I am inspired to write of camping pictures because of the circumstance which led to one of them being trapped by the all-too-truthful camera, and subsequently flaunted before the world at the head of the pictorial columns in Last. Monday’s issue of this journal. Cyclists will have noted, with more than usual interest, that jolly little study of the two clubgirl campers smiling up at a shadowy, sinister, shorted masculine figure, It was with great reluctance that I was caught in that study, it was with even greater misgivings that I unfolded my paper on the Monday to find that I had successfully avoided exposure. Still, I have the unpleasant feeling that my fellows in the game will not have scanned that camping picture long ere they say: "And that’s Rota. You can, both figuratively and actually, spot those ears a mile away."
A Perfect Site,
Let me present another picture; this time to a perfect camp-site, Denham Wheel, on our loved Ribble, near to grey, picturesque Bolton-by-Bowland. There, a hill has decided to sweep down to the river, and has made a commendable error of judgment, undershot its mark, and, in glorious amends, flung out to the river a smooth, flat, green ledge. Scattered about this level plain betwixt the tree-covered hill and the tawny, rushing, crooning river, are tiny tents, low hung, and, mostly, graceful of outline. They appear, from a distance, dazzlingly white or coolly green or amber. There are thirty-three of them all told; Alaskans, Itisas, Cottages: "Jaybee’s” "green veteran,” whose roof has often sheltered, as it sheltered that week-end, new comers to the camping game. The Bedouins of the bicycle whose temporary abodes these are, are a mixed (and mixing) band from between Blackpool and Harrogate, bronzed men and boys, and the girls — well, horribly unfashionable with their sturdy limbs and full, ruddy cheeks.
A picture of an awakening after an admittedly chilly night, I emerge to find the grass faintly powdered with white frost, and expectantly make for a water-bucket and promptly broadcast my findings to a world which is stirring faintly within its tent walls, and am greeted with a delighted "No.” "There is ice in the buckets,” I affirm, "Not much, but it is there. Hear it jingle.” We are all rather proud of that almost invisible film, which “will probably have thickened considerably. My tent-cramped limbs do not function correctly, and outraged guy-lines twang their protest. Someone later accused me of arousing the camp by playing, "Weel may the keel row,” on the anchoring cords.
A Morning Walk.
An ever-changing picture of a before dinner stroll. Two of us followed the singing river along a narrow and perilous path which swayed and twisted amongst the trees on the high, steep bank, a path whose clinging sliminess alone kept us from slithering down to an unnecessary wetting. Then our faint track forsook the river and led us through a jungle of rhododendron bushes, past where fallen giants of the woods mutely displayed their white scars, and turned back to the Ribble again to peter out at the foot of grim, upsoaring Pudsay’s Leap. We were lost, and there was nothing else for it but to reach the heights above the river and regain our bearings.
So up that sheer bluff we went on hands, making our perilous way up over weathered, splintered rock, heavy, loamy soil, and a tangle of exposed tree roots. Our fingers often sank to the knuckles ere they found a hold in the soil; occasionally they took hold of a root which was loose, or a fallen branch, and moved hurriedly elsewhere. After quite a number of hectic split seconds, we gained the crest and looked down at that which had been a menace, but which now, as it curved its unhurried way through the tree-slashed vista below us as a broad ribbon of sinuous, shimmering silver, was a thing of breath-taking beauty.
Here was say a delightful little past oral comedy, or, maybe, a tragedy. There came across the fields beyond a full-woolled rotund ewe and lamb. Not her lamb, mark you, but a changeling, an unwitting impostor. Its mother was either gone or lost, so the shepherd had skinned the dead lamb and had draped the living with its coat so that the bereft ewe might never know of her loss and suckle the motherless stranger. (I know of these things because, townie though I am, my forefathers ranged the Lakeland hills with crook and collie for generations.) But the ruse had, alas, failed: The lamb, with its false and gory disguise trailing dismally at its heels was bawling hungrily and plaintively many yards in arrears of a disillusioned and plainly peeved ewe. Occasionally the sheep would halt, then, as the quietened and hopeful little one came nozzling up, would bowl it roughly over and haste away again. I explained things to my companion, and he was slightly interested; I was, in turns, amused and sympathetic, and, most of all, longing anew for Easter and the hills of my spiritual home!
Round the Burning Logs.
A picture of a camp fire. For an hour we struggled with powerful lungs against the heavy handicap of sopping sticks, and I gave up the struggle. Later I was jubilantly and unceremoniously dragged from my blankets to the blaze. We gathered about the crackling, sizzling, smoking fire, and sang, It was a charming scene, and no meet punishment for our arrant April folly, a full reward for our perhaps unreasoning love of the alluring out-of-doors. Ruddy flames rose and fell, and splashed the squatting circle of cycle-campers with their radiance and warmth. Voices rang cheerfully even when they chanted their doleful ballads of blighted loves which are, for some unfathomable reason, ever part of the Britisher’s merry-making. Our river lilted an accompaniment which no music-maker ever born could better. The tall trees played their swaying dance: betwixt singers and orchestra and kept time with both. A silver sickle of a moon splashed a fairy path on the dancing waters and smiled down on us between the guardian trees. There was glamour, colour, romance, that midnight at Denham on the Ribble.