Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
So what that Shakespeare had my namesake talking about his brother taking the throne, he could well have been describing the Medieval Monkey event. Richard III (actual name Dickon and also born in Northamptonshire) often stayed at Sheriff Hutton castle as it was convenient for York during his tenure as Lord of the North. Perhaps it is not surprising then that Sheriff Hutton became the centrepiece of our fund raising activities this year and that it was the site for us to meet the crew of one of the helicopters that flew in specially to meet us.
The weekend started at Brighouse (no known connections to Richard III) as the monkey bike riders gathered and compared their medieval outfits. We had knights, ladies, jesters, an executioner and some very fetching men at arms going for a more butch Norfolk interpretation of the Robin Hood theme. We also had two monkeys, one riding and one strapped to the top box, a 7ft bear and 3 bucket shaking wenches. One individual failed to arrive in costume so paid the forfeit by completing part of the route on Sunday dressed in the Bubbles DeVere suit in the style of Lady Godiva.
The route took us from Brighouse via a fuel stop in Keighley at which the leaking BLD Gorilla was swapped for one of the spare bikes to the gates of Skipton Castle where whilst the monkeys clustered, the wenches rattled their buckets up and down the High Street and we picked up the Knaresborough Town Crier. He came with an inordinate amount of baggage which included a PA system which enabled him to harangue the population at every stop and to entertain us with a selection of carols and Christmas songs. Leaving Skipton the convoy headed out through Embsay and down to Barden Tower however one of the Bikesure monkeys lost its clutch en route so travelled in the BLD van until Whitby the next day when it was fixed. Initially believing we were the wedding party they had been expecting we were allowed by the staff to remain in the restaurant car park. What convinced them we were not the wedding we will never know but we were asked to move on and this we did once the convoy had been reformed.
Off towards Appletreewick, through Pateley Bridge and onto Ripley Castle where after a few minutes for photos outside the gates we moved the convoy into the car park where the ravenous hordes fell upon the lunch which had met us there. Also there was an incredibly tall photographer called Jonathan Pow purporting to work for national newspapers and looking for pictures to take and then sell. Much against our better judgement we agreed to his requests to parade up and down the high street and as expected managed to confuse everyone and split the convoy up. Losing another Bikesure bike between Ripley and Knaresborough we managed to all meet up again by the A1 and proceed in good order over the wooden toll bridge at Linton to Sheriff Hutton. With so many bikes succumbing to mechanical failure we were running out of car seats for the now bikeless riders so enlisted Kathryn’s help who after meeting us at Ripley with the lunch carried Bikeless Bikesure Dan and his gear to Sheriff Hutton.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance fund raisers had set up a stall and the owners of the castle had invited the villagers to come into the castle and meet them. The air ambulance then flew in and we all got a chance to pose for photos with it and to chat to the stars of the Helicopter Heroes TV programme including pilot Tim and Tony the paramedic. They do a fantastic job and we were incredibly lucky that they were not called out to rescue someone and were able to come and meet us. They then took off and after hovering to wave and for us to take pictures they flew off and we reformed the convoy and set off to Kirkham Priory. Pausing for photos we were surprised to be joined by Kathryn again who had raced to join the convoy again in order to reacquaint Dan with his riding gear and overnight bag which he had left in her car!
The next stage was back over the A64 up to Malton and along the very picturesque Dalby Forest toll road. Our last pause was for a comfort stop at the visitor centre before hustling on to our overnight stop in Scarborough. We had enjoyed great weather however this was to change when we woke up on Sunday to a heavy sea mist and rain. We set off to Whitby Abbey where mechanically minded monkey wranglers fettled the machines and cannibalised the non-runners for parts to get the maximum number running as the rain had stopped and everyone wanted to ride. Dan was back on a bike but this was not to last too long as he fell victim to the copious amounts of gravel washed into the road by the heavy rain and took a tumble before we went through Grosmont. Phil Wilding and his team hurried him to hospital and we continued in subdued fashion getting periodic progress reports and eventually meeting up with them at our final stop in Knaresborough. Dan had broken and dislocated a finger, has now had an operation on it and we all wish him a very speedy recovery.
We went over the North Yorks Railway at Grosmont before detouring from our original route when we saw the ford we were planning to travel across was now 2ft under water and then climbed into thick mist for an eerie, wet and quiet run over the moor. The next stop was Rosedale Abbey for possibly the least impressive abbey ruins you will ever see – Google it if you don’t believe me! However the stop was chosen more for its proximity to the famous Rosedale Chimney Bank which allegedly is the steepest motorable road in the UK. Lots of roads are posted as 1 in 3 (we went up and down several of them this weekend) however this is the only genuine article. Once up the Chimney (resorting to 1 gear) it was over the moors again to Hutton Le Hole and down to Helmsley where the Steam Traction Engine Rally ensured we could not park for bucket shaking so we were quickly off towards Rievaulx for our lunch stop.
Rievaulx Abbey is an incredibly impressive ruin but no-one in our group seemed to notice as they only had eyes for the back of Tim’s car where laid out was the amazing lunch he and Allan had brought for us. Who would have expected roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and piping hot gravy? Uncomfortably full we were off again past the gliding club at Sutton Bank, waving to the white horse of Yorkshire and on to Knaresborough where the Harrogate and NE based parts of our convoy said their goodbyes once Ian had performed his valedictory parade in the Bernie the Bear suit and the girls did their final bucket shaking. The Town Crier was also left there but we had met up with a smiling (possibly drug induced) Dan waving his bandaged finger and the others that had rushed him to hospital. It was now getting late so eschewing the delights of the back roads it was A Roads all the way back to Brighouse past Leeds Bradford airport home of the air ambulance we were raising money for.
It was a heck of a trip. Thank you to everyone involved in any way. Please encourage everyone you know to donate to make the pain seem worthwhile!
Here is to next year – keep the 29 and 30 June free in your diary if you want to take part.
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