to see the railway constructed - some had even acquired shares. However, there was considerable opposition from those who didn't want to see the valley's aesthetic ruined. In this respect there was more opposition from outside the area. However, some of the local landowners also opposed the construction of a line through their property. Although authorised by Parliament in 1880, the Act was abandoned five years later due largely to a lack of finance. And so, Kettlewell had a railway hotel but no railway!
The lead mining industry was a key component of Kettlewell's economy and the reason for the relatively large size of the settlement compared to its neighbours. The remains of a lead smelting mill, first operated in 1669 and continued for two centuries, can be seen close to the confluence of Cam Gill and Dowber Gill Becks, a quarter of a mile above Town Head Bridge. Cheaper imported lead was the principal reason for the mill's closure in 1887. Some coal mining also took place in the area, though the quality of the extracted mineral was generally poor so was mainly used by blacksmiths, though larger quantities were used for burning lime in kilns dotted around the region. The last drift mine to operate in the Kettlewell area was closed in 1928.
It was my curiosity that led me to look at Kettlewell's history because, as I was sipping my Grey Hawk Nirvana Pale, I did begin to wonder how the village had so many pubs. Of course, in addition to mineral extraction, there was the local agricultural economy. A market was first established in Kettlewell during the 13th century and this brought key trade into the village's public houses, particularly when the fairs were held. There was also a corn mill in Kettlewell and, like the market, dated back to the 13th century. The building was later converted into a cotton mill but this industry ceased in the mid-19th century and the mill was demolished. Like the neighbouring Racehorses Inn, publicans of the Blue Bell Inn were also farmers. In the 19th century the Coates family farmed some 300 acres of land. The houses on the opposite side of Far Lane were converted from a large barn, probably part of the Blue Bell Inn. Before the Coates family took over the Blue Bell Inn, Coverdale-born James Tennant and his wife Ann operated both the pub and 40 acres of land.
The Blue Bell Inn is a pub responsible for a new phrase to me - 'Embroidery of Conversation' was the term used by a solicitor when facing magistrates at Skipton Police Court in defence of John Stubbs, a mail van driver who was accused of using obscene language in the pub during one Saturday evening in July 1935. A postman named Arthur Rushton remonstrated with Stubbs for using such language, whereupon Stubbs told him "not to speak like that to his elders." Rushton retorted that he was the elder man. I can sense at this point that the rest of the customers were getting full entertainment. Stubbs disputed Rushton's claim and offered a bet, producing a £1 note, which Rushton promptly "covered." A £1 note was not to be sniffed at in the 1930's and it would have bought a fair amount of ale! Anyway, Announcing that was he was 37 years of age. Stubbs picked up the notes, but Rushton cried : "Walt a minute, I'm older than that." It would be a fair few years before people had a television but who needs a gogglebox when you've got entertainment like this in your local? The argument between the two got heated and a scuffle followed. In the Police Court Rushton stated that Stubbs struck a blow which blackened his eye and caused his nose to bleed. Mr. Harry Wall, defending Stubbs, told the Bench that his irritation got the better of him. It was stated that the language complained of was the "embroidery of conversation among young men." The Chairman stated that is was "time such conversation was stopped." and slapped a find of 20 shillings on the mail van driver for assaulting the postman, and a further 10 shillings for using obscene language. He was also ordered to pay £2. 3s. 6d. costs. I wonder what happened to the two £1 notes wagered?
From Kettlewell it is only a short ride up Wharfedale to the hamlet of Starbotton. Like the pubs of Kettlewell, the Fox and Hounds is tavern that also served a mining community in Victorian times, though the industry here was on a smaller scale and many of those working in the mines would also undertake agricultural labour. There were stepping stones and a footbridge across the river to Fosse Wood, beyond which other shafts were sunk. A small lead smelting mill and lime kiln stood a few hundred yards up Cam Gill Beck, a short walk from the Fox and Hounds Inn.
Constructed of limestone rubble, the Fox and Hounds is dated 1834 on the doorway's entablature. Featuring quoins on the roadside corner, the whitewashed building is attractive with its sold-looking plain stone surrounded windows. The pub doesn't seem as well patronised as others in Wharfedale but you can get a decent pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord Bitter in here. The Keighley beer seems to have replaced Black Sheep as the mainstay behind the servery.
Publicans of the Fox and Hounds Inn were also farmers in the Victorian era. In the 1850's Thomas Butler worked 11 acres of land in addition to keeping the pub with his wife Martha. The couple were tenants when the building was sold at auction at the Race Horses Inn at Kettlewell on April 12th 1850. Paying £450, Mr. O. Robinson bought the Fox and Hounds Inn at another auction held at the Ship Hotel at Skipton in September 1917. Run by Tom Slater, the Fox and Hounds was described as an inn with a barn, cart shed, store and stable with hay loft over, a blacksmith's shop, yard, garden and other outbuildings, along with three closes of meadow and pasture land.
There does not appear to be a hunting connection with the pub so the name is a little incongruous, particularly as the fox was always seen as a menace in these parts. In May 1942 it was reported that, since the snow of January, one farmer at Starbotton had 26 chickens taken in one night, and a farmer in Langstrothdale had lost 40 lambs. One shepherds in Oughtershaw claimed to have counted no fewer than 23 foxes in just two hours.
In November 1947 the Fox and Hounds Inn was acquired at auction by William Younger's Brewery for £2.500. James Spence was the tenant at the time of the sale. Electricity was a relatively modern fangled addition to the Fox and Hounds when it was first switched on in 1955 - Kettlewell had overcome its relative isolation by generating its own power supply but Starbotton was 'out on a limb.' There was a newspaper report that told the story of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Chamley, a couple who had moved to the hamlet from Allerton near Bradford, bringing with them their television and hoover. That was in 1953 and for nearly two years the telly had "stood in the corner, decorative, highly polished but completely useless." In a cupboard "a vacuum cleaner has been waiting to save Mrs. Chamley the daily chores with brush and shovel." She told the newspaper reporter that she was "looking forward to plugging in the electric blanket in winter because it can get terribly cold."
The route continues up Wharfedale past Eshber Wood on to Buckden. We'll call into the Buck Inn on the return journey so for now we'll carry on to the green where we turn left towards Hubberholme. But before this have a look at the Buckden Village Stores on the corner. By the way, I am told that the tea rooms to the rear are good. In the past I have only called into the shop for water and flapjacks, both essential fuel on long cycle rides. On one occasion I spoke to the proprietor behind the counter and asked him if the building had been a pub. I remarked that the building just has the look of an old tavern and I was therefore intrigued. He assured me that it had not been a pub. Somehow I couldn't let it go and delved into some old maps of the region. Lo and behold, a map dated 1852 does show a pub called the Cock Inn in this part of the village [see inset within above photograph]. None of the other buildings look as though they were taverns so I am still thinking that this was the Cock Inn at some stage in its history. The board above the door which shows the name of George Moore in this photograph is still in place above the shop's entrance - it is the type that was used on old taverns to show the name of the licensee and type of licence held.
The building has certainly served as the village shop for generations. Indeed, it has served more than groceries. During the 1930's the shop, which also served as the post office and telegram office, supplied hardware, petrol, tobacco, newspapers and fancy goods. These days, of course, this would be called a convenience store but during the inter-war years this was an indispensable retail outlet for those living at the northern end of Wharfedale.
The building's position is also logical in terms of being a former pub, situated on the corner on an ancient route over Kidstones Pass and on to Aysgarth in Wensleydale. The tavern was of some antiquity as the 'Old' prefix was used in 1931 when Roger Hebden was the publican. It was here that meetings were held with regard to the inclosure of land in and around Oughtershaw. There were actually two Cocks in Buckden. Roger Hebden's house was previously known as High Cock whilst another tavern kept by James Roe was called the Low Cock. In addition to the Buck Inn, known as the Old Buck in 1822, there was a Red Lion run by Stephen Wilkinson.
Turning left towards Hubberholme and Yockenthwaite, the route passes over Buckden Bridge. This structure is thought to date from 1709 but was badly damaged during flooding later in the century. It became known as 'Election Bridge' after one of the local gentry promised to spend £200 on the structure's repair if he was elected to parliament. I am not sure who paid for the repairs but it was rebuilt in limestone rubble with ashlar quoins and coursed hammer-dressed gritstone to the parapet. To prevent a repeat of damage during floods, the wide segmental arch was aided by smaller arches and pointed cutwaters.
The road starts to rise up by the Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, originally a forest chapel dating back to the 12th century and dedicated to the Northumbrian, Saint Oswald. The choir stall and pews were made by the "Mouseman of Kilburn," the term bestowed upon the furniture maker Robert Thompson who was famous for carving mice in most of his work. The churchyard is the last resting place of the Bradford-born author, novelist, playwright and social commentator J. B. Priestley. He once described Hubberholme as "one of the smallest and most pleasant places in the world." Naturally, the George Inn was one of his favourite inns.
An 1822 trade directory for Hubberholme records a New Inn, an earlier name perhaps for the George Inn. It is thought that it opened as a public house around this time so perhaps it was known as a 'New Inn' to local inhabitants. The licensee was Joseph Pawson. There is an intrinsic relationship between Hubberholme's church and the George Inn. Indeed, the building was once the vicarage. Made of limestone rubble, it was formerly a farmhouse owned by the church and kept by the parish clerk or churchwarden.
The truly unique element of the George Inn is the Hubberholme 'Parliament' held on the first Monday evening in January each year. It is a centuries-old tradition in which local farmers gather at the pub to bid for 16 acres of pasture land owned by the church. A candle is lit in the House of Lords, the pub's dining room, in which the vicar oversees bidding, whilst offers are tendered by interested parties who occupy the House of Commons, the pub's bar. The highest bid made when the candle flickers out secures the 16 acres for the coming year, the money received being used for the elderly and poor of the parish. The Hubberholme Parliament originated when an unknown benefactor left the village the Poor's Pasture.
I am not sure of the current ownership of the pub but it was, until relatively recent times at least, own by Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and part of the local incumbent's income came from the rental of the George Inn. The pub went through a sticky patch in the inter-war years and was in danger of closure. However, after a rallying call by the vicar, the local folks banded together on a preservation project. Sixty pounds was raised and spent on building, plumbing and painting. The vicar at the time, the Rev. E. J. Jones, told newspaper reporters "I have been approached by people who wish to buy the Inn privately and also by brewery companies, but The George and the Church of Hubberholme have grown side by side, and I did not wish to be the vicar to allow the connection to be broken."
The George Inn was put on the artistic map in 1934 when a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition was held in the parlour of the George Inn. The event was in recognition of Hubberholme which had received Royal Academy status through the paintings Reginald Grange Brundrit. Studying at Bradford Art School and The Slade School, he lived for many years at nearby Linton-in-Craven. In 1925 he was instrumental in forming the Wharfedale Group of Painters and was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1938. Francis Wall, a fellow Bradford artist, remarked in the artist's obituary that Brundrit "will stand out as one of the greatest pure landscape painters of the 20th century."
Another old Dales custom was upheld the George Inn in November 1953 when Kenneth Huck, of Church Farm, married Yvonne Mitton, daughter of the publican Fred Mitton. After the wedding across the road there was a bridal procession from the church to the George Inn for a reception. From 1 p.m. until 10 pm. there was a running buffet for relatives and friends - and by friends that meant anyone in the Dales. Mrs. Mitton said that, although there would be an open house at the George, the buffet did not Include drinks. Mrs. Mitton believed that their daughter was the first bride ever to be married from the George Inn.
Since June 2013 the George Inn has been run by a couple called Jackie and Ed and, by all accounts, they are doing a pretty good job. They offer fresh home-cooked food combined with a selection of local real ales. With such rich history, it certainly is a pub worth patronising along your journey.
From the George Inn, the road up along Langstrothdale is gently undulating until Yockenthwaite before it settles down to a very low and steady gradient through one of the prettiest sections of road in The Dales. This is a time to truly relax on the bike and soak up the beautiful landscape. Preferring to complete a loop, it is very rare that I return along the route on which I cycled out but I was riding with a friend who really wanted to tackle Fleet Moss from both sides. The bonus was that it meant rolling back down Langstrothdale and it seems to look distinctively unique in the opposite direction. This is a road to fall in love with.
Unfortunately, the view of Oughtershaw Hall from the road is limited but this is an impressive mansion house, once the second home of Charles Henry Lardner Woodd, a man of considerable wealth and who mixed with many notable figures during Victorian times. A fellow of the Geological Society, he was friend of Hugh Miller and Charles Darwin. As a memorial to his wife Lydia, the nearby school is thought to have been designed by John Ruskin, a regular visitor to Oughtershaw Hall.
Oughtershaw was once considered to be one of the remotest villages in Yorkshire. From here the road gradually increases in gradient as you start to cycle up the moor. A post-war magazine article described Fleet Moss as "one of the wildest parts of the Pennine country, a wide expanse of rough moorland with thousands of acres of peaty bog falling away to the shallow valley. Here in a climate which is bleak, windy and rainy, and where the hill pastures are thin or made up of rank grass which sheep find unpalatable, small flocks have grazed over the hills from time immemorial." I could have done with a bit of wind and rain to cool me down as it was a scorcher and, as the road continued up the hill, I found myself continually reaching for my water bottle. But it is a great road and a joy to ride.
Back in the day when we had proper winters, the road from Oughtershaw to Hawes was always blocked by snow drifts. In March 1939 the snow was so deep that a snow plough had to be dug out at the top of Langstrothdale. In December 1954 the snow was five feet deep.
There are three chevrons on the ordnance survey map but they are well spaced out so it is a relatively easy approach to the summit, though a little ramp at the end does force one out of the saddle. You can afford to look back down the road which, recently resurfaced, will bring a smile to your face as you will be descending in a few hours. A downhill section to savour. Talking of which, there is the descent to Hawes to come. In the above photograph I have the devil in my eyes as I am about to place my bike on the ramp of Howgate Head and have vowed not to touch the brakes until I reach Gayle. I didn't propel myself off the launch pad, simply rolling off the edge. However, I still topped out at 80kph on the way down. In any case, this rapid descent is fairly tame compared to the ride canoeists enjoy going over Aysgill Force when the river is in full flow. The waterfall is located to the west of Beggarman's Road but you may be too busy flying to notice! The falls on Gayle Beck are much more calm and picturesque in Gayle itself where you can stop on the bridge for an obligatory photograph. You can go off-piste in Gayle to go and look at the mill, thought to be the oldest structurally unaltered cotton mill in existence! Built in 1776, it was originally a cotton-spinning mill later converted to a sawmill a century later.
I will look at the pubs of Hawes on another ride. On this day we weren't boozing here and were on a mission for a belly-busting meal - enter the Wensleydale Pantry where the portions are generous and the cake stand looks mouth-watering. Oh heck, we'll have the cheesecake! A door-stopping slab with cream on the side. Yummy. I have no idea what the other cafés and tea rooms in Hawes are like - this place always hits the spot so we return each time we cycle to Wensleydale's market town.
To get the legs into the swing of things, we did a little loop around Hawes, taking the lane through Bainbridge Ings before arriving at the foot of the climb. Remember the ultra-rapid descent you enjoyed not long ago? Well, it's time to go the other way. And with a belly full of cheesecake!
Fleet Moss, the south side, is a great climb - one of Yorkshire's epics. The hill comes with a lot of baggage in the cycling world. The very words Fleet and Moss generate fear and trepidation with so many club cyclists. Although it is rated a 9-out-of-10 climb by Simon Warren, the average cyclist can prevail over this challenging prominence - provided they do not sink into negativity. As, you can see from the photograph above, much of the climb can be seen before you, as if it has been rolled out like a carpet rug, only uphill. Personally, I think it is this apparition that breaks the heart of some cyclists.
Simon Warren, when writing an article for The Guardian, placed Fleet Moss in "Britain's Top 10 Toughest Climbs in Britain." So, let's discuss the elevation of what is the highest road in Yorkshire. The climb out of Gayle is quite steep, around 17%, so the legs get a workout from the bottom of the climb. However, there is a long easy stretch after this initial ramp. This is the time to recover and get the brain in the right frameset. You can look up and witness what some would call the horror-of-horrors, a long climb to Howgate Head. The tarmac starts to rise and the road ramps up relentlessly. And this is another key issue. Many of Britain's climbs feature a tough section at the base of the climb whereas Fleet Moss turns the screw the more you head up the hill. Look up the road again [see photo] and that arrow can seem a long way away. That, my friends, is Howgate Head where the tarmac goes up to 17% but feels more like 20%. And that isn't even the end of the climb, just the section you can see!
If you are new to this climb there are some tactics you can deploy. The first might seem daft but it might work - try not to look ahead too far and just keep selecting targets about 50 metres ahead of you. A gate, a fence post, some sheet shit in the middle of the road ... anything to keep your wheels turning as you achieve small targets that will add up to a greater whole. Secondly, if there are other cyclists tackling the climb - and there generally are a few - ignore their efforts and simply stick to your game plan. Which brings me on to a third tip - save your energy until you reach the point when you absolutely do need to unload everything. Plenty of people go at this climb like a bull in a china shop and then blow up when the going really gets tough.
A fourth tactic is to try and think of other things rather than the pain in your legs and lungs. For example, at a slight left-hand kink in the road, where there is track leading down to Duerley Farm, look out for the old lime kiln at Busk. Further up the hill, also on the left, are a few colliery spoil heaps, a legacy of the coal mines operated by Edmund Dinsdale of Busk Farm. He was granted a lease in 1770 to prospect for coal on these slopes. The quality of the coal wasn't up to much but a profit could be made because of the cost of transporting higher grade coal from other parts of the county. The railways gradually put paid to this and the mines closed at the end of 19th century. There was further extraction of coal in 1912 and 1926 because of national industrial actions causing a shortage of minerals.
I was trying to ride up with one of my friends but I lost sight of him amid a cycling group who were riding up together - well sort of. Everyone was riding at their own pace, trying to keep some sort of rhythm going. There was also a couple of touring cyclists from Clitheroe, one of whom had a tiny chainring that was the envy of us all. It was good fun chatting to them all as we toiled up the hill. This helped to take our minds off the frightful gradient looming ahead. But even with a crowd Fleet Moss can be a lonely place, there's no hiding place when it comes to the steep incline up to Howgate Head. For some, it's all too much and the towel is thrown in. However, I urge anyone riding up here to hang in there as though your life depended on it - play the theme to 'Rocky' in your head and think of running up those steps - Fleet Moss can be surmounted. There is some recovery to be had before a sneaky little 20% ramp up to the top of the climb. Time to pat yourself on the back - you've tamed the monster. And the reward is a fantastic safe descent down to Oughtershaw. There a few little dips and crests that are great fun when you go airborne. This is a descent that'll make you feel alive.
Once you have descended through Oughtershaw you then have the gentle roll down Langstrothdale. I am talking seriously rolling because you won't want to rush this section. Leave the pedals alone, sit up off the bars and breath in deeply - I'm starting to believe that Yorkshire really is God's country. In fact, I remarked to my riding companions that if they could name a better cycling county I would laugh in their face.
Lined with dry-stone walls, the Dubb's Lane from the George Inn at Hubberholme back to Buckden Bridge is pan flat and the surface like a billiard table. After the drama of Fleet Moss and the wonderful descent down Langstrothdale, this is a lovely chill-out zone of serene riding. And soon you are back in Buckden and the village's principal coaching tavern. Back in those days it was called the Old Buck Inn. These days it is walkers that provide a good deal of the trade. Hungry and thirsty ramblers descend on the place from Buckden Pike or take a break from the Dales Way. Here at the Buck Inn you can enjoy a Theakston's beer and a whole lot more. Just after our holiday the pub, being central to the village fair, was utilising all 14 handpulls. Owners Michelle and Kevin Edwards, who took over in 2014, have plumped for the middle market so offer honest pub food rather than haute cuisine. By all accounts, they are satisfying their market segment which can only be a good thing.
Talking of Buckden Pike, though you won't be going up on your bicycle, there is a memorial on the hill erected in 1973 by Joseph Fusniak, the sole survivor of a Wellington bomber that crashed on Buckden Pike in January 1942. The plane clipped a dry-stone wall during a snowstorm. Fusniak, the rear gunner, dragged himself down the hill and made his way to the White Lion Inn at Cray.
Like neighbouring Starbotton and Kettlewell, Buckden had a thriving lead mining industry during the 17th and 18th centuries. Cheaper imported lead forced the closure of the Buckden Gavel Mine around 1877. A mystery that remains unsolved to this day is the identity of a skeleton found in Buckden Gavel Mine in March 1964. From items found on the body, it was thought that the body dated from 1890. He is colloquially known as Buckden Bill.
The Buck Inn has staged an event that must be fairly unique. I have certainly never heard of such an event in any other public house. In September 1936 the 400th meeting of the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union got together in Buckden. Now, before you get too excited, I am not talking nudism here - it was all about mushrooms. During the annual Fungus Foray of the Mycological Committee over 200 specimens were collected on the hills above Buckden during excursions led by chairman Mr. A. A. Pearson, of Tunbridge Wells, with Dr. John Grainger, of the Tolson Museum in Huddersfield. A laboratory was fitted up at the headquarters of the committee at the Buck Inn where over 100 experiments took place to determine soil acidity. If anyone can come up with a more bizarre pub event then please let me know!
Emmott Wood was the licensee of the Buck Inn during the Second World War, though he died aged 63 in March 1943. Buckden. He had previously been in business as a butcher In Keighley. Indeed, he was four times President of Keighley and District Butchers' Association. For a time he served on Keighley Town Council. He was an honorary life member of Keighley Conservative Club and was Past Master of the Three Graces Lodge  of Freemason's, Haworth, and member of the Worth Lodge of the Mark Master Masons. He served throughout the South African War. I assume he acquired the Buck Inn just before the Second World War when the pub was sold at auction in June 1939. The sale, held at the Black Horse Hotel in Skipton, provided details of the building which included 9 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, bar, parlour, smoke room, 2 lounges, dining room, kitchens, bakehouse, yard, wash-house, garages and outbuildings.
Trade at the Buck Inn, like all public houses and hotels in the region, were badly hit by petrol rationing after the Second World War. Lawrence Petfleld, landlord of the Buck Hotel, appeared in the local press to mark his disapproval of the ban on basic petrol, which was hitting his trade, by growing a beard, which he said he will not take off until the Government are defeated. Rationing did not end until May 1950 so I imagine that Lawrence Petfield started to look like Robinson Crusoe and was frightening the customers!
On the road back to Kettlewell I was hung out to dry. Cyclists will know what I'm on about but, for the uninitiated let me explain. Cycling within a group of six friends, I could sense that we were riding into the wind so I went to the front to take my turn leading the bunch. Normally, a group of riders will rotate in order that everyone takes a fair share of headwind. However, the rest of the group must have thought I was looking strong so they let me lead them all the way to Kettlewell. It is not a great distance so I was comfortable but I did have to put in a bit of an effort to maintain a good speed. They all laughed about it when we were sat in the beer garden of the Racehorses Hotel sipping excellent examples of Timothy Taylor Landlord Bitter. Actually, it was the best Timmy Taylor I have had in quite a while.
Taylor's beers are the mainstay of this 18th century pub which, like the Blue Bell Inn across the road, has a good interior with plenty of interest on the walls. A young woman was having to cope on her own behind the servery so I didn't think she'd want me interrupting her pouring action in order to ask how the pub got its name. I imagined that a previous publican either raced horses or that at sometime in the past there was a point-to-point race held in Wharfedale. However, local folklore has it that the name is a corruption of Trace Horse and that drivers of wagons and coaches paid a fee to have extra horses tethered in order to pull their loads up the steep Park Rash climb.
Like publicans at the Blue Bell Inn, licensees of the Racehorses Inn during the 19th century were farmers. In addition the pub, when kept by John Marshall in the mid-18th century, was also the village post office.
In October 1936 an old village custom was upheld by friends of Henry Ellis of Kettlewell and Miss Constance Mary Long of the Race Horses Hotel who were married at Saint Mary's Church. The villagers, according to custom, barred the lych gate as the bridal party left the church, and the bridegroom had to either lift his bride over the gate or pay a forfeit. He elected to pay a forfeit. The service wee conducted by Rev. W. D. Auden. Vicar of Kettlewell and the bride, given away by her mother, wore a mediaeval gown of white ripple cloque with a Brussels net veil and headdress of pearl leaves and orange blossom. She was attended by Miss Dorothy Crust, and a small girl, Miss Jean Bramley, of Kettlewell. A reception followed at the Race Horses Hotel.
Constance Long was given away by her mother because publican Harry Whitwane Long had died earlier in the year. The former Bradford architect had been the proprietor of the Racehorses Hotel for the previous ten years. He was a pioneer in designing the modern mill "without a chimney," the factory driven entirely by electricity. He designed the Carrwood Mills at North Bierley, and the Lord Mayor of Bradford pressed a button that started the factory. He was architect for several buildings in Kettlewell village and district. He designed Kettlewell village hall, which was opened by the then High Sheriff of Yorkshire, Sir Donald Horsfall, in 1930. Harry Long was the licensee when Kettlewell was shaken by an earthquake in January 1933. He told the a reporter from the Yorkshire Evening Post that "the noise awakened the staff at the hotel. It shook the building, and was so loud that at first he thought a big heavily-laden lorry had run into the house. We rushed outside, expecting to see an accident, and met other people who had heard the noise," Mr. Long added. "Almost everyone in Kettlewell was startled by the noise, but although crockery rattled, no damage appears to have been done."
Having done a fair bit of climbing during the day, we took the gentle route back to Bell Busk via the Devonshire Arms at Cracoe, and the Angel Inn at Hetton. I have mapped a route back to Gargrave Railway Station. This was an excellent day out on the bikes and I commend it to the House of Commons propping up the bar in the George Inn.
View and Download Map
This route map is a bit of a rarity in that it returns largely along the same roads - but what a road. Fleet Moss from both sides makes for a great day out.
The route profile shows a four red zones on the steeper climbs. Don't panic, although I enjoy the challenge of the climb, you can always get off and walk - after all, it's supposed to be fun!
A useful book to store in your back pocket or panniers is the second regional guide to Britain's toughest hill climbs compiled by Simon Warren. Indeed, there is a possibility that all of the UK's hills will be known as "Warrens" in the same way that Scottish Mountains over 3,000 feet are called "Munros." Yorkshire has so many great climbs there may be a second volume just for this county. But here in this book you'll find classics such as Fleet Moss, Park Rash and Rosedale Chimney. All of the climbs are presented with a photograph and description and are all rated out of 10.
If you prefer online accounts of hill climbing - and a whole lot more - then click on Tejvan Pettinger's wonderful cycling blog and marvel how he quietly goes about his business. It's often understated but this is a man who lets his bike do the talking. Featuring plenty of great photographs, his accounts are insightful, frank and highly informative.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on this route - perhaps you drank in different pubs? Or maybe you spotted something I missed en-route? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or route guidance for others. Simply send a message and I'll post it here.
More Images from This Route
Approaching Airton from Calton the ride crosses the River Aire where you will see the former mill to the right. A mill on this site was once operated by Bolton Abbey. The complex's role as a mill came to an end in 1904 and the buildings have since been converted into residential use.
This is a slightly 'cheating' image. One of my riding companions took this photograph from Cove Road on the previous evening as we rolled down the hill. However, it does show the excellent view you have of Malham Cove as you pedal up the hill. Once I start a climb I will not stop but if you feel like a breather during the steep ascent you can at least enjoy a terrific view whilst you recover!
I am just coming to the top of Cove Road and not looking too bad considering it is a bit of brute to climb. The dry stone walls are a feature during much of the ascent. The road had a fair amount of loose gravel as Cove Road had been resurfaced during the previous week. Simon Warren rates this as a 7 out of 10 climb so, whilst it is no Park Rash, it demands some effort.
This is a terrific section of the route where the road drops down steeply to Darnbrook Beck but note the arrow marking the steep climb up the other side.
Wow! How can a cyclist not like a road like this? The ride up Langstrothdale is a corker. Great bird-watching territory too - mind you, I saw more twitchers with binoculars than I did rare birds!
This photograph was taken after the first steep ramp out of Oughtershaw and, as you can see, it is still a long way to the top of Fleet Moss. From the George Inn at Hubberholme it is around 12 kilometres of steady climbing with an average of just 3% but there are steep ramps of 17% along the way!
Once you have done all the hard work of climbing up to Fleet Moss don't forget to look back and enjoy the view. After all, sightseeing is a key part of your day - it's not all about the bike!
One of my favourite descents - yes, it looks flat but you are actually descending very gently down Langstrothdale. My riding friend suggested that we should compile a book on "Britain's Top 100 Descents" and this lovely ride down from Fleet Moss would most certainly be included.
The chill-out zone that is Dubb's Lane where you can enjoy a pan-flat road on a smooth surface. And a great view of Buckden Pike - what's not to like?
Some Inn Signs on this Route
"Gromit, that's it! Cheese! We'll go somewhere where there's cheese!"
Wallace "A Grand Day Out" 
"Af Hellifield, on Monday, Mr. E. Wood, deputy coroner, held an inquest on Frank Slingsby, aged 29, mill manager, Bradford, who lost his life by
a cycling accident at Hellifield on Saturday afternoon. The evidence showed that, accompanied by a companion, Slingsby started from Bradford on Saturday about one p.m., with
the intention of cycling to Morecambe. They both rode bicycles without brakes. The first stop was at Gargrave, where some light refreshment was partaken of. On getting to
Skipton Brow, just before reacting Hellifield, Slingsby went first, and before arriving at the bottom of what is a gradual slope he placed his feet on the rests. Suddenly a
small boy on a tricycle ran across the road, and in trying to avoid the little fellow he lost control of his machine, and went crashing into a building on the road side.
The front wheel of the machine was doubled up, the deceased had both legs smashed, and his head was knocked violently against the wall. He fell off his machine unconscious,
and remained so for a couple of hours, when he died. The jury found that the deceased met his death as the result of an accident. They also expressed the opinion that
cyclists should not be allowed to ride with their feet on the rests when passing through country villages. They also recommended that the C.T.C. be asked to erect a danger
board at the of Skipton Brow."
"Feet on the Rests"
Liverpool Mercury : August 9th 1899 Page 5.
"Mr. Albert Hunter, of Skipton, accomplished a somewhat remarkable feat on Tuesday evening. Mounting his machine on the outskirts of Skipton,
he rode backwards - hind wheel foremost - to Gargrave, a distance of nearly four miles, in twenty-two minutes. Although there are several steep hills on the journey, Hunter
never got off his machine, nor was he assisted in any way. He passed three traps, a motor-car, and about a dozen cyclists."
"Remarkable Cycling Feat"
Leeds Mercury : August 14th 1902 P.5.
"Yesterday morning, a bicycle was found in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal between Skipton and Gargrave. A screw barge passing along ploughed up
the water, and the wheel of the machine was revealed. No owner has appeared, and it is proposed that dragging operations should be commenced. All day yesterday the police
were dragging the canal, crowds of people being present. Our Gargrave correspondent writes that the dragging operations ceased last night without any body being discovered.
No Gargrave man is known to missing, but on Saturday there was a large number of cyclists in the neighbourhood."
"Whose Bicycle? A Gargrave Mystery"
Yorkshire Evening Post : May 6th 1895 Page 4.
"At Skipton's Petty Sessions, on Saturday. Baptist Wright, baker, of Keighley, was charged with furiously riding bicycle, and a second charge
of riding on the wrong side of the road was also preferred against him. Mr. Charlesworth prosecuted on behalf of Sir M. W. Wilson, Bart., of Eshton Hall, Gargrave. From the
statement of Mr. Charlesworth and the evidence of a groom in the employ of Sir Mathew, it appeared that on the 7th of August Lady Wilson and her son were being driven from
Gargrave to Coniston Cold. At a somewhat dangerous corner of the road the defendant came at a speed of 12 miles an hour, on the wrong side of the road with his feet on
the rests. To save himself he jumped off machine, and the latter ran between the horses in Sir Mathew's carriage. One of the horses received a cut above the eye, and the
machine was trampled upon and broken. The defendant admitted the offence. Major Tottie, one of the magistrates, said he often went over road mentioned, and his carriage had
been run to. It was very dangerous for cyclists to ride with their feet off the pedals in such places, and he had witnessed many near "shaves." The Bench, in
inflicting fine of 10 shillings and costs in each case, hoped it would be a warning to cyclists."
"The Skipton Magistrates and "Scorchers"
Burnley Express : August 30th 1899 Page 3.