One would think, in view of Saturday’s, (March 3lst) persistent downpours that cycling, let alone cycle-camping, would be out of the question, but it was not so. Oh no! The Nelson section of the Cyclists’ Touring Club had the date fixed for their opening camp, and nothing short of a great flood was sufficient to damp their ardour in this direction. Apart from it raining, the only unusual happening on the journey to Malham took place near Gargrave, when "T.W.” had the dual surprise of coming down in the world a distance of thirteen inches, and also being beaten to the bottom of the hill by his own back wheel. It was getting dark when the party arrived at Malham, so haste was made in the direction of Gordale. where we were pitching. Arriving there "Jay Bee" who had set out very early, greeted us with forced gaiety, for only two tents had yet arrived. “Nonstop,” who was dying to hear the music of the Primus, was already engaged in a dust up with a brand new set of tent poles, but on finding their joints too complicated for him in his present state of mind conveniently went into a trance whilst “Jay Bee" did all the dirty work.
Night had fallen ere more tents were erected in a straight line in the shelter of the wall. "Here, hold this lamp!” “Oh hang! Who wrapped my tent up that last camp,” were common expressions borne on the night winds, as usually patient chaps - endeavoured to straighten out a knot of guy-lines in the darkness. The prearranged social and lantern lecture had been delayed somewhat owing to the intermittent additions to our little community, but by ten o’clock “Jay Bee” opened the affair, which was held in the neighbouring farmhouse, thanks to the generosity of the residents. Camping songs were the first item on the lengthy programme. Having been adapted to well-known tunes, the verses were thrown on the screen by "Smiler’s” lantern, but owing to non-availability of instruments musical we were entirely at the mercy of a long-winded chappie with a mouth organ. Mrs. Hudson gave a solo with such a depth of feeling that we excused her missing a line or two. Our secretary, "Gee Whiz," excels in monologues (humorous of course), so he read one out, as did "Jay Bee", whose Yorkshire Blood entitled him to utilise his native dialect.
The star turns of the evening now appeared on the schedule, these being in the form of lecturettes by "Jay Bee" and "Smiler.” The former gentleman is already well known to the lecture going public, by his earnest endeavours (in the time at his disposal after the chairman has died through shortage of breath) to instil into his audience some of his love of the out-o-doors. Mr. King is one of this year’s - debutantes, shall we say - to the wand and reading lamp; our hats off to him for the outstanding success of his first attempt. Possessing no definite title, the lecturette by “Jay Bee" gave his listeners a brief survey of the possibilities of lightweight cycle-camping, and short though it was, I guarantee that the "away-from-home-three-times-a-year" town dweller would feel strangely stirred when he saw what could be done with the "push-bike" (curse the misnomer!) "Smiler" up, on his pet subject "Pots.” “The geological formation of Gordale,” was one of his subjects, and was illustrated by diagrammatic drawings and photos shown on the screen. Our "potty" comrade handled his matter in a very comprehensive style, as he did also when describing the caves and "pot-holes" shown later. Both of our friends had many beautiful slides of which they are justly proud. Our thanks to them for the unique evening’s entertainment they provided. At 11-45 the evening closed with a community song, the "Campers' Good-night."
Out in the moon-bathed valley there was an immediate scuffle for the tents and supper, after which, some in search of more fresh air went for a stroll up the ravine, but by 12-30 Nature had drawn her children to her bosom and they slept. "Jay Bee" was first man up, why, I can’t say, for his bones are inured to the ‘hardest granite. Anyway, he commenced to brew tea in wholesale quantities, much to the satisfaction of the lucky recipients thereof.
As the camp awakened in easy stages, we were able to take a census of those present. Seventeen tents of all shapes and shades, ranging from sea-green to a dirty yellow had sheltered over forty, including four of the weaker (?) sex. A large number of Lancashire and Yorkshire towns were represented, Leeds, Bradford, Nelson, Burnley, Accrington and Oldham, oh! and Hebden Bridge, of course, all had their representatives amongst the jovial throng of fresh air friends squatted about preparing the morning repast. After breakfast the party split up into small groups which broadcast themselves in all directions, some up in the Gordale chasm or over Mastiles in the direction of Kilnsey. In fact, when viewing the surrounding landscape from an elevated position on the fells we could see our friends everywhere, indulging in a mind refreshing saunter over the windswept uplands, or scrambling over white limestone crags, some even risking life and limb on a treacherous face climb.
Whatever pursuit they had followed however, the whole bunch automatically made their way back to camp about dinner time. The light was now very strong in active ray, so our photographers prepared to shoot the camp and its inhabitants, who bravely faced a barrage from a row of cameras. Voracious appetites will not permit longer delay than is necessary, and soon the Primus stoves were to be heard roaring in every tent. But hark! A roar not so musical comes from friend "Samson,” who discovers that a pound of juicy beefsteak, carefully conveyed from home, is no longer to be found. A similar complaint is received from Mrs. Hudson, whose Sunday dinner has taken unto itself legs and walked. After a very careful search of the surrounding country failed to reveal the presence of the missing foodstuffs, immediate suspicion was fastened on the farmer’s dog. Why, I can’t say, a more honest, truthful dog you would never see. Admitted, it looked well fed and at peace with the world as it sat there with a face wreathed in smiles. Of course Samson promised to strengthen his acquaintance with the bow-wow as soon as he had time.
After dinner a "siesta" and a pipe, and it was time for some of the lads to commence packing for the homeward journey. Experience and compactability of kit makes this job far from as fearsome as it appears, for one can cook breakfast, pack up and be away in one hour. The Nelsonians having time to spare spent an hour or two on the fells and in paying "social" calls on remaining campers. By tea only six of the seventeen tents remained, and as the Nelson section were last to leave the site, they saw to it that no paper, tins, or egg shells had been left lying about. To leave even a match stem or bit of string where it can be seen after a night’s camp is an unpardonable sin amongst true lovers of the country. In conclusion, it was passed unanimously that our "opener" had been an outstanding success, thanks to all who defied the elements to swell the numbers participating