Redmire to Leyburn and Wensleydale Railway
Sooo, George and the Ramblings team had spent a harrowing time in the Golden Lion working out the route and other logistics over the course of an hour one Friday evening whilst imbibing copious quantities of gold liquid.
So here I am hitting a ciabatta bread bun with corned beef and pickled beetroot and really taking a gourmet approach to sandwich building by complementing it with some Walkers plain crisps and a banana. It’s only 6 miles-ish if we get it right so it should be about 7 miles working on past experience where something tends to go wrong.
Carol is promising us a great day weather-wise and the blue sky and occasional rogue cumulus that we have now is expected to remain for the rest of the day. That’ll do nicely thank you very much Ms. Kirkwood, we’re on a roll.
Peter, our resident rally driver and, on this occasion taxi to Leeming, is knocking on the door. Always punctual, I do like that, we’re off to pick up the others with lots of time to spare.
We have had to make a few last-minute changes as the original intention was to go from Northallerton West but this has to be changed because of the destructive burrowing of some pesky wabbits just this side of Scruton which results in the necessity for Wensleydale Railway (WR) to abandon that service for the day whilst repairs are made. We’ll be going from Leeming.
We arrive at Leeming Station and head towards the carriage that doubles as shop and ticket office to be greeted by a wonderfully helpful lady who issues us with tickets discounted if you’re local and also, ahem, if you’re old!
She explains that it’s sometimes embarrassing to ask people if they qualify for senior discounts and we put her at her ease when we all agree that we’re happy to be any age that’s going to attract a 25% discount. With a combined age of nearing 400 between the six us we’re well inside the rules.
We have about 20 minutes to wait and the train arrives early so we’re asked if we fancy a trip down to Scruton and back at no extra charge so here we are on the train! This is a lovely bonus and we’re transported down the track through some beautiful, mid-summer meadows to a point just before the damage perpetrated by our furry, long-eared, friends. The driver changes ends and then takes us back somewhat slower and we see the size of the developments taking place to bridge the line with the new by-pass. There’s certainly a huge amount of work going on.
We stop at Leeming again and then at Bedale. The train now has a chance to speed up to a point that reminds me of a poem that had been put to a short film then narrated by, I think, Sir John Betjeman. See the link at the end of the article.
Night Mail – WH Auden
This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.
Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.
Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.
Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers’ declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.
Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston’s or Crawford’s:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
The train is elderly but the seats are more comfortable than the modern equivalent and there is far more room. The doors are opened from the outside and you have to open the windows to reach out to turn the handle; this was the highly effective health and safety measure that ensured children and the vulnerable couldn’t open the door by accident.
We position ourselves in seats that face each other. There are 6 seats across the carriage in a 4 and 2 formation and we’re able to engage in conversation whilst taking in the fabulous views that present themselves as the train snakes through the countryside.
If you click any of the pictures here you can page through them full size and it’s definitely worth it…
The Wensleydale Railway staff inspect our tickets with a smile and we all remark how the atmosphere is reminiscent of childhood with the humour and banter. The weather is endless blue sky and this, in itself, is a carefree childhood memory when every day was sunny; however, today it is gift wrapped, vivid and happening now.
We’re invited to buy coffee, tea and biscuits at very reasonable prices and I take the opportunity then gaze open-mouthed through the open window with the warm breeze gently wafting the smell of partially harvested fields that are so yellow in the sunshine they make me squint. There are rolled bales of straw scattered randomly across the fields with black shadows that indicate the intensity of the sun. There are large birds using the thermals to glide above without a single beat of their wing, they’re suspended in the atmosphere and the scene is almost surreal. George thinks they’re some kind of buzzard but he’s not sure, maybe some ornithological friends could confirm.
In the blink of an eye I’m looking down a cut with a fast flowing stream with reeds on both banks that pick out its path as it meanders across the field and eventually merges with the hedges in the distance.
Wensleydale is beautiful in its smooth-rolling glory whereas other dales are beautiful for being craggy and rough. All of the dales are dramatic and change according to the season. It’s never the wrong time to go to the dales and the Wensleydale Railway make it easy and safe even if the weather is poor. I hope they achieve their aspirations of extending through to Settle or even just further into the dale. This track is fabulous.
We arrive in Leyburn and half the passengers alight before we hear a confident blast on the conductor’s whistle as the doors are slammed shut and we coast our way on the final leg to Redmire.
Redmire station is minimal but functional and this is our start point to walk back to Leyburn via Redmire Scar and Leyburn Shawl.
We take a few pictures and I start the app on my phone to help us follow the planned route and also to track us wherever we walk.
The first two kilometres are up. By this I mean they are both chronically and acutely up! Initially we’re on the road but it’s quiet with the exception of the mailman and the odd 4×4. It’s hot and I’m glad I’ve been liberal with the suncream, SPF 40 all day stuff from Tesco’s and only a fiver, well worth it. We stay on the road for about a kilometre then turn right onto a track that has signs indicating dire consequences for anyone who dares to trespass on the quarry side of a pig wire fence. If you chose to follow this route there are many ambiguous signs, one or two that indicate alternative routes, at least one that states no access although the OS Map quite clearly states otherwise and a particularly ambiguous one that gets one of us into trouble.
We enter a field via a five bar gate that is locked shut and make our way on some more ‘up’. The track peters out but there is a style in the distance and we head for that. Over the style and on to an embankment followed by some more ‘up’. The going is soft which is nice on the feet but pulls on the back of the legs. On reaching the top of Redmire Scar we stop to take in the scene. We can see at least a third of Wensleydale from here and it’s breathtaking. If someone had played the theme from Postman Pat I could imagine the little van scuttling about the winding roads between dry stone walls and buttercup spotted meadows.
The hard part is now complete and the middle stretch is easy going and to the right is wonderful on the eye. To the left it’s more ‘interesting’ in as much as we have old worked out quarries that have flooded areas, rough plants that thrive in the challenging environment and huge numbers of yellow tansy lifting otherwise stark and often dark areas of waste.
A little further along and we can both see and hear a working quarry and decide to have lunch before we get closer to avoid the dust and noise.
Eating our sandwiches whilst perched on the edge of Redmire Scar gazing out over the quilt of fields with lanes, dry stone walls, hedgerows, trees, Penhill and all of this is topped by the bluest of blue skies with fluffy cumulus drifting very slowly and casting shadows that constantly morph into different shapes as they caress the undulating fields; this is bliss.
After 20 minutes we strike our little camp and continue the walk adjacent to the active quarry and try to get that behind us as quickly as possible.
There is a minor descent and we cross the road on to Preston Scar and after some easy terrain that’s well signposted we arrive at a point that is poorly marked and ambiguous resulting in an interesting situation with a farmer.
We do try to act responsibly as we ramble about, closing gates, only going on tracks that are clearly marked on the OS Maps and wherever possible, sticking to routes that are obviously marked; however, at this point there are so many arrows indicating the path(s) to take and after taking the group through a patch of vicious stinging nettles, baring in mind that some of them were wearing shorts, and meeting with a dead end and consequently having to retrace our steps, we find the official route but even that is ambiguous.
So, five of us go down the route that is marked on our side of the fence and one takes the route marked on the other side of the fence which takes him into a field. A few minutes later and we have the Wensleydale version of the Cuban Missile crisis.
A lady farmer has just finished repairing her fence and the sight of Peter on what she maintains is the wrong side of the fence sends her into a bit of state. I’ll not go into detail here but Peter, without hesitation, retraces his steps back up to the point of ambiguity and Mac shouts an apology. This is not enough for our vociferous landowner and things become orally combative culminating with an eloquent invitation for us to piss off. If you chose to walk this route please be careful at this point as both tracks are clearly signed but the one in the field gets you a bollocking.
We’re together again and on a path that is clearly marked on both the OS Map and by footfall and head into Preston under Scar where the app on my phone is challenged by some beta software and locks up. Now I do have back up maps on it and George has duplicates on his so we’re not quite blind but it does mean there is no tracking of exactly where we are which is less comfortable usual.
We leave Preston on the Wensley road for about 500 metres and turn left onto a track clearly marked and bump into Julie and Stuart who are walking to Leyburn too. They have a paper map and we develop a degree of map envy and try to work together to discover the route through the woods which takes a few minutes as the obvious one has now been walled up and the actual one is not obvious.
To our relief, the track through the woods is clearly marked and the bonus is that there is a bridge for photographs.
As we exit the woods Julie and Stuart are looking at the map and a waymarker which are advising different routes. They opt for the map and we follow them through two fields and diagonally across another on the rise again.
At the top we’re at the start of Leyburn Shawl and the going gets easy on a well-maintained path with trees to our right that break occasionally to frame some fabulous views of the dale.
It’s about three kilometres to Leyburn and there is a gentle fall that makes it a leisurely stroll into the Market Place.
Peter and Hayden decide on a couple of beers and we retire to the Serendipity Cafe above the shop. It’s Mac’s suggestion and truly worth a visit. We’re served by a delightful young lady who’s both cheerful and accommodating when I ask for some cheese to go with my scone. There are places that can’t deal with requests that are not on the menu but not here, it’s an “If we’ve got it you can have it attitude” and I’ll certainly be back. Highly recommended.
The next hour is filled with drinks, ice cream and chat before walking to the station. Give yourself 10 minutes to walk to the station from the town centre.
The journey back to Leeming is as delightful as the one to Redmire as we take the front coach to see more of both sides of the track.
This is a great day out. Wensleydale Railways is efficient and comfortable. The scenery from the train is stunning.
The walk is about 7 miles and the hard bit is at the beginning. There are a number of ambiguous signs so ensure you have an up-to-date map. Wensleydale is very beautiful and from the top of the Scars you can see an awful lot of it. Stick to the track to the left of the fence when descending to Preston Under Scar.
Feel free to share and ‘like’. Enjoy…G. x
Here’s a lovely link to a BBC programme narrated by Sir John Betjeman: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03495yn/lets-imagine-a-branch-line-railway-with-john-betjeman
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