Yorkshire Green Lanes.
Cam High Road dates back to Roman times and is little changed. Reproduced by courtesy of Land Rover World.
A pair of wild open lanes cresting the North Yorkshire Dales.
A mixture of Roman history and old droving roads makes an interesting round trip. Easy in the summer, but could be impassable in a harsh winter. We spent a day up there and found time for a pint and a sandwich.Up on the the Cam High Road it is easy to imagine how it would have felt to be a Roman soldier tramping north to give the Scots a good bashing, only to return weeks later nursing bruises from another defeat that would lead to the building of Hadrian’s Wall "to separate Romans from Barbarians" as Hadrian himself put it in 122 AD. Two thousand years ago the view from this ridge, 2000 feet up in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, would have been almost identical. On a dry summers day, as it was when I drove this Green Lane, the Romans would have had a commanding view to spot troublesome locals. The valleys of Sleddale and Raydale lie to the east and west and because of the high vantage point, on a good day you can see for miles. Slaves made a fine job of creating a hard surface for soldiers to march on and ox carts to carry their wares. In some places layers of rock have been levelled to make the road. With no explosives this would have been done by hand. In other parts the natural rock gives way to gravel and packed earth. The result is an easily driven track used extensively by the local farmers a few walkers and cyclists.
As the weather was good I chose to explore the route in my 1948 Land Rover, minus canvas tilt and as I would barely exceed 10 mph, I lowered the screen to absorb the full atmosphere of the road. I have also found this open approach to be less intimidating to walkers than the closed Carawagon I also use. I become an eccentric old fool in a clapped out old car. Close examination of OS Explorer map, OL30, revealed that I could make a full 18 mile circular route by leaving the village of Buckden, heading northwest to the start of the Cam High Road, leaving it at Bainbridge and joining the Carpley Green Road, then Busk Lane, back south, bringing me neatly back to Buckden and a commemorative pint at the Buck Inn.The RouteFrom Buckden follow the Hawes road out of the village with the village green on your right. (942774) This unclassified road follows the course of Langstrothdale and is a delight. The valley’s harsh edges being created by a glacier millions of years ago. You will pass through the village of Hubberholm where the writer, J.B. Priestly was buried in 1984. After 4.5 miles, at Beckermonds Farm bare right following the Hawes directions for a further 3.5 miles. High up on a ridge with Sleddale stretching away to the northwest is the start of the Cam High Road (862853). It is sign posted ‘Byway Bainbridge - 5 miles’. Once through the gate it is a steady climb from 1700 feet to 2000 feet on a surface of solid rock mixed with hard packed stones. The solid rock bits must surely date back to the Roman era.At the highest point you drive along the ridge with Wether Fell to your left and a commanding view of Semer Water in the Raydale valley to the right. These are gently rolling hills and in summer rich with wildlife. Above me were a pair of Buzzards circling lazily on a thermal. A Curlew flew over making it’s characteristic squawk and looking determined in it’s flight. A Wagtail hopped about in front of me catching insects. They all seemed oblivious to my presence.
There is a gate before the descent to Bainbridge where the surface changes character slightly to gravel with grass in the centre of the track. The route crosses a minor road after 3.5 miles (905884), then the descent continues right to the edge of Bainbridge. I chose to coast down with the engine switched off, using the Land Rover as a giant soap box with brakes, much to amusement of the four walkers I passed. They had the last laugh though, as a farmer was repairing the dry stone wall near the bottom and blocking the route with his tractor. The walkers passed easily, chuckling at my delay as I waited for the farmer to finish. I was in no rush anyway, so passed the time chatting to the farmer. He thought the cows had caused the damage trying to reach the nettles. The track rejoins the unclassified road half a mile south of Bainbridge back at 900 feet (925895)Sting in the tailAs you enter Bainbridge there is the very inviting Rose and Crown, established way back in 1445. I sat outside under a sun shade and enjoyed a decent lunch overlooking the village green, imagining the travellers and farmers who would have sat in that very spot doing much the same thing over the past 500 years. As blue sky turned to heavy cloud I was glad of a set of warmer clothes and changed in the loo before carrying on. From here head east out of the village on the A684, over the River Bain and uphill past an old Ferguson tractor, lying derelict on the right. After a couple of sharp bends turn right, following signposts to Semer and Stalling Busk. Take this unclassified road for half a mile to a left fork sign posted Carpley Green. This leads to the start of the Busk Lane. Drive through farm yard and there is a gate at the beginning of the track that is sign posted ‘Stake Road’ (943871). From here it’s a steady climb back up to about 1900 feet through a tiresome number of gates.
Busk Lane is, again, easy going on gravel maintained by the National Park Authority and the farmer, but this route seems more wild than the Cam High Road. I saw no other person for the entire 5 miles I was on it and enjoyed views of High Scar to the left and the distant Wether Fell to the right, even spotting the Cam High Road about four miles away where it descends into Bainbridge. There is the opportunity to take a deviation to the right that leads down to Stalling Busk (935840), but I continued south on Busk Lane. The surface remains easy and could be tackled in any Land Rover and by any driver. It is only when the end is in sight that things get a little more serious with quite a steep descent over some pretty large boulders offering the potential for damage to spoilers and possibly steering rods, or diffs. Care should be taken negotiating these obstacles.I managed it with little difficulty, but in bad weather this section, especially if tackled in the opposite direction, would be difficult. Busk Lane finishes at a junction with the B6160 (943802) and those that can’t wait to get back to Buckden could seek refreshment almost immediately at The White Lion half a mile down the road. However, the route continues for a further 2 miles to Buckden on the B6160.
I had covered 18 miles and enjoyed vast empty views of unspoilt countryside and had exchange brief, but friendly, greetings with other users of the track. Cam High Road and Busk Lane are easy to drive in good weather and would make an excellent family day out in any Land Rover product with the added bonus of a small sting in the tale on the final descent. For those seeking more of a thrill maybe return in the middle of a harsh winter when the snow is a metre deep, the wind is whistling at 30 mph and there’s not a soul for thirty miles. It will be very, very bleak. You have been warned.
Total Distance: 18 miles (including some tarmac)
Time to drive: 3 hours
Start:Cam High Road N54 15 49 W 02 12 42
Finish: Cam High Road N 54 18 01 W 02 07 01
Start:Busk Lane N54 16 46 W 02 05 17
Finish:Busk Lane N 54 13 08 W 02 05 19
Nearest town: Hawes
Nearest hospital: Craven, Harrogate and Rural District PCT, Harrogate, HG2 8RE tel. 01423 815150
Best pubs: There are many. Most with sunny patios and a good range of real ale. The Rose & Crown at Bainbridge was particular pleasant.
Map to take: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL30
Campsites: Best bet, Hawkswick Cote. (948705) Tents, Motorhomes and Caravans welcome. £16 a night. tel. 01756 770226.
Kettlewell has the Causeway Caravan site, but no tents allowed. Nice spot at £6 a night and very handy for the pubs of Kettlewell. (970723) tel. 01756 760297. There are two in Hawes. Honeycott has no tents, tel. 01969 667310 but Bainbridge Ings welcomes all. tel. 01969 667354.
Local Attractions: Hawes has many tourist attractions; the Wensleydale creamery, the, a lively market every Tuesday and the Dales Countryside Museum housed in the old railway station.
How hard: Easy Terrain profile: Cross-section of OS map
GPS System: Garmin GPS 12
Toby Savage,. NOTE These lanes may now be closed to motor vehicles