There are some mornings when you awaken from a sleep disturbed by torrential rain and the audible gyrations of dust-bin lids ending their none-too brief flights, and half expect to find the streets thronged with mariners, busily engaged in hauling their respective crafts back to the sea, from which they might have been swept during the night.
Such a morning presented itself last Sunday, the day when members of the Nelson Section of the Cyclists’ Touring Club were intended to ride to Austwick for dinner, then afterwards either make the moorland crossing of Sulber Nick or go home again via Helwith Bridge and Settle, the latter route being specially arranged for our pottering members.
The appearance of a ship’s mast outside my bedroom window on the said morn caused me to part company with the blankets quicker than usual; but further investigation proved the "mast" to be merely a clothes prop blown from its moorings.
Once out of bed, I made a decision which later resulted in the weather-beaten appearance of my body and "bike” in Gisburn, where other members of the C.T.C were likely to be met. The description of how each one arrived there, after battling with atmospheric conditions usually associated with Christmas, may be better given in the form of a book. Therefore let the story begin as we take the main road to Settle, where the journey becomes more like a nightmare than a reality,
The tall trees by the roadside, aided by the wind, would wait until we were about to pass, then suddenly bend low over the roadway, flourishing their leafless branches before our faces, and it was very fortunate that we were not wearing bowler hats.
Very often our Sou’-westers were straining at their leash of double width hat elastic under our chins, threatening to strangle us. But always just at the moment when we were about to receive our mythical harps or coal shovels (mine was a shovel) there would he a lull in the storm and the hats would return with oo whack on our heads, to bring us back to reality.
Speaking of harps reminds me of an excellent rendering of “Souls in Anguish,” performed by the wind playing on the telegraph wives, between long Preston and Settle. The musical description of the souls as they are repeatedly purified by the action of boiling sulphur, is characterised by a triple crescendo on the "screams of terror,” followed by moans and howls that would have been sufficient alone to curdle the contents of our stomachs. But our breakfasts had long since departed; therefore we were spared the ordeal.
The only fault with the selection was that the air was a little too boisterous, and caused “Squire" to perform all sorts of high-brow wrinkling contortions to prevent his proverbial cap from giving an aeronautic display; while “Non-Stop,” a rather incessant talker at times, was unusually silent—
this may have been due to his “Aberdonian” respect for his slack-fitting false teeth.
On arriving in Settle, a short halt was made to hold an impromptu roll-call, and a few were to be seen removing hail-stones from their ears for that purpose. As none of the party were missing, we continued towards Buckhow Brow, the ascent of which was made on foot, but nearing the summit, the wind became so terrific as to almost necessitate further procedure to he made on “all fours.”
A few more miles and we reached the cross roads at Cross Streets, where we turned off on the winding road to Austwick,
Here "Non-Stop" suddenly found himself possessed with a dynamic spasm of energy, so we sent him on in advance to give timely warning of our tea-drinking abilities. After a hundred yards sprint, we witnessed his rapid. disappearance round a bend in the roadway. Had the road been a straight one we might have observed the rapidly-diminishing distance between ourselves and our courier as we pattered along slowly behind. Therefore our surprise on overtaking him round the first gable end in ethereal blue.
Lunch over and digested, it was decided not to make the crossing of Sulber Nick, but to visit Helwith Bridge (spelt with one “l” for purposes of distinction). After getting within sight of the bridge from a distance of about four hundred yards, our decision was altered by another, which led us over the old road to Stainforth Force.
It was only by chance of fate that we arrived at Stainforth Force. Had any one of the other random suggestions that were offered at the parting of the ways been fulfilled, there might have been small rewards offered by now for our whereabouts, dead or alive- but not in the Wild West sense.
The Force mentioned gave a watcher a play of its tendency to increase the velocity of the river Ribble, and we had to shout at each other to make known our observations concerning the beauty of the falls.
I took great care to keep at a considerable distance from the edge of the rockery, where one might easily be precipitated into the churning depths, Some of our members are not to be trusted —remember last week at "G. G."
Most cyclists soon “tyre" of one particular piece of scenery, and after about five minutes by the river side. T was dragged away along another old road, terminating at Settle.
It was almost four o'clock in Settle, and by half-past four we were all safe in clink, or is it clint? - that little bungalow where teas are provided, which we reached after a seven-miles ride with the wind towards Gisburn.
After tea we came out of Clint into a night made beautiful by the clear moonlight, and in preference to returning home by Cold Weather Hill, we chose Tubber Hill as an alternative.
A little later, after arriving at Barrowford, two of the party might have been seen consuming ice cream in a manner that left passers by shivering home to their beds.