Tan Hill Oct 2013

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Tan Hill is Great Britain’s highest pub an a superb venue for a small rally. The Old Forge on the other hand is Great Britain’s most remote pub and would be a good rally venue if it was connected to the mainland by a decent road and they put the fire on occasionally.

Steve Gray and the lovely Denise (about to be Gray) are North East MAG members and natural organisers, the type every MAG group needs. They put on superb do’s at the Tan Hill a couple of times a year. If you think you’ve camped at some challenging rally sites, consider camping and surviving at what must be the highest rally in the UK.

Riding up to this site it’s not uncommon to look down and see RAF jets dog fighting below you in the valleys. As you ride across the moor up and up and more up because there’s not much down on the way there; think of The Slaughtered Lamb pub that featured in American Werewolf in London. There are some places I arrive and in my mind I can hear the opening cords of Duelling Banjos. Well every time I turn off the A66 I hear John Foggerty’s opening cords to Bad Moon Rising.

Earlier in the year they’d put on the NADAB and MAG fundraiser rally with music by The Spirit Levellers and Ash Mandrake. Ash Mandrake is something of a bizarre act that defies common description. Go and see him; you’ll enjoy it but you won’t be able to pigeon-hole him.

The October rally was a NADAB fundraiser and the music was provided by Flat NABD, a fine stottin Scottish band that did two sets and kept everybody bouncing and falling over.
Then there was Stevie One bloke and a mandolin, who does a cracking acoustic version of Copperhead Road catch him if you can, he’s good. tan-hill-2013-1That’s not to be confused with the local cowman’s acoustic; which is a stick you poke a cow with in these parts.

Now describing the weather is a relative matter, What we in the North consider ‘nippy’ brings the South East to a grinding halt and fills the BBC rolling news for 24 hours with apocalyptic tales of doom.
So by a Northerner’s description the weather on the Saturday morning was fine if a little damp and breezy. Setting off early from Durham, the first 25 miles took two hours dodging floods and closed roads. After an hour sitting in Sainsbury’s Bishop Auckland on the very edge of the Pennines waiting for the roads to clear, I went back home and set off again closer to lunch time.

Things didn’t bode well for the Tan Hill do. If the weather was like this at 400 feet above sea level what was it like at nearly 2000 feet in the middle of the Northern Pennines? Would anybody turn up? By the time we got there the sun was trying to show its face and the parking area was filling with bikes. I was pleased we hadn’t gone up on the Friday night as Steve and Denise’s tent was battered into submission and last seen heading for the North Sea in a wind straight off the Atlantic.

We’d promised to make sure that Denise didn’t get stuck on the door for another 10 hour shift so Kay and I plonked ourselves down with Denise and started swapping money for wrist bands with the small army of bikers slowly arriving on one of the three roads that meet there. As the day wore on, most people seemed to be enjoying the effects of alcohol and the low partial pressure of the oxygen at these altitudes, or they could have just been drunk?
The day turned into a typical highest pub in the UK night. Outside was the blackest of skies with blue silver clouds rushing over a bright full moon. Inside, the coal fires blazed, the bands played, people bounced about, money was raised for NABD and I swear before I dozed off I heard a wolf howl.

The following day we all ate a hearty breakfast. Gordon and Ewan did as piffing job collecting litter, the bands got paid and the rain came in sideways like machine gun bullets with nothing between the North Atlantic and us to stop it.

Thank you Steve and Denise and I hope your wedding day is a beautiful day for you both.

Dave Wigham
NE MAG Regional Rep