|Pol and Jackie with Kanga|
Our stay with Dave and Pol has come to an end today (Friday 20th) and we’re about to head off to Keswick, Cumbria for the Lake District 10in10 sponsored walk for the MS Society.
We’ve been here for a week now, it has flown by, but we’ve had a fabulous time with them and Kanga dog. Great to see Dave and Pol again and, although Jackie is not so familiar with them, I’ve known them for about 21 years, Dave then being the young man of 20 who first took me out climbing on Little Tryfan in North Wales with Andy Pritchard. A V.Diff that I remember scared the life out of me and made me very excited at the same time, igniting a great love of climbing ever since (except when I get scared to death on a route!).
|Getting ready for our cave adventure|
We’ve seen two very happy and contented people here, who seem to have found their ideal life, living in a great cottage in a tiny village in Wensleydale (isn’t that where Wallace and Grommit come from? Yes it is! “Plenty of cheese here Grommit!”), Dave has a relatively stress-free job and volunteers for the local Mountain and Cave Rescue organisation, Pol is a manager of a shop and has run (but not at the moment) Zumba classes. As a result they know many people around and have a great social life, where ‘everyone seems to know everyone’, as is often the case in small communities. They’ve had sadness in their lives recently, Pol’s dad died unexpectedly last October and it has obviously hit her hard and Dave’s brother Simon got a brain tumour about the same time, but has had it successfully removed and looks to have recovered well, so we wish them both well and will send them lots of ‘hugs’ from a distance.
|Jackie and Dave next to the cave entrance|
|The cave entrance on the side of a hill|
|In she crawls!|
Dave, being an active outdoor sort, took Jackie and I caving on Tuesday evening, going to a local cave called (I think) Crackpot cave. A bit of a drive away, five miles or so, we were kitted up with their caving suits (pretty hard wearing and covered in mud!), wellies, climbing helmets and headtorches and off we set from the car at about 6:30pm, down a track towards a small gully. The final descent was pretty steep and headed towards a small stream flowing below, when we stopped next to a small cave opening in a small rock band next to us. “This is it” Dave said and I looked at this small cave opening, just about big enough to squeeze into.
|Dave and Jackie|
No, he wasn’t joking and with that Jackie turned on her head torch and disappeared wriggling into the hole feet first, followed by me and then Dave. The first ten minutes or so was a crawl with a low roof and plenty of rocks to bang your head, back, legs, knees (in fact everything) on, with hands and knees in water, but then it got a bit bigger and we could almost stand up (what luxury!).
|And me 'n' 'er|
Dave, taking the lead, waded into water, just deep enough to go over the top of his wellies, soaking his feet, so Jackie and I were a bit more canny and stayed to the side where it was a bit shallower, but had to hang onto hand holds in the side so as not to overbalance. We went pretty deep, coming across a joined stalactite and stalacmite, a ‘bed’ of limestone deposit with ‘mites and ‘tites just suspended in mid-air, following some excavation work to give access underneath, and finally ended up in a biggish cavern with plenty of ‘mites’ and ‘tites and a convenient plank of wood acting as a bench to sit on. We’re evidently not the first down here then!
|Look at that 'orb' (are you reading this John?)|
Apparently outdoor centres bring groups of kids down here, but it still seemed pretty exciting to us novices! Just a little bit further down and along to a bit that’s still being excavated we reached a dead end, now it’s just a case of retracing our steps! Easier said than done, the stream we’d followed went straight on, but we had joined it from a side passage, now, where was the turn off? Good job Dave was with us! We were back out just after 8:00pm, which was still more than two hours before it would be dark, it’s mid-summer here now and the sky is still light at 11:00pm! It was a fun evening, but not something I think either of us would take up seriously, anything harder would be a bit too scary!
|Jackie and Dave sitting on 'the bench'|
|Wait for me!|
|One of Slipstones crags. We did five routes up there|
Wednesday we went climbing at Dave’s local crag, Slipstones, a bunch of gritstone outcrops offering bouldering and short pitch trad climbing of about 6m height. It was a beautiful day, not wall-to-wall sunshine, but hot and 50% sunshine, but with a gentle breeze at the top to stop us overheating. The guide said it’s very popular, even in winter, but we were the only one’s there, well, it was a Wednesday! We ended up soloing (no ropes or crash mats) four V.Diffs as they looked easy enough and had virtually no possibility of any gear placements, but everything else we top-roped. A few VS 4c’s, HS 4b’s and I even tried an HVS 5c (not very well!).
|The gritstone outcrops of Slipstones|
It was all a bit hard and the top rope was used quite frequently, reminding us why we don’t like grit very much: rounded holds, nothing ‘edgy’ to curl your fingers round to make you feel secure, ledges where ‘finger’ and ‘hand jams’ provide the most secure holds (watch out for ‘grit rash’!) and very grippy rock, providing great friction, meaning you just have to trust in friction when placing your feet on sloping edges and placing the flat of your hand on a rounded edge! Why do people call it ‘God’s own rock’? Anyway, we had a good day, even though we didn’t place any gear, great scenery, warm sunshine and enjoyable climbing.
|The remains of the Halifax Bomber|
On our walk down we passed the site of a crashed WW2 plane, a pile of twisted metal, some of it had melted into aluminium blobs, such must had been the violence of impact. There was a headstone by it with an inscription reading that it was dedicated to the crew of a Halifax Bomber that crashed on 23rd Nov 1943. A sad story.
|And the memorial stone|
|Yellow bikes like this are everywhere|
Yesterday we visited Wensleydale cheese factory in nearby Hawes, with plenty of references to Wallace and Grommit in the shop and plenty of coaches in the car park, delivering the many tourists. The shop had and tasting area, all free of charge and surprisingly free of any pressure to buy. A trip round the various samples available (must have been twenty or more different cheeses), left us feeling pretty full, but there were some great flavours and highly recommended. Hawes is a pleasant town, all decked out in the white with red polka dots of the Tour de France colours, with bikes hung on walls and trees all over, ready for the N. Yorkshire event on 5th July. It runs from Leeds to Harrogate and runs through Hawes and many other villages nearby, which should provide a real boost to the local economy as they all seem to be totally committed to it, giving it a very high profile. I guess we’ll have to watch it on TV now we’ve driven part of the route!
|Jackie, Kanga and Pol on the way to the pub|
After several evening walks with Dave, Pol and Kanga, a couple of them to their local Coverbridge pub with really excellent real ale, we said goodbye to them last night after a pub meal and a few celebratory pints of the local brew. We’ll be really sad to leave as we’ve had such a great time, but we hope to be back sometime soon and hope it’s not as long as the two, three or even four years since we last saw them. Maybe we could talk them into coming out to ski with us in France if we do go back to the apartment in St Jean d’Aulps!
|The trap is set....|
The only other ‘excitement’ was the capture of the lost homing pigeon. He had been around since we arrived, feeding off the dropped food from the bird feeder, all the websites said he should have left after a couple of days, but there was no sign of that! Dave had put Kanga’s driving crate outside the kitchen window with a piece of string attached to the crate door leading in through the window.
|And after a few days, success!|
|Idris is caught (our name!)|
Any grain put in the crate had gone but no-one had seen the bird in there, until I put a few kernals of sweetcorn in, when he was in almost before I was back in the house, gentle pulling of the string and the bird was caught! Had a look at the information on his leg ring and rang the local ‘pigeon number’ only to be told he wasn’t one of theirs, but a Welsh one! Filled in an online form and waited! The following day the phone rang and we were given the number of Brian Davies in Cardiff who owned the bird! Pol ended up speaking to Brian’s dad who said if she could drive him a few miles from here and let him go, he would probably continue on his journey. After all, this flight was only from Perth to Cardiff and he is an award winning pigeon with missions from Germany under his wing! With the promise of a phone call to announce his return, we eagerly await notification from Pol and Dave!
|Thanks Dave, Pol and Kanga....|