Sunday 13th September 2015 – A review of the GriSport "Peaklander" walking boot

This blog post is a departure from the normal type of blog in which I write about the walks I have been on and describe the route taken etc, and to further differentiate it from the ‘usual’ stuff it has the added benefit of video – did I hear someone at the back say Betamax?… or if getting down with the kids, it has a “vlog” (video blog) embedded in it. Progress eh?

As some of my readers will know I send out the occasional Tweet now and again to fill in the time between going out for walks and taking photos, and the other week I was quite surprised to be contacted on Twitter by @Grisport_UK, a manufacturer of walking boots. GriSport made the kind request of asking me to undertake a boot review for this very blog, to which I agreed. So, those kind folk up at GriSport sent me a pair of leather “Peaklander” walking boots which I then proceeded to try out. Now, this review is my own opinion of the boots, and everybody and his dog has an opinion, so should you feel inclined to disagree with what I’ve written then by all means do so, however, do note that I have tried to be objective and reasoned and to give a fair account of what I thought about them.



GriSport are an Italian footwear manufacturer who is based in the foot hills of the Dolomite Mountains – walking territory indeed! They were established in 1977 and have extensive research and development facilities, and through this have become a major supplier of footwear in Europe with a growing reputation for good quality, technical footwear and they have a very large range of walking boots available too. Their mission is “to provide the most comfortable footwear available”. I had heard of GriSport, and seen their boots in the shops, but I had never really paid much attention to them when I had been browsing the footwear sections of my local outdoors shop. Still, when a manufacturer contacts you and offers to send you a pair for review, you do tend to sit up and pay attention.
The Peaklander, fresh out of the box
After a brief discussion with GriSport, the boots I received were the “Peaklander” which is an ‘oiled’ leather (according to page 3 of the brochure), 3 season walking boot in my size of 45 (UK size 11). The boots are available in either brown or black and I received the brown ones. “Oiled” (possibly a mis-translation of waxed?) leather was not something I had really come across or considered before, but there was, or is, a slight oily feel to the surface, not that anything comes off on your hands or anything, so don’t hold that against them and after use it soon vanishes. The boots felt quite light, and I was surprised at this lack of weight when I took them out of the box. I got the scales out and they weighed in at 710g (1lb 9oz) each, which is less than my regular Berghaus Explorer Trek GTX’s which are 745g (1lb 10oz) each, and substantially less than my winter boots, the original Scarpa Manta M4’s at 1010g (2lb 3oz). The brochure gives a weight of 1120g, which I presume is for a pair, and even when halved to 560g for each boot is still way out from what my digital scales say. Perhaps the gravity is less in Northern Italy than it is in North West England, which would account for this discrepancy.
 
The boots look very attractive indeed (what did you expect? They’re Italian!), and are made from one piece leather. There is a line of triple stitching above the instep to join the uppers together. They are lined with a Spo-Tex waterproof and breathable liner, which I guess is GriSport’sversion of GoreTex™ and works just as it should. The sole is a “Track On” sole, which again is GriSport’s own make, and is virtually the same in texture and hardness as the market leading Vibram sole. Grisport do use Vibram on some of their other boots, but not on this model. The sole has deep cleats and a varied tread pattern which should offer grip in all directions and the deep cleats are shaped so they don’t hold mud.
Get the “Peaklander” on your feet and they are very comfortable indeed. I strapped them on and then went up Pen Y Ghent. They were comfortable from the off. No breaking in needed at all and no hotspots either on my feet. The boot is snug, but not too tight, which should give good dexterity and stability when hopping from rock to grass across boggy moorland as your feet feel more in touch with what is happening around them. The footbed seems quite wide too, which suits me fine, but I will have to put a few more miles in to see how the boot handles longer distances. The heel and sole curve has a nice smooth rolling action, and the well-padded ankle cuff provides some stiffness, but allows some flexibility. The is quite stiff which will give good support on uphill stretches, and the torsional stiffness along the boot is really good. This should help prevent your ankle tiring when walking across an uphill slope. The boots have seven bronzed steel eyelets fixed to each side of the bellows tongue, and these have plenty of room in them for the lace to easily pass through, (unlike some recent approach type shoes I bought last year, no names disclosed but a well known manufacturer). The seven lace fixings comprise of four closed eyelets to each side, and three hooked ones, the first of the hooked eyelets has a self tensioning profile to it, to prevent to lace becoming loose when in use.
GriSport ‘Peaklander’ with Pen Y Ghent in background

The boots were used on various types of terrain; grass, limestone, up and down stiles, along tarmac and through a stream too – they performed very, very well, and were comfortable throughout. I have perhaps done about 6 miles in them so far and not a pinch or grumble from the ‘plates of meat’. I must admit to really liking these; however I will be doing quite a few more miles in them and posting up my findings in a month and in six months in order to give a more objective review over a great time scale.

The route taken up Pen Y Ghent was from Horton in Ribblesdale, and up the lane leading to Brackenbottom. This then took the main 3 Peaks Challenge route up the prow of Pen Y Ghent, following the Pennine Way. We camped over as we arrived on Saturday evening, and had chosen the same weekend as The Royal Signals has chosen for their Lanyard Trophy which took place on the Saturday. The campsite, which in my experience is usually sparsely populated had transformed into a military camp – however, they were very accommodating and managed to squeeze us into a corner with a few other civi’s. The Lanyard Trophy is an inter-regimental challenge of differing regimental teams having to complete a 40 mile hike all with 40lb packs on their backs. Just thinking of this tires me out, but it would have been a good test of the GriSport boots. After chatting to one of the participants, he told us the winning team this year did it in just over 10 hours, and included the Three Peaks in it. The slowest team completed in just over 18 hours. 

We set out on Sunday morning, passed through Brackenbottom and started climbing the path to Pen Y Ghent, where we met with a constant stream of people coming in the opposite direction who were doing the 3 Peaks for a heart charity. I must admit to being taken aback by the number of people passing us. I have done the 3 Peaks about 6 times previously and the last time would have been in the mid 1990’s (my personal best is just over 6 1/2 hours) but I don’t remember it being like this – I’ve seen less people in Manchester city centre! We got to the Pennine Way and decided to turn around due to the numbers of people streaming off the summit – it would have been a battle just climbing up there against these numbers and a large number were carrying blow-up dolls; it seemed more of a stag party than a charity walk.

An old lime kiln below Pen Y Ghent

I’m all for raising money for charitable causes; I’m a trustee of a charity myself, but I must say that the numbers of people I experienced on this short stroll have really put me off going to any of the Yorkshire three peaks at any other time than Winter. Call me a whinger, but the numbers do seem to be out of control.

Anyway, we got back to Horton in Ribblesdale and then went to The Crown Hotel for some lunch, only to find that they had stopped serving food; however, to their credit, they did knock up several bowls of chips and some bread and butter – so it was chip butties all round! This surprised us because we have never been to a pub with so many notices pinned up telling us what not to do – you know the type “Don’t do this, Don’t do that, Don’t do the other, No this, No that, No the other….” All on A4 paper and laminated too!



 
So far, so good then? What’s the downside? Well, erm, ummm, I can’t really think of one. The only thing that does spring to mind is that they look like they have seen more action than they actually have had. I think it is down to the oiled (waxed??) finish on the leather – any scuffs from climbing over walls and stiles etc show up a light brown scratches, and areas of greater wear and friction have become slightly lighter in colour too. I don’t doubt that this will disappear with a bit of boot care or surface treatment, and it doesn’t affect the performance of the boot in any way; it is just cosmetic, however it did surprise me when I took them off. I will report back on this in a few weeks, but my overall impression was one of a very well made, very comfortable walking boot, and one to look out for in the future.

Watch this space, as I’ll update the blog in the coming months as I get more used to the boots.

Thanks for reading.
 
 
 
 

Sunday 31st August 2014 – Crummackdale to Moughton and Sulber Nick

It seems sometime since my last post. Again, the weather has been poor for several weekends and one Saturday, Mrs MuddyBoots even lit the log burner – in August!! Methinks I’ll be getting our winter order of logs in earlier this year. Is there anything more tedious than stacking wood? Maybe it’s just me, but I try to get it looking very neat, and that neatness is probably where the ‘tedium’ problem lies.

This weekend I sat down and looked at the map and for some reason Crummackdale really jumped out at me. It is located just north of Austwick, where I have been before, but about 20 years ago. Admittedly, I have slept since, so I cannot remember much of my last visit. I was quite surprised that I came to a decision of where to walk so quickly. It does happen like that occasionally. I get it sometimes with writing music; I can sit there at the piano for an hour and nothing is flowing so I just pack it in and go and do something else, and other times I can sit down and the ideas just flow out, and I can knock out the the guts of two or three compositions in one very creative session. So it was with the map this time. I was particularly drawn to a small hamlet called Wharfe and decided that it should be our starting point for this minor jaunt.

Distance:  7.32 miles
Ascent:  943 ft
Sandwiches:  Home-made ham salad on home made wholemeal bread
Soup:  Too warm, so took a couple of ice cold tinnies!

Route Profile
Route Map
3D Route View


We drove up to Austwick, passing through Ingleton along the way. I was quite surprised by how large Austwick appeared to be. Although I have been before, I had recollections of it being a small-ish, typical Dales type village, such as Kettlewell, however there were quite a few more modern type of houses built on the periphery of the village which surprised me. We passed through Austwick and headed along the narrow road to Helwith Bridge. We found a small lay by to park in, which was situated just below the secluded hamlet of Wharfe.

We got out of the car, opened the boot and changed our footwear, and then we grabbed our respective rucksacks, and my camera bag, and we then set out uphill to the hamlet of Wharfe.


Barn in hamlet of Wharfe

What a gem this hamlet is! It is a collection of 14 dwellings with a population of around 30 people, and its claim to fame is it is the only settlement in Crummackdale. All the houses are linked by small farm tracks and there is no macadam surfaces in the hamlet at all; in fact, all the roads are private too, but are marked as Bridleways on the OS maps.

We exited the seclusion of Wharfe, and walked along a very narrow, and quite claustrophobic, overgrown green lane that had high drystone walls to each side.This lane continued gradually rising up and heading further into Crummackdale.

Drovers Lane heading leading to Crummackdale

We continued our way upwards, and passing beneath the limestone cliff of White Stone we spotted a climber dangling off his rope halfway up the cliff face. We watched him for a short time, but he didn’t seem to make any progress at all and his mate on the ground belaying him was probably bored to tears too, so we continued on our way into the valley. We also noticed that this green lane was littered with brambles and much of them bearing succulent looking fruit too. We said we would pick some on the way back and fill our empty lunch boxes with the dark fruit.

We took a right fork in the lane and walked along the track that runs parallel to Austwick Beck. The walls were not as high and enclosing here, and the view into the valley was opening up a bit and getting more attractive as we climbed ever higher.The gain in height was barely noticeable which made for easy walking.

Looking up Crummackdale to Moughton Scar

We have got quite used to there being very few people about and about in the great outdoors when we are out walking which is probably due to use going to some remote, or difficult hills. It was a lot different today though, and it really showed the popularity of ‘limestone country’ as there were always a number of other walkers in view.

The only field barn in Crummackdale

As we approached the only stone field barn in the valley, we took a sharp right turn on the lane, which by now had walls that were falling down instead of towering above us, and headed towards what was shown on the map as “Moughton Whetstone Hole”. The green lane started to rise up quite steeply here, so we decided it was time to sit down on a rocky outcrop, take a rest and have a sandwich and enjoy the view looking down Crummackdale. 

Lunchtime view

As we tucked into the comestibles, Mrs MuddyBoots surprised me here by whipping out a cold tin of beer taken from the freezer that morning that she had secretly stashed in her rucksack. I can tell you that this went down very well with the accompanying sandwiches I had made, and I could have sat there all day looking at the view and drinking cold beer. 
The cold beer was so enjoyable that I think she may have started a tradition for future walks, although she will only realise this when we pack the bags for the next one and it gets laden with cold cans of beer. After resting for sometime, we decided that we should get a move on, and packed away our things, shouldered the packs and picked up the pace again.

We passed Moughton Whetsone Hole but couldn’t see anything due to the four feet high bracken. There was the remains of small stone building, but the bracken was impenetrable so I didn’t go and investigate. After doing some research afterwards it turns out that the Moughton Whetstone is a concentrically banded, (reddish-purple and green), striped mudstone that was quarried to make whetstones for the Sheffield razor industry. This ‘quarry’ wasn’t very obvious as we passed by. The ascent got steeper as we approached the head of the small side valley and we finally climbed up onto the limestone plateau that is marked as “Moughton” on the map. (It is pronounced “Moot’n” just in case you were wondering!). 

The track leading down to Moughton Whetstone Hole

As we reached to edge of the plateau at Moughton, the whole view over Ribblesdale opened up and we had ‘big skies’. The view to Pen y ghent was also glorious. 

Pen y ghent from Moughton
Pen y ghent from Moughton

We walked along the plateau and enjoyed the easy progress and soft grass after the ascent up here. We passed several grouse butts used for shooting, and a number that were now just piles of stones, and headed along the path towards a substantial drystone wall that dissects the limestone pavement at Moughton. We crossed a timber ladder type stile and then walked parallel to the Ribblesdale side of the wall. We walked quickly and enjoyed the extensive views we were getting from this elevation, and it was a complete contrast to the claustrophobic walls on the green lanes we experienced in Crummackdale earlier. We were heading along the path towards Sulber Nick, which is the main footpath that is used to go from Ingleborough to Horton in Ribblesdale when doing the 3 Peaks Challenge. As we walked we were crossing exposed parts of limestone pavement and looking closely at the clints and grikes that are their predominant feature. Hidden deep with the fissures were various ferns that had grown due to the limited chances of being eaten away by sheep.

Lamb’s tongue ferns growing in limestone grikes

As we approached Sulber Nick, we climbed up onto a higher limestone plateau that was shown as “Sulber” on the map. At this point I decided to get some more photographs of Pen-y-ghent. As with many photographs, waiting for the “right light” can test the patience of even Job, and I did eventually get some decent ones with the hill illuminated. 

Pen Y Ghent from Sulber Nick

By the time I had finished fiddling with the camera Mrs MuddyBoots had wandered off as she has no patience for waiting around. This would be no problem in itself, but seeing as she doesn’t map read, (and is not interested in learning how to), and didn’t know the route we were taking, she could have been anywhere. So I headed off rapidly towards the path known as Sulber Nick in order to try and catch her up. Once on the path I couldn’t see her as I had expected, so I climbed the side of the path onto Sulber plateau itself  (the path runs down a route slightly below the level of the surrounding ground). Once high up, I scanned a full 360 degree horizon and still couldn’t see her…hmmm, maybe she is walking along the edge of the scar between Moughton and Sulber?… or should I go back to the spot where I was taking photos? What if she is not there? Do I go back to the car and wait there? Does she know where we are supposed to be going? Does she know how to get back to the car? all sorts of thoughts were going through my head. In the end I got my phone out, luckily there was a signal, and I called her. Just as her phone was ringing I spied her through a five bar gate sat on the grass just below the Sulber plateau, overlooking Ribblesdale in the general direction of Pen y ghent. I was relieved! We then had a robust discussion about not wandering off and getting lost, and it turns out it was my fault for ‘just abandoning her’ and during the course of this interchange between us, to add insult to injury, it transpired that not only had she sat there drinking the remaining cold tinnies in her rucksack, she had eaten all the bloody chocolate as well!

Signpost above Sulber. We took the route towards Clapham

We continued along to the signpost above Sulber and took the path leading to Sulber Gate. A number of other walkers passed us going in the opposite direction towards Horton in Ribblesdale and judging by their gait, and pained expressions on their faces, they were completing the 3 Peaks Challenge. I have done it about 5 times now, and my fastest time was around 6 1/2 hours. I certainly couldn’t do that time now… it would probably be a three day walk with a long rest in each pub between the hills. You do have to keep your fluids in balance.

We approached Sulber Gate and were completely blown away by the view from the top, down Crummackdale. It was fabulous, and completely unexpected. It just appeared as we approached it. I find that this surprise, or unexpected view is one of the great things about hill walking and it still never ceases to bring a smile to my face when great and extensive views ‘just appear’ in front of you.

View down Crummackdale from Sulber Gate

We went through the gate at Sulber and it was reassuring to see that the name on the map matched the physical object on the ground – it said ‘Sulber Gate’ and there it was! We headed along the bridlepath that ran along the edge of the scar and after making speedy progress along the lush, flat grass the path took us downhill to the farmstead of ‘Crummack’. This leads to the obvious question; was the Dale named after the farm, or the farm after the Dale? Answers on a postcard please as I don’t know either. 

We continued the steep descent to the farm, and went past a mountain biking couple who were completely off-route and appeared to be having ‘a domestic’ from the look of things; he was in front and she was behind him and appeared a bit sulky too! (stop giggling at the back – we’ve all been there haven’t we!) We eventually got onto Crummack Lane and enjoyed the downhill stretch very much. At a junction in Crummack Lane, we took a left fork that headed towards Wharfe, instead of the right fork that went towards Austwick, and continued making quick, if weary, progress until we came upon a ford in the lane, with an adjacent clapper bridge near to Wash Dub Field


Clapper Bridge at Wash Dub Field

We stopped and rested on the bench at Wash Dub Field. This clapper bridge over Austwick Beck in Crummackdale is believed to be 15th century and links two green lanes. There is an adjacent ford where animals and carts could cross. To the left is Wash Dub Field (when approached from Wharfe). In late spring and in early summer the beck was dammed to make a large pool and the sheep were washed to remove parasites, the Wash Dub was still in use as late as the 1930’s. I would have liked more time to investigate, but Little Miss Impatient was off along the green lane back to the hamlet of Wharfe. I reluctantly followed, thinking of not wanting to be in the position of the earlier mountain biking couple. This last mile really seemed to take a long time and I found it difficult going, maybe it was due to us retracing our steps from earlier in the day and this part of the route was familiar to us. Who knows! We continued to drop down the lane passing hundreds of blackberries that were ready for picking, some of them were huge – sadly, we really didn’t have the energy to stand there collecting the juicy berries now, as we had thought on passing them earlier in the day. It was a sure sign that autumn was on its way, and as John Keats succinctly, and famously put it – Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun” which seems to compress Autumn into just one sentence in my opinion.

Blackberries waiting to be matched with Crumble & Custard

Once again we passed through back through the hamlet of Wharfe and admired how attractive it was and said we would make a point of coming back here at some time in the future.

The view from Wharfe, south west towards Austwick

We soon got back onto the macadam road surface just outside of the hamlet and descended down the small, steep hill to where we had parked opposite a field barn. I unlocked the car, and then opened the boot. We changed our footwear and dumped the rucksacks and camera bag into the car boot, and then breathed a contented sigh as we sat down into the comfortable front seats. A quick turn of the ignition key, and we were on our way back home where a hot bath to ease the weary legs seemed to be just what the doctor would have ordered had he been there to diagnose our aches and pains.

Sat July 5th – Le Tyke Sportif or Litton to Buckden (and back) for the TdF

The walk today was a bit of a last minute plan. On Wednesday the 2nd, the one just gone and three days before the walk was due, we decided to go and watch the Tour de France through the Dales. Such a simple thought. With hindsight, it was certainly easier to type that than it was to research the route and and work out an itinerary. The initial idea was to watch the hill climb stage, the first of three that day at the “‘Cote de Cray”. We had been around here in January when we did Buckden Pike (see previous blog) and the route was quite accessible. However, the fly in the ointment was that the roads leading to Buckden and beyond were closed to vehicular traffic from 6am on the morning of the Tour de France (TdF) which made access a little difficult unless we were willing to set off before 4am. With that road closure in mind and looking at several other options we found we could quite easily access neighbouring Littondale, the valley running parallel, park there at The Queens Arms and then ‘nip’ over the hill of Ackerley Moor & Firth Fell to drop down the bridlepath into Buckden. Simple, as meerkats seem fond of telling us.

Distance: 7.54 miles
Ascent: 2458 ft
Sandwiches: Ham with Piccalilli, Cheese & Garlic sausage salad, pork pies
Soup: Too warm for soup, so took a bottle of French Red and Rose to see if they went well with pork pie.

Elevation Profile
Route Map


3D View of route

We drove to Settle and then took the B6479 road up to Stainforth. We passed through this little village to pick up the moor road to Halton Gill at the head of Littondale. The drive to Littondale from Settle is absolutely glorious, and must be one of the best driving routes in the country. It is a quiet, but very scenic, back road that runs between Pen Y Ghent and Fountains Fell and offers great panoramas of the surrounding grand landscape.

 

As we dropped down into Halton Gill we came across many cars parked on the open grass verges adjacent the road. Every car had a bike rack on the roof or the rear tailgate. This was a sign of the things to come. We turned right just after crossing the bridge in Halton Gill and continued along the single track macadam road that runs along the valley bottom until we got to the small hamlet of Litton and the Queen Arms. There was much traffic parked along the road and the pub had anticipated this and was running a car park in the field opposite. They were charging £10 for the day. The price really took me by surprise because when he lady minding the car park announced the cost I came out with that well known Yorkshire phrase ” ‘Ow Much?!?!“. They might not like spending it, but by God, they like charging it.

Anyway I paid Dick Turpin and we parked up, changed our footwear, and I heaved the big rucksack out of the of the car, strapped it to my back and we proceeded to walk to Buckden. We got to the front of the pub and turned right to head along a bridlepath that ran through some stone farm buildings. To my dismay the path immediately started upwards. We continued along the path, which was more of a lane than a track and dropped down to a ford and crossed Crystal  Beck which appeared very dry for this time of year. We were then back to an uphill section, and from here it was uphill all the way! From Crystal Beck to just below Ackersley Moor the path was a steady incline running upwards along the contour lines on the hillside and made for steady going. After crossing through a stone wall, there was an abrupt left turn and the path went straight up the hillside – no gradual incline using the contours here, just straight up. The climb up was incessant and we did have to keep pausing to get our breath, and admire the view which was extensive due to the great weather.

Looking up Littondale

We could clearly see the path stretching out in front of us directly up the hillside. There were some people ahead of us who were making good progress, and one guy and his dog actually ran past us which made us feel very unfit. We continued climbing and the path did get steeper at one point. We passed a middle aged guy wearing a wide brimmed hat who appeared to be having difficulty getting his 8 or 9 year old daughter up this hill. You could see that she just didn’t want to do it and he was having to coax her all the way. I know just how she felt.

Looking down Littondale

After much huffing and puffing, groaning and moaning we found the ground to start levelling out and before we really knew it, we were on a flat summit plateau and making easy progress along a stone flagged path. Oh the joy! A sense of relief came over me at the realisation of not having to climb up any further, and that from here on to Buckden it was all downhill. We passed the summit trig’ point which was some distance away on our right and were soon making a descent down into Buckden itself.

As we started to descend the view beyond Buckden Pike was very extensive, and we could clearly see the B6160, the road that formed the “Cote De Cray”, and even from this distance it was obvious that it was already packed with people. At this point we decided to change our plan and just stay in Buckden and leave the Cote de Cray until another time. Too many people there and the additional distance with this weight on my back would be purgatory. The heavy rucksack was sapping my energy already, so the chance to knock a mile or so off the distance was welcome and seized upon. We made some great progress down the bridle path into Buckden and got a real move on. I had forgotten the estimated times for the peloton to pass through and thought it was about half past midday, so we were eager to find our spot and sit and enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere.

We approached the village green in Buckden and found it to be quite busy. We walked up towards the church and found a spot on the grass verge beside the road. There were a number of people lining the roads, although not as many as on the hill climb stage.

Looking back to Buckden
Leaving Buckden towards Cray


It was a huge relief to take the rucksack off. I felt as  though I was floating for several minutes afterwards. We unfastened our folding chairs from the rucksack, set them out and removed a bottle of wine from the bag and proceeded to have drink and some nibbles, and soak up the carnival atmosphere.

We watched the Gendarmerie come through, our own Bobbies on their motorbikes, various sponsors and team vehicles passed and all of them were waving to the crowds, tooting their horns and enjoying the atmosphere of the TdF.

Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour… ce qui est tout ce alors?
Lead car for the race
The front breakaway group


You could tell the riders were getting close as the sound of the many helicopters in the air was menacing. It brought to mind a scene from Apocalypse Now. The three riders from the breakaway group came through first, and the crowd could be heard cheering as they approached and was like a audible Mexican wave rippling along the crowd keeping pace with the riders.

A team car
Timing officials
Helicopter filming the peloton
The peloton

After a couple of minutes the main peloton flew past, and I do mean flew! There were gone in about 30 seconds and then after the team cars passed by the route was silent. It was a very colourful spectacle, and the chances of seeing it again in Yorkshire are probably very limited too.

Team Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)
Team Tinkoff-Saxo (Russia)
Team Sky (Great Britain)
Team Sky (Great Britain) and Team Movistar (Spain)
Team Movistar (Spain)
Gendarmerie and team cars
Team cars heading up to Cote de Cray


We decided to move from the roadside and walked back down towards the village green in Buckden. We found a suitable spot, unfolded our chairs and continued with our picnic. It was at this point we started to see cyclists coasting back down from the Cote de Cray. Some of them took to stopping on the village green, and others just continued on their way heading down towards Starbotton and Kettlewell. We sat on the green for well over an hour and watched a continuous stream of cyclists flowing along the road whilst eating ice cream. I have never seen so many push bikes! We got talking to a chap who had come up a couple of days before with Gloucester City Cycling Club and was cycling back to Skipton prior to the journey home. We presumed that many others present had also travelled some distance too – there couldn’t be so many cyclists in Yorkshire, although this point seemed to evade the national press who produced a number of belittling articles about the whole thing thinking it was only Yorkshire folk who turned out to watch, and the hidden message of course was who would want to go to Yorkshire to watch a bike race. I expect their reporting would have been different if the Grand Depart had been within the M25, and then if that had been the case we wouldn’t have heard the last of it on the BBC news or national press either.

We finished off our picnic and drained the second of the two bottles of French wine we had carried over and decided to make our way back. We folded the two chairs and strapped them to the rucksack, I heaved it onto my back and we made the return journey. 

The climb started as soon as we got off the macadam road leading to Hubberholme. As I trudged up the winding gravel track a number of people passed us who were not carrying the same weight, or were barely into their teens. We plodded on, steadily climbing upwards until we got to the area of Redmire Pot where the picnic blanket came out, the rucksack came off again and we had a lie down for an hour in the diminishing sunshine. Looking for the picnic blanket gave me a chance to see if Mrs MuddyBoots had secretly stowed some rocks in the rucksack as it seemed the weight hadn’t diminished at all; after a brief search there were none to be seen, but I did come across a bag of chewy Haribo sweets. I lay on the blanket in the sunshine with the breeze blowing over me chomping on the sweets and I very nearly dozed off!

After an hour we packed the blanket up, hoisted the rucksack again and plodded on, ever upwards. The path was never ending, at one point I began doubting if this was the same path we took on the way down as it seemed to take forever to progress along it.

View down to Buckden with Buckden Beck running down from Buckden Pike


There were timber post waymarkers on the path up the hillside and I was using these to keep moving me along – “keep going until the next post.. go on; you can do it” was a phrase repeated continually in my head until I neared the summit. When we reached the stone flags placed by conservation volunteers we knew we were almost at the top. The hill summit plateau was a relief, as by this point my legs were feeling the strain and I suspect the wine consumed during the picnic hadn’t helped much either. I was getting very close to dumping the bag and coming back for it at a later date.

Looking down Littondale with Pen-Y-Ghent on horizon

As we progressed along the summit plateau the view back down Littondale was fabulous, and the distinctive silhouette of Pen-Y-Ghent stood out on the horizon. I took several minutes to just stand there and take in that view. It made the effort to get there worthwhile. The path was now downhill all the way to the car and this became quite difficult. The hillside was quite steep, my legs were tired and I was very conscious of losing my footing and going for a tumble. My walking pole would have come in very handy at this point, and for some unknown reason I had decided to leave it in the boot of the car. Perhaps the additional weight bothered me!

The view away from the head of Littondale, with Pendle Hill visible in the distance


We slowly and carefully descended back down into Littondale, and the views made up for the discomfort. The sun had started to go lower in the sky and the shadows were now getting longer. In time we got back to the car and with a satisfied groan I took the pack off for the last time and dumped it onto the grass behind the car. Mrs Muddyboots tried to pick it up to place it in the boot and couldn’t. She was then quite incredulous that I had carried it that distance and over “that hill”. A quick replacement of footwear made for a refreshing change and we hobbled off to the pub to rebalance our fluids.

We sat outside the Queens Arms and slowly sank a pint of very cold lager. By now the sun had gone behind Plover Hill and it was getting quite cool in the shade. We discussed tea, and then decided against eating here this time. We drained our glasses and went back to the car for the journey back home.

Pen-Y-Ghent from Dale Head farm entrance

The journey home was steady and uneventful, and we were not in any particular rush to get back either. When we got home we watched some of the TdF television footage recorded from earlier in the day and it really was a showcase for the Yorkshire Dales. The live transmission was done by a French TV company and as such many of the place names had been renamed, particularly Skipton Castle, or “Chateau du Skipton” as the French have it. The aerial footage was a Yorkshire Tourist Board PR mans wet dream – scenery and views that you just couldn’t buy. It showed the Dales off in all their glory and they looked superb indeed and made us realise just why we enjoy going over there walking… praise indeed from a staunch Lancastrian.

Vive Le Tyke Sportif!