Traveller's tales

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Camping at Gordale

We tramped those hills together, Roy and Steve and myself, in a hot summer – one of many in my memory. Carrying everything on our backs like two legged pack-animals, we climbed over stiles in white limestone walls, walked gingerly across cattle grids, scraped cow muck off our boots before we trudged into a café for a brew, and grew weary of the path long before dark.

Alone on the camp site below grim Gordale Scar, frowning majestically above us, we pitched only one of our two tents. The woman in the farmhouse looked us up and down, made some decision about the means of our parents and charged us by the tent.
-Two tents, that’ll be two quid.
-A quid for one then, said Steve, his sore feet making him unusually impatient.

We put up the tent, and were glad we had when night fell. The loneliness of the limestone walls and the overbearing cliffs stifled our normal cheerfulness.

Without much in the way of illumination, bedtime comes early as it must have done down through the ages before the electric light, the match and the candle drew out the evenings.

-Got these, said Roy turning out a packet of broken digestives from his pack. We grinned – something to cheer us.
-I’ll brew up. And we sat and crunched our way through the packet, argued about the last one, supped our coffee that had remnants of dunked biscuits in the dregs.

Next came the day’s swansong, which tonight started with ghost stories – a man called for his girl – half way to somewhere she disappeared off the back of his Matchless – he went back to find her, was told she’d died some hours earlier – that sort of thing – things we could relate to and that had happened to lads like us.

Coffee and ghost stories don’t sit well together where sleep is concerned. I stared up and out for hours before the dawn came up and we each discovered the other two had also been wide awake.

And then when the sun did creep over the cliff to plunge us into full daylight, we all went to sleep and dreamed quietly through the early morning until a cow pushed its wet, pink and black nose into our tent and woke us up at ten.
Robert L. Fielding

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