HOW many times in my teens did I puff over the Ribblehead viaduct on the regular route as it was in those days between Skipton and Carlisle.
Your recent pictures of the viaduct and an excursion train filled me with such nostalgia that I remembered the day, or rather the night, when we walked from Ilkley to Dent. It was April, 1960. I was 15. “It’s only 48 miles,” I declared.
My brother’s friend offered to accompany me, but my mother obviously couldn’t allow this because of the neighbours, so she and my brother were forced to come too.
My first mistake was that I insisted on wearing Clark’s children’s sandals (size 6). My mother and I set off after lunch, and had a lovely walk up Wharfedale from Ilkley to Burnsall. There, we all had dinner in the pub, which is, I think, called the Red Lion. There I made my second mistake: I drank half a pint of cider.
The next thing I remember was passing Kilnsey Crag and settling down for a rest, myself on the ground and the rest on a dry stone wall. I was asleep within seconds.
Some time later, I was awoken by what I thought was the wall falling on my head, but, in fact, it was my brother’s boot. To be honest, I then remember nothing else until the approach to Cam Houses, to which in those days there was hardly even a track, much less a road. It was just beginning to get light, and what seemed like hundreds of dogs were barking ferociously.
We gave them a wide berth, and only when well out of their reach, stopped for a snack on the watershed between Langstrothdale and the infant Ribble. The sunrise over the Ribblehead viaduct was one of the greatest experiences of my life, which in general has not been devoid of wonderful sights.
By this time, I was skipping about, while all the rest were flagging. But they were soon revived by a good breakfast in the Sportman’s Inn on the hill down into Dent valley. There, the two boys left us, as they had to get back for some reason, and my mother and I spent the rest of the day walking by the River Dee, where I fell sound asleep for two hours, while my poor mother kept guard.
The next day, I awoke with several blisters the size of half-crowns, the result of the Clark’s children’s sandals, and which necessitated taxis on every stretch of the journey home not undertaken by train. The day after that, I was bought a pair a shoes (size 7) for taking my blisters back to captivity at boarding school in the South.