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.
Oyes! Oyes! Come gather round the infant "Bookoss" while I unfold to you the dastardly plot that was enacted on Sunday. It was like this ’ere: "J.H:G.,” the bonehead, had got the idea that the club was getting fat, so he evolved a slimming process called a mystery competition. His colleague in crime was: "Sarkikus,” and the following is the result of their combined plotting. Brrr!
Just a minute, though; there’s no hurry. All, pray, be seated; lock the doors to prevent the audience escaping, and we will commence the recital properly. "Twas about; 10-15 a.m. as I mounted my trusty steed and slid through the streets of Burnley en-route for Austwick, the lunch place. Nelson was soon passed, and so was I up Blacko; for with an "Aye! Aye!” the burly form of "Squire,” together with his slim companion, "Jimmy,” bowled past. This put me on my mettle, and with a "do or die" expression I gave chase. We topped Coldweather Hill, and under the kindly influence of a following wind we bowled down to Gisburn at about thirty miles per hour.
Through Gisburn, the first evidence of the club was observed, to wit one of the “Three (Dis)Graces" contentedly pottering on with two other members. From this I deduced the club was in Settle. On, on we swept, up the fair vale of the Ribble, the distant peaks and hills being shrouded in mist. Then, behold! the second "(Dis)Grace,” with a lady companion,” a succulent. orange in his fist, and traces of orange from ear to ear. We left them standing, almost, and careered on to Settle. Here I parted company with the indefatigable trio, proceeding alone at a more respectable pace. At the "Ebb and Flow Well" three of the club were busy trying to empty it, but with little success. Having drank their fill, they reeled on their way. And now Buckhaw Brow, that nightmare to tired cyclists. But: we were fresh, and galloped over it with scarce a thought, reaching Austwick shortly afterwards to find the majority of the club stowing away their "eats" where it is appreciated most. We joined the bun fight, sinking back into our chairs afterwards with sighs of satisfaction.
When all: were replete "J.H.G.” started his round; mulcting us of threepence as entrance fee to his "blinding" contests. It was then about 1-30. p.m. Bullying here and there, he succeeded in obtaining twenty-seven hapless victims. The affair was to commence with a short paper-chase, so "J.H.G.” and "Jimnut" started. off, laying the trail as they progressed. We were not due to-start until 2-15, the ladies going at 2 o’clock. It was while waiting that we understood the meaning of "zero hour,” "Squire” relieving the tension somewhat by obliging with trick cycling. The 2 o’clock came, and the ladies, obtaining sealed envelopes containing the name of the tea place, which had only to be opened in cases of necessity, forged ahead amid ironical cheers. At 2-15 we grabbed our envelopes, offered up fervent prayers, girded our loins, and we were off.
The trail was thickly laid, only to prove false time after time. Up here; down there; along here. Oh crumbs! "J.H.G." would have blushed: in shame had he but heard: how we mentally reviled him. Then a lucky cast proved correct, and with cheers we pounded up the track which leads to Sulber Nick. And what a track Imagine a steep declivity, thickly strewn with boulders, mud, and occasionally pools of water. Amid gasps we alternately rode and ran, things not being helped by the sight of those lucky chaps who had struck the trail straightway shooting wildly downwards on our way to the second check. Hooray! The first check! He retreated nervously at the sight of our grim expressions. Whee! We skidded to a standstill, checked in. and received instructions to go to Clapham, find the hidden cyclist, and ask for some solution. About turn. We retraced our way, crashed back to Austwick, joined the main road, and went on to Clapham. The hidden cyclist was soon detected. He was surrounded by riders, some of whom had been there a quarter of an hour vainly endeavouring to solve "Ssssttrreeoc.” Now I ask you, who could connect this- seemingly madman’s ravings with the village of Cross "Streets? Well, no matter. That is what it was; so we went back over our tracks again into a head wind, dragging our weary limbs to Cross Streets. Here we were handed this marvellous epistle, "Convulsive hilarity in a silly puerile manner; the medium between light and oil.” This put the tin hat on things, and many and varied were the defamations that were heaped on the luckless head of "J.H.G.” After much brain-wracking, it was deciphered, and with cries of “Eureka" we swept on to Giggleswick. Up Buckhaw again, over the crest we toiled, coasted furiously down the other side, and almost fell at the feet of the checker stationed there. He had no sympathy for us, and rudely handed round papers: on which were drawn sections of a map (sic) of the surrounding district. A definite trail had to be followed; terminating at "X,” the tea place. There was no rest for the wicked, so off we staggered. We were fast reaching that state where nothing mattered, being more or less automatons. Braking, pedalling; and walking were all done automatically. Up hill, down dale, on and on, time seemed an eternity, until with a start we sat up and took notice. Familiar scenes were about us, the map was skirting the foot of Buckhaw, and then the solution of it struck us. With fresh vigour we spurted painfully forward, round a last bend, to find ourselves back in dear old Austwick. Never had a village been sweeter to the vision. Uttering feeble cries of joy, we tottered up to the checker, parked our machines, and simultaneously fell panting on the grass. Five minutes later, with breathing becoming less laboured, we sat up to take stock of the situation. After much consideration, we decided that save for the loss of some adipose tissue we did not feel so bad. In fact, a wash, a much needed, well-earned tea, and we were as new men. In the meantime, rider after rider rolled in, some having completed the course, others.having missed various checks. We learnt that "Georjud" had finished first, but unwittingly had missed the first check. This, of course, ruled him out of order. The arrival of the "Womanhater" somewhat exhausted was greeted with laughter. He arrived breathing fire and slaughter, and had to be forcibly restrained from attacking “J.H.G.” In the ladies section; the "Glaxo Baby." finished first, albeit a good time. after the gents. "Miss Spitfire" showed up later; a pale, wan host. almost at the point of collapse.
Tea over, it was announced that three riders, having completed the course. checked in everywhere, produced their envelopes un-opened, had finished together first. There were two prizes only, vouchers to the value of 5s. and 2s. 6d. Therefore these were pooled, and the total sum was divided among them. The three were "Derailleur,” “Bobelly" and "Raymit,” and congratulations or sympathies, as the case may be, are due to them. (At the time of going to press the three and doing well, and a further bulletin may be issued later). The prizes having been distributed, a perfect babel broke forth as each one tried to explain just how and where they had gone astray. Some had roamed the moors in a quest to find the first check. Some had never seen any checks at all; while others had packed up in disgust; and thus the tale ran on. It was at this stage that a plaintive wail was heard, investigation of which revealed "Mrs. Georjud" trying to pocket a "Chuckles" in the shape of a chicken. Gently we took it from her, replaced it where it came from, and lest she should try to abduct it again a move was made homewards. After the hectic events of the afternoon. we pursued our way soberly; and as we glided along under a star-spangled sky, a sense of utter peace seemed to descend upon us.
March is a month of varied moods; it can be likened to the ferocity of a lion or the gentleness of a lamb, and truly Sunday presented a mood of its most rigorous type. Winter had visited us and bestowed upon this part of the world a departing gift, a rain-sodden covering of snow, nowhere acceptable.
While riding through the town, it was amusing to notice the suspecting glances and sceptical smiles I received from the people about town, as if they were questioning my sanity; but I heeded them not, knowing. full well that amidst the apparent difficulties there lay treasures unfathomed — that is, unfathomed to those not intimate with nature.
On arriving at the meeting place it was gratifying to find at least one fellow member. there, pacing sentinel-like in a vain endeavour to restore circulation. Eventually the other members began to arrive, some with a cheery "Good morning,” and others with fabulous accounts of snowdrifts and their efforts to surmount them. From their tales we gathered that Haggate and the "Bull and Butcher" were apparently. blotted out, and our own efforts dwindled into insignificance when compared with theirs. However, a start was made and all went "swimmingly,” the only annoyance being the by-wash from motor cars as they sped along the slushy, snow-covered roads.
After our customary pause at Skipton, we slowly mounted the heights to Draughton and then slithered down into Addingham, where the road and low-lying fields were free from winter’s snowy mantle. It was good to see the green meadows and hear the song of the thrush, as if defying winter's harsher moods; but I am afraid other thoughts were predominating - thoughts of an aching void that needed solace and a comfortable armchair before a blazing fire, and these were amply provided at our usual house of call in Ilkley.
Perhaps it was the geniality of the atmosphere that affected him, or maybe he had fed too well, but anyhow one of the party unostentatiously declared that he would, willy-nilly, go to the Cow and Calf Rocks, the object of our run. In spite of their taunts and pessimistic broodings, my enthusiasm prevailed “Yes, I was the guilty person), and, accompanied by a fellow adventurer, I strolled through the spacious streets of that North Country spa, leaving the rest with requests not to bring flowers should we perchance perish from exposure in the cold, stark moors, or bouquets should we return - victorious. Ever mounting higher, we left the residential outskirts of the town behind, and began scrambling up the moors, the snow deepening until it was laborious to walk. Often we fell, but that was of no account, for our objective lay before us. At last we were there, and it was pleasant to pause and view the surrounding scene from the shelter of the overhanging rocks. Below lay the trough-like valley of the Wharfe, in which the spires and roofs of Ilkley nestled. dwarfed into insignificance by the adjacent guardian fells whose snow-covered heights merged into the clouds, making very little skyline distinguishable. Of the rocks, the only resemblance to a cow and calf were their relative, sizes. The parent rock was a huge outcrop of millstone grit towering sheer above us, while the calf, a detached boulder of no mean size, lay a little removed; perching precariously on its side, its whole appearance was one of threatening destruction, should it perchance, be dislodged from its bed and sent bounding down the steep decivity into Ilkley. Like many places in Wharfedale, these rocks have their legendary associations. Long, long ago, how far back nobody seems to know, there dwelt on the neighbouring moors a giant named Rombald, hence the present-day name, Rombald’s Moor. It was during his peregrinations that he chanced to stride from here to some distant eminence, and just as you or I would do in the ordinary course of events: while walking over a stone path, may he crushing a small stone to pieces, so he detached the calf from the parent rock. To judge from the commotion he made and the size of his footprint, he must have reached a tremendous height, in, fact too high to believe; but then, to be too critical in mythical associations is to destroy the glamour of the story, and a legend destroyed is an attraction gone, However, time was passing, and wet feet and blowing sleet do not contribute to comfort; so, retracing our tracks, we arrived in Ilkley to find our companions had fled, leaving behind them information as to their whereabouts. I will not dwell upon the hardships of that ride to Earby, for is it not these trivial difficulties that fade from the memory, leaving only the recollections of the happier moments to predominate?
It was at Earby that we joined our friends, and under the kindly ministrations of our hostess we were soon feeling better; in fact, a cheerful fire, a good tea, and, a musical evening provided afterwards by our hostess’s gramophone, made us positively admit that life was worth living. We had attained that sense of contentment that descends upon you when -you have achieved your object and are enjoying the fruits of the spoil. But all good things come to an end, and so out into the unkind world we went, to slowly ride homeward, and then all turned their respective ways, leaving me to ride with nothing but my thoughts for company.
One cannot help but muse upon the happenings of the day, to inwardly laugh at some humorous incident, to pause in retrospection and note how the ranks of the club change and vary, here and there they fade away, lost to perception, perhaps to return, perhaps not; but still these self-same faces of old greet you smilingly, as in years gone by, persons whose names are synonyms of loyalty. "Still they come and still they go, but I go on for ever,” truly it aptly describes each of those persons. And then to thank those mediums through which I obtain these pleasant recollections, the constituents of that modern magic carpet, the bicycle, and in particular, the club.
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.
The habit of punctuality is a noble attainment, one has only to acquire this exalted manner to appreciate its simplicity in relation to its opposite; it brings forth all that is sublime in man (and lady too); it raises the status of your friends’ estimation of you, and enables you to vaunt before our friends’ misdeeds of unpunctuality.
With these ennobling conceptions passing through my mind, I endeavoured, in an ever losing battle with the wind, to place in the rear the distance between home and Colne the rendezvous. But alas! woe is me! I arrived there full quarter of an hour late; and just in time to see the last of the "early birds" disappearing in the direction of Foulridge. On overtaking them, their first question was for an explanation of my infringement. Naturally, I had an excuse ready, and their believing minds gratefully accepted it, knowing that truthfulness is my greatest virtue. It was at Earby that the first event of the day happened. I scarcely dare tell it, for it brings disgrace upon a few of our members whose pluck, perseverance and capabilities we admired. - However, it happened in this manner:— Earlier in the morning. these vain-glorious persons journeyed to Colne to attend the "long run,” to wit, Knaresborough; full of ambition and lively of spirits, but, at Earby we found them dejected. broken in spirit and with no lust for adventure whatever; the strong east wind had proved victor. It needs little deduction to surmise what they received from the tongues of our satirical friends. — Does not the wise proverb say, "An idle thought and an unsound heart, do not your objects attain."
After a short pause in Skipton we commenced the most interesting part of the outward journey. Passing through Embsay and Eastby, we began that arduous climb up Eastby Bank; it is a steep hill and a long hill, one that necessitates much labour; but its reward amply compensates the energy expended thereon. From the summit, on Halton Moor, unfolded a vista of Wharfedale’s verdant beauty, with the craggy crown of Simon’s Seat rising in piled majesty before us, the rich browns of its bracken clothed heights deeply contrasting with the varied greens of the strata below. Winding out of the valley was the white, ribbon-like road to Pateley Bridge, always (as one far-sighted youth said) uphill, but never down. Eventually we sped down into hospitable Wharfedale, past the one time abode of the Cliffords (Barden Tower), and over the exquisite Barden Bridge to Appletreewick, where lunch was partaken of.
Appletreewick is an unostentatious village, it possesses no palatial hotel, no edifice, no outstanding historical event; its only possession of any extensiveness is its name. However, it does possess a rusticity to a high degree and therein lies its charm. Its only approaches are by narrow and tortuous roads and, being overshadowed in popularity by its nearby companions — Burnsall, Barden Tower and Bolton Abbey — it rarely receives more than a fleeting glance from those passing by; thus it has retained a remarkable degree of unspoiled antiquity. On the green by the roadside are those relics of yesterday’s form of imprisonment — the stocks, a presumption that even this peaceful village had its transgressors. Such are the characteristics of this gem of Wharfedale and to where the C.T.C. adjourned, last Sunday, preparatory to traversing the rough, moorland track over Pockstones Moor.
Our gastronomic cravings being appeased. we wended our way into the heart of the moors; the road gradually assuming a different character, until it was but a merest apology consisting of grassy turf bounded on each side by ruts, and necessitating much walking, to the highermost point some 1,502 feet above sea level. Here we obtained broad vistas of fell and moor rolling away into the dim distance, to where the jagged line of the horizon encircled the cloud be-decked, azure vault above, and here was solitude in abundance, where only the bleat of the sheep and the plaintive "Go back! go back !” of the grouse were heard. At least, it was so before we arrived. Given a Paradise, I can guarantee it will be a veritable Dante’s "inferno” before any appreciable time has passed, after we arrived. Continuing forward, sometimes riding, often walking, we reached, at last, the smooth highway - between Blubberhouses and Bolton Bridge, and taking advantage of the east wind we soon arrived at Draughton for tea.
With tea over our vocal aspirant "Sarkikus" rendered a few selections from his comprehensive repertoire, ably accompanied at the piano by "Joerjud” (a voice from the gallery — “I don’t think"). After which "Bookass" came forward and began thus- "Have you heard this one?” (Another disturbance in the gallery, with cries of "Throw him out" persistently rising above the uproar). After the battle was over — metaphorically speaking — he began narrating a number of stale jokes taken from long past issues of °Tit Bits.” However, the night was passing on, so, having made the necessary preparations, we mounted our bicycles and swiftly sped through Skipton, Thornton and Colne and so home again, under a star-spangled sky, where the pale crescent of the moon occasionally peered from behind the cloudbanks that adorned the western horizon.
- J. H. G.