Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Brimham Rocks

Last Thursday the sun rose early, stretched and decided to hang around for the day.  And so it was that I decided to go for a drive as it was the first day of decently warm weather we'd had so far this year.

As I'm planning on exploring the UK this summer, I'd been thinking about becoming a member of a couple of the organisations that would allow me free access to stately homes, historic houses, beautiful gardens and scenic locations up and down the country.  

Fancying a spot of exercise as well as a drive, I decided to revisit Brimham Rocks as they were only 50 minutes away and if I joined the National Trust, I could park for free and thus 'save' on the £4 charge.  I became a member online, paid the £41.50 fee, got a temporary access card via an email which I printed off and I was set to go. 

First up, I needed lunch so I went to the Crown Carvery pub, The Wellington, on Wetherby Road and ate outside in the glorious sunshine.  A good start.

Putting Brimham Rocks into my GPS, I headed off NW to Harrogate Road and once through the town, went west on the B6165 towards Pateley Bridge.  

I'm glad I had the GPS as signs for Brimham Rocks were as rare as squirrel eggs as far as I could see. I knew I was eventually turning right onto Brimham Rocks Road (the clue is in the name) but a sign at the start of the B6165 at Ripley would've been both informative and helpful. 

Anyway there was a good clear National Trust sign at the turnoff onto Brimham Rocks Road so better late than never I guess.

This road was delightful with open Dales fields on both sides and on a sunny early spring day like last Thursday, it was a joy to have it to myself. Any Americans bringing their RVs over to explore this area.....beware.  This road is NOT for you. Actually it would be a tight fit for a good old British caravan but like I said, I had it to myself and my little Clio purred along with its recently replaced timing belt showing no signs of wear !

Finally I arrived at the car park and despite the presence of 3 others cars and a school van,  I found a spot and parked up.  Ok one little niggle right away.  In an effort to be all ecological and green, they've used wooden 'beams' to mark out the parking bays on this otherwise gravel parking lot but have used metal nuts and bolts to secure them into the ground. I dread to think what this could do to your tyres if you go over them and, say, turn the wheels a few times to get properly into the bay.

After placing my newly printed temporary NT membership pass on my dashboard, I noticed a man going to the pay and display machine and then looking a bit confused as he wandered back to his car where his wife and 2 young kids were waiting. As I got out of my car he came up to me and in slightly broken English, asked if there was a charge for only staying an hour as that's all the time they had for their visit.

I knew already that the minimum charge was £4 for 3 hours and I'd remembered thinking that was a bit unfair for anyone wanting less time for less money. The man opened his hand and showed me 3 pound coins and before I'd thought about it, I fished a pound coin out of my pocket and gave it to him. It was only later that I doubted that he only had £3 on him but maybe that was all the change he had. Anyway, it was my good deed for the day and hopefully they enjoyed their hour there !

So I walked the very short distance to the rocks and sure enough, they'd not changed much since my last visit, several years earlier !  Actually I'd been several times before as I've always been a bit of a climber and the rocks were perfect for my level of fitness.

Sadly I soon discovered that those days are gone and at 60, I looked at some high ledges and spaces between the rocks and thought......hmmmm, I could do myself a mischief here or even....hmmmmmm not a chance in hell !  Then again, I was wearing jeans so didn't have much in the way of "freedom of movement" so that'll be my main excuse.

With so few people around, it was great to be able to take photos without anyone (else) clambering over the rocks. I didn't mind the occasional visitor as they'd help to give scale.

At the top of one particular rock I found two half drunk bottles of pop, probably dumped by two of the kids who were now gathered around the school van in the parking lot ready to leave. As it wasn't far, I picked up the bottles and walked down to the car park intending to put them into a bin.

Well I would've done if there HAD been a bin.  Not one.  Two car parks and not one bin !
With the British attitude concerning litter (even if there is a bin nearby I'll just drop my litter on the ground as someone is paid to pick it up anyway), it might be reasoned that bins are pretty useless but at least have them for those of us who do like our scenery unspoiled by litter. Without them, there is no option. The NT told me they have daily collections by volunteers but come on, surely that's playing into the hands of the litter louts AND does nothing for the views between those daily collections. 

End of rant.

I left the bottles behind the pay and display unit so at least they were hidden from most views.

Backup up at the rocks, there were a few 'proper' climbers doing their thing and despite the rocks not being that high, many had sheer sides which were a decent challenge and good for training purposes for future harder climbs.

 It was while at the top of one of the taller rock formations that I had an epiphany.  Always happens to me when nowhere near a restroom !

To be serious, it came as I glanced across to my right, away from the usual views over the Dales.  It came about as there were no leaves on most of the trees so I could see much more than on any previous visit.  I saw more rocks !

Holy crap on a stick !!  There were dozens more formations spreading as far as the eye could see.....and last Thursday, on top of that rock, with no leaves in the way, I could see quite a distance. 

All those times I'd been to the rocks, I'd thought the small group near the car park were the only ones.  What an idiot.  I should've known.  I'd never seen any of the ones on the website and as for the visitor's centre and gift shop etc........nope, I'd never seen them either !

So I went exploring and what a to the right of me, rocks to the left of me and so on. In fact you couldn't move more than a few feet without coming across another formation. And again, with so few people around, I felt I had them all to myself.

I found the balanced rock, similar to the one in Arches Natl Park in Utah and one with strange eroded notches in its side which made it look like the portholes of a ship.

As you can tell from these photos, and the ones to come, there was a sort of main path that would take you past many of the rock formations; to see them all, you had to get off this path and go on ones created by the feet of the thousands of visitors who had explored the location over the years.  Some were grassy and easy to walk along but others you had to make yourself by walking over smaller rocks and navigating around trees, rocks and other natural obstacles. It was great. I loved it.

Finally I came upon the visitor's centre which I knew wasn't open during the week at this early part of the season. It all made sense now. I finally understood why you'd need to spend several hours there. The rocks covered a vast area. By now i'd been there just under 3 hours and there was still so much to see but I needed to get back home.

I'll include one short video clip as most were too long for Blogger to deal with here. There is no commentary from me except for occasional heavy breathing as I'd climbed over pretty much every rock between the car park and the visitor's centre and, technically speaking, I was knackered. 

Sad to say, uploading it to Blogger has reduced the original HD quality so much that you really should leave it at this small size. If you click to make it full screen, you'll get something like from a BBC documentary from 1947.

Four final shots. 

First up, my initial view of the visitor's centre off to the left in the distance, taken from the top of a rock. Then on the way back, a black & white view of a tree growing out of another formation. The penultimate photo shows a formation looking like an Egyptian Sphinx (and later I learned it was called....the Sphinx !) and finally I came upon a pair having a read/nap in the late afternoon sunshine. 


Back in the car, I really didn't fancy the drive back through Harrogate at rush hour and the A61 to Leeds at that time would've been pretty awful too.

Well it was as if my GPS knew that, as it took me back a different way which totally avoided Harrogate and instead, took me along delightful Dales roads, one as straight as an arrow for miles so clearly 'made' by those Yorkshire Romans !  

It also took me along the B6451 past Menwith Hill, the joint UK/US 'listening station' with it's 30 distinctive golf ball shaped radomes. I'd never been that close to them before but resisted the temptation to stop for photographs as somehow I knew doing so would add about 2 hours to my home time !  Or maybe 2 years !!

I wanted my supper.

So that was it.  A grand day out as Wallace would've said...if he'd been a real person and with me. The sun shone, the rocks were brill and I got a lot of much needed exercise.  

I slept like the proverbial log that night. And I'll be going back for sure.


rhymeswithplague said...

Fascinating! Great pictures, and good to have you posting again.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Ahahahaha! That is JUST the sort of thing I'd do! Visit a place many times and simply not realise there was more to it! I love it.

It's a gorgeous place, isn't it? Your post makes me want to go there!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately most of the photographs aren't working, I'd like to have seen them .....

Otherwise, it sounds like an interesting place.

Silverback said...

Sorry to read that you couldn't see them on your system.

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