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Monday, 30 May 2016

In Praise of Limestone.

Saturday 28th May 2016

Circa 1960 (my age, about 19); I am dozing on a hot sunny afternoon on a bank of the Upper Wharfe after several lunchtime pints in the Buck Inn at Buckden. Ian and Tony are similarly arrayed. We have spent the morning trout fishing, but intentions of continuing on the river have been drowned after our sojourn in the pub. Out of the corner of my eye I see an elderly farmer type who has approached and stopped to survey the scene. Despite the sunshine he wears a greasy, work-used three piece tweed suit, and a flat cap moulded to his head, and he has a bucket over his arm; he sums up to himself, "Ee! It must be t' frseh air 'as dun it".

Well today I parked up at Buckden on a thirty-car sized car park that didn't exist in 1960 and paid £4.50 for the privelege. My mission was to walk a previously un-walked section of  the Dalesway. To make this more worthwhile I climbed up onto the high ridge on the western side of the dale and followed, mostly on faint but decent paths, passing  Birks Tarn teeming with gulls and other water birds, to the trig point at Horse Head and beyond. There was a great top-of-the-world feeling up there. I descended to Beckermonds and connected to the Dalesway following the Upper Wharfe downstream, through sheer delight back to Buckden.

I saw nobody until I was on the Dalesway path then casual walkers were abundant, and cars parked on the road across the river  with families picnicking and playing in the tempting pools of the Upper Wharfe. Strangely the dale is called Langstrothdale. Back in Buckden the place was busy with many walkers and visitors and the car park which was empty at 9:00 am was full. I called into the tearooms (back in the 60s there was just a village shop). The proprietor has been in the village for many years and we reminisced about the characters we had both known. Jacky Beresford was a local always found in the Buck Inn;  we used to buy him a pint and get him going with stories of giant trout caught in the river. Jacky operated a school-run business using an old hearse. Then there was Major Horner, notorious, bad tempered landlord of the White Lion at Cray, a mile or so up the road. He once attacked some customers who had caused him some annoyance with a claw hammer. I have tried to research that story which was well publicised at the time, but with no result, but I did find this extract from a nostalgia article in the Craven Herald:

The White Lion was also in the news as its landlord and eight local farm workers were caught drinking when police walked in at 11.30pm. With licensing hours a hot topic today, it is interesting to note that in 1955 last orders was at 10pm with the premises to be vacated 10 minutes later. Major Horner, the landlord, was fined £3 and three of the drinkers fined £1.

I drove home passing through Kettlewell, the departure point for the walk up to the Scout Association owned farmhouse, Hag Dyke just below the summit of Great Wherneside which we visited many times back in the mid 50s - the scoutmaster left us to our own devices exploring potholes and caves with candles and torches - good for him; these days he would probably have been sent to jail - oh dear!

I drove back up Littondale where we also used to fish for trout in the Skirfare. We got to know the Ingleby family who had the big house beyond Litton and they gave us permission to fish. In contrast to Langstrothdale, Littondale was quiet and largely unaltered - it is high on my list of favourite places ever visited.

I like to think of myself as a forward thinking person, but old memories are priceless and a little wallow is not a bad thing now and then.


If it form the one landscape that we, the inconstant ones, 
Are consistently homesick for, this is chiefly 
Because it dissolves in water. Mark these rounded slopes 
With their surface fragrance of thyme and, beneath, 
A secret system of caves and conduits; hear the springs 
That spurt out everywhere with a chuckle,   ...

W.H. Auden 

Buckden from high up on Kirk Gill Moor

Birks Tarn - it was teeming with bird life (not apparent in the photo)

I think I've got the hang of macro with the TZ60 now

The maps says "area of shakeholes", unfortunately a repository for rusty old fence wire and posts

Descending to Beckermonds. The Dalesway follows the river just beyond the central barn

The delightful infant Wharfe

Clockwise from Buckden - 13 miles - average speed including 20 min stop for munchies and coffee - 2.08mph

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