Saturday was spent indoors Breakfast Club
fashion debating which of us most correlated with which classic saturday detention movie cast members but Sunday was for being outdoors and the hill is as outdoors as anywhere and is also, despite or perhaps because of being one of the most exposed places you can ride a bike for some miles due to its position at the northern edge of Yorkshire’s bit of the Pennines, looking out across the gap in the hills through which passes the main east-west motor highway between my corner of England’s North East and our daffodil bothering cousins over in Cumbria, a road itself sometimes closed to some or even all vehicles on particularly windy days, a kind of default ride if stormy weather is forecast. I could justify this by the fact that there is nothing particularly steep or bendy which might cause a problem to anyone trying to get up or down the hill should the weather take a turn for the worse, or rationalise that the inn at the top provides the chance of last resort refuge should gale, storm or blizzard grow tiresome but being honest it is because being somewhere high and exposed as a big depression scours the hilltops with strong winds is exhilarating and a neccessary counterweight to an existance which so often puts a roof between me and sky. Summer is great: warm, carefree, and the riding is easy but everything comes to an end and every year she does die so beautifully. It is still early in the year of course, a few leaves remain on the trees although not many after today, and temperatures are mild but last night I dreamed of snow.
The Fleak, via Summer Lodge, scene of the famous 2006 Crackpot GPS incident
well, famous if you lived in Swaledale in 2006 and have a fascination as to why people would trust a computer over the evidence of their own eyes, on one of those glorious autumn saturdays that are such a gift to those of us struggling with the prospect of all those dark nights to come consigning weekday bike riding to being a nocturnal activity.
In the handful of weeks between around about the autumn equinox or maybe the August bank holiday or perhaps sometime in between and some time before the day when the return of GMT shunts what daylight remains to these islands over winter to well before most of its citizens finish their working day is a short period when darkness falls at a time that is it is available to some of us at least, sometimes, to watch it happen without skipping work early or staying up a bit too late for a school night. It is as satisfying to be out as the day turns to night as it is to be around for the reverse process. A kind of calm descends on the fells; livestock seems less skittish, hobbit-footed grouse venture from the heather to pad around the grazed-short road verges, the soft rustle of breeze through bronze leaved branches or a stoney-bedded beck tumbling down an unseen gully come to the foreground of the senses, the echo pings of bats hoovering up bugs bounce unheard around the sky, and then there are owls; the to-wit-to-woo from the woods of the tawny variety, the silhouhette of the short-eared version gliding gracefully across the rough grassland it timeshares with the miltary training school or the one that hangs around barns, rare as it is becoming, underwings white and a yard across catching the light leaking from a bike headlight like the ghosts they were once thought to be. Soon all this will happen unseen, during the week at least, and evening bike rides, starting out in the dark as they will be, as dependent on will power and motivation as on time or weather or being able to find my left hand glove, although having a certain strange appeal will be by comparison joyless utilitarian affairs but these glorious few weeks, nearly over now, of seeing the day to the end are to be made the most of while they last.
To Saltburn, where some go to throw their ball in the sea for their dog to fetch it, some to throw their dog in the sea for their kids to fetch it and some to throw themselves in the sea for the surfer dude lifeguard guy to fetch them, for a multi-tasking Saturday of walking and eating ice cream both at the same time. I think warm autumn days like today, when a few of them occur in short succession, become what is known as an indian summer but given that the guitar playing lift operator at the top of the cliff was practicing I believe in Father Christmas
in his little victorian kiosk whatever the weather may be doing to encourage folks to think back a month or two it is clear which direction some of us are thinking now…
A Wednesday night spent chasing the tail lights of the day over Whipperdale Bank and Grinton Moor.