River Wissey Lovell Fuller


May 2008

Ian recounts an exciting holiday made even more so by modern technology!


We had arranged to spend 5 days at Center Parcs in Penrith with six of our seven children, their partners and eight of our nine grandchildren, a party of 20 in all. Macho man here was planning to leave at 7am and arrive before lunch but management suggested that we split the journey to prevent tiredness before we met the family! I went on the internet and booked a night in the Cave Castle Hotel in Brough, only 20 miles from Penrith. You will have heard of Brough Moor, a remote, bleak and often snow-ridden area of moorland near Shap and the Scottish border. Center Parcs was booked from Easter Monday so the journey was to be on Easter Sunday. As you will remember, Easter Sunday was very white first thing, with snow on ice. We endured a hairy journey to church in Methwold, skidding several times and having to take three runs to conquer the hill at the top of Lodge Road. We set of for Brough at noon, had a very pleasant lorry-free journey up the A1 to Scotch Corner, with little snow. As we turned left for Brough, the skies darkened and the snow began to fall. As we progressed, the snow became thicker and thicker and started to lie on the road. A large red shape appeared out of the gloom, travelling in the other direction; near and nearer it came until it transformed into an old London Routemaster 'bus and slid past before being swallowed up in the snowy gloom. Deannie thought of Harry Potter and I just thought it surreal.

I was wondering whether we were doomed to spend the night in the car, snowbound, when we arrived at Brough (Cumbria). We drove around but could not find the Cave Castle Hotel. We found The Castle Hotel which had a couple of Neanderthals scratching in the doorway and would certainly have been vetoed by management. We decided to ask someone for help, turned a corner and came across half a dozen 'buses from the 1940s and 1950s, the tail end of an Easter 'bus rally organised by local enthusiast, Alison Morris. Alison looked at my internet printout and, within a millisecond, realised that I had booked a hotel in Brough, East Yorkshire, a very long way away. Standing in the falling snow, directing 'buses (An old Western coach from Kilmarnock, an old Ribble 'bus from Manchester and a Crosville double-decker similar to my school 'bus, she pulled out her mobile 'phone and rapidly found us accommodation at The Black Swan in Ravenstone Dale, a nearby village.

Alison, who lives in Ravenstone Dale, owns four old coaches and a double-decker from the 40s and 50s and she runs them as service 'buses, vintage tour 'buses and, between March and October, she offers conducted tours and a free ride to the farmers' market in Brough. She trades as Cumbria Classic Coaches (015396 23254 - info@cumbriaclassiccoaches.co.uk - www.cumbriaclassiccoaches.co.uk) Her coaches are used on the BBC programme "Heartbeat", based in Goathland. With her husband, she owns runs a signwriting business.

At The Black Swan, we were made immediately welcome by Louise Dinnes, who, with her husband, Alan, runs the family hotel. Deannie's approval was immediately given and we moved in. The room was lovely and warm; Deannie popped into the bathroom and, very soon, there was a managerial shout of alarm. I knew she had not planned to take a shower, which usually causes such shouts, so I was interested to hear what had happened. She told me that, whenever she pulled out the basin plug, there was a mighty "GRRRRRR" from behind the toilet. The same happened when she flushed the loo - "GRRRRR". It transpired that she had met the dinosaur - not Tyrannosaurus, Plateosaurus, Protoceratops or Ankylosaurus, but a very small dinosaur which lives in a box behind the loo and is called Macerator! Macerator is very useful for this purpose as he likes to digest solid waste matter and drinks a lot of water (the bath water also goes through his box) before passing it down a narrow bore pipe to the main sewage system. The use of such a mini-dinosaur makes it possible to mount a WC against an inside wall, thus increasing the possibilities when making conversions in old buildings. Of course, there is no need for the hotel owner to feed him but he does get blocked occasionally and this causes problems.

Deannie and I would like to recommend The Black Swan. It's in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere in the Eden Valley, the food is wonderful and the welcome could not be surpassed. (The Black Swan, Ravenstone Dale 015396 23204 - enquiries@blackswanhotel.com -www.blackswanhotel.com) Also, it is only a few hundred yards from the Settle to Carlisle railway; there are Alison's 'buses to ride on and a whole raft of activities in the local area. To top that, when you return home, nobody will have a clue where you have been, even when you tell them!

Journey times from Norfolk: a) via A1 and Scotch Corner 4 hours b) via M6 and A14 7 hours!

A warning for Tom Tom users! I changed my Espace recently and bought a lower spec model which does not have a built-in satellite navigation system. No problem - I purchased a Tom Tom sat nav for just over £100. The distance from Brough to Penrith was 19 miles so, on the Monday morning, well rested and fed, fresh from my failure with the internet booking, I read the instructions for getting to Center Parcs. They had helpfully included their postcode for use by those with sat. navs. Although the road to Penrith was dead straight, I punched in the postcode and followed the sat nav directions. We travelled through blizzards, tiny villages, over cattle grids, through farmyards and up into the moors. The road became narrower and narrower and, just as it petered out in the middle of nowhere, the sat nav announced You have arrived. We tried again and ended up in another equally remote spot. Son Scott, who knows about these things, tells me that Tom Tom only reads the first four digits of the postcode and that, in Cumbria, postcode areas are vast, hence the problem!

Journey time Brough to Penrith 2 hours Best wishes to you all Ian G. Nisbet

Ian g Nisbet

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