Day 83: Luddenden Foot to Longridge

‘Everybody’s called John at some point in their lives” – Towneley arms, Longridge.

By the law of averages alone, there ought to be at least one nice dry and sunny day in England. Just the odd one to balance out these rainy showers and moody clouds. A peek outside at the steep hills of Luddenden Foot suggests my number’s come up. Over porridge, Kirsty tells me about the histories and landscapes of this area where she’s lived for some twenty years after being priced out of her native Harrogate. There’s much here to explore in these former mill villages on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire, in an area called Calderdale after the river that flows through it, and so together we venture out in her, off to explore.

At the ‘Foot’ is the Rochdale canal, where once two large mill buildings were situated. One made the velvet covers of bus seats and the like until it was recently demolished. The hills are airy, light, gentle, but at their time of operation this was a ‘dark and gloomy’ landscape. Such pretty properties like these were cheap for a reason, marked in soot, housing families of workers whose vision and hearing were progressively ground away by the nature of textile work.

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Day 79: Manchester to Malham

‘That’s what I hate about the modern world. You see kids out on their mobile phones, and they’re not talking to each other. And their parents are doing the same. And we’re all guilty of it, together.’ – Lady in pub, Malham.

Hail the morning that arrived too soon. Farewell the night that never finished, misspent in writing, and thinking, and talking too late. Tiredness and fatigue, my companions. They decorate this stage-set called ‘reality’ in the tones of grey. Everything with a tired mind feels that little bit unhinged, as if someone’s whispered into one’s ear that tomorrow probably won’t roll around. Just look at these people, with their fancy hats and shoes, their long words and their urgent obligations. Why on earth are they all bothering, don’t they know that reality’s a joke at their expense?

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Day 75: Preston to Manchester

‘The gift of time’ – Jacqui, Trafford.

Ugh….

It’s a slow start this morning in Preston. I’m hungover after a night of dancing, drinking and clubbing in Preston. It was a good night, that much my memories gather, but stringing together a series of thoughts causes sheer agony. I have left behind my glasses somewhere, but where?

Luckily, I awake with two cats sleeping at the foot of my bed, and a number of cats and dogs nearby, licking my hand and cutely cuddling up for affection as I start to stir. There’s a warm and happy feel about Carl and Andrea’s place, and any worries are quickly dispelled.

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Day 74: Heysham to Preston

‘Without them, this town would be shut down.’ – taxi driver, Blackpool.

Have you woken to the sound of pure electricity flowing above your head and this fragile polythene sheet that some would call a tent, and others a place of rest? If not, then strive for it, even if it means sleeping in the most exposed and strange of waste grounds in Heysham, near Morecambe. Where are either? Then you haven’t lived. These pylons sound like rain, their voltage dangerous and yet strangely tranquilising, even for all the shouting during the night nearby, as drunken kids raced up and down the road right by my tent. Thankfully I was not discovered, but it adds to the night’s strangeness.

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Day 71: Lake Thirlmere to Morecambe

‘Nothing is assured’ – Sonya, Morecambe.

Mid-morning, and the rain’s falling hard on my tent. Its light and rhythmic percussion wraps into my dozes like a thousand tiny mallets pattering against a vale of cotton wool. Droplets condense and form on the inside, and drip drop drip down onto my sleeping bag. In the course of the night, the lower half of the tent has flooded and most of my stuff is soaked through. My feet are freezing, but most of me’s unscathed. For around an hour I sit inside that tent, listening to the rain, wondering when it will take a pause.

At last, a break in the showers. I dash out into the nearby forest to find a discreet spot for my ablutions, then return to pack up. The rain’s still paused – great! I combine desperation with opportunity and attack my bike’s rear gears with a screwdriver. Eventually some combination of twists and fiddles has the vehicle moving as it should again. I celebrate with a few bowls of granola and just the most wonderful view of Lake Thirlmere. Mists hover above in thick tufts, their reflections on the water’s surface giving the impression of the imminent collapse of the heavens.

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