Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Skipping North and squelching South, incorporating an unexpected quagmire

Is it really seven years since I first went to Skipnorth , the friendliest of weekends for yarn addicts? I've had to miss the last 2 or 3, but this year I managed to bag the relevant weekend off work.  After my recent wobbly phase I jolly nearly decided not to go but I'm so glad that I did.  Everyone there (nearly 30 of us, I think) is a joy to knit/spin with and this year the fabulous programme included a steam train ride in our very own compartment.

The weekend began with a row of tables being covered with homemade cakes, curiously flavoured crisps (haggis with cracked black pepper, anyone?), llama snacks (these are llama-shaped wheat bakes with "flavours that kick" and not snacks for any passing llamas, though I don't think anyone would have batted an eyelid if one strolled through...  Next came a choice of workshops (knitting, spinning, crochet) or a visit to the Bronte Parsonage.  I chose the latter and decided to walk there and back, eager to test out my returning energy on some hills.  (I live in the flatlands of Eastern England, so hills are a novelty).  Then there was a mini-market with all sorts of yarny and sparkly temptations from various indies.  I got some fabulous green man stitch markers from Woo Sheeps (back left in the picture below).  After a knitting, eating, eating and knitting interlude the grand p/hop stash swap began.  ( P/hop, or pennies per hour of pleasure, raises funds for Medecins Sans Frontiers).  I offloaded a pack of 10 balls of coca brown linen DK (one of those purchases that seem  sensible at the time, but which later strike you as foolish) and emerged with 2 balls of lime green linen blend DK, which I'm much more likely to use (bottom right in the picture). 

Modest stash enhancement

After a good night's sleep (and the option of another workshop) it was off to Texere yarns in Bradford, for a hefty dose of yarn fumes.  I tried to restrain myself but acquired Mohair for a scarf (front left), a cone of green sparkly stuff (since both green and sparkly are irresistible), some cotton chenille for dyeing experiments and that glorious orange marled fine linen thread that you see top left, simply because it glows with beauty.  From Texere we went on to a mill outlet in Keighley and thence by the afore-mentioned train back to Haworth.  I decided to walk back uphill to the hostel and, flush with my success at hill walking, decided to go ahead with my putative plan to breakawy from the main group on Sunday morning, preferring the idea of a nice rural ramble and a posh Sunday linchto yet more yarny temptation at Wingham Woolworks.  Ah, Hubris:
Photo: Nice

Sunday morning started out so well.  There'd been a light dusting of snow overnight but it had melted on all but the highest tops and the sun was shining.  The downhill/uphill/up-an-even-steeper-hill routine of getting into the centre of Haworth was now second nature and I decided to head further up, up, up, up

up above the snowline, then steeply down for a walk by the River Wharfe.  The air had that sharply-cold feelgood feel and was alive with the sounds of curlew and cattle, beautiful, horned Highland cattle.  My walk leaflet described this section as a "tedious uphill trudge", so I decided to do the walk in reverse.  I soon arrived at the tiny old bridge which marked the start of the riverside section:

Just before I got there I passed a solitary magpie and, ever-superstitious, took the trouble to salute him, to ensure that no bad luck came my way.  I crossed the road-bridge and started my walk.  The path looked incredibly muddy, so much so that I almost turned back.  But I could see a dogwalker in the distance and there were plenty of footprints to confirm recent use of the path.  I edged round the mud whenever I could, which sometimes entailed heading quite a way up the steep side of the valley.  At one point my left shoe was partially sucked off by mud and my sock got rather grubby but I was enjoying the gurgling of the river and the sheer joy of motion and decided to press on.  Even discovering that parts of the path were completely underwater, with no alternative, didn't fuss me: for I am fearless in my trusty, Goretex-lined Brasher shoes.

Yes, these really are the footpath!


 But maybe, after that mud-sucking incident, I should have paused and tightened the laces ... (I've been quite lazy of late, and some nights  I have extracted my feet from the shoes without untying the laces.)  Once through the mini-stream section of the path the going became easier, albeit muddier.  Suddenly: squuuuelch, my right shoe had come off completely..  I decided the best thing to do would be to put my bag down safely, then move to firmer ground and thence retrieve the shoe.  But as I went, squuuuelch, and the left shoe was off, too.  Fearless I may be, but my feet were getting cold!  Gingerly, and as flat-footedly as possible (all the better to spread my weight evenly, exerting as little pressure as I could) I found an even-firmer spot, then tussled with my shoes, taking great care not to fall forwards into the mud.  It felt like an age bit, within three minutes my shoes were in my hands and, sock-clad, feeling ennervated yet exhilarated, I went back to a nearby stone stile.  Since the feet of the  socks were now positively mud-and-water-soaked I decided they'd probably cause blisters, so I took them off, and used their dry legs to warm and dry my feet.  Fellow-knitters: if you ever need a tough sock yarn,
Mine aren't quite so bright now, despite several spins in the washing machine...
 let me vouch for the sovereign properties of Regia Ringel Clown. 

At this point I decided to cut my losses and headed back along the way I'd come (at least the wet section rinsed my shoes).  This meant, of course, that I would  have to do the "tedious uphill trudge" after all, but -- guess what-- it flew past because I'd remembered that there was a branch of Edinburgh Woollen Mill at the top of the hill, with the promise of warm, dry, clean socks.  (£7 for 3 pairs.  Not a patch on hand-knitted, but needs must).  As I sped up the hill it crossed my mind that I finally knew what it feels like to be (literally) bogged down and that the surprisingly simple solution is just to step out of your shoes, then rethink.  But this isn't Thought for the Day, so back to the trek.  Next stop, the ladies loos that I'd spotted earlier for a spot of shoe cleaning and, yes, trouser tackling.  Here I thanked my lucky stars that I had a base-layer (aka long johns) and a long, dress-type sweater on.  Off came the trews for a major hosing down under the taps.  Mud splattered itself all over the clean walls of the spotless loos.  (Haworth Museum car park.  Highly recommended for all calls of nature and mudlarking).   I cleaned up the basin, walls and floor, then proceeded to dry the trews under the hand-dryer.  More mud blew onto the walls, more cleaning-up ensued.  At this stage a very smartly-dressed lady came in (I assumed she'd just been to church) and did her best not to laugh.  Instead, she checked which route I'd taken and said that she'd make sure to avoid that one.  I think she saw my bewildered look as she went on to explain that her boots were in the car.   After that I had to rethink my lunch plan.  How could I go anywhere posh?  I still had mud on my cag, mud on my bag, mud on my trews, mud on my shoes.  But my trousers were back on and aw, what the heck, the lure of the smoked haddock with risotto and poached egg that I'd spotted on a restaurant black board earlier was just too much.  Tentatively, I asked the waitress if she served muddy customers.  No problem!  And what a scrumptious meal it was.    Finally it was time to bid Haworth farewell and to head back to the hostel for more shoe-and-sock rinsing, followed by restorative knitting before my fellow SkipNorthers returned.

What an adventure!  Now I'm back in the flatlands.  I think I left a part of my heart behind in Haworth.  How, oh how, I would love to work here:

The heart may be missing a tiny piece, but I still have my shoes.  And the moral of this story is never slip your shoes off without untying them as you never quite now when and how they'll be pulled off!

1 comment:

Mary deB said...

Lovely story of getting bogged down! I haven't been by for a while; it's nice to see you have been having the odd adventure.