As the wind trundled us over the final undulations, my companion hazarded an inquiry as to whether there was any likelihood of other camping company apart from that of our own particular club, and my mount swerved wildly. I recovered physical and mental balance, and bade him be prepared to share his camp-site with a few score of tents, for we were riding to the Bolton-by-Bowland meet, a function well liked by the Bedouins of the bicycle, and usually productive of record gatherings of the tribe.
We glided around a corner, and I pointed downward. Half a mile away, framed against the fresh green of grass and the more sombre timber, were a round score of tiny tents — green, white, brown — and even as we looked three more sprang simultaneously, as though conjured by some occult hand, from the earth. Then the swooping road carried us out of view, and we rode through a drizzle of thin rain into the grey village to the inn yard.
We dismounted with half a dozen other riders and unstrapped packs with them, walked across a glistening, springy field towards where, on a strip of meadow bounded by twin streams, tents stood and were being unfurled, stoves purred their lay of promise to many an aching void, and the broad-vowelled dialects of a score of Northern towns drifted uncannily out from the depths of the tents.
More and More Arrivals.
We spilled the contents of our packs and panniers. and. within a few moments had the baffled drizzle crackling malevolently on the frail, yet all-sufficient, shelters. I pawed hastily amongst my scattered kit, then, can in hand, dived-neatly through my doors into a cluster of belated club-mates who, even ere they dismounted, were demanding milk. Their two tents flickered swiftly up, and I hastened over the lea with the milk cans. Cyclists, man and maid, came towards me with luggage held tightly in their arms and "Cheerio!” coming easily from their lips, despite their rain-beaded hair and gleaming capes. Scores of brakes were squealing and feet dragging in the inn-yard, and, as I entered the inn, feeling vastly self-conscious with my twin tins, I saw the village alive with the invading. riders, vibrant with the hum of wheels, the clang of bells, and voices merry despite the grouse which some of them conveyed. And still they came.
Back in the tent again, and through the rustle of the rain and the song of the stove, new voices — singing, greeting, complaining — of still more weather-contemptuous cyclists came; still more tents arose. The vain, mocked thus into impotence, ceased, and, at the call which went around our four tents, our party passed out into the calm, sweet-smelling evening, The tight-packed huddle of machines in the yard grew apace.
The rain came again as we made our varied purchases at the little general store and emerged counting over the plentiful halfpence which formed the bulk of the change. We spent the remainder of the evening in the firelit warmth of the inn, amusing the natives by our efforts to master the tiny billiard table, drinking in moderation, commenting occasionally and bitingly upon the spectacle, often seen through the blurred windows, of campers almost hidden neath burdens of hay. I once forsook cue and glass to go hunting hay for a pair of lady club mates, My before-bed census revealed that, at Bolton-by-Bowland on that wretched night in the merry month of May, ninety-four lightweight tents; were pitched, and later came the official total of their inhabitants, one hundred and forty.
A record, this, for gatherings of this nature, and a circumstance that was naturally commented upon by the speakers who drew us, on the following afternoon, to the village green and its ancient stone cross. The speakers mentioned the figures and drew the inevitable moral from them. But I am inclined to doubt whether all of these findings, delivered eloquently to an audience of some 400, were quite accurate.
It is rather to be doubted that, for instance, this remarkable spectacle was even in the slightest way due to the industrial depression which has so cruelly ravaged our Northern shires. Good camping kit is expensive, and up to the present I have been unable to discover that cycle-camping is the least expensive form of touring. We campers were told that we were courageous beings, noble crusaders in the fight against present-day indolence and pampered living.
That, if it be true, is a dreadful thing. It implies that camping, like cycling and wearing shorts, is another glorious game which stands in grave danger of being converted into a mere "movement.” But possibly, and happily, the halo may be undeserved. We cycle campers may not be idealists, we may be just plain — well, irresponsibles, fools, what you will, Mr Non-cyclist! In that case, the sight and sound of us should convince anyone that Folly and Happiness are twin sisters, and growing with each other. Possibly this camping is just a habit with us, and draws us out, willy-nilly, wet or fine, even as does the parent pastime.
The Soul of Camping.
Let us cease fencing over this matter, Why do we camp — who do I camp? I enjoy a full night’s sleep — I have never had one in camp. Chill winds and rain are almost torture to me. I am not a strong rider, having taken to the cycle comparatively late in life, having only at the age of 22, turned my feet from accelerators to pedals. Yet I am a cycle-camper, and my reasons for being one are best summed up, deplorably enough, in an Americanism. I, through the medium of the game, “do places, meet folks, do things.”
I am living, learning, and, above all, making friends, for in our game one meets many who worship the same things, have certain feelings in common. Our friendships last, too, for many of us do not meet often enough to get to know each other thoroughly. We meet on such occasions as Bolton-by-Bowland, and shall keep on meeting. What matters wind, rain, cold, when at any moment one may have the thrill of the ritual with which these mad English cement their friendships, the back-bruising blow, irate eyes meeting quizzical ones, dawning, spreading grins, swearwords, and lastly, reluctantly (because it is so darned demonstrative) the grip?
I have been drawn to write this article through the great number of "push" bicycles, dreadnoughts, gaspiping, etc., which fond parents inflict upon the young hopeful and consequently ruin a would-be cyclist, and in the end force the sad young hopeful to turn to petrol when the first opportunity occurs.
Through being known as "one of them chaps as rides a bike,” many young boys come to confide their secret ideas on bikes and what kind they would like when pa buys one. The last case I had was a glaring example of “Bicycles that should not be bought.” The boy was about 13 years of age, sturdily built but not tall. The bicycle had a 25 inch frame, 28 inch wheels, and a three speed. To make the machine rideable, the ingenious father, who evidently must have been a tackler, had fixed big blocks of wood to the pedals. Even with this assistance the lad had to roll from side to side when pedalling. The gears in the three speed were like the machine, too big to be of any use. To mount the machine the rider had literally to climb on to it, and to dismount he had to swerve to the left and struggle to get his right leg over the frame whilst in motion, a feat which generally resulted in his hitting the ground; with the bicycle on top of him. Fortunately the machine, being an old one, soon gave up the ghost, and the father having profited by experience, bought the boy a new and much more suitable machine. Today he is a keen member of the C.T.C., enjoying the pleasure of the open road, and getting the very. best out of cycling with not the slightest wish for a motor-cycle.
But for every case like I have quoted, there are dozens, who, after their first attempt at cycling, give it up in despair, and in many cases buy a cheap second-hand motor-cycle, the running of which is often beyond their means, to say nothing of the unfortunate position of anyone involved in an accident with them, with no possibility of receiving damages.
But to revert back to the "push bike" It amazes me how many people buy machines, not only for their children, but for themselves, which are totally unfit for their use. If a person was going to buy a suit, he would not gaze into the tailor's shop window and purchase the first one that took his fancy. No! He would go inside, examine it, and then make sure that it was a perfect fit. But let him go to buy a bicycle, and he purchases the first that looks to give him a lot for his money.
To explode another fallacy. The average man or woman imagines that it is essential to have a racing machine to be a member of a club, that is to say, they must ride a bicycles with handlebars like rams horns, scorn the use of a free-wheel or speed-gear and have a saddle like a solidified banana.Let me say here that the average club member does not ride a machine like that.
Many of my readers will know Amos Sugden, better known perhaps as “Old Amos,” the veteran Nelson cyclist, who is a life vice-president of the C T.C., and is still able to attend many of the club runs, although bordering on 80 years of age. His machine is not a racer, but it is a "light weight,” built up to suit his own special requirements, and I feel confident that if you would-be cyclists would only get in touch with keen riders of experience before buying a machine you would not only save yourself a great deal of expense, but place yourself in the way of an enjoyable cycling career.
Here’s a suggestion. Write or call on the local secretary Mrs. Hudson, who will put you in touch with members of experience. By the way did you notice it, a lady secretary? Speaks well for cycling doesn’t it?
- Son of Hud.
Good Friday! 'The gala day of the Nelson section; the day which is the chief topic of our conversation for months ahead the day on which we tear ourselves to bits. It is really Georjud’s fault — in this way — every Good Friday, Mrs. Georjud allows Georjud to have a day on his own; a day which he looks upon as his annual holiday. Now the prospects of a whole day unhampered by matrimonial burdens, imbues Georjud with that jubilant spirit that is common to all prisoners who have been released from durance (I hope my wife does not see this). So, many months beforehand, Georjud gets out his maps and pores over them for hours at a time, until he has found a run worthy of this auspicious occasion. Unfortunately for his fellow-members, however, Georjud’s idea of a suitable run is one which necessitates the carrying of our bicycles over a mountain, or some similar gymnastic effort. The fact that Nemesis generally showers retribution upon him, on these occasions, in the form of aching joints or a broken bicycle frame, does not deter Georjud in the least. He rises every Easter undismayed, and asks for more — and gets it. When he has discovered a particularly hard specimen he begins to pester our runs secretary until that unfortunate official consents to include the run in the runs list. His object attained, Georjud then begins to paint his forthcoming run in colours so glowing that many of our members are persuaded to go on it. Personally, having been 'had’ on previous occasions, I always refuse to go on these annual efforts, and impress it upon Georjud that I wouldn’t go on his run for a pension, and that the short run will suit my ancient limbs admirably.
Then dawns Good Friday. I arise and sniff the holiday air, and pronounce it good. I am invigorated — I decide that it is my duty to go on the long run and see that my fellow-members come to no harm. And so it was upon this occasion. I got up early, made my preparations, and set out for our meeting place at Colne. A strong, east wind was blowing which, hindered my progress over the setts, and I was not sorry when I reached Langroyd. Several of my fellow-members were already there, and when they expressed their surprise at my appearance, I explained that my presence was due to my anxiety on their behalf, which statement they greeted with disparaging, coughs.
Georjud, who was full of the joys of spring, and one of our speed wallahs, led the way, whilst the rest of us tucked in behind to obtain all possible shelter from the wind. We toiled against the wind towards Skipton. and all was going well until a tandem came bowling past. This was not at all to Georjud’s liking, so he put all his beef into it, and gave chase. After nearly bursting ourselves we caught that tandem in Skipton, where we fell off our bicycles, and collapsed on a form. We recovered our energy in due course and proceeded once more, via Rylstone and Cracoe, to Kilnsey, where a shower of rain and hail sent us into shelter behind a friendly wall. The shower only lasted a few minutes, so we continued our journey without donning our capes. Georjud now began to feel the effects of chasing the tandem, for he began to lag behind. We waited about ten minutes in Kettlewell whilst we disposed of a few biscuits, but still he did not appear; so we started on the ascent of Park Rash without him. It is no easy matter to push a bicycle up Park Rash, especially when hampered by a strong wind and occasional showers of hailstones; but we were rewarded for our efforts by an excellent view of Wharfedale. The valley was a picture of contrast — some parts of it being in shadow and the rest in brilliant sunshine. The overhanging mass of Kilnsey Crag stood out clear and magnificent, whilst the layers of hills, rising to the horizon, were distinguishable one against the other, only by their varied shades of blue. We paused a while to enjoy the view, and then pushed on to the top. The grassy track slowly developed into a road again as we scampered down Coverdale, and our lunch place, Horsehouses, was soon reached. Here we found our friend Bookoss, clad in shorts and alpaca coat, blue with cold and shivering in the blast of the east wind. He explained that he had got up late and had chased after us. He had however, taken the short cut through Gargrave, and got ahead of us in the process; but, seeing tyre marks on the road, he had galloped strenuously onwards until he reached the top of Park Rash, where he overtook a number of cyclists — and discovered that they belonged to another club. After this touching lesson upon the evils of unpunctuality, Bookoss is now saving up his spare cash to buy an alarm clock. Large quantities of tea soon restored him to a normal state, and we had almost finished lunch when Georjud and two others arrived. It appears that Georjud had got the "knock" in Kettlewell — the hand of Nemesis — and, being unable to go any further, must needs stop there for lunch.
We left Horsehouses at two o’clock and proceeded down Coverdale to Carlton. The clouds had thinned considerably, and all the valley was bathed in sunshine, and was very pleasant to the eye. The grassy track out of Carlton that led over Carlton Moor was soon gained, and we began to mount higher, until we were amongst the heath once again. At the edge of the moor proper the track petered out, and we were compelled to push our bicycles through the heather, much to the detriment of our celluloid front mudguards. Although the going was very rough, we were not compelled to carry our bicycles — much to our surprise. When we demanded an explanation of this violation of the accepted rule of Good Friday, Georjud very cowardly laid the blame on our runs secretary, by saying that the moor we were traversing was not really the one he had intended, and that the one he had in mind would easily have come up to our expectations. Out of consideration for his wife we allowed him to live.
We reached the top of Carlton Moor at last, and called a halt to contemplate the panorama of Waldendale and Wensleydale that was unfolded to our view. But time was passing all too quickly, so we galloped down the hillside, sometimes riding, sometimes sliding, until we reached the road in the valley below. West Burton was passed without a halt and we began the long climb to Bishopdale to the top of Kidstones Bank. Georjud began to complain of a strained muscle — Nemesis again — and could hardly walk, so we lifted him on his battered relic, put his bottom gear in, and gave him instructions upon how to reach Buckden. The descent of Cray Gill was very fast indeed, and there was a distinct smell of burning rubber as our brakes screeched upon the corners. And so we descended upon Buckden — our stomachs empty of food, our eyes full of dust. We trooped into the hospitable farm that we always visit, and removed the dust from our persons in preparation for tea. Whilst tea was in progress, we — being fully aware of the wind that would help us home — began to make all sorts of suggestions for prolonging the run. We pointed out to one another that to arrive home before midnight on Good Friday was unprecedented; and we vowed that never again would we go with Georjud — he had lost his reputation.
At seven o’clock we departed from Buckden and started upon our homeward journey. In an endeavour to retrieve his lost reputation, Georjud, with tears in his eyes, implored us to go home via Mastiles Lane; hut we gently pointed out to him that whilst we were probably a trifle mad, we were not quite mad enough to do that. When we arrived at Kettlewell we took the Coniston road by way of a change, and proceeded down the east side of Wharfedale. The sun was beginning to set in golden splendour, and as it dipped behind the hills a glory of crimson clouds were left in its wake, against which the hills were picturesquely silhouetted. Skipton was reached at 8-15, and, after a few minutes halt, we continued to Thornton where we lighted our lamps. Some of those who had been on the short run were overtaken at Hague, and they were so surprised at seeing us returning home at so respectable an hour that they had to be brought round with Vimto.
I rattled over the setts into my native town of Burnley at ten o’clock, and so to bed to enjoy the healthy sleep promoted by the moorland air, in readiness for another run on the morrow.
Bumpity-bump! Crash! Here we are again, the same old crowd on the same old bicycles, pursuing the same old way over the same old cordially detested setts towards the same old meeting place at Higherford. Phew ! The time was about 10-15, as we rolled up to the forms there situated, to find a good number of members performing the weekly assault on their tyres with their usual panting and groaning. One member (no names; no pack drill) was luxuriantly lolling at his leisure on said forms, looking a veritable picture of old age. But cease this drivel; on with the business. Having rested long enough, the leader crawled off up Blacko, and we all trooped along in the rear. We had reached Blacko Bar, when a sudden April shower caused us to take cover in the lea of a barn, and J.H.G., being unable to worm his way under the shelter, had the audacity to purloin my cape. "The deluge finally subsided, my cape was restored, and we rode on. From the top of Coldweather, a glorious view of Ribblesdale was obtained, the air being very clear. Pendle reared itself on our left, and in the far distance, our old favourites Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough, were easily discernible. The whole view was set-off by huge cloud-banks, fleecy-white, mass upon mass of them piling up like cotton-wool, with occasional breaks, revealing glimpses of blue sky beyond. Then, we were shooting swiftly downwards, our tyres screaming a high crescendo, and the wind whipping past our faces viciously. Gisburn soon hove in sight, and as quickly, dropped astern; we were on the Settle road, with the pace resolving itself into a gentle potter. Gliding smoothly on, everything was in accord; the sun shone brilliantly, and the wind, creeping softly through the new budding trees, seemed to whisper "Spring is here.” Even the birds had caught the tremulous message and were giving voice; a blackbird chattered in a coppice ; rooks wheeled to and fro, while numerous small birds skimmed the hedge tops, intent on their own business. The road wound on, as roads with which we are very familiar, yet which never fails to fascinate, now rising, now falling; at times alongside the placid-flowing Ribble, turning and twisting, it led us on to Settle, where we stopped for lunch. Most of us had disposed of lunch, when two of the "disgraces” put in an appearance, bringing with them the "Womanhater,” very haggard of mien. I will not comment further on this, save to say. that they had come by way of Hunter Bark, a rough detour away from the main road. To pass the time away waiting for this trio, some of the members went touring Castlebergh, while two others, aided by a lady member, proceeded to demonstrate their hill-climbing abilities on Constitution Hill. When at last we were all ready, and the wanderers had returned, we took the road again, over Constitution, through Langcliffe, passing on to Stainforth. Here, Sarkikus decided that we should go his way, having not a bit of consideration for the ladies present. His way, of course, necessitated the carrying of our bicycles over some stepping stones, finally breaking out into an arduous and stony path, which, as “Womanhater" put it, looked like the side of a house. Laboriously we traversed our hilly path, breaking the journey for a welcome peep at Catterick Force, a small but pretty waterfall nearby. From here, the path petered out into a mere track, blossoming out later into a rideable road, and glad of the opportunity, we mounted and rode on. Soon, glimpses of Malham Tarn were caught, sparkling in the sunlight, and shortly afterwards we passed on to Ewe Moor, the official destination of the run. A stone tower caught our eyes, and as we had plenty of time 'to spare, it was inspected. It turned out to be a dis-used kiln, and great excitement was provided when J.H.C., Willmay, and I tried to climb it. Under the able direction of Sarkikus, who thoughtfully stood at the bottom, telling us how it should be done, we succeeded like Tarzan of old, in gaining the top. Thoroughly pleased with our little selves, we descended, and rejoined the others who had wandered away, to find that Sarkikus was now childishly engaged in damming a little brook that wound over the moors. And now comes the day’s titbit, that sent us into paroxysms of mirth. Two members were finding the widest places across the brook, and egged on by Sarkikus, who stood watching, a look of hopeful expectancy on his face, waiting for them to fall into the water, they endeavoured to jump across. Each time they were successful, so Sarkikus in disgust, went back to his former occupation of damming the brook. He was working industriously, when he put his foot on an insecure piece of banking, and in an heroic attempt to recover his footing, he slipped, plunging up to the ankles in muddy water, thus being hoist with his own petard. This proved too much for us, and shaking with laughter, we rolled on the grass in agony. Oh, Sarkikus! I shall never forget the dismayed look on your face as you gingerly extracted a sodden foot out of an equally sodden shoe. To crown all this, we obtained his shoe, and sailed it down the brook, where it was chased by an irate owner, hopping on one leg. He recovered it, dried it with tufts of grass, and we pushed on. The moors soon gave way to the road, which drops steeply into Malham, and here we had tea. Tea over, we were subjected to half an-hour’s exquisite torture, namely singing. At least, that’s what the chief torturer called it. When our shattered ear drums could no longer stand it, we repaired outside, where two members gave an exhibition of how to jump a hump-backed bridge at speed, providing a few thrills. We eventually tired of this, and turned homeward, passing contentedly along, as the sun, in dying splendour, stained the western horizon with vivid streaks of crimson.
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.
Ladies and Gentlemen, and also fellow cyclists, allow me to introduce to you just another phase of the C.T.C.’s many and varied activities, for it is worth your acquaintance, I can fully assure you, having myself taken part last week-end in the club’s nomadic activities at Denham Wheel, near Bolton-by-Bowland.
Here’s camping :— People stared at me. Little children gaped at me and then ran away vociferating their wonderment. Dogs barked at me, and even my own clubmates had a few choice things to say as I staggered to the meeting place at Higherford. And well they might, for I had adorned my bicycle with all the requisites necessary for the comfort or otherwise of a would-be camper. From it poured an incessant clatter of pans and enamel ware, accompanied by an occasional squeak coming from my knees as I endeavoured to coax the monstrosity along. Nevertheless, I was determined to show those who were not camping that my half-hundred-weight of odds and ends did not impede my progress, and so, leaving the rendezvous behind, we proceeded over the Coldweather Hill to Gisburn, I all the while expounding the delights of an easy-running bicycle.
On leaving Gisburn, we took the Bolton-by-Bowland road, and, descending to the bridge, we caught sight of the River Ribble, which was to be our chosen companion for many a happy hour to come. Of all the Ribble’s bridges, this is to my mind the most exquisitely. placed of them all. None excel it, for its beauty both upstream and down consists of luxuriantly wooded banks sloping steeply down to the trout-haunted pools of the river.
Continuing forward nearly to Bolton-by-Bowland, we left the road and followed cart track to Foodin, where permission to camp was obtained, and eggs and milk were purchased for future consumption. Here it was that I divested my bicycle of its ornaments, and with bags literally getting me down, I staggered the vest of the journey down to where the Ribble flows in sylvan beauty. The camp site was a perfect Elysium. Bounded on all sides by steep wooded knolls, we did not catch a glimpse of it until we were practically upon it. And a pretty picture it presented, for already a few tents had sprung up on the flat meadow bordering the river, and without more ado I added mine to the growing encampments.
With the "happy home" once more above my head, I soon had the "Primus" roaring and tea made. To look at a "Primus" it appears quite innocent of spite, but no one knows its temperament . until one has meddled with it. At the slightest provocation it will spit paraffin at you or pour forth voluminous clouds of smoke or shoot hungry flames dangerously around your tent pole, or even contaminate your food and drink with a disagreeable taste and odour but when in the best of moods its content purr is music to the camper’s ear. As the noon-day whistle is to the labourer, so roar of the "Primus" is to the camper.
With tea time over, "Jimnut" thought he would give the camp a true Gypsy atmosphere by lighting a fire. Now of all the creatures upon this earth none could have given the loving care he gave to that fire. He coaxed each twig to light by drying over a candle; he gave it paraffin to cherish it over its infant stages; he obtained assistance in the shape of "Son of Hud" and between them they lavished still more care upon that child of Lucifer; and truly patience was justly rewarded, for out of a spark a furnace grew, and as the darkness came over the world we gathered round it, finding a sense of companionship in its cheerful blaze. Many were the songs that were sung around that fire; songs of love, life and laughter, songs flavoured with the very essence of the country. First one and then another would start a song and all would join in as the popular refrain became known. Then someone else would narrate a joke, and all the while the moon’s silvery light glittered in the eddies and wavelets of the adjacent Ribble, and the flickering shadows of the firelight played in weird confusion over the faces of the assembly.
It was midnight when we left that fire, and returning to the tents, supper was prepared, and I at least retired. As I laid there endeavouring to go to sleep, something like this greeted my ears, coming from the various tents around me :—
“Is it difficult to make?”
"Yes, the down is apt to scatter about."
"How many yards did it require?"
“About eight." (Evidently it was a serious discussion on sleeping bags).
"You’ve sat on the milk!"
"Drat that stove, it’s for ever going out
Go and borrow some paraffin."
"Is that coffee ready?"
"Move up there a bit."
"Have you any paraffin, please?"
"No, so and so has borrowed it."
At intervals some youth gave vent to his feelings, his voice rising and falling in a weird and wild fantasia. Eventually sleepiness descended upon the camp and gradually the din died away, leaving only the babbling of the river, the sighing of the wind in the trees and an occasional hoot of the owl to disturb the quietude of that sequestered spot.
Morning came, as is usual, and with it a host of attendant glories. The grass around the camp was covered with hoar-frost, and from the trees and shrubs on every side poured the music of Nature’s chorus. Thrushes. blackbirds. robins, wrens and many others joined in this chorus, whilst amongst the alleys formed by the tents hopped chaffinches blissfully ignorant of their nearness to human beings.
"Derailleur,” my partner for the night, cooked breakfast. He is fond of such things, his motto being "When in doubt, eat." And I was quite willing to let him cook, as such domesticities are beyond me. After breakfast we wandered around the camp, finding thirty-three tents assembled there from all parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Thereafter the local beauty spots were visited, some of the campers making their way to Bolton-by-Bowland, and others to Denham Wheel and Pudsey's Leap.
During the afternoon the woods were again our chief playground, from which we returned eager for yet another meal — the last during our encampment. Then began the preparations for disbanding camp. One by one the tents fell to the ground as the last few pegs were drawn and then ‘packed’ into valises preparatory to strapping them to our beasts of burden. Meanwhile, amidst many a "Cheerio," those who came from distant parts departed. Thus the week-end, which, thanks to camping, was turned into a little holiday, was fast drawing to a close. With reluctance we turned our backs upon where the Ribble flows in wild seclusion, and as the storm clouds were brooding over the massive head of Pendle, we rode homewards, taking with us mental impressions of woodland and river scenes, of jolly companionship, of the moonlight glinting on the dancing ripples of the Ribble, of many a tale and song told and sung around the camp fire, to be recalled when work a~day’s dull duties are upon us
Shall I go on the long run or the short run? This was the thought that chiefly occupied my mind as I lay in bed on Sunday morning awaiting the signal from my alarm clock to rise and gird my cycling "shorts" about my loins. The sun was shining strongly, and I pictured the sunlit waves beating on the shore at Heysham and Sunderland point, and the Lakeland hills clearly visible across Morecambe Bay. Yes, I would go on the long run. Then the wind moaned in my bedroom chimney (I can sympathise with that wind; I think I should mean, too, when I found myself in a sooty chimney after having scampered over a sparkling sea, and played amongst the trees and hedges in the fields). That wind created another picture, a picture of a cyclist battling his way against a strong wind along the straight, flat roads of Fylde.- He was working hard was that cyclist, and I felt really sorry for him; I thought that he would have been enjoying himself more in the sheltered vale of Chipping or amongst the unruffled trees in Brock Bottoms. And so I reversed my decision and contemplated the short run, for that cyclist was me, the one and only (thank heavens). "Sarkikus.” Please don’t judge, me too harshly, for I had toiled against that wind all the way from Bolton Abbey on the previous evening and I had not quite recovered from the exertion which it entailed.
I leisurely disposed of my breakfast, carefully packed my sandwiches in the saddle-bag of my bicycle, and wheeled that instrument of pleasure out of its usual resting place and into the street. After a preliminary bounce to make sure that no parts were in danger of falling off I mounted my ancient friend and sauntered out of Burnley towards Fence, our meeting place. Of all our meeting places I like Fence the best, chiefly because it does not entail ride over that cyclists’ bugbear — setts, If only the Parish Council would provide some forms for the repose of my weary and ancient body I should consider it ideal. The leader of our run to Bleasdale was twenty minutes late. No prizes are offered for anyone guessing his name, for it was, of course, our never punctual friend “Derailleur.” To him we pointed out the error of his ways, and then started upon our journey. We soon covered the easy miles to Whalley, where - we halted for a few minutes to fortify ourselves with the usual vimto (my bicycle now refuses to go through Whalley without a stop).
We passed through rural Mitton, past Kemple End of Longridge Fell, with its steep steep winding road showing clear cut against the green, and on to Chipping, where we stopped and had an argument about which was the proper road to take. We appealed to the leader, who bravely confessed that he didn’t know, so we instructed our runs secretary to consult his map and show us the right way. The map informed us that we all were right, because we could go either way, so we chose the more promising one, and proceeded to "Toffy Jack’s" for our lunch. The accommodation is rather limited at this homely catering place, but since our energetic youngsters had pushed on ahead and. were disposing of their lunch in the rapid manner common to all young animals, we had not long to wait.
When we emerged into the open air again the younger members began to aid the digestion of their lunch by a hectic game of football in an adjacent field, whilst the ladies, and the ancients draped themselves inelegantly over a form and contemplated the scenery.
Bleasdale is a quiet, sequestered hamlet comprising a solitary church and several scattered farmhouses. A peaceful place almost at the foot of Parlick Pike, whose treeless sides rise evenly to some 1,400 feet above sea level, unbroken by a single wall or hedge. Not a very high hill, as hills go, but a cheerful looking hill, even in unpleasant weather. When the football enthusiasts had got tired of bruising one another’s ankles and wading in the streams to retrieve the ball, we mounted our bicycles and proceeded to Brock Bottoms.
The River Brock — here but a stream — flows through a wooded ravine, the sides of which are steep and stony and almost unrideable on a bicycle. The sides of the path were lined with people who were waiting for the start of a motor-cycle trial; but this did not deter "Derailleur" from trying to ride down. I wish everyone could have seen the farce that followed — it was great. He entertained those people as they had never been entertained before, for after floundering down for several yards and falling off his bicycle several times in the process, he eventually dived head first into shrub, still clinging tenaciously to his machine. The roar of laughter and appreciation that greeted this exploit was never passed that afternoon, not even to greet the winner of the trial.
We did not stay long in Brock Bottoms. The nerve-shattering roar of exhausts drowned the peace and charm of that delightful spot, so we departed for less exciting, but safer parts. "Derailleur" was still busily employed removing the traces of his recent conflict with the shrub from his person; so he and I were the last to leave, and we pushed the pedals round to the best of our ability in an endeavour to overtake our companions. We threaded our way in and out of the lanes that abound in that district, we scampered through Longridge, and we rattled through Ribchester, but still we did not see them.
When we arrived at the tea-place at Copster Green, "Woman-hater,” our runs secretary, and one or two others, were there. But, where oh where were Mr. Georjud, Mrs. Georjud and the dozen or so little Georjuds when we had been chasing so industriously for the last hour? No answer was forthcoming, so we began our tea — for the healthy appetite engendered by cycling does not brook any delay — and we had nearly satisfied the inner man when the missing ones rolled up.
A disconsolate looking mob, I thought. It appeared that they had put their trust in "Georjud," but he, the wop — whatever that is! - had led them astray. He had led them up and down a varied selection of lanes, until they reached the far end of a cul-de-sac. This was the last straw. I was given to understand that it was only the tears and pleadings of his wife that saved "Georjud" from being slaughtered on the spot by his incensed fellow-members. Please don’t suggest that we buy him a map: he has one; the trouble is that he will persist in studying it the wrong side up.
A short stroll after tea, and then we began our homeward journey. We only stopped a few minutes in Whalley, for the reek of the 'buses made it an unpleasant place to linger in. Fence was soon reached, and with a chorus of "Good nights," we of Burnley, departed from our Nelson friends and skimmed down Greenhead Lane towards home.
So ended another day awheel; an ordinary day without any special event or awe-inspiring scenery, but a very enjoyable one, nevertheless — thanks to the bicycle and the companionship of my fellow C.T.C. members.