How good it feels to be on the road again after sizzling for four days in the tropical atmosphere of the factory Thus though I was, accompanied by my clubmates I sped swiftly along to Skipton. How good it felt to breathe deeply the bracing air of the countryside and feel the cool breeze gently caressing our cheeks and hands as we coasted swiftly down the hills, revelling in the prospect of a week-end’s freedom with congenial companions in the Dales.
Who, amongst cyclists, would not be a camper if he only knew and understood the many pleasures of this carefree life. What matter 1f it is a trifle harder uphill, it’s miles an hour faster down. My mood continued, and I thought of our friends the non-campers, returning home to the murky, soot-laden atmosphere of the town, on Saturday, only to bump and crash over the rough sets, to join the run on the morrow. Poor chaps! They don’t know the joy of sleeping out under the stars, the majesty of the hills as the mists descend to form a nightcap over their summits, or waken to see the country glistening under the rays of the rising sun. “What know they of a country who keep on passing through.” I misquote, but—
We stayed a few minutes in Skipton chatting with old friends, and then we were away. Cracoe and Threshfield dropped behind and we slid down into glorious Wharfedale. Leaving the main road at Kilnsey we went round by way of Coniston to Kettlewell. A narrow and torturous road this, but it is the quickest way for a cyclist travelling up the Dale. One is rewarded with splendid views of the Dale dominated by the forbidding mass of Kilnsey Crag. Passing through Kettlewell the trend of talk naturally turned to Captain Kettle who was named after this village, and to his rival Thomas Higgins, of Starbottom. two miles farther up the valley.
Buckden called us for tea and we found several of our members already there. Tea over we attacked Cray, riding steadily. It is a long climb, and soon we were glad to walk. Not satisfied, we then stormed the Stake Pass, or perhaps it would be more correct to say the Stake Pass stormed us. It was glorious weather down in the valley, but on the hills the mist and clouds hung. thick and heavy. We had anticipated this all the way up Wharfedale. A so-called road sometimes grass track, occasionally like a riverbed, led us gradually upwards into the clouds. The thick mist hung like dew on our hair and eyelashes, while our outer garments were soon saturated. However, we reached the top at last and shot down the long freewheel at the other side. We ran out of the mist, back into it, out again, and then came Semmerwater, the lake on whose shores we were to spend the night and part of the morrow. We had scarcely pitched our tents ere the rain commenced, blotting out the landscape. Someone proposed supper, a suggestion which met with unanimous approval. After a hard day’s ride, one of the pleasures of camping is to sit and listen to the chatter and songs of the campers while supper is cooking. ‘
Listen! A voice is singing, "Then all the steins for Auld Lang Syne."
Then, “Give me the milk please.”
No! Don’t wash yourself in it.
Singer again, "Shout till the rafters ring’
Steaming cocoa and pancakes for supper more singing and then to bed. As I lay there I thought of the legend of Semmerwater; of his vengeance turned the valley into a lake and drowned them all. I don’t know whether this accounts for it or not, but Semmerwater is well known for its pike.
Morning brought a more cheerful prospect and the water was so warm that nearly all went swimming before breakfast. Afterwards some explored the country round the lake, others attempted to sketch it while the rest offered constructive criticism.
Soon after dinner camp was struck, and we came slowly back over the Stake, through mist so thick that one could scarcely see ten yards. Back to sunshine and Kilnsey for tea, then by easy stages home.