Coming up very shortly is a hiatus or gap in the proceedings of the pieblog during which me and Dawn, or Dawn and I will be wandering around the Cheviots with some tents and a determined look…
Normally, when this kind of thing happens, I post a music video. This time, I thought I’d tell you a little tale; a true tale of my first recorded walk. This walk was recorded in the Barnoldswick and Earby Times and also various local police reports and it involved active participation by hundreds, or , at least, dozens of people.
Springfield County Infants School was “losing”. In local parly, this means that the kids were going home. I was one of those kids and I was in the first class. This means I must have been about four years old. I was walking home with my brother, who must have been six and for some reason, he announced (notice how I cleverly shift the blame for the following adventure early on in the tale) that we were going to follow some girls home. I forget who they were, but they lived somewhere near the level crossing on School Street in Earby. At some point, I’m not entirely sure how, we overshot School Street and embarked on a visit to my Nana’s. Grandma Knipe lived in Skipton, a bus ride North along the A56 and the A59.
We walked up the Wisick hill out of Earby and through the village of Thornton in Craven. We wandered past the magnificent conker trees at what we would later know as “Queensmead” and through the bends which were straightened out after a horrendous and fatal road accident involving my Uncle from California and various aunties and uncles, one of whom, only a relative by the fact that he was living with my Auntie, lost the top of his head…
And along the road passing Elslack where the concrete walls I balanced along are still there, though occupied by hawthorns; through the junction with the A59, with the AA box, past Broughton Hall and the Bull, where we saw a police car which ignored us (It was supposed to be searching for us, I believe) – past the road end to Carleton and up over the railway bridge by the canal and into Skipton, passing the train station and turning right in the town centre to the road to Keighley and, finally, over the old bridge onto Burnside estate to 17 Burnside Crescent where my grandmother appeared to be unsurprised by our appearance and fed us on cheese sandwiches and milk out of a cup. (I still like to drink milk from a cup!)
Meanwhile, back in Earby, all hell was letting loose. The police had been called. A search had been organised. Neighbours formed lines in the fields and bins and sheds and barns and cowsheds were examined closely. They’d started to organise a search of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Certain males had been taken into custody.
I remember some things quite vividly. I remember some places and I remember the light changing – something I’d not witnessed before and something that was more than magical and it was when this happened that I saw the people in the hedges, some of whom were encouraging and some of whom were unpleasant and being held back. There was nobody there as such, obviously. Parts of the journey are a complete blank to me and, I think were so at the time. There were at least a couple of miles of dusk where fatigue had taken over and the legs were moving but the mind was already asleep.
I don’t think there’s anything remarkable about a four year old walking this distance on an empty stomach by the way. I was a pretty average sort of sprog at the time and I strongly suspect that walking about is one of the things that people do best. It was, in fact, a very natural thing to do and there were no ill-effects. For my parents, I think it had consequences for how they treated us siblings a few years later when we’d disappear for a day to the moors – and for longer adventures by the time I was eleven or twelve. There was, in fact, very little to worry about, at least until we discovered that the local off-licence would sell us rough sherry if you took your own bottle. But that’s a set of other stories.
We were taken from Nana’s to the bus station by Uncle Stanley and put on the last bus to Earby. A policeman was standing by the door of the bus. We watched our route through the upstairs front windows of the double-decker, pointing out places we’d walked past, not feeling tired….
At Earby, the bus stopped outside the fire station and there was a cheer from a large crowd. We were approached by two men and put into a black car. We were invited to ring the bell. We rang the police car bell. The big black car arrived outside our house where there was another cheer from another crowd. My mum was in tears. We were put to bed immediately.
8.4 miles, 508 feet of ascent. (!)
Springfield School was partially destroyed in an arson attack by a “firebug” a couple of years later. It was rebuilt in it’s original form but was replaced by a new building sometime later. The pictures on the windows have the same surnames as they did in the late 1950’s, though. Any four year old attempting this journey nowadays would probably be squashed by traffic and would be unlikely to reach Thornton in Craven. So don’t try this, kids. It’d upset your mum as well.