Distance: 7.54 miles
Ascent: 2458 ft
Sandwiches: Ham with Piccalilli, Cheese & Garlic sausage salad, pork pies
Soup: Too warm for soup, so took a bottle of French Red and Rose to see if they went well with pork pie.
|3D View of route|
We drove to Settle and then took the B6479 road up to Stainforth. We passed through this little village to pick up the moor road to Halton Gill at the head of Littondale. The drive to Littondale from Settle is absolutely glorious, and must be one of the best driving routes in the country. It is a quiet, but very scenic, back road that runs between Pen Y Ghent and Fountains Fell and offers great panoramas of the surrounding grand landscape.
Anyway I paid Dick Turpin and we parked up, changed our footwear, and I heaved the big rucksack out of the of the car, strapped it to my back and we proceeded to walk to Buckden. We got to the front of the pub and turned right to head along a bridlepath that ran through some stone farm buildings. To my dismay the path immediately started upwards. We continued along the path, which was more of a lane than a track and dropped down to a ford and crossed Crystal Beck which appeared very dry for this time of year. We were then back to an uphill section, and from here it was uphill all the way! From Crystal Beck to just below Ackersley Moor the path was a steady incline running upwards along the contour lines on the hillside and made for steady going. After crossing through a stone wall, there was an abrupt left turn and the path went straight up the hillside - no gradual incline using the contours here, just straight up. The climb up was incessant and we did have to keep pausing to get our breath, and admire the view which was extensive due to the great weather.
|Looking up Littondale|
|Looking down Littondale|
As we started to descend the view beyond Buckden Pike was very extensive, and we could clearly see the B6160, the road that formed the "Cote De Cray", and even from this distance it was obvious that it was already packed with people. At this point we decided to change our plan and just stay in Buckden and leave the Cote de Cray until another time. Too many people there and the additional distance with this weight on my back would be purgatory. The heavy rucksack was sapping my energy already, so the chance to knock a mile or so off the distance was welcome and seized upon. We made some great progress down the bridle path into Buckden and got a real move on. I had forgotten the estimated times for the peloton to pass through and thought it was about half past midday, so we were eager to find our spot and sit and enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere.
We approached the village green in Buckden and found it to be quite busy. We walked up towards the church and found a spot on the grass verge beside the road. There were a number of people lining the roads, although not as many as on the hill climb stage.
|Looking back to Buckden|
|Leaving Buckden towards Cray|
It was a huge relief to take the rucksack off. I felt as though I was floating for several minutes afterwards. We unfastened our folding chairs from the rucksack, set them out and removed a bottle of wine from the bag and proceeded to have drink and some nibbles, and soak up the carnival atmosphere.
We watched the Gendarmerie come through, our own Bobbies on their motorbikes, various sponsors and team vehicles passed and all of them were waving to the crowds, tooting their horns and enjoying the atmosphere of the TdF.
|Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour... ce qui est tout ce alors?|
|Lead car for the race|
|The front breakaway group|
You could tell the riders were getting close as the sound of the many helicopters in the air was menacing. It brought to mind a scene from Apocalypse Now. The three riders from the breakaway group came through first, and the crowd could be heard cheering as they approached and was like a audible Mexican wave rippling along the crowd keeping pace with the riders.
|A team car|
|Helicopter filming the peloton|
|Team Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)|
|Team Tinkoff-Saxo (Russia)|
|Team Sky (Great Britain)|
|Team Sky (Great Britain) and Team Movistar (Spain)|
|Team Movistar (Spain)|
|Gendarmerie and team cars|
|Team cars heading up to Cote de Cray|
We decided to move from the roadside and walked back down towards the village green in Buckden. We found a suitable spot, unfolded our chairs and continued with our picnic. It was at this point we started to see cyclists coasting back down from the Cote de Cray. Some of them took to stopping on the village green, and others just continued on their way heading down towards Starbotton and Kettlewell. We sat on the green for well over an hour and watched a continuous stream of cyclists flowing along the road whilst eating ice cream. I have never seen so many push bikes! We got talking to a chap who had come up a couple of days before with Gloucester City Cycling Club and was cycling back to Skipton prior to the journey home. We presumed that many others present had also travelled some distance too - there couldn't be so many cyclists in Yorkshire, although this point seemed to evade the national press who produced a number of belittling articles about the whole thing thinking it was only Yorkshire folk who turned out to watch, and the hidden message of course was who would want to go to Yorkshire to watch a bike race. I expect their reporting would have been different if the Grand Depart had been within the M25, and then if that had been the case we wouldn't have heard the last of it on the BBC news or national press either.
We finished off our picnic and drained the second of the two bottles of French wine we had carried over and decided to make our way back. We folded the two chairs and strapped them to the rucksack, I heaved it onto my back and we made the return journey.
The climb started as soon as we got off the macadam road leading to Hubberholme. As I trudged up the winding gravel track a number of people passed us who were not carrying the same weight, or were barely into their teens. We plodded on, steadily climbing upwards until we got to the area of Redmire Pot where the picnic blanket came out, the rucksack came off again and we had a lie down for an hour in the diminishing sunshine. Looking for the picnic blanket gave me a chance to see if Mrs MuddyBoots had secretly stowed some rocks in the rucksack as it seemed the weight hadn't diminished at all; after a brief search there were none to be seen, but I did come across a bag of chewy Haribo sweets. I lay on the blanket in the sunshine with the breeze blowing over me chomping on the sweets and I very nearly dozed off!
After an hour we packed the blanket up, hoisted the rucksack again and plodded on, ever upwards. The path was never ending, at one point I began doubting if this was the same path we took on the way down as it seemed to take forever to progress along it.
|View down to Buckden with Buckden Beck running down from Buckden Pike|
There were timber post waymarkers on the path up the hillside and I was using these to keep moving me along - "keep going until the next post.. go on; you can do it" was a phrase repeated continually in my head until I neared the summit. When we reached the stone flags placed by conservation volunteers we knew we were almost at the top. The hill summit plateau was a relief, as by this point my legs were feeling the strain and I suspect the wine consumed during the picnic hadn't helped much either. I was getting very close to dumping the bag and coming back for it at a later date.
|Looking down Littondale with Pen-Y-Ghent on horizon|
|The view away from the head of Littondale, with Pendle Hill visible in the distance|
We slowly and carefully descended back down into Littondale, and the views made up for the discomfort. The sun had started to go lower in the sky and the shadows were now getting longer. In time we got back to the car and with a satisfied groan I took the pack off for the last time and dumped it onto the grass behind the car. Mrs Muddyboots tried to pick it up to place it in the boot and couldn't. She was then quite incredulous that I had carried it that distance and over "that hill". A quick replacement of footwear made for a refreshing change and we hobbled off to the pub to rebalance our fluids.
We sat outside the Queens Arms and slowly sank a pint of very cold lager. By now the sun had gone behind Plover Hill and it was getting quite cool in the shade. We discussed tea, and then decided against eating here this time. We drained our glasses and went back to the car for the journey back home.
|Pen-Y-Ghent from Dale Head farm entrance|
Vive Le Tyke Sportif!