Settle station was opened in 1876 and is one of the Derby Gothic Style station types and at this unholy hour of the morning, it was all mine. So peaceful. I could have curled up on one of it's benches and fallen straight back to sleep. To dream, perhaps of a blueberry mountain and a huge, bald-headed falcon perched on its summit, staring scornfully down, ready to swoop on any poor, unsuspecting lost sheep (reference to previous posts). ' That would be me, ' I found myself saying audibly, not that anyone as around to hear it.
The distant clacketty-clack was the early signal of a train's approach and soon I was one of the handful of bleary-eyed passengers making their was along a very significant track line.
The Settle to Carlisle line, spans 72 mile of the most picturesque and stunning Yorkshire countryside. This journey was only made possible by the guile and expertise of the Victorians engineers. In all, on this amazing journey, the train descends through 14 tunnels and travels over 17 major viaducts spanning ravines, making the train the perfect place from which to admire views of a rich variance of stunning landscape.
However, for me, on this particular day, I would not have the opportunity to see this as, at the very next stop, I was off. Horton-in-Ribblesdale and don't you just love the name?
I was late for my rendezvous with 300 mad, macmillan charity walkers. It couldn't be helped, I had caught the first train of the day.
From a high vantage point, at the station gates, I look down into the small, sleeping village. A cluster of cars parked at the edge of a field and the muffled, fractured sounds of a man speaking on a tanoy system told me where I needed to be.
As I approached the field a stream of wired walkers were filing out. Feeling like a salmon, trying to make it's way up stream and against the flow, I navigated my way into a small marquee, just inside the stone gateway. Tea, coffee and a crate load of bananas, piled high on tables filled one corner and in the other was a cheerful-looking man sporting sporty shades and a tuft of gel-spiked hair on a severely, receding hair line.
Why do some guys do this? There comes a time when most men have to accept that the bountiful, bouffant of hair they once cherished, sculptured and preened is waving goodbye to them. One has to admire the dogged, no nonsense chaps who will would rather shave the whole lot off, rather than have it slowly, sinking over the horizon of their northern hemisphere.
However, there are a few disillusioned blokes who will stubbornly stick to their old styles. Some are determined to keep it long despite having so little. Now they have a choice, either comb it over, or create Terry Nutkins-like mullet (front side for business, back for partying). This, in my humble... looks ridiculous.
The chap before me had a similar thing going on. His philosophy was clear; no matter how far back my hair retreats goes, I will still look cool! Yes, the hair is going, but if I keep it long and gel it so it sticks right up, I will still be able to see it when I look in the mirror. The only flaw in his plan is, so will everyone else!
God, I'm such a bitch. Sorry.
Like I said, he welcomed me,' Dude, your just in time. Do you have your declaration form?'
I gave him the form and signed the register. He gave me a tag on a lime-green ribbon, ' you need to fill this in and hang it round your neck. Keep it with you at all times'.
'What is it ?' I asked.
It's your next of kin details. If we find you at the bottom of a cliff face or down a pothole. We know who to call. ' He grinned, white and wide. He'd probably used the same line for all the other walkers who had asked the same question. I wondered if the colour had drained from my face any quicker than theirs.
I accepted the invitation to take a couple of bananas for the journey, but I was keen to get going.
I joined the long line of walkers. Keen groups of people talked excitedly about the challenges to come and what they thought their chances would be of making it all the way.
We walked over a large stone bridge which spanned the treacle-coloured waters of the River Ribble, which churned in white flashes. Crossing at The Golden Lion we passed a beautiful little primary school. All grey stone of course. And then we were up and over a wall and off-road.
I' d only just noticed the chap walking in front of me with a large-brimmed, navy hat, and bulging rucksack when he suddenly turned to face me and held out an open hand. ' Are you walking on your own?'
'Yes' I replied.
' Do you want to walk together. It' ll be much easier'.
I hadn't counted on taking on this challenge with anyone else, but Lady Fortune had deemed that Phil Smith, from Hull, and I, would be facing all the grim challenges of the Yorkshire Peaks, together.