Memories (though not very many of them) of 1976.

Well, Karen has challenged me to write this, and, let me tell you, when you’ve been challenged by Karen you know you’ve been challenged.

I’ve no idea why we decided to do the walk. I mean, we all worked, in various roles, for Barnsley Council at the time, so you’d have thought that was sufficient excitement for anyone. Who were we? Well, there were Phil and Glyn and Stewart and me, John. Oh, and Gil. Or perhaps not Gil. I forget. Certainly a few others. My memory isn’t what it was. Or I assume it isn’t, though I can’t actually remember what it was.

I don’t think any of us were particularly experienced walkers. I certainly wasn’t, though I had been a boy scout. But although I’d done the hiking and fell-walking, naturally, I’d preferred the lying in a sleeping bag waiting for someone to light the fire and make breakfast. Anyway, we decided to do the walk. The weather wasn’t going to be a problem. Remember, this was the long hot drought of 1976. I suppose I’ll need to dredge up a few facts about what happened or this will scarcely constitute a report. I know we camped somewhere near the start, and 4.00 a.m. found me
exercising my well-practised sleeping bag/breakfast skills. And I remember setting off, full of enthusiasm; and finishing, less so. In between? Well, it was hot; and the moors were tinder dry; and the support vehicles grew ever more welcome and, probably, tempting at every road crossing. But since I’d spotted my first ring ouzel fairly early in the walk, I kept going, hoping for other exotic wildlife.

We quickly became spread out. The really keen and irritating strode on ahead, no doubt feeling superior. The disreputable straggled behind, making, I believe, ribald comments about the really keen and irritating. Stewart and I, and one or two others, bumbled along in the middle. I know we were enjoying ourselves. We even enjoyed the walking most of the way. I think it was The Ravine which put that most in danger. We’d been warned about The Ravine. I’m not sure, but I assume its official name is Jugger Howe Beck and it rises up to hit you (or, strictly, drops down) too near the end of the walk to be an acceptable practical joke. In those days (as I recall, but I may be wrong) no-one had installed the current namby-pamby steps. You either rolled, slid or fell down one side, then got out the ropes, crampons and ice-axes (all of which we’d forgotten) to get up the other. After that a sort of protesting fatigue made it impossible to lift the feet high enough to clear the tussocky grass we were walking through, so at every other step one blistered foot or the other collided painfully with something unyielding, giving rise to a staccato chorus of increasingly unprintable invective. I learned a few new words, which was nice. I can also report that the road into Ravenscar, which is supposed, I believe, to be not much over a mile, is considerably further. Or, at any rate, while we were walking along it, for every couple of hundred yards we covered someone added another half mile or so onto the end.

Queuing to sign the book was interesting. I think it was kept in a shop, but can’t recall. I certainly couldn’t find the place when I visited Ravenscar again last year. A few people were boasting about how quickly they’d done it, much in the manner of fishermen comparing the size of their latest catch. I’m sure I recall one bloke saying it had taken him half an hour, but that’s probably a false memory. One was definitely concerned about the length of the queue, as his twenty-four hours was nearly up, so he said. Stewart and I had taken around fifteen hours – a frankly boring time, not worth boasting about either way. Odd thing is I don’t remember finishing up in the bar of the Ravenscar Hotel, or, indeed, any convenient bar, but it’;s difficult to believe that we didn’t.

2 Responses to “Memories (though not very many of them) of 1976.”

  1. Karen Kirkup says:

    Thank you for doing this report Henry (John). I like to feel I some control over you! At the moment Amanda, Kate and I are regularly going through the circular process of denial, fear, blame. Mostly they are blaming me. I am sure when we are doing the walk it will settle firmly into the blame category. Only 3 weeks to go, need to start building up my reserves, more food, and more sleep!

  2. John Emms says:

    Your wish is my… Anyway, I enjoyed dredging the muddy depths of my memory. As for you lot – it’ll be a breeze. A tiring, slightly blistered breeze, perhaps, but still a breeze. Especially for Jane and Stanley….