Sunday, 12 August 2012

Settled in

One of my favourite travel writers Bill Bryson, in his book, Notes from a Small Island, wrote about pulling into Settle station at the end of his tour of Britain.   To step in his footsteps now was, indeed, a big deal for me. When I disembarked on the quiet Yorkshire platform, with a handful of other travellers, and made my way up the foot bridge over the track, I paused to take things in.

The view from the footbridge was magnificent. Numerous grey stone buildings dotted about in all directions over the lush, green landscape. Some of the buildings seemed to stand out, most notable of the features were the Giggleswick Chapel, the original Midland Railway workers houses and the Town Hall which now houses the Tourist Information Centre. Far in the the distance, I could clearly make out the monumental silhouette of Pen-y-ghent, the first of the Peaks I was to attempt climbing in the morning. With it's summit obscured by cloud, it gave a foreboding air and I was only too pleased to leave my rendezvous with the colossus to the morning. Right now, I was feeling weary and was looking forward to finding my lodgings for the night, so I made my way down, off the bridge and into the town.

I was truly in Last of the Summer Wine country and it was beautiful.

The modest main road  had none of the big high street names that so spoil the ambience of other towns (despite being annoyingly convenient). The other surprising thing was the apparent lack of inhabitants. It was early evening and streets of this market town were largely deserted and only a handful of cars passed by. 

Using my trusty GPS app, on my phone, for the last time, I identified the general direction I should take as my signal was immediately lost. " It's because of her",  a passerby; a blonde lady in a smart navy suit, indicated towards the huge, swell of grass and rock that, up to know I had missed. White dots of sheep adjourned its sides and 'she' was criss-crossed by grey, stone walls.

Clearly giving all the signs of a slack-jawed tourist, she felt obliged to elaborate, ' She's called Castleberg. It's the largest outcrop of limestone in Britain. No signal for anyone this side of the railway line. So what is it walking, cliffs, potholes or caves?'

"Sorry? What?" I responded, reinforcing the lost-without-a-licence image. I was having no problem with the broad accent and her genuine warmth was apparent. It occurred to me that you wouldn't see this sort of interaction between two absolute strangers in a Southern town or city? ' I'm dong a charity walk, tomorrow for Macmillan?'

"Oh, three Peaks is it?" I nodded. "Not easy that, so I hear. I've always wanted to do it, but you know how it is when you live somewhere? Where you stopping then?"

"Er, the Falcon?" I recalled.

" Oh?" her eye brows raised slightly. "Good luck with that," she smiled, knowingly. "It's straight down that road, till you get to the edge of town. It's on the left, " She then slapped me on the shoulder, which was heart-felt and genuine. However, I didn't realise at the time that she was referring to my choice of lodgings when wishing me luck and not my 26 mile challenge.

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