My intended destination was Brimham Rocks just off the road to Ripon and the drive took me through some lovely countryside. Away from the A59 the road became very twisty and winding with some long steep inclines going down, and as I negotiated the third one I could see it and smell it - smoke coming from somewhere underneath the van. Holey Moley! Burning rubber or overheating brake drums? - I wasn't sure, but remembering my near brake failure twelve months ago it didn't exactly inspire me with confidence. Fortunately there was a small lay-by at the bottom of the hill so I pulled in there and sat for twenty minutes or so to let things cool down before I went any further. Just round the next bend was a steep uphill incline and I was dreading what I might find at the top but luckily the descent from that one wasn't as steep and I arrived at the village of Pateley Bridge in one piece. Phew, thank goodness for that!
As I passed through the village itself I thought it looked so nice it would be worth making a stop, and anyway after last few hairy minutes of my drive I decided I deserved some coffee and cake. There was a car park just off the main road so I pulled in there and with a ticket duly purchased and stuck in the front windscreen I collected the dogs and my camera and went for a wander. Just across the road from the car park was a very pleasant-looking cafe with a terrace overlooking the nearby river so I hitched the dogs to the railing near a vacant table and went inside to order, and not long afterwards I was enjoying a mug of coffee and a decent-sized slice of Victoria sponge cake. With the warmth of the sun and the sound of the river flowing just down below the terrace my sanity gradually returned, and once I'd paid the bill I went to see just what Pateley Bridge had to offer.
There was just one main street, the road going right through the village which had shops on both sides, and at the top of the hill I came across a small and very pleasant lawned area with the flower-covered Fox's Head Well set back off the pavement, so called because the spout is in the shape of a fox's head. Back down the hill and across the bridge over the River Nidd was a large and attractive-looking park with a childrens play area, bandstand, a riverside walk and a war memorial surrounded by a pretty little garden, and I got several photos before making my way back to the van.
Back on the road again it wasn't long before I came to the turn off for Brimham Rocks, and as I drove along the single track road with bracken and ferns growing tall along each side I almost felt as if I was venturing into the jungle, though eventually the foliage petered out and the road became more open with views across the nearby countryside. Finally I arrived at the entrance to the rocks area itself; it was a National Trust place and as I drove up the track towards the car park I had my membership card at the ready. The guy issuing the car park tickets had already noticed my NT sticker in the windscreen so hardly glanced at my card; "Members car park on the right at the top" he told me, pointing further up the track, and as I drove on I felt quite privelaged being able to park in a 'special' car park - there's definitely something to be said for this National Trust membership!
With the dogs on their leads and the camera round my neck I set off to explore, and as I walked round I was both surprised and amazed at what was there. Quite a while ago someone on UKCS had posted a picture of a few of the rocks, suggesting it as somewhere to go, and I had the impression that what was in the photo was what you get, but not so - the area was far bigger than I imagined, with natural rock formations all over the place. There was a designated wheelchair-user-friendly path all the way round but other paths led off from that and meandered between and around the rocks, with grassy areas here and there where people were having picnics or just sitting in the sun. Many people, kids and adults alike, were climbing up and on the rocks, which is allowed (and tough if you fall off and hurt yourself), and the views over the countryside from some of them were fantastic. Towards the top end of the site a few tables with bench seats were set out on the grass and there was a kiosk selling snacks and drinks; steps up the nearby slope led to a viewing area from where you could see for miles. The rocks themselves had been eroded over time into many weird and wonderful formations, and some of them looked like they were balanced so precariously on top of each other that the next gust of wind would surely cause them to topple over.
I wandered round for well over an hour taking shot after shot and found the place so fascinating that I could have stayed all afternoon, but there was somewhere else I wanted to go to so I finally made my way back to the van and set off to my third port of call, Fountains Abbey just outside Ripon. This was another National Trust place and dogs on leads were welcome so at least I didn't need to leave them in the van while I explored, though I still found a shady spot to park in. The abbey itself was several minutes walk from the entrance, past a couple of fields and through a wooded area and when I got there I found that just like Brimham Rocks the place was bigger than I'd thought. There was also a water garden somewhere but it seemed to be another good walk away and as I didn't want to be too late setting off back to the camp site I decided against going to find it and just stick to looking round the abbey.
Once we'd all got some food and drink of some description Dragon - aka Neil - announced the plans for future meets which will take us up to June next year - and if anyone needed convincing that we really are nutters then those plans would definitely confirm it. Needless to say, we'll be having a lot of fun in the coming months and will certainly be living up to our unofficial title of 'the nutters group'. It was just after 11pm when my day out in the fresh air caught up with me and I was ready for my bed so after saying goodnight to the rest of the nutters I took Sophie and Sugar for a quick walk round the site and retreated to the van. I'd had a good day and a very sociable evening - our next get-together was to be in a month's time and I was already looking forward to it.