Excerpts and Photos
At a cataract named Cauldron Snout I paused to photograph a bemused ram, the bearer of a most impressive pair of horns. This was the first ram I had seen. Judging from his bewilderment, I must have been the first man he'd seen. I wasn't sure how he would react to my intrusion, particularly after observing the way I was ogling his ewes. Remember: I had been without my wife for weeks and was also carrying some pretty impressive horns.
Thankfully, there was no pawing of ground or butting of heads. When I asked nicely he struck a gallant pose.
This requires a postscript:
I sent this photo to Brian
Lovatt, a gentleman who had provided me afternoon tea and pleasant conversation at his
home in Middleton-in-Teesdale. He showed it to a friend who said, "Thats not a
ram, its a ewe!
Ive filed this sheepish misconception under "Missed Opportunities."
High Cup Nick's handle--in a manner of speaking--the guide offers two alternatives. One
path leads directly down to Maize Beck. The other is a flood route that goes upstream
through a col (a mountain gap) to a footbridge. Though longer, the latter route is
recommended if the water is high. Owing to days of seemingly endless rain the water was
high. Everywhere, nameless gills spilled down from sodden hillsides to form sikes. Those
in turn became becks, then finally the River Tees. I should have known that the flood
route would be no easier; there are no shortcuts in life. Still, ever optimistic, I took
the high road.
After desperately trying to balance myself on the duckboards (which were little more than a horizontal snow fence with half the thin slats broken or missing--and which sunk several inches into the bog wherever I stepped), I soon abandoned them for the relative security of the slush.
As luck would have it, throughout this limestone gorge the footbridge was about the only thing above water. I had to slip and slide over huge boulders and wade the Great Millstone and several other sikes before rejoining the main route. There was a small compensation for my trouble, however: I skirted the DANGER AREA. Yes, the wonks from the Warcop Army Camp blast away here, too.
Farther on, a sign in a field of buttercups at Widdybank Farm could have caused distress had I taken it seriously--though it may have been merely mocking the War Department's stern cautions.
WARNING: Anyone caught exceeding 5 MPH will be stoned to death. This means you!
Well, I needn't worry about that. Obviously!
are far more exacting than Americans in the way they name natural sites. For instance what
we call a "waterfall" they call a "force." Waterfall sounds genteel.
Feminine. It suggests a romantic, picturesque drop of waters. Force is mighty! Masculine!
Savage! This is unquestionably the right term for High Force. Engorged by gills and sikes
and becks the River Tees rushes down from desolate moors and plunges more than 70 feet
over black volcanic rock into a wooded gorge. Enraged by the restriction of Cow Green
Reservoir its angry roar resounds throughout the glade as it continues a headlong rush to
the North Sea.
The English also seem to feel more at home in the wilds than do Americans. Apparently over-stimulated by High Force's primeval power a young couple waded to a boulder near the bank, clambered aboard and, after raising and lowering various articles of clothing, unabashedly locked atop it in a passionate embrace. And weve always heard that the English are reserved. In these days of the ERA and Women's Lib, I wonder how many American women would elect to honeymoon at a place called Niagra Force?
When I entered the second landing hallway of the Middleton Hotel, I saw a young girl coming down the stairs. Impeccably dressed in a puff-sleeved pink and lavender floral-print white frock trimmed with pink ribbon, her hair adorned with a fanciful miniature ribbon crown, this beautiful child looked like Lewis Carrolls Alice on her way to a tea party in Wonderland.
"Do you mind if I take your picture?" Hoping for a positive reply I quickly removed my camera from its case.
She smiled. Not that shy or coy smile so common in young girls among strangers, rather the confident smile of someone of vastly superior years who was unselfconsciously aware of how pretty she was and could readily understand why anybody should want to photograph her.
"Yes. That would be all right."
"There will be two flashes," I cautioned her. "The first doesnt count."
She smiled her dimpled smile again, as if to say, "I know about 'red eye'." Then she held the pose as I released the shutter.
"Thank you. My name is Bob."
"Mine is Jenna."
"Jeanna?" I wasnt sure I had heard right.
"No," she gently corrected, "Jenna. Jenna LeeAnn Schofield."
I topped the hill a steeple began to appear, then, when I drew nearer, what seemed to be a
castle. It was magnificent! Magical!--and totally unexpected here in the middle of
nowhere. I had the eerie sensation that I had somehow gone back in time and stumbled upon
The illusion quickly vanished when Janet Leigh's playful jibe at Tony Curtis' line in The Black Shield of Falworth popped into mind: "Yonder lies the castle of me fodder." Well, that, and suddenly realizing the castle was actually a church.
Like this vista from Falcon Clints, reservoirs and ruins are almost as common as footprints along the Pennine Way.
Ironically, I had become quite parched while slushing through the muck on Sleightholme Moor. So the sudden appearance of the Tan Hill Inn was a welcome surprise. It sits alone amidst several moors, miles from the nearest village. Although this was a weekday and the guide said the inn was open only weekends, autos and vans encircled it. I had the extreme good fortune to happen by during the annual sheep fair--the second ever!
A sign by the entrance claims that at 1,732 ft. above sea level this is Great Britains highest inn. It also mentions that this is a "Free House."
While I gulped down a draught of Theakston's Old Peculier, the proprietor explained what a free house is. He said that most pubs are owned outright by breweries; only their beers can be served. Others are a sort of partnership; the tenant may serve two brews other than the brewer's. The third type is a free house, which is owned outright by the innkeeper; he can serve whatever beers he jolly-well pleases.
I thanked him for the definition, and for the draught. Then I slung on my pack and turned to leave. He hastily added, "It doesn't mean the beer is free!"
This rainbow over Snaizeholm was rare, especially since it wasn't in the sky. Of course had I been down in the valley it would have been in the sky. But then so would the rain, while where I was was dry.
My reading glasses went missing when I stopped at Malham Tarn to envelop myself in my ground sheet against the inclement weather. Consequently, unable to read the map I strayed from the path and found myself in Settle--not too difficult a feat in a blinding rain. It proved a serendipitous mishap, however. Across the town square was a pub, Ye Olde Naked Man Café. Getting to it was tricky; the street was cordoned off to facilitate a film shoot; but with the help of a pair of Bobbie's boys, I managed. After my repast and a couple of pints, the bobbies were even kind enough to put me back on the proper track.
Haworth is not directly on the Pennine Way. Yet it would have been unthinkable-- even irreverant-- for a would-be writer to bypass the home of such literary giants as the Brontės without visiting the place that had inspired them all. And to be totally honest, Haworth really isn't very far off the Pennine Way.
Though the village is quite charming, it appears that what Shakespeare is to Stratford-upon-Avon the Brontės are to Haworth: the sole source of tourism. Most shops and B&Bs are named for one or another of the sisters, or one or another of their works. I spent the night in their drunken brother Branwell's bedroom--or at least so it was called.
The "Jane Eyre" B&B is just up the street from Branwell's favorite haunt, the Black Bull. Adjacent, glaring down like the Lord upon Satan, is the church where the Reverend Patrick Brontė was rector. Local legend has it that a bell was installed in Branwell's favorite booth. One or another of the sisters would ring it to warn Branwell whenever the Reverend left the church to drag him home.
Top Withens farm house is right on the Pennine Way. A plaque states that there is some question as to whether this ruin is the house Emily Brontė actually had in mind when she wrote her famous novel. It didn't matter to me; I had instantly fallen in love with Whuthering Heights upon hearing it on the Lux Radio Theater at age three; the story still haunts me. So whether or not this was the actual building is unimportant. Withen's Height is unquestionably the inspiration for the book's title and overall stormy setting. And the two trees growing side by side beside the ruin virtually embody the immortal ill-fated lovers, Heathcliff and Cathy.
Peach was the sort of person I'd hoped to find since I entered Britain: a classic wastrel
who traces his roots back to the Doomsday Book; a man who was given too much, too early;
who'd been booted out of several public schools for one mischief or another; whose only
philosophy seemed "it's not how big you are, it's what you're willing to do!";
who'd taken to strong drink at an early age, and evidently never found sufficient reason
to stop. In short a bully, and--since he obviously had far above average intellegence,
education and means--by choice, a boor.
In contrast, I had just spent two days in a nearby town with a counselor named Christopher Coveny--a sort of Dudley Do-Right to Master Peach's Snidely Whiplash. Chris, quite likely the namesake of St. Christopher, had found me limping along a roadside struggling under the weight of what he described as a "cargo container." He put me up in his home, Ash House, wined and dined me on my 61st birthday with steak au poivre and a fine claret. Afterward, to help mend my game foot, he took me to a marvelous healer aptly named Gail Keep.
During the course of our conversation David mentioned that his father was a solicitor. Thinking that since they lived so close together, were approximately the same age, and his father shared the same profession, I asked if he knew Christopher.
"You mean the bandy-legged barrister?" He sneered. "He and my family are bitter enemies."
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