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Travel to Manchester


Miserable weather

1 April 2020

Off-roading in the Yorkshire Dales leaves Dom Joly’s wheels turning

I’m on a 56-night tour of the UK. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t knackering, but the touring life is curiously exhilarating. Last week, I was in the Yorkshire Dales and passing through the wonderfully named village of Starbotton when I spotted a winding track leaving the village and heading straight up the steep hill behind it. I’m a sucker for a spot of off-roading and I just couldn’t resist the chance of a wonderful view of my surroundings.

I found the start of the track and made my way up it in my vehicle. It quickly became clear that it was more of a footpath, but the steep walls on each side did not allow me to rectify my error and turn around. I bumped and ground my way to the top where – with the walls no longer there – I was afforded a glorious view of the dale below. Whenever I get snobby about travelling around England, I shall remember this moment.

Then things went wrong. I tried to turn my Chelsea tractor around but mud started to suck me in and a large, selfish rock appeared from nowhere to impede any further progress. Before I knew it, I was stuck and a blizzard was coming in fast to boot.

Fortunately, because I was so high up, I had one precious bar of signal on my mobile.

I found the number for the local pub (if in trouble, always ring a pub) and spoke to the barmaid who was very sympathetic. To be fair she was a touch confused as to why I was up the top of said hill in a car but duly rang the local farmer, who very kindly took his enormous tractor up to where I was stuck.

When he got out, there was no doubting his private view of my situation but he also kept his counsel, save to say; “I’ve seen a lot of idiots get stuck in these parts but nobody has ever got this far.”

I know it’s wrong, but I was curiously proud of myself. The farmer, who looked like Alan Bennet’s rural cousin, was a godsend as he found the towing hook that had been carefully hidden by my car’s manufacturers. As in most of the rest of my life, I stood around uselessly as the farmer hooked chains to my car and pulled me out of my idiotic predicament. Once freed I thanked the farmer profusely, mumbling apologies as best as I could.

“You’d best be off back to London before you get into any more trouble,” he said, smiling in a mildly sympathetic manner.

I couldn’t help thinking of that scene from Withnail and I: “Are you the farmer? We’ve gone on holiday by mistake.”

I turned the car round and disappeared off the mountain as fast as I could in a heightened state of shame.

Note to self – do not wadi-bash in the Yorkshire Dales again.