Looking through some possessions recently, Marjorie Robinson, from Settle, came across an article her late son, Tim, wrote charting a Dales cycle ride. Here she shares what her son penned as a teenager back in February 1988, seven years before he died aged 26. She hopes it will make people smile who knew him.

IT is Monday morning, February 2, 1988, and I feel I must put pen to paper and report on the eventful weekend I have enjoyed battling (to say the least) in a ferocious Yorkshire Dales winter, before the memory is forgotten and my trip disappears into the depths of my mileage chart, never to be seen again. It was a weekend of both peaceful and hair-raising moments as you will discover as you read my story

I shall begin on Friday. As I finished work at lunchtime I fitted my saddlebag to my bike and set off from Skipton on the short journey to my parents’ home in Settle where I was to stay the night as I wanted to avoid the main road traffic. I went over the tops to Settle via Airton which gave me a taste for the hills and being reasonably fit I was looking forward to tackling somewhat bigger hills on the following day.

Saturday dawned bright and clear and I was up and away. My main objective was to visit Aysgarth Youth Hostel as I had never had the opportunity to stay there before and as the cycling club (Skipton CC of which I am a member) was planning to have Sunday lunch in the vicinity it was a chance of meeting up with the ‘lads’; an opportunity not to be missed.

So I headed off up to Ribblehead and into a slight head wind but nothing too serious as it switched to favour me after turning right at Ribblehead.

One amusing incident which occurred was at Newby Head when a motorist passed me at some speed and shot off onto the road bound for Dent, but to the driver’s horror there was a crisp one inch of snow on the road. Oh dear! So a hasty reversal back onto the Hawes road was made. He obviously didn’t fancy Dent Head today!

I too was bound for Hawes where I paused for lunch, then it was back on the road again and off to Simonstone and the strenuous climb of the Buttertubs Pass. But it wasn’t long before I was pushing my bike along this tough road. I paused at the first cattle grid for a breather and to take in the magnificent view of Hawes, Widdale and Garsdale. Seeing the splendour of the Dales made the long, hard drag so worth the effort. Oh, to be in England.

I recall some years ago admiring this very same view while out motoring with my father and grandfather. Sadly, my grandfather is no longer with us but this view will always remind me of him, sitting in the car with the binoculars focused on the rugged landscape.

My other grandfather was a local preacher in the Settle circuit (Mr JA Benson, of Langcliffe) and could often be seen cycling in the beloved Dales to the various surrounding chapels. With such a background I guess this love of the Dales is in my blood.

But back to the story. After reaching the summit I remounted my bike and rode the next mile up to the actual Buttertubs where I stopped to have a look down these unusual cavities in the limestone. But as I neared the edge of the Tubs I realised that with snow all around there was a strong possibility of slipping and falling, thus getting a closer look than anticipated. So, not to be outdone, I got on my hands and knees and crawled to the edge, looked down and stealthily crawled back again to the security of my two-wheeled friend. Goodness knows what a passing motorist would have thought had he seen a cyclist on his hands and knees in three inches of snow hanging his head over the infamous Buttertubs.

The descent from the buttertubs to Thwaite was quite interesting. I didn’t expect any snow on the road as it was clear all the way up the other side, but as I neared the bottom I hit a patch of drifted snow. There was no harm done but it did waken me up and bring me to my senses.

Before I rode down Swaledale I popped up to Keld, home of my favourite youth hostel. I paused in the village to eat a Mars bar and marvelled at the view of Kisdon Hill and its steep contours - breathtaking. Then it was off down the road to Swaledale where the first five miles from Thwaite to Gunnerside were quite snowy. But after crossing the river bridge at Gunnerside there was very little snow to talk about and with a nice tail wind it was a lovely run down to Reeth. As I felt good I carried on to Richmond but as time was getting on it was once round the market place and straight back to Grinton for the ascent of Grinton Moor to Redmire. If there’s one thing I don’t like doing on a bike it’s riding in the dark on strange roads, but when the strange road has a sharp descent at the end of it that makes it even worse. So I rode as far as I could then I was off and walking again as I was at the Buttertubs.

As time went by I noticed the lovely clear day had dulled. The warm sun had gone and the temperature had dropped dramatically. Then it hit me. Grinton Moor was about to test me. This soon became apparent as suddenly I couldn’t even see the road for snow and ice. It definitely was not ridable now as my rear wheel spun round with only the slightest pressure on the pedals. The wind had increased from its earlier whisper to quite some strength along with fine hailstones and snow.

I began thanking my lucky stars for not removing my thermal Craven Herald vest from under my cycling top as I had considered earlier. The continual battering was not showing any signs of abating as the Yorkshire Dales had suddenly become very savage and it was only true Yorkshire grit that kept me going. Pressing onward and upward to the top of this exposed moor I finally made it.

When I got over the top of Grinton the weather relented and lo and behold, the road reappeared from underneath the snow. I rode my trusty steed gingerly down to the village of Redmire in the evening twilight.

As darkness fell I rode the last few miles to Carperby and on to Aysgarth where at last I found refuge in the shape of the youth hostel. The hostel provided me with a good evening meal which I ate with relish in the company of two Australians and couple from Leeds, the latter originating from the Peak District.

After sampling a spot of liquid refreshment at the pub next door I felt it was time for getting my head down to dream of further adventures to come.

I awoke Sunday morning after a good night’s rest, had breakfast, said farewell to the warden and promised myself one day to return to this ‘above average’ hostel.

The morning’s run had to start and end in Aysgarth as I was meeting the club there for lunch so I decided to explore the easterly reaches of Wensleydale.

I rode off in the direction of Leyburn and on to Middleham; both very pleasant locations with their market places.

I decided to continue east as I hoped to have a look at the village green at East Witton which I had seen only in photographs but never for real. The place was very nice but as my bike and I broke new ground, I spotted a signpost bearing the legendary Jervaulx Abbey -1 1/2 miles. This was an opportunity I could not miss so I rode on down the road to this historic location and being just off the main road it made a very peaceful stopping point after 13 miles in the saddle.

It was great to just wander back in time and sit in the ruins of a once great abbey. I explored with interest the bedraggled remains of this now privately-owned location and after resting a while in what was once the monks choir, I returned to the reality of 1988 from historic 1156, saddled up and began to ride back to Aysgarth, but not before doing a lap of honour around East Witton village green.

On I went to Middleham, avoiding Leyburn by taking a minor road instead and eventually arriving at the cafe in Aysgarth where I met up with six of the Skipton CC lads.

The official club run was over the rough track of Stake Moss (Bainbridge to Buckden) so three of us: Harry Smith, Richard Simmons and myself decided to carry out the planned run while the others plumped for the metalled roads which was probably the better idea.

We three tourers set about our task by heading to Bainbridge via the delightfully named Thornton Rust. We then followed the River Bain up to one of the only three natural lakes in Yorkshire, this one being Semer Water.

We pressed on to Stalling Busk where our trek over the moor began in earnest. The track was covered with snow but Harry pointed out that the track would probably be a bit smoother and more ridable because of the additional snow. But as we got higher the snow covering on the road had increased somewhat. Two inches had suddenly become 12 inches and I encountered the problem of snow wedging between my wheel and mudguard. As I alleviated my snow problem, Harry pressed on and opened up a gap between himself and us ‘young ‘uns’ never to be closed until all three of us met up again after crossing the four-and-a-half-mile track. Harry, our healthy 70-year-old cyclist really showed us teenagers how to tackle this terrain.

The increasing depth of snow was now becoming a problem as the weight of my hostelling panniers made my bike sink deeper into the snow and my arms were beginning to become fatigued with pushing my bike. A menacing westerly wind became stronger with the company of fine hailstones and snow continually battering the right hand side of my face making conditions rough to say the least.

By now the rough mileage of yesterday was beginning to take its toll on me and Richard was now beginning to open up gaps between us with apparent ease. Thankfully he offered to swap bikes for a while giving me the lighter bike.

This was a God-send and it was here I got my second wind and began to feel stronger as we battled past three-foot drifts. Thankfully, Richard took some photographs of me struggling past these major obstacles - just to prove I’m not trotting out an old cyclist’s tall story.

After descending through a very rough section called Hell Gap we returned to normality and the metalled surface of the Kidstones road near Buckden where we met Harry again and who came out with the quote of the week: ‘By, it wor colder up theer, than a thowt it would bi!’. We rode the few miles down to Buckden in a snow storm where we thankfully stopped for tea. So much for carrying out the proper club run because the official stop for tea was Grassington, but we decided an early stop was required.

Richard, facing the prospect of riding back home to Pateley Bridge, decided enough was enough and telephoned for his parents to come and pick him up in the car; (and we haven’t seen him since).

Harry and I pressed on down the valley to Skipton. We didn’t talk much. I think we were both reflecting on our own private battles with the Yorkshire Dales’ weather. Finally we did stop near Threshfield to switch on our lights, then we reeled off the remaining miles to Skipton with some ease.

At Skipton I had a lovely hot bath and went to bed thankful to be safe home once more. I lay there reminiscing and thinking, if I can do t’Stake Pass in winter I’m pretty sure I’ll manage it on a summer’s day. Or should I just stick to t’Buttertubs I know and love? Or, should I just stick to writing about cycling in the comfort of a fireside chair? No, I think one day I’ll go back ower t’Stake’ - one day.