Saturday, 8 October 2011

B6160 - Road from Richmond to Grassington

Day 1

Over the years I have developed a fondness for driving on challenging country roads - the type you need to really concentrate on or get killed.  Roads like the Llanberis Pass near Snowdon, the A537 Cat and Fiddle between Buxton and Macclesfield and the A814 from Tarbet to Helensburgh.  By God you need a stiff G&T at the end of these journeys.

Anyhow, I thought why not write up some of those road experiences.  So here goes - my new feature 'Life on Northern Roads'.

So we headed out of Richmond on the A6108 towards Grassington.  It's not often you see road signs warning you of learner tank drivers, but we were close to Catterick Garrison so it makes sense.  I always find it a bit spooky going past Ministry of Defense sites - maybe its all that high security fencing, military grey paint and the fact there is lots of live ammo behind those fences.  When we got to Leyburn, we picked up the A684 towards Hawes. 

I have to admit after many years of considering the speed limit as a suggestion from the Department of Transport, now I drive like a granny.  In part due to my ageing car (Lil' Princess - Nissan Almeria now 11 years old) and in part the fear of getting points on my licence. I have begun to be one of those people who drives at safe speeds especially on roads I don't know, whilst pissing off hundreds of motorists who now whizz past me.  So it was no surprise that I was soon overtaken by a red sports car and a bronze-green 70s classic car.  I don't notice or know car makes, just colours.  Despite my feminist inclinations I do correspond to the female stereotype where cars are concerned - ooh nice colour, it will go with my handbag.

I mentioned in Richmond that I had noticed lots of motorcyclists and it was on these roads I realised why they were in the Yorkshire Dales - the roads are just fab for them.  God knows how many of them passed me by during the weekend.

Anyhow back to road trip; we found our turning onto the B6160 and the first thing I noticed was a hedgehog squished on the road.  It turned out roadkill became an all too familiar feature on the B6160.  I swear over the 20 miles we travelled on this road we saw over 100 squished animals; hedgehogs, rabbits, squirrels, birds of prey, game birds, foxes and small creatures of indeterminate origin.  It did get to the stage where I began to get quite queasy at the sight of these flattened and bloodied creatures.  It was like watching a roadkill horror movie.  At one point I saw several pieces of fox strewn across a stretch of road - it was barfville.  However its brilliant if you are into eating roadkill, then it was like an amazing buffet.

Back to the road and I had a de ja vu moment looking in my rear mirror - the red sports car and a bronze-green 70s classic car were behind me again.  How I got ahead of them at my granny speed is a complete mystery to me, but sure enough, when the road allowed, they overtook and shot off into the distance.

I did notice on the journey there were lots of classic cars out on the road - really old ones that are used for weddings, phallic sports cars and those weird kit cars that look like they are made out of drain pipes.

The B6160 is quite a hilly road with quite steep hills, so you do need a powerful car to motor up them easily.  Lil' Princess doesn't exactly have the most powerful engine - 1398cc according to the manual.  So at times we did labour up the hills - pissing off the motorists behind us.  It's became quite a common theme during our road trip - pissing off the motorists behind us.

As it was a B road, the vast majority of the road was easily accessible for passing traffic.  It was only on the rare occasion that the centre markings disappeared and you had to be careful.  That was generally through the villages - Kettlewell, of Calendar Girls film fame, springs to mind.

This road takes you through the Yorkshire Dales and, as the weather was surprisingly good for October, the views were great.  There was some stony stuff jutting  out from the side of the hills (as you can guess I'm no geologist) near Grassington which looked impressive and the walkers underneath seem pretty amazed by it too.  This is the best thing about driving in the countryside - you get that fix of all things green and nature that you certainly don't get in the city.  There were tons of sheep everywhere grazing at time on the sides of very steep hills.  You have to be honest and say the next time you see these sheep they will be on your plate as roast, kebab or curry.  However you have to admit they did have a glorious start in life munching grass, overlooking wondrous Dales far from the madding crowds.

So after negotiating numerous hills and hundreds of gear changes we got to Grassington.  I have to admit I was a little frazzled by the end of the journey with having to concentrate carefully on the road, trying to avoid roadkill and having countless motorists and motorcyclists overtake me.  It's a good road to drive down, although you do need a strong stomach to cope with the gore of the roadkill.