Tuesday, 22 November 2011
the green and pleasant land
so, we were off down to that england-land this weekend to visit ilkley and the loveliness that is the yorkshire dales. to be honest i was expecting sheets of rain, wind and general northern grimness but, as it happened, it turned out rather lovely.
t was off a-felting so i got the bike out and headed out with only the vaguest sense of where i was going. what i definitely wasn't doing, and doubly so after a long morning rest, was cycling the whole of the dales way. i'd hoped the sun was up a wee bit longer but really no.
first thing i noticed was the massive numbers of cyclists. not just the kind of stuffed together, badly adjusted bike, out for the weekend type tourist (of which there were none) but proper roadies. and gangs of them. i haven't seen so many cyclists outside of a sportive in the last couple of years. it was great. and for those who might grin a bit about roadie taciturnity i put it to you (for you are all inglese) that this is not because these are sullen people but rather that there are just too many of you and that to give everyone the nod would result in a neck injury!
and not just numbers but diversity. not only did i see more cyclists but i saw the biggest group of them i've ever seen (40+ on a club run!!), the full range of beardie men and best of all, actual women. this may sound surprising to those south of the border but up here the sight of a proper roadie woman, while not quite akin to coming across a unicorn, is in the general vicinity.
and all this in the space of about twenty minutes. the first place i came across was bolton abbey. the mist was just lifting and the sun was hitting the valley and, having had the good sense to stop, i was all like, this is like something out of wordsworth or turner, which of course it was. the cyclists had thinned out so i had the roads pretty much to myself. i was rowed in with dry stone walls, in fact there were walls everywhere and the fields dotted with barns. every few miles there were amazing wee villages that looked like they'd stepped out of some englandshire poster book, wee pubs, folk sitting drinking and blethering, flowers in the windows. i imagine in tourist season it must be nightmarish but not this weekend. and great names - kettlewell, starbotton, appletreewick.
i picked up a roadie guy on the way back in and we ended up cycling back. altho i'd overtaken him to ask for directions he was straight back at me. i should've noticed this. i definitely should've paid attention when he came alongside checked me, my legs and my bike. but no matter, he was local and great chat with all the places but as we were dotting along i was aware that the pace was maybe not quite so mellow and my cadence was just that bit higher. and higher. and then he bumps into his mate. he's from the club he says. and then i realised. a club guy. here we go.
to give him his due he didn't push too hard, just enough so that when we got back into ilkley, just at the last hill my legs gave out with the faintest of sighs and he had me beat. but it was great fun and i thank you, chris from ilkley, for a very pleasant hour.
the following day everywhere was slabbed in mist. we made abortive attempts to go to a tea room but ilkley was mobbed and we mainly failed. we did go to their wee museum which is in a gorgeous old 14th century building. and t got a copy of that ilkla moor baht'at thing (dominic). we couldn't make head nor tail of it!
on monday we had to leave ilkley but not without firm plans for a return visit down the dales. off we went into the mist and as we passed some stately home or other i managed to make what is possibly my only old english joke (i should point out i'd been reading david crystal's latest book not long before) it went something like this -
t: that must be where the laird lived
m: the laird? the lord on these parts
t: is there a difference
m: surely you're having a hlaf
i do apologise. and moving swiftly on we headed out of the murk and into northumberland for a quick nosey around hadrian's wall. again perfect weather, all misty and atmospheric and not a soul to be seen. england had been uniformly lovely!
getting home tho we were glad to be back. englandshire is great for a visit, esp at this time of year when there's not so many folk about but, even allowing for the cyclists, there's just too many people in such a wee space. it was odd to see all the private property, no trespassing, no going on the river signs but i could kind of understand why. the countryside down there is not like it is here and not just because of the access laws - there's a closeness of the urban and the rural that gave me a real insight into kind of englishness i hadn't been aware of, something about the specialness and preciousness of the countryside that finds a different expression in their northern neighbours.
it was a grand weekend out. i can't wait to go again.