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Hello everyone my name is Ernie aka Journeyman. I live in the Rotherham area of South Yorkshire with my wife Linda. We have four sons aged between 19 -28 years, two of whom have gone through University and the other two are currently going through University. In 2004 we both decided to ‘retire’ or should I say take a few ‘gap years’ from the fast lane of life and enjoy more time together. I had worked in the Police Service for 35 years and enjoyed almost every minute of it (apart from the obvious distress in dealing with tragedy including homicide) whilst Linda had more recently worked as a non teaching assistant at a local school for over 10 years having been a full time mother prior to that bringing up our four sons. The decision to ‘retire’ was not taken lightly and we carefully looked at what we wanted to do with our lives in the years ahead. We have both had a love for the great outdoors for almost 40 years having spent time camping, walking, touring and holidaying principally in the Lake District, Peak District and our beloved Yorkshire Dales.
Since ‘retirement’ we have tried, and largely succeeded, to get away for a few days every month to combine walking with sightseeing and just having a good time. We have not travelled abroad very much in our lives but enjoyed a recent holiday to Evanston, Chicago to visit our eldest son who is working there. This has increased our interest in travel around the world which we intend to pursue in the coming years but we love the Yorkshire Dales which still is a magnet to us and as you would expect we have a good knowledge of the area having stayed in dozens of places over the years. As you would imagine our sons were all introduced to walking and the great outdoors from an early age and amongst our other family holidays including caravanning at the coast, we had several camping holidays as a family in the Lake District. More about that later.
My introduction to hill walking
As a youngster I lived with my parents and brother in a cottage on the edge of a wood. My back garden was the wood and my front garden was fields. I suppose in later life it was therefore natural that I would pursue holidays in the countryside. In the summer school holidays of 1967 I had the opportunity to go on a one week camping holiday with my school to Great Langdale in the Lake District. This was my first visit to the ‘hills’ but it was to be the catalyst for a lifetime of hill walking. My mothers family were from the Strickland area of Cumbria near Penrith so maybe it was in my blood but I absolutely loved the holiday and it was not surprise that I went on the same 1 week holiday with the school to Great Langdale in the following 2 years of 1968 and 1969. I owe a great deal to the teachers who organised these school holidays as I am convinced they shaped my life. The teachers were Roy Kilner, Fred Simms, Clem Clifford and Chris Garford and sadly I know that some of them have now passed away. Yes, it is obvious they also had a love of the hills – Clem, a science teacher, used to look after the camp and cook meals etc. he was a real star. Roy Kilner was the main man and as a youngster at school I learned a lot from him (not just about his subject of maths) about life. He actually gave me a reference to join the Police Service so as I say I owe him a lot.
I remember my first mountain clearly, it was Bowfell at the head of the Langdale valley. We walked up Bowfell from the National Trust Campsite near Old Dungeon Ghyll via ‘The Band’ and returned via Crinkle Crags and Pike O Blisco. The other school pals and teachers who walked with me (or should I say behind me) were equally captivated by the magic of the hills. On this first trip I recollect quite vividly being shown a book by Roy written by a man called A Wainwright – what an inspiration he was to become. Roy showed me the proposed ascent of Bowfell from Stool End in the book. As I stood there in the Langdale Valley looking up towards Bowfell I could actually see the route shown in the book. I was amazed at the detail shown in the book and needless to say I was hooked. We ascended the Band and crossed the climbers traverse and up to the summit by the Great Slab. I must say I was like a mountain goat – a lot of my pals think I still am like a mountain goat but I assure you I am a lot slower than those days. Over the three years I went with the school we climbed most of the major Lake District mountains including Scafell, Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Old Man of Coniston, Helvellyn, Skiddaw and others on ridge routes such as Langdale Pikes, Crinkle Crags, Green Gable, Wetherlam etc.
I joined the Police Service as a Police Cadet in 1969 and had little opportunity to get to the Lake District for the next few years but as a Police Cadet you were expected to go on an Outward Bound Course of 3 weeks duration every year to Buckden in the Yorkshire Dales (the Outward Bound Centre is now holiday cottages). I did three of these courses during which we were placed in teams of 5, had a crash course in map reading and navigation, had little sleep for three weeks, went on a midnight hike on day one, had three day camping/survival expeditions, were expected to complete the Three Peaks of Yorkshire as a team in under 12 hours and carry out many other exercises and tasks. As Police Cadets we also were expected to complete the Lyke Wake Walk annually. The Outward Bound Courses were boot camps really but my experiences on these courses also shaped my life in many ways including team building and leadership which I know assisted me in my years as a Police Office to achieve the position of Detective Superintendent.
When I reflect on the opportunities I was presented with, and took, by attending the camping/walking holidays with the school and the Outward Bound Courses as a Police Cadet, I shake my head in sorrow and disbelief at the situation teachers and youth leaders face these days when for all sorts of reasons they are afraid to take young people on such ventures. Please do not misinterpret what I am saying, I fully understand that, if for reasons of neglect someone is killed or injured, families want answers, but surely the spirit of adventure must prevail and I am sure it still does. It was refreshing on my recent Coast to Coast Walk to meet up with two groups of youngsters undergoing their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. It was an honour to chat with them and take a group photograph for them and it brought a massive smile to my face to see them working together as a team reading the map as to where they should go next. I didn’t help them honest.
Marriage and all that
Back to the story, Linda and I met at school and after a few years of on and off courting we married in 1974 and in the years between 1974 and 1978 when our first son was born we had many holidays camping in the Lake District. On some occasions we were accompanied by friends or relatives but we spent many weeks and weekends in the Lake District walking the hills and touring the valleys. We have learned a lot since the first time we went with a tent in 1975 which proved to be a comedy of errors. It was a hasty decision to go and we just threw a few things into the car picked up my wife’s younger sister and set off. We went to Great Langdale and arrived late in the evening. We had to put up a tent and flysheet in torrential rain – yes we got the flysheet on the wrong way round. We had to cook a tin of soup in the can which we had to open with a screwdriver and we had to serve breakfast from the frying pan directly onto a breadcake. We got it absolutely right the next time and every time thereafter. It was in the early 70’s that I purchased all A Wainwright’s pictorial guides to the Lake District and also his Pennine Way Companion and Coast to Coast Walk. I studied these books at every opportunity and used them to plan walks in the Lake District. I have walked many sections of the Pennine Way over the years but to be honest I have never felt the urge to complete the Pennine Way in one go. The Coast to Coast Walk, now that’s a different story – one day I often said to myself I will do that walk and enjoy it.
As our family increased and the lads were growing up we spent less time walking and camping in the hills. We did not stop walking and camping but it was more convenient for us to have day walks in the Peak District or Yorkshire Dales which were nearer to our home. I continued walking with work colleagues occasionally and in 1981 started organising challenge events to raise funds for local charities, principally those connected with children such as Special Care Baby Units. I recollect organising the Three Peaks of Yorkshire for 3 consecutive years and I am pleased to say all participants finished (blisters and all) and we raised quite a lot of money on each occasion. In 1984 whilst working in Doncaster I arranged for the entire shift to do a 10 mile charity walk up and around Bowfell to raise funds for Famine in Africa. Everyone completed the walk safely which was a major achievement as well over 50% of them had never walked a mountain before. I have a prized photograph at home of me presenting Bob Geldof with a cheque on his visit with the Boomtown Rats to Doncaster later that year – at a time when he was being interviewed by local radio about his idea for a ‘Live Aid’ the following year.
Linda and I
continued visiting the Lake District, Peak District and
Yorkshire Dales with the lads as they grew up and our visits
increased as they grew older. I recollect us staying at
Park, Troutbeck in 1990 and setting
out on a family walk up the valley towards High Street. The lads
were all kitted out in boots and I was carrying a rucksack with
the family picnic and all the wet weather gear etc. It was a
pleasant day but as we climbed it started to drizzle. We had our
picnic under a tree – we had to move the sheep first to bag the
picnic spot. Linda was not amused. The weather got worse and as
we walked back the lads, in age and height order, now wearing
waterproof gear but fabric boots were getting wetter. Of course
it was my fault. Linda sorted all the gear out and dried it in
the facilities at our camp site. It rained in on us in the tent
that night, which was my fault of course, but Linda to the
rescue using her creative skills formed an inner liner with a
polythene sack. What a gem she is.
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