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Monday, 15 August 2016

Highways chiefs hit the road with a smoother journey to 1300 ft pub

Landlord Barry Crossland is upbeat when you mention journeying along Blake Ridge, between Rosedale and Farndale, which ranks as one of the most exposed roads in England and takes customers to his Lion Inn.

Landlord Barry Crossland (second left) with highways area manager Richard Marr, project manager Mike Aitchison and highways customer communications officer Sharon Fox.

The stretch passes through the the heather between Hutton-le-Hole and Castleton, rising over 1300 feet to the watering hole midway at the highest point of the North York Moors.

And the road takes the full blast of the weather as it blows off the North Sea.

Barry, who has been the Lion Inn's landlord for the past 35 years, can tell more than most how quickly the road can disappear into fog and sea-fret. He knows so well how fast the temperature falls in winter, how fast the moor can freeze and how fast the snow can fall.

He feels easier these days after the county council's highways team spent part of summer filling in potholes, resurfacing the road and repainting the white lines that are a crucial guide to night-time traffic across the blackness of the moor.

The work is the latest phase in a two-year programme improving the road which is a lifeline to the Lion Inn, the community and visitors alike.

Barry said: “The weather can change up here so often so we really need the road to be in a fit state. We’re very glad that the council has been able to do this work.”

CONVOY SYSTEM
“It’s been brilliant.  The council has kept the road open for us by using traffic lights and a convoy system.  Our business hasn’t suffered at all.”

The former milkman, who hails from Leeds, fell in love with The Lion Inn on a day out with a friend and bought it on a whim despite never having pulled a pint and the fact the place was derelict.

Over the years and with the help of his close-knit and dedicated staff and his two sons Paul and David, he has developed a thriving business. The Lion draws visitors from across the globe with its famous welcome, its open fires, local ales,  homemade food and its ghosts.

It had thrived before in the 19th century with the establishment of the iron mines in Rosedale,  A pair of original miner’s boots hanging over the hearth are testament to that rugged trade.  Before that, back in the 16th century, it was a Friar Inn, founded by brethren to lighten their poverty.

Now The Lion throws open its doors to walkers, cyclists, bikers and travellers by car.  The car park is often full; the road brings people in from the cold and the county council’s snow ploughs frequently dig them out.

Barry added: "It’s very exposed up here and the snow comes down so fast.

“Many a time people coming to the pub have been snowed in overnight.  We’ve had some great parties here because of it.  One night two coachloads – 90 people – were snowed in.  That was quite a time.

BODIES SLEEPING EVERYWHERE
"There were bodies sleeping all over the floor by the morning. We’ve had to use metal detectors to find cars in the car park.  But the snow ploughs are always out the next day, digging out the road, getting folk back on track.”

Between October and April North Yorkshire County Council works with contractor Ringway to keep 9,000km of roads moving during periods of extreme weather.

It uses 89 gritters, 130 farming contractors and several snowblowers. While routine gritting of Blakey Ridge ensures the road is salted when necessary during the winter, the council relies on some of the farming contractors to help to clear the snow once the road becomes blocked. The snowdrifts can easily top two metres during the worst winter spells.

The council has also established customer communications officers to cover the county’s highways and Barry has established a hotline to Sharon Fox, the officer for the Moors.

He said: “It’s great to have somebody to contact without going round the houses.  A while ago the road was flooded where it dips down to Castleton because the ditches were blocked.  I got on the phone to Sharon and it was sorted quickly.

TOUR DE YORKSHIRE 
“This road may be remote but it gets pretty busy with visitors and local businesses and also for people going to work – lots travelling down from Redcar to the bacon factory in Malton. So it’s wonderful that it’s being kept up to scratch.  It’s important for us in so many ways.  It was part of the route for the Tour de Yorkshire this year.  We had people parking up here at The Lion,  lining the road ten deep to watch the Tour come by.  That was another party.”

An extra £39 million over a period of six years is being put into road maintenance by the county council and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, which successfully bid for money from the Department for Transport’s Local Growth Fund.

County council highways executive member councillor Don Mackenzie said: ‘Spending on the maintenance of our rural roads is one of the most important investments we can make for the economic wellbeing of North Yorkshire.’’

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