It was a few minutes short of 9:30 on Sunday morning as I drifted to a halt at our meeting place at Higherford. There were already five of my fellow members there — much, I might add. to my astonishment — and by half-past, the number had increased: to nine; it would appear that the sentiments of punctuality expounded by our friend "J.H.G.” had made an impression upon my comrades. The morning was fair, and the sun was making the world good to look. upon: as, under the fitting supervisal of a signpost, we awaited the arrival of the “late scholars.” Our quarter of an hour’s grace having elapsed, we betook ourselves once more to our more or less mud-covered bicycles, and officially started upon our run to Black Burton.
We sauntered up Coldweather Hill with a kindly tail wind helping us, past the gaunt tower of Blacko which overlooks a considerable portion of the surrounding country, past the Greystone Inn (prohibited hours, of course), and so to the top. The distance from the top of Coldweather Hill to Gisburn is some three and a half miles, practically all of which is downhill, and a joy to the heart of the cyclist. It affords an ever-changing panorama of Ribblesdale and its mountain environs, an excellent view of our own local Pendle Hill, and a swift and exhilarating spin over an excellent road without the cost of any physical effort. We descended into Gisburn in our usual manner - that is to say, we let our bicycles “rip” to the last moment, and then slammed our brakes on hard and crawled round the ’bus-infected corner at some three miles per hour. The bells of the Parish Church were calling all and sundry to worship as we passed along the village. streets, but I am afraid that we heeded them not. We sped along Ribblesdale to the accompaniment of the clear tones of many a throstle who was giving his love song to the morn. obviously indifferent of the dark clouds that were amassing on the western skyline.
The "Three Dis-graces" (“Derailleur,” “J.H.G,” and myself) were, of course, in our usual position at the rear — probably owing to our flagging energies — where we were able to argue in peace. "Derailleur” and I very patiently propped one another up, whilst our friend “J.H.G." grubbed in the ditches to satisfy himself as to the genus of the various plants that were making their appearance therein. This kind of cycling is, to my mind, ideal: personally. I am quite willing to prop up walls, bridges. hedges, or any other thing as an excuse for a halt.
And so on to Settle, where we arrived just in time to see the rest of the club - who had been there some time - departing for Ingleton. To pass through Settle without a halt was, of course, unthinkable; so we parked our bikes for a short while and gazed upon: life in general and the feminine portion of it in particular (at least "J.H.G" and “Derailleur" did). We were just about to resume our journey, when “Miss Spitfire” rolled up, scant of breath and red of visage. She decided to honour us with her presence, and so we trooped off up Buckhaw Brow together. One would have supposed that, after having disposed of her superfluous energy, the lady in question would have been prepared to ride at a reasonable speed; but we learned, to our sorrow, that woman is ever unreasonable, and we had perforce to put our beef into it to prevent that most humiliating of cycling indignities — being “left” by one of the fair sex. You may be sure that we did not forget to remark upon how much we had been enjoying the run until “Miss Spitfire” joined our number, a sentiment that she heartily reciprocated.
As we neared Ingleton, the rain, which had been threatening us for some time, began to fall at last. We decided not to put. our capes on, so we "sprinted for it," and reached the lunch place only moderately damp. Lunch was in full swing when we arrived, and we lost no time in taking part in the contest. When this important midday necessity had been disposed of, some misguided youth brought out a catalogue of camping equipment. An immediate rush was made by our camping contingent for the possession thereof, and for a good while after nothing was heard but references to fly sheets, guy lines, ground sheets, stoves, nests of pans, portable baths, and baked beans. This latter is, I believe, the staple food of campers; what is more, they really seem to like them. The fact that the rain was coming down in torrents upon the lawn outside made no difference to these optimistic and - (fool)hardy souls. Our runs secretary (who considers that persons who sleep upon the cold, damp earth when they might have been in bed, have got a kink in their mentality) bore the discussion for a while, and then made a frantic dash for his cape, and set off towards Black Burton.
Upon arriving at our destination we gravitated towards the church, but since a christening was about to take place we forbore to enter. We galloped down to the river, over the bridge, and up the opposite slope, which was steep enough to allow of a dismount, and turned round to view the village. Black Burton is rather a quaint place, perched upon a slope; its church, a large, spired structure, dominates the whole village, while the cottages appear to have snuggled as close as possible to its consecrated walls for protection from outside evils (including cyclists, I suppose). But teeming rain does not tend to make protracted halts pleasant, so we continued our journey. Passing through Low Bentham we turned off the main highway at High Bentham, and took to the byways that climb to the edge of the moors. The road here was not so good, and resulted in a minor accident to a wheel, and a puncture. This latter was repaired in the rain, since it did not occur to the boneheads present to take advantage of the friendly shelter of railway bridge about a hundred yards further on.
We were now in the vale of the River Wenning, which ultimately empties: itself into Morecambe Bay, via the River Lune. A small, pastoral valley that is but little removed from the moors; very pleasant, and out of the usual run of motor traffic, and containing numerous species of bird life. The familiar outlines of Ingleborough Hill and its lesser companions, situate across tho valley, were transformed by the low lying clouds into vague, mystic, and un-recognisable shapes. The call of the curlews and peewits were the only sounds to be heard. Above all brooded the spirit of loneliness, a spirit. which, before I started cycling, I neither understood nor cared for, but which I can now (thanks to my friend, the bicycle) enjoy and appreciate.
Keasden, which appears to consist of one church and one farmhouse, was passed without a halt, and we eventually reached Settle soon after five o’clock. and repaired to Hanby's Cafe for our tea. Inside we found our infant friend "Bookoss" contentedly nibbling his rusks. — Being but a youth and seeing that he got home late from our social the previous evening, he must needs stay in bed until dinner time to get his usual twelve hours sleep, and then potter up to the tea place for a little exercise. Tea over with, chairs round the fire were at a premium, but our members are notably considerate of snowy locks, and I managed to secure a seat. Now one of the chief forms of entertainment in a cycling club is that of telling tall stories, and our members appear to he particularly expert at this sort of thing. The more youthful members probably went home on Sunday firmly convinced that it never rains nowadays like it used to - in fact that it never does anything like it used to — that is, if they believed it (which I doubt).
We became convinced at last that it firmly intended to rain all night, so we staggered outside and put on our wet, clammy capes. It was with great joy that I heard "J.H.G.” moaning sorrowfully as he struggled into his oilskins, when I reminded him of a remark that he made earlier in the day to the effect that he wished it would rain because he had nearly forgotten what it was like to wear a cape. He grumpily observed that he supposed there was a reason for everything, but that he could not see the reason for this deluge. None the less, we moved cheerfully homewards over the black, streaming roads, our wheels casting up fountains of spray to the general inconvenience of those behind; through the deserted main streets of Long Preston and Gisburn, and over Coldweather Hill once more. There are times when swift free-wheeling has its disadvantages, and to my mind this was one of them. My front wheel was, with deadly precision, carefully casting a stream of water into my shoes, and I must confess that I did not appreciate it in the least, and that I was devoutly glad when we reached level ground at Higherford. The setts were just as hard as usual. but we heeded them not, for our supper was calling in no unmeasured terms.