02 December 2021
Nothing beats a day of greenlaning in the Yorkshire Dales on a cold and snowy day
What do you remember about Christmas 1982? I was only nine-years-old at the time but I will never forget it because of the David Essex song A Winter’s Tale which peaked at number 2. He was kept out of the top spot by one of my favourite artists of all time, Phil Collins, who took the much-coveted Christmas honours with the smash hit You Can’t Hurry Love. Hands up if you have sung along to that tune before? I would have to raise my hand 798,345 times.
Icy trails await
Fast forward exactly 38 years and I am heading up the A1 towards the Yorkshire Dales, the ever-changing snowy landscapes look just like the pictures at the start of the music video for A Winter's Tale. Unlike David Essex I don’t have a full head of bouncy black hair and a roaring fire to keep me warm. The heating in my Defender is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard. I pull my black beanie tighter over my bald head.
Just after Ripon I indicate to leave the A1, a massive truck speeds past me and it is as if I have no doors on the Defender, the cold wind entering via the infamous gaps. My Musto Land Rover Welded Thermo Primaloft jacket was made for the extreme temperatures one suffers in an old Defender during the winter. It would be surplus to requirements in the climate-controlled environs of the new Defender, and anyway, my 110 2.8i is much more suited to the classic Yorkshire countryside I now find myself in.Less than half an hour later I stop outside the fantabulous Golden Lion in Leyburn, the hotel of choice for Russell Dykes from Ardventures, who will be leading our happy little convoy through the Dales tomorrow. He even has his own VIY parking spot here. Very Important Yorkshireman for those that did not get it.
Decent boots for when you have to get out for the snowball fight
If you do arrive at the hotel with some daylight at your disposal do head out for a walk, within minutes of leaving the town you are in God’s Own Country as they like to call these parts. If you have children in your group I recommend taking them to the impressive Forbidden Corner which is less than five miles away at Tupgill Park. On its website they describe it as the strangest place in the world thanks to its four-acre garden that is full of surprises, tunnels, chambers and everything else that a young explorer might love to play with.
My night at the Golden Lion is exactly what I need right now. A great selection of ales, pub grub, a roaring fire and talk about Land Rovers and where we would like to go in them. Once we are allowed to, of course. The fire makes my eyes droopy and so I head off to bed before everyone else. If you ever stay here ask for room number 4. It’s my favourite and that night I sleep like the King of Yorkshire.
Kev and Sophie Gascoigne lead the way in their comfy and capable Range Rover L322
After the obligatory full English and caffeine injection it is time for us to start our engines. Not before Russ gives us a socially distanced briefing about what to expect for the day. The temperature is not much above freezing and there is snow on the higher lying hills around us. “We will definitely be driving through some white stuff and ice today. My aim is to head through Wensleydale towards the Westmorland Hills, doing as many lanes as possible before the sun sets on us. The morning lanes are all on the south side, while this afternoon we will finish up just north of Hawes,” explains Russ. I jump in with Russ in his perfectly-prepared greenlaning wagon, also known as the Discovery 2.
I have done several laning trips in Yorkshire and Russ is planning on showing LRM readers lanes that we have not yet featured in the magazine. I’m always up for seeing new parts of this beautiful county. I know they speak funny here and the older men can be a wee bit grumpy (not Russ though) but it has become one of my favourite places in the UK.
LANE 1: We start near the village of West Witton. Russ keeps his D2 in high range, I think my son’s RC4WD radio control car will be able to drive this lane. It is one of those gentle lanes that tour operators like to start off with, just so that everyone can get used to being off the tar again. Russ points out Castle Bolton in the distance, according to him it is without a doubt one of the finest examples of a medieval castle in the UK. I quickly add it to my 'things to do in Yorkshire' list. Our convoy of five quickly snakes its way up onto the ridge and into the snow. There is no time to stop and play in it, I feel as if we are in a whole new world. This is good for the soul. Soon we begin a long and gradual decline and everyone in the convoy seems to settle into a rhythm.
No Hill Descent Control necessary in Yorkshire when the sheep are crossing the road. The convoy stops while the future lamb chops sheepishly cross the road. Soon the lane ends at West Burton.
Stop and wait for your turn on the icy inclines and declines
LANE 2: We take the B6160 until we are due south of Bainbridge, our second lane begins at Middle Pasture. This time Russ decides that he needs a little help from his friend Low Range. The sheep have been replaced by sleet and snow, which greatly reduces visibility. A glance at the Garmin Overlander GPS unit shows the contour lines on the track we are following to be pretty close together, like the punters in a bar near Old Trafford on match day. We brace ourselves for a tough climb. It never comes, this D2 just expertly eats up the white track.
Once at the top I can just about make out some wooden grouse shooting ports that run parallel to the track. The BF Goodrich KM3 mud tyres make an ear-pleasing crunch sound on the freshly-fallen snow. This is replaced by a crackling sound as they break though the layer of ice covering the shallow mud holes. After a few minutes the visibility improves greatly. This long lane definitely gets easier once you are on the ridge,that is until we begin the descent off it. The slippery ice makes things tricky and Russ tells the rest of the convoy to make sure that they leave big gaps between the vehicles. Sliding uncontrollably into the back of someone is the fastest way to make enemies in Yorkshire. We all make it off the lane without any such dramas.
The D2 bonnet is a great hand warmer
LANE 3, Beggars Lane: Our third lane starts at Bainbridge; if you look at a Google Earth satellite photo of the town, you can clearly see where the old Roman fort once stood. It has left its timeless shape in the earth. We follow the famous old Roman road in a south-westerly direction. We are not alone, two walkers are also climbing up the track with us, soon a white mist overtakes us and the visibility is no more than 30 feet. Still it is great to be out on this long, historic lane.
About halfway down the lane the mist decides to go bother someone else; I am glad as now we can see the rolling snow covered hills in all their glory. This is walking and greenlaning paradise. We start the long, slow descent that will take us off the lane. Little do we know what fun and games lie ahead of us. A kid on a sled is being towed by a Japanese pick-up, so we all move over. It does look like lots of fun.r
This young lad had to be safely winched off the lane so that we could pass
Lane 4, West Cam: We’ve all been there before, those days when you’re making good progress and you start to dream of a potential early finish. Next thing you know it’s 4.00 am and a smiling Toyota pick-up driver is offering to recover you out of an elephant-sized mud hole. Well, our West Cam Lane experience isn’t quite as dramatic but it could have been on another day. It all starts off swimmingly, the sun is out. Climbing up and down the rolling hills on a mix of relatively hard and easy tracks, sweeping white vistas as far as the human eye can see. It is as if we are riding green oval chariots, high in the Yorkshire sky. I am loving life and this lane.
In some places we can see signs of recent off-piste activity and recoveries, so we cautiously plod on. Then we notice another set of tracks in the snow ahead of us. I can feel the Discovery sliding on some icy bits, but Russ quickly brings it all under control. As we cautiously poke the nose over the rise we notice a Defender 90 coming up where we are about to go down. Judging by the condition of the track he has already had more than his fair share of attempts at it. I jump out to go and have a chat with the young fellow. He has some mates in another Defender who are at the ready to help. He needs it and they slowly winch him off the track so that we can continue.
That too proves to be a case of easier said than done. We use up an hour or two doing the final third of the lane. First the young lad has had to be winched off, then each Land Rover has to proceed one inch at a time. It is dangerously icy, everyone slides at some stage or other of the descent, some perilously close to edge while volunteers try and push the heavy 4x4s back onto the tracks. Russ patiently talks to each driver as they try and make their way down safely. I have never been in such slippery conditions before. At long last we are all down the worst bit and we can proceed as one. The rest of the lane is tame compared to what we have just done.
The well-known Water Cut sculpture on our final lane of the day
LANE 5: Our final lane of the day starts at the Shaw Paddock farm, we spot a farmer putting feed out for his sheep, they certainly need it in these harsh conditions. He gives us a friendly wave. Not long in we pass over an old bridge and poor old Mick Bown (assistant guide and gate guy) opens his 688,274 gate of the day. Still he is in good spirits. We pass through a narrow gate and soon the track becomes rather rutted. This makes a welcome change as once in the ruts you aren’t going anywhere else. As a final curve ball, the weather moves in once again, but not before we can enjoy fleeting views of the incredible Eden Valley. Russ stops at the now famous Water Cut sculpture. I hop out but no one else does. I don’t blame them – the extreme elements are not pleasant. Time to move on to where the wind is not blowing at gale force speeds. Unlike our previous lane our descent off the lane is without drama.
There is still about an hour of sunlight left, Russ treats us to a drive back to the hotel via Buttertubs Pass, that scenic high road Top Gear just couldn’t get enough of when Jeremy Clarkson was still there. Just as the last rays of sunlight disappear we make it back to the hotel.
It will still be a while before we can travel internationally. Even as I type this we are not allowed to greenlane anywhere in the UK. Once that changes, the lanes featured in this article will be very popular amongst the Land Rover community. All I am going to say is this, please greenlane in a responsible manner. Stay on the legal lanes. Don’t go off-piste. Yorkshire is there for us all to enjoy, don’t spoil it for future users.
Russ and his trusty D2
Russ Dykes from Ardventures for another superb day out. There is no one else who knows these lanes better than our favourite Yorkshireman. The great thing about using his services when greenlaning is that you know you are laning along legal lanes and if things do get a little hairy he is always on hand to guide you and give you some sound advice. For more details see ardventures.co.uk.
Here's what Kev and Sophie Gascoigne (Range Rover L322) had to say: We use Russ for a several reasons. Firstly we know that any lane we are on is legal as Russ knows what’s legal and drivable, especially in winter. Secondly, we feel safe and secure. And lastly, Russ is a convivial host. He will tweak the itinerary to suit his guests if necessary. His local knowledge is second to none. The conditions today were tricky and extreme, we would not have done them without a guide.
WE STAYED AT:
The Golden Lion, Leyburn
A great base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales in your Land Rover. Rooms are comfy (number 4 is the best), food is good and the landlord friendly. For more details see goldenlionleyburn.co.uk.
Find more great UK greenlane destinations here.
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