Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:



West Vale

Clay House


Cragg Vale



Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong





Marlborough Sounds


Milford Sound



Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches


A City Of Revolution:




Notre Dame


You Are Never Too Old To Eat Ice Cream

Proceed on the path by the river and through a swing gate. Today it is a torrent tossing nibbles for hovering Kingfishers skirting bends in the river.

Carry on through a fence gate and on to a narrow road where you may have to dodge traffic. You will pass Grange Farm Holiday Cottages on your left. Fresh Yorkshire gusts pummel down the valley bottom.

On the right is Kirkgill Manor Band B. Coming into Hubberholme you have the renowned George Inn on the left which boasts accommodation, good fayre and outside toilets for Ewes and Tups, exclusively retained for punters only. Turn right and over the bridge to stall awhile at Hubberholme Church. Built on an Anglo – Norse burial site where church wardens in the cathedral of the Dales are pillars of the community. Pews, chair stalls and chairs modelled by Thompson of Kilburn, leaving his mouse legacy. A hallowed and historic building where J.B Priestley’s ashes are scattered. For him it became the worlds end. Our famous author penned his influential article in November 1957, Britain and the Nuclear Bomb. He laid the groundwork for the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The C.N.D. badge became a tribute, fashion icon and universal symbol of peace. J.B. lived on into old age on his “conveyor belt to disenchantment and despair”. He discarded much of egoism and detected humility in life through his advanced years. Another architect of C.N.D. was Michael Foot whose 96 years spanned the crucial conflicts of the 20th century. His was a period of grand narratives of fascism, Spanish Civil War, World War 11, Cold War, Vietnam and Miners Strikes.

Inside the church are imposing arches and a prayer tree to pause. Churches are best empty as islands of calm where you can build your own story. We could have a hobby of church crawling from worship to architecture. It should bring you to your knees in supplication and awe of the spirits sucked into the fabric. It was eminent in the Latin with its cadence of sound trumping the words. Do not forget to light a candle so your ancestors can see the world together.

There are seats placed strategically by the flowing river facing The George and the sedate rippling over the rocks. It can drain the tautness out of you in this sheltered enclave for lazy sunbathing and leisurely lunch.

At the side of the church follow the Dales Way sign to Yokenthwaite down the lane towards the farm. Why do we bother with clean socks and briefs? It would be a delight to get through without being soiled.

Continue through a metal gate signposted the Dales Way with the river on the left. Not sure about this fasting business as the sensuous bliss of scrumptious bites hard to resist. Carry on to the gate stile in the wall and follow direction of footpath sign. Care to be taken as treacherous path bulging with rocks and stumps ready to catch and wobble. Continue on a gravel track and over a wooden bridge. Sometimes a raging waterfall streams down here.

Through a wooden fence gate keeping to the edge of the field and over a wall stile. Breathe in as cascading water sprays free ozone with just a hint of chemical detergent. Surging over rocks carving the line of least resistance informing river of proper route. Over another 3 wall stiles and a swing gate.

Follow the footpath sign through the wooden fence gate where the Dales Way signposts forward to Beckermonds in 2 ½ miles. Pass through a cluster of farm buildings and head towards the farmhouse on your right. The footpath post confirms your route through a wooden fence gate to Beckermonds. Do not stray over to your left on to the stone bridge.

Continue with the river below on the left past remains of a lime kiln. A Bronze Age ancient stone circle and caves on your right. Their meaning lost in obscurity. All the sections attract picnickers and youthful paddlers. Sheep without inhibition gambol and fornicate in sink holes whittled away by trickling streams.

In such moments recognise the sexual glasnost of our age. An open door to emotions and stirrings locked away in childhood. By our time we have eclipsed women in the oestrogen stakes. Given carte- blanche to reclaim our feminine side repressed to be a warrior. Before your eyes the stereotypes melt away. In contrasting cultures anthropologists detect olders moving towards mores and curiosities no longer fixed by means of gender roles.

In the ultimate stage of developments we have the sexual crossover when traditional alienations no longer polarised by sex. Here we herald more intense forms of intimacy with rapt and heartfelt bonding of age.

In a process of deprogramming we reinvent ourselves going with the flow of continuous transformations. A time to reinvigorate and nurture the best in ourselves. Released into a lively old age becoming unselfconsciously playful. Age as adventure while everyone forgets we are getting old. An age of experiment, change and novelty. No need to teach grandmothers to suck eggs.

Cloaked in age stripped of sexual reticence we are allowed wicked flirting. We relish the license for sexual frankness and irascibility. When you get older everyone can kiss you. There’s a purity of affection unhindered by the clatter of expectations. You will be overcome with emotion at the kindness of strangers. Your nurturing love a selfless donation to the future as a magnanimous guardian angel. On reaching the midnight hour there’s a sweet and tender love to extract.

We refuse to be owned by a rigid image of ourself. No need to stagnate in the disguise of old age as we set foot in a new place. Where sexual impulses are in their final ruin you could be capable of a virtuoso performance. Goethe shared “for all your white hairs you can still be a lover”. We know stroking can lower blood pressure and lift depression.

Over the hill the old man on his last legs clinging to fitness and faculties. Flowers wither but they bloom again. In Egyptology this cycle of nature becomes a pledge for eternity. You can pamper and indulge every whim in an orgy of hedonism in the worship at the senses. As your second wind kicks in surround yourself with smiles, kindness, and infinite tenderness while cultivating your charm. We know old men are all more attached to life than our children.

Tolstoy sobs for nothing. Goethe finds tears in his eyes for a mere trifle. Men’s anger has always killed us. Rage welling up with adrenalin pumping madly depriving us of breath and words.

Impotence and voracity no longer poles apart in the finishing line. Masculine and feminine mingle as we become the opposite sex trying to break out. No longer comfortable in our own bodies. We thought all that had gone. Emergence of new qualities as we will be forced to banish strict sex roles, just as we revealed in the 60’s.

The cream of your life will have to be in front of you. Grow old along with Robert Browning as “the best is yet to come”.

Carry on and through a swing gate crossing over the field towards a wall stile on your left. The Dales Way sign directs you along the perimeter of the field and down to a foot bridge. Follow a path up to a swing gate where a footpath sign points you down left to Beckermonds. The track takes you onto a road, over the road bridge and along a track with river on your right. You may discover an unofficial canvas settlement designed to exploit this aquatic playground.

You pass a miniaturised Strid with a farm on the left. There are warnings of flash floods. Coming to stretches of bog and mire we met a couple drenched in the deluge, tired, cold, hungry and splattered. They are squeezing lots of delight in their 5 day trek from Bowness to Ilkley. They will crack on with the rest of their lives and back to work on Wednesday.

Through a wall gate where you may twitch Yellow Hammer resting on rocks in the river. Sporadic diminutive waterfalls spread along the river. At the wooden bridge cross over to Beckermonds and on to the road. This hamlet at the foot of the highest public road in Yorkshire.

At the confluence of two streams you find Beckermonds Holiday Cottage and bed and breakfast where you luxuriate in splendid board and cuisine. Turn right and over the bridge up the tarmac road to the junction. Follow the sign to Hawes and carry on past Oughtershaw Hall on your left where Bonnie Prince Charlie took a breather after Culloden.

You will pass a school designed by John Ruskin for Victoria’s jubilee in 1887. Watch out for coiled sheepdogs springing out of the farm in stealth behind you and grabbing a sharp nip on the heel. They are trained to round up stray ramblers. This dog notorious as it shreds through walkers trousers. The farmer agreeing eventually to compensation. One shaken walker presented with a boxed set of locally sourced lamb chops. I am beyond that now.

Before the Celtic cross turn left and over a cattle grid leading to the farmstead of Nethergill. On your left the twisting, winding Wharfe reduced to a beck trickle where you could leapfrog to the other bank.

At Nethergill Farm is a Dales Way sign to Cam Houses in 3 miles. At the farm you could be presented with luscious hospitality. For us the dry barn will suffice with its tea, home-made cakes and biscuits with offerings for the honesty box.

Carry on past the farm on the wide track and through a gate. You can see Cam Houses in the distance. Now you are into the scorched open moor, wind forcing you down in this exposed terrain. The chill absorbed as you grapple with the elements.

The ageing body dribbles innate heat and fluid, its life force ebbing away. Your infant is warm and moist. The older person rehearsing for a corpse, frigid and parched. Ageing follows a cooling and drying process becoming shrivelled and arid. My digestion freezes as we hear Yossarin’s rear gunner grumbling “help me, help me, I’m cold”.

You need not drift into hypothermia as the chill grips you and coaxes into old age. It is advised to keep warmed as long as you can.

We recall the death blackout could descend any minute as you are puffed up inside. We need no prompt to remember we must die. Best to form the habit in youth as death wasted on the elderly. In the denouncement you will give up the ghost in company at 18,000 souls who will snuff it today in Britain.

Sometimes you have just had enough. You would like to slip away without notice. Sometimes you snatch hold for dear life. If we had liquid assets Dignitas in Switzerland would be open for business. In the last 7 years over 7,000 have taken their departing sip of medicine. This production line of suicide pacts has earned journalist Minnelli a millionaire way of life. Your ashes may turn up in the post or contaminate as your remains unceremoniously dumped in Lake Zurich. Little solace as death becomes the great leveller. In China universal euthanasia or Anlesi a much more hushed and muted exodus.

The track turns into a crumbling metalled road. Keep going past Swarthghyll Farm on your right. You may hire the courtyard and bunk barn in your own world guaranteeing wild parties in isolation without grievance. The Dales Way sign points you round the farm to another footpath sign to Cam Houses. Through 3 iron gates and straight ahead on the grass as Ingleborough rises on the left. Slopes lined with streams feeding the swathes of boggy peat underfoot.

Now there is hardly a path as you divert for the driest ground. You have to keep climbing above the mud line and boglach. Use Cam Houses as a beacon as you progress through several gates. We share these elements only with sheep and occasional migrating bird.

The peat is porous and energy sapping as you drag yourself through squelching sludge. Slither and skid along this sodden route. Difficult to keep your feet as legs buckle, wrist sprained and elbow grazed as testament to the endeavours. A treacherous path as battle fatigue takes its toll. One third of us fall every year. Often a life-changing event. Steady as you go, it is worth staying on your feet.

We are putting our bodies on the line. As with Mitterrand we are becoming “broken on the edge of infinity”. If we have cultivated our inner garden our body may be in ruin but the interior could be vibrant and alive.

Our bodies conform to what we expect of age. There is no joy to slobber into stagnant stupor and decay. Complicit in the social creation of our own dependency where the victim state is imposed upon us. The catastrophic image of older persons can become contagious and internalised. The fixed vision of weary frailty is to be resisted. The old age shuffle to be shrugged off as we practice and perfect the swing and swagger of youth. There is still zest in the old dog. Hesse reminds us that when “old age comes man grows young again”.

Transcend physical impairments and activate latent cells waiting restlessly to be ignited throughout the life span. We know that we could be at our most accomplished in late Autumn. Beethoven, Strauss and Cezanne inspired a new kind of original energy and brilliance in old age. Learning how to live again and challenge our limitations, pain and dependency. You are never too old to eat ice-cream.

We will be tempted into a descent of spiralling, piercing hypochondria where each twinge imagined as lethal decline propelling us rapidly towards the exit. We revere youth as immortal where death may hover but never realised. You can have everlasting life as long as you take it one day at a time.

Should we aspire to prolonged dwindling? In our age you will be able to select body spares from the catalogue at Leeds University, self-service surfing on line. The bionic pensioner becoming a monument to displaced departure. According to gerontologist Aubrey de Grey “the person who lives to be 1,000 has already been born”.

Much better to tag along with the indomitable Tolstoy who possessed legendary vigour as he returned to physical exercise when he aged. A strategy shadowed by Charles Eugstar who sculptured his own body when he became a thriving body builder at the age of 85. We need not grow backwards slipping into our ancestor’s manners and bones.

We know the 60’s are a dangerous decade. The gestation period for the toxins conveyed through our organs and along pathways approaching its own culmination. We could rattle along in drug induced inertia. Nearly 40% of us consume 4 or more prescribed medications in subsidising the narcotic trade. If we had honed and nurtured our biological structure we may have sailed through. Maybe the blueprint is impressed from the earliest age. As far as you can, keep on ambulating yourself.

This grassland streaked with greasy slides. Drawing blood a bit of a fret with not much to lose. I should be beyond this rough and tumble.

Carry on over two wall stiles. It’s a bind watching your feet. I came for the outlook rather than soaked in the moors. Yellow arrows spread along the way confirm direction.Round about here is the watershed where you feel the tug between east and west.

Just before the dilapidated barn follow the sign and right through a gate stile. Admire the craft of this dry store jigsaw. Follow the path diagonally up hill to the ladder stile.

I could do with retreating to the pits for the change of wet footwear. Mine split, worn and smoothed by years of walking. It seemed a waste to invest in a new pair. Look after your feet and the rest will take care of itself.

Over another ladder stile and head towards Cam Houses farm as directed by the footpath sign. Through a wall stile and on to Cam House. A farm housing a sauna, partridge shooting parties and the former bed and breakfast. Regaled by the farmer with stories of being cut off in harsh winters rescued only by Swedish Cats.

Follow the signs round the farm and proceed along the forest of conifer plantation. Over the fence and cut diagonally through the trees towards the top. Pine trees on exhilarating odour as you come out and cross the wide stone track.

A reminder to challenge the archaic folklore and myths. Boffins in Philadelphia sniffed the odours of each age group. The whiff of the olders was the most pleasant and least pungent. The sweet smell of longevity lingers for the best.

Ageing may be a cul de sac, the whole shebang a dead end. We may have to live longer with indignities. At any given time we are all ages at once. We precious weary biddies stashed underground as obsolete and disposable. Out with the old, in with the new. As a period piece we need to be cherished. Resist our demotion from the setting at the top table to the bench behind the door.

Carry on upwards and keep to the line of the fence until you reach the fence stile follow the path to the post at the summit. The origins of the River Dent trickle below on your left.

At the post you discover the conjoint paths of Pennine and Dales Way. It has been a hard slog with halting progress where distances measured by the scale of the swampy wetlands. Heavy legged trudging along, the bounce gone nor nor west. You become rude tired beyond the social niceties.

Turn left along the Cam High Road, the first Roman road built as part of a network to contain the Brigantees. More recently an old drove road and packhorse route. From this height you share the peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Gent.

There is the relief of gentle strolling head held high to the warm radiance. Round the corner the imposing, incongruous giant structure of Ribblehead viaduct spanning the gulf. Known as the Batty Moss viaduct. So many lives sacrificed in its construction impelled the railway company to finance expansion at the local cemetery.

You proceed past the footpath sign diverging on the Pennine Way to your left. Carry on down to a wooden footbridge over Gayle Beck and up to the road. You may deviate to a cave if you wish. At the road keep left over the brow and down to the Dales Way sign to Dent Head in 2¼miles.