I had the bunkhouse to myself after the coast to coast walkers had left. I was staying another night in Keld and I strolled to the village, which is a few houses, holiday cottages, a church and a Countryside and Heritage Centre giving some facts about the place (lead mining, sheep farming and tourism) and a quote from Auden, who loved Swaledale:-
Lately, in that dale of all Yorkshire’s the loveliest,
Where, off its fell-side helter-skelter, Kisdon Beck
Jumps into Swale with a boyish shouting,
Sprawled out on grass, I dozed for a second.
As no doubt there was once a pub for lead miners, a church for sheep farmers there was now a leaflet for me the tourist, showing a walk to the waterfalls. The paths were muddy but I picked my way round to see one, along the Swale that was pushing hard beneath its cliffs and then walked back to the Bunkhouse to sit by the one that roared by the door. Waterfalls are hypnotic like open fires - there was brown water like long fronds of kelp diving over and over, and I sat in the sun in a wonderfully contented state of physical tiredness. Guys turned up in kayaks, paddled along the river, got out to inspect the fall and then gave up. That would not be white-water but death water falling with a Niagara force, though only a few feet high.
I went to get my cycle for a short run to Tanhill. I felt the tyres, and the front one was a little soft. I pumped it up, but gave up the idea of cycling very far - I was tired anyway - and took the cycle along the road near the river to see the waterfalls - small but violent- the bits of tunnel left over from lead-mining, the cliffs and to feel the general quietness of the place. An occasional coach passed by, very stupidly down the narrow steep hill, and the other tourists were kayakers and waterfall-watchers.
Every time I returned from viewing something to my cycle I would give the front tyre another feel. What should have been serene enjoyment under rare sunshine was marred by a slight anxiety (according to evolutionary biology a natural state for humans who once lived in fear of predators or starvation). I had to face it - I would have to mend a puncture and I am very bad at mending punctures.
I got back to the big shed place where my bicycle was housed and took off the front tyre. I found a bucket, filled it and ran the tube through it - no bubbles to show holes. I had a spare tube, and with the usual cack-handed tussling, got that on to the wheel. I rammed the pump over the valve to pump it up, and then when I removed the pump, the end of the valve, the little piece that screws into a Presta , fell off. So the tube was unusable.
I had another spare tube and wrestled that on to the wheel. As so often, when I do this, a last piece of the tube was not tucked under the beading but bulging out. I tried a few times, got it properly in position, pumped it up, and then another end of a valve was rolling on the floor.
At this point I gave up and went to make some dinner. Afterwards I put the tube with the slow-puncture leak back on, thinking I could keep pumping it until I found a bike shop. I asked the owner of the site where the nearest one was, and he said there was one in Reeth, about 10 miles away, at the other end of Swaledale. This sounded like an easy run, so I left the cycle and went to the pub with filthy blackened hands.
The bunkhouse was now full of all-women walking groups from the north of England who were fairly muddy. It had been a fine day but of course the ground had been soaked from the day before. As for the waterfall, even a day's fine weather had lessened its power
The next morning it was raining slightly. I set out on my bike, and after going half a mile or so, the tyre had got too soft, so stopped and pumped it up. The road was a switchback, and I continued, stopping every quarter mile or so to pump again. I pushed on a few yards then realised I could hear a distinct hissing from the tyre, and then suddenly felt that the laces on my right boot had wound round one pedal. After a scary second I stopped, and tried to unwind the lace. But it wouldn't unwind, and I had to pull out my foot in its fresh clean sock from a nearly dried-out boot on to the wet road and unwind it. I pumped again, started cycling and realised that this was not going to work, so a few hundred yards from the village of Thwaite got off and pushed the bike to a coffee shop attached to a hotel, where I asked if there was a taxi. They gave me a number and in twenty minutes a young bloke turned up in a people carrier. He was a nice chap with red hair, who had been born locally. Said how pretty Swaledale was in the winter. Said his usual gig was to drive people out who wanted a drink or to take children to school as the place is depopulating and the schools closing. One little girl he picked up at 7:15 and brought home at 5pm -a long day for a child. I told him my destination was Leyburn and he said, You're going to find Fremington Edge a hard cycle.
As we went through Muker, Gunnerside and the rest on a gently rolling road beside the River Swale I thought what an agreeable cycle this would have been, even under patchy rain.
We got to Reeth, and at the other side of the village, in Fremington, was not just a bike shop but a cycle centre, with a cafe, accommodation, a place to wash your bike - a whole complex devoted to cycling hobbyists and mountain bikers. I despise mountain biking - thrill seeking, skiers on wheels - but its popularity has really improved cycling infrastructure. Reeth is just a large village (pop 750) and here was a bike centre with three mechanics. One, a woman (I'm always glad to see a woman mechanic so I can think my own ineptness is not sex-linked) changed the rubber lining of my wheel, pumped up my tube and then squeezed it against my face so I could feel the air from the hole, indicating that I must have been blind and/or stupid to miss it, fitted a new tube, saying that I should be using a Schrader tube, not a Presta, and pumped up the back tyre as well.
Feeling much happier with a functioning cycle that had had some expert attention I cycled back into Reeth, up its steep streets. There was a big agricultural show on which I would have quite liked to go to but it cost £6, and I did want to go on my way so went to buy some bread. On the village green a group of elderly guys were singing and playing guitars and double bass, while being filmed and microphoned by a couple of young media types. (Note - age discrimination - the young do the filming, while the old are filmed).
They did a song about calling the musters for the Loyal Dales Volunteers, one of those bands of militia put together in case of a Napoleonic invasion. Because there would be half a dozen guys called Thomas Alderson and a few more John Hirds they used to call the roll by nick-names. They fitted the following names to a song:-
Grain Tom, Glouremour Tom, Screamer Tom, Poddish Tom, Tarry Tom, Tish Tom, Tripy Tom, Trooper Tom (all Thomas Alderson by name);
Assy Will Bill, Ayny Jack, Aygill Tom Bill, Becka Jack, Brag Tom, Bullet, Bullock, Jammie, Buck Reuben, Butter Geordie, Bowlaway, Brownsa, Jossy, Cis Will, Cotty Joe, Codgy, Cwoaty Jack, Curly, Dickey Tom Johnny, Docken Jammie, Daut, Freestane Jack, Gudgeon Tom, Hed Jack. Awd John, Young John, Jams Jack, Mary Jack, King Jack (all John Hird by name);
Katy Tom Alick, Kit Puke Jock, Kanah Bill, Knocky Gwordie, Lollock Ann Will, Matty Jwoan Ned, Mark Jammie Joss, Moor Close Gwordie, Nettlebed Anty, Peter Tom Willie, Peed Jack, Piper Ralph, Pullan Will, Roberty Will Peg Sam, Rive Rags, Skeb Symy, Slipe, Slodder, Swinny, Spletmeat, Strudgeon Will, Tash, Tazzy Will.
(Looking them up on the internet I'd say the singing group were the Fourum Folk).
I listened to them for a bit, then went and bought cheese and fruit cake and set off to Leyburn via Fremlington Edge, a notorious hill, or semi-cliff. I had to push the cycle mostly under a cloudy sky and intermittent spits of rain then as I cruised down the other side through moorland, I heard gunshots. I was cycling alongside a huge military shooting range. I did the few easy miles to the edge of Leyburn and was looking for signs when someone called, "Rosie - are you Rosie?" and a woman was leaning out of a car window. It was the owners of the B&B which I had booked. They had told me they would be out till 5pm as they were going to the agricultural show in Reeth, but having spotted me, said they'd lead me to their place. I followed them to their farmhouse a little out of Leyburn and was glad to dump my gear and make some tea, eat the bread, Swaledale cheese and local fruit cake I'd picked up in Reeth while sitting on a bed watching the lunch-time news.
I then cycled a steep down and up to Middleham to see Middleham Castle, the home of Warwick the Kingmaker. Richard III had lived there and married Warwick's daughter Anne. I have a vague interest in Richard III - I have read Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time which Christopher Hitchens called "a minor masterpiece". It has dated - the comic Cockney chairwoman is especially wince-inducing - but I think what Hitchens meant that it is a beginner's guide to examining received opinion and drilling down to sources - an important skill for both academics and bloggers.
The book opens with Alan Grant, a Scotland Yard detective, in hospital. He has time on his hands so on seeing a photograph of Richard III he thinks that he doesn't look like a monster and murderer as portrayed by Shakespeare and children's history books. He co-opts an American research student to look out the original evidence for the case against Richard, and he finds the source is Thomas More's Tudor propaganda derived from Cardinal Morton's (Richard III's enemy) account
Hitchens says of this:-
Scouring the increasingly meticulous and assertive and well-sourced revisionist literature, I felt a sensation I had experienced only once before, while reading Josephine Tey's minor masterpiece, The Daughter of Time. As fellow addicts of this book will know, it begins with an acceptance of the standard view of Richard III—"Crookback Dick," the usurper, and the murderer of the Little Princes. Then, by slow forensic degrees, it demonstrates that every aspect of this story is an accumulation of lies and later courtier propaganda. The chronicle of Holinshed, the memoir of Sir Thomas More, the drama of Shakespeare himself—all are pitilessly uncovered as the merest conjury and fraud. Even for a reader who has no stake in Tudor spin-doctoring, the effect is a vertiginous one, with all the cargo in the hold slowly turning over. Is one to be left with no illusions? Is the whole pageant a cruel put-up job?
(They have found a body in a Leicester car park which is supposedly Richard's. Now neo-Yorkists and Royalists are squabbling over where it should be given its final burial.)
Middleham Castle is a colossal ruin with walls high enough and thick enough to give you some sense of what it must have been like to have lived in such a huge fortress. There's a sculpture of Richard III in white marble. - rather arresting, with a monstrous form attached to his back.
Richard III, Middleham Castle
The weather had now turned to short but violent showers. I walked around Middleham which I had never heard of before. It is a very bright, painted expensive-looking village, famous for its race-horses and the signs on pubs and shops were either of Richard's white boar or horses' heads. I went to look at the church and hard by it was a glossy, South Forks looking place, which was a big stable complex. You could see the horses heads poking from their stalls and the stable boys. I would have expected the fields to be full of galloping horses, but they are of course kept inside and taken out to be exercised. Well, it explained the prices at the gourmet pub.
I returned to Leyburn and stopped off at the tourist info. The violent showers had passed, the sun had come out and there were a few hours of evening light remaining. I asked the chap in the tourist info what I should do for an hour or two before dinner and he recommended a walk along The Shawl to admire the view. The Shawl is a a series of fields on the edge of one of those Dale drops, with the grand views of the kind that appear on the calendars of a Dales landscape of hills like oceanic waves, and rivers. People were walking their dogs and children there. So that until a pub, The Black Swan (very friendly), for dinner and then back to the B&B for telly and bed.