Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Home is where the van is - only here for the craic

In a mad moment I had offered to drive the FolkTrail support vehicle, and quickly discovered that driving the FolkTrail van is an experience not-to-be-missed (especially if you like an intellectual challenge on hill-starts!).

May 6th: We caught up with the walkers at Ilam Hall, where they were enjoying a well-earned rest day (one of only two rest days scheduled in their gruelling three months schedule).
No session was planned that evening, but none of us could resist the lure of the "Isaak Walton", where we found a group of ramblers with a shared guitar wondering if the landlord would mind if they play (he didn't).

May 7th: From Ilam Hall, set in an idyllic pastoral setting, we meandered through gentle countryside to Blackwell, where the energising showers at the newly refurbished campsite refreshed us all for the long evening ahead...
At the Three Stags' Heads (standing room only) we were treated to fiery fiddling, duelling trombones, recitations, loads of songs and a wonderful supper too, courtesy of the Landlord - thankyou Geoff!

May 8th: The following evening's campsite at the Peak District Visitor Centre at Edale was clearly a ramblers' hotspot, with the history of the 'Manchester Rambler' and the mass trespass on Kinder Scout illustrated, and 'non-negotiable'(!) rules and regulations posted throughout the campsite.
The Rambler pub ("muddy boots and dogs always welcome") was, by contrast, a spacious and welcoming venue where Albert (percussion and washboard) with his skiffle band and a large group of Folkworks musicians and singers awaited us.

From Edale I was glad that Victor took over the driving through the Peak District. Being an old-style map navigator myself I was having serious disagreements with TomTom, especially TomTom's instructions to drive across 'hedges and ditches and fields and styles' (there's a song in every situation!).

May 9th: Next stop: Crowden (where the campsite wardens were especially welcoming), and a frantic music session at the Globe Brew in Glossop.

May 10th: As the walkers headed higher into the hills so we drove through increasingly wild landscapes to the Carriage Inn at Standedge where we savoured the turkish menu, and several Morris sides formed a guard of honour for us, then danced the night away while the musicians held the fort indoors.
The Carriage Inn stands close to two ventilation shafts for a train / canal tunnel (three linked tunnels in fact) - the deepest such tunnels in the UK. Clouds of vapour are emitted from the ventilation shafts at odd intervals, and a tall monument stands atop a nearby hill to commemorate the irish navvies who died while 'working on the railway'.

May 11th: At Bacup Borough Football Club the following evening we were treated to a very different kind of evening, starting with the club's very own Premier Pie and Peas (what's the secret ingredient?) followed by an amplified evening of many self-penned songs, recitations, and a toddler-to-watch (just 2 years and 9 months old) who took over the microphone in the interval.

May 12th: The following evening at Haworth YHA we (ie Nadine & I) cooked a double-birthday dinner - it's always a pleasure to cook for such an appreciative eating team, and with Naomi around there's little fear of leftovers! Chilled kir has never tasted so good, and the soaring thirteen-part harmony 'Bonne Anniversaire' was awesome (thankyou all!). With the next day's 26 mile walk to be the longest of the expedition, we all headed off for an early night.

May 15th: A couple of days later we stumbled into the survivors' singaround session at the tail-end of the Hardraw Gathering at the Green Dragon. Although this was not on our list of sessions, the assembled company had heard that we were on our way, and so were looking out for us. A gentle singaround, with a group of fine singers... we're glad you waited for us.

May 16th: Now back at the wheel of the support vehicle, I wondered if the walkers would beat us to the Tan Hill Inn (14m walking / 40+m by road!). This is the highest pub in England, where the singing chef, wild-eyed landlady, puppy-dog and pet sheep kept us all well-fed and entertained (no we didn't eat the puppy, nor the pet sheep).

May 17th: This time the walkers did indeed beat us (9m walking) to the Ancient Unicorn / T'owd 'orned Oss in Bowes for our rendezvous with Black Sheep Morris, the last session for a while.

May 18th: At Middleton in Teesdale we took Black Sheep Morris's hint about the excellent fish-and-chip shop in Middleton, and had a party on-site, rounded off with a tot of Ben's single malt.

May 19th: At Langdon Beck no session was planned but Jamie, the YHA warden, soon persuaded us to make the most of his kindly welcome and the laid-back atmosphere with an evening of songs, music... and the rest of Ben's single malt (sorry, Ben).

May 20th: The route from Langdon Beck to Dufton gave drivers and walkers alike some breathtaking views across to the Lake District, followed by a quiet pint at the Stag before the walkers headed off for an early night in preparation for the following day's tough 20m trek to Alston (said to be the most difficult stretch on the Pennine way).

May 21st: After a hair-raising drive via Melmerby (1900+ft), dodging saturday cyclists on the numerous hairpin bends, we left the FolkTrail support van at Alston YHA and sadly turned for home.

What a fortnight - when can we do it all again??

Jenny Selfe

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