St Peter's school at Buttermere Youth Hostel, summer 1961? and
so 2 years after my travel club days,
Front row: Ian Morley(?), Adrian Littlewood and Robert Bishop.
Me? I remember that I had a green anorak . . . I must be in there
Because of a slight error in my animation, I'm
moon-dancing here instead of walking!
(Press your 'REFRESH' button to re-animate)
a fortnight, Saturday morning meant Travel Club:
when I was in Mr Harker's class, in my second year at St Peter's
School, Horbury, we each paid sixpence a week into the club and
this went towards the modest costs of group bus and train fares
to destinations like Hebden Bridge (a train ride away until they
closed Horbury Station) from which we walked to Hardcastle Crags.
For other walks, such as to Woolley Edge and Sandal Castle, we
simply set off walking from Horbury. Mr Harker's Travel Club gave
me my first experience of some of the landmarks and landscapes that
would come to mean a lot to me.
A Towpath Talk
who should I come across, down by the canal this morning but my
former teacher, Derek Harker. Derek has been retired
or years now but I'm surprised that he can keep up with my customary
As we walk up to the farmers' market in Ossett, where I'm heading
to meet Barbara and her mum for a hot chocolate, the conversation
ranges from tales of a shipwreck in Australia and a Majolica peacock,
to the remarkable musical career of his grandson and even includes
one of the worst jokes ever told (Derek prides himself on his Really
When I mention that I've been exploring the Peak District he immediately
'Well, next time you're going, give me a ring, and I'll join you!'
While Derek has kept up his fitness, his former walking companions
have been falling by the wayside. He would appreciate a new walking
companion, well not so new, we did walk together 45 years ago with
the Travel Club!
I feel like I'm turning into some kind of recluse because this
is the second time someone has offered to walk with me recently
but, unlike in the Travel Club days, my purpose in walking isn't
pleasant exercise in good company. I like to get out into the hills
on my own.
I know there's an argument for going in a group for safety reasons
but, even so, I'd still rather be on my own. There's something you
don't get when you're in a group, even when you've got just one
companion with you. An experience of being a small, insignificant
part of the landscape. A meditation of sorts.
I don't say that I go out there and have profound thoughts; it's
usually just 'am I still on the footpath?', 'will I get to the station
on time?' and 'when shall I stop for lunch?'. Even so, there is
something else going on.
You don't get this with a companion who is relentlessly cheerful
(and certainly not with a one who is relentlessly morose!) and who
keeps you entertained with stories of family and friends, with jokes
and tales of Majolica peacocks.
I find that, when I'm following a conversation, the images in the
conversation lodge in my mind and it's so easy for the scenery to
fade so that you just stop occasionally and say 'Just look at that
view!'. Me, I'm trying to have a kind of conversation with the scenery.
OK, so I'm unsociable!
Richard Bell, email@example.com