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


Time On My Own

Carry on over the crossing at Station Road and after 20 metres turn right down Brook Street. At the traffic lights continue downhill. Before the bridge turn left through the gates and down steps to the path alongside the River Wharfe. Continue passing Riverside Hotel advertising en-suite, coffee, cakes and ale with public toilets just beyond. Soon you climb the steps and on to the 300 year old bridge. Almost straight ahead the path passes the nursery on our right.

Proceed by the boundary of Ilkley Tennis Club- a haven for lawn tennis and aspiring talented amateurs since 1880. It is a strange outing where they don formal attire. Walkers would be welcome for high tea.

At the end of the car park the footpath post directs you along the Dales Way. You progress through an assortment of kissing gates as you stride over fields. The edge of Ilkley Moor visible on the left. There is bow and arrow target practice in adjacent fields. There are five black sheep in their own field segregated from the rest of their flock.

The path brings you back to the river by the golf course on the other bank. Carry on into shade of woods passing a tiny wooden bridge being constructed by a chippie and his apprentice. Through another gate following the Dales Way sign keeping to side of river to avoid bogs. Beware of anglers back casting. You may see the Heron perched motionless for a catch. Continue through a gate stile and follow the old road to Addingham set below the busy A59. Sections of the river have fast, flashing waters, others becalmed and resting. After the bus stop turn right down Old Lane.

I wonder if we will find my birthday on this tramp to redemption. 1948 the most fortunate year to be born into with free health care, education and early retirement. The NHS born in 1948 at the Park Hospital in Manchester. Sandra Howarth the first of our health service babies. The Park now rebranded and remodelled as commercial enterprise, its future in the balance.

Our formative years in the original age of austerity with iron curtains, cold wars and spectre of atomic bombs. We hanged murderers and locked up queers. We found a wave of social realism in Lucky Jim, Room at the Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning as Arthur convinced us we were “as good as anybody in the world”.

Our vitality later embraced Beatlemania and Stones.Blues aficionados uncovered and refined Soul in northern clubs such as the renowned Twisted Wheel in Manchester. A breeding ground for drug crazed zombies speeding towards the cutting edge of music and fashion. The Wheel now converted into a German budget hotel.

Before the pensions crunch our conceit and lump sums took us off on safaris, cruises and global treks.

You will pass through a housing development based on an old mill complex. Soon you will turn right in between houses. The garden wall on the left houses a stone marked as the Dales Way as you enter Smithy Greaves. At the end of the road carry on along the flagged path. You can see the end of Ilkley Moor on the left. Continue on the metalled road past Holme House and Greendyke Cottages as well as the Old Rectory raised above on the right.

After about 200 metres, at the end of the stone wall, turn right through a wooden gate as directed by the Dales Way sign. Down the steps along to St Peters Church of Addingham in front of you.

Dated from 1155 a Norman Church of distinction. Once a thriving industrial village the church displays memorials and dedications to the Cunliffe – Listers. The world’s first worsted mill built in Addingham.

Proceed up to the church by way of the gate in the wall and through the graveyard. Inside you can observe the shaft on the Anglo Saxon cross dating from the 10th century. One of the few unlocked churches in Christendom with access 24 hours a day.

Continue between headstones towards the Green concealing Iron Age ditches and evidence of Viking burial grounds. This village has been populated since the Bronze Age.

Turn right and over a narrow bridge, through a wooden gate and on to North Street and turn right. Carry on until you meet the steps down on the right as directed by the Dales Way sign. In front is the suspension bridge built after the floods in 1935. Leaving Addingham where you could not afford to live, or fashion the refined accent. There is no class divide it just blends into true blue as you progress northwards. They sided with royalists in the Civil War but atoned by joining the Luddite rebellion in 1812.In the region 50 people were hanged. Many more provided with free passage to New South Wales. Now it is a commuter and retirement retreat.

There are 700 million of us reaching the doorway of 60 as the last vestiges of youth succumb to old age. A bridge is about to be crossed. How many of us were old and infirm in our dream? We know now that old age shifts the scenery of life.

In our history few lived beyond a shortened abbreviated and brutish existence. In the 16th century only 7% of humans were aged over 60. Old age defined by function rather than chronology. In rural communities you worked till you dropped. By the 1990’s one third of Europeans had retired by 60 creating a new generation of affluent older persons.

Before advent of retirement pensions we made a covenant with the monastic brotherhood to guarantee our welfare. In 1881 three quarters of us were forced to work beyond 65 years of age. One hundred years later only 13% remained at work. Liberated from debilitating work at the expense of poverty and exclusion. Deprived of identity and status apart from the wealthy who maintained their foothold.

A distinctive retirement culture exiled and type cast in ghettos hidden from view. Pigeon-holed in an age of segregation where anxiety and fear are bred in captivity.

As the tide of history changes there will be space to re-invent ourselves to pursue a paradigm shift. Instead of gently sliding down to oblivion crack on as though you will live forever. This could be your first touch of freedom seeking out new intimacies to go beyond the trivial pursuits prescribed for senior citizens. It does not have to be the first steps through the cemetery gate.

Under the monetarist gloom we are drawn back to austerity, penury and premature departures. To-day Russians have been hoodwinked into forfeiting five years of their life expectancy. Beggars and paupers appear again in Moscow as the neo-cons rebuilt casino capitalism governed by the Mafia.

Our mood fits the atmosphere of post-cyclonic depression. We have a detour to the church hall for morning coffee and comfort. Local Christian’s friendly welcome relieves the black dog.

Returning to the way we proceed down steps beside the river. Follow signs for Dales Way passing houses on your right at the edge of the river bank. Carry on through Olicana Caravan Park with the weir on the right. There you can discover lonely women and grumpy old men.

Our scientific friend’s didactic inventory for delightful longevity centres on drip-feeding essential nutrients for the brain. Activities boosting blood flow include drinking red wine, hot chocolate and coffee.

Singing a song is recommended, copying the centenarians on the long life island of Okinawa who sing every morning of the elderly treasures. Meditate and stand on your head. Keep your gums in fine fettle to prevent white matter building up on the brain. Search for sexual renaissance to nurture new nerve cells. Together vanquish the sentiment that we have less snap in the old celery. We know exercise sends a constant growth signal which is the source of the fountain of youth. We do not forget our one apple a day.

In the 16th century Francis Bacon, scientist and father of empiricism, offered his own manual for vigorous longevity. This required gazing at handsome persons, breathing the exhalations of vibrant young girls and sleeping near them to conserve their warmth. A biblical tradition first encountered by an elderly King David who slept between two virgins to restore his youth. You pays your dues and choose your own way.

After a few hundred metres go right as directed by the Dales Way sign. Continue by the soothing sounds of the River Wharfe. There is a tiny patch of beach for caravanners. Do people swim here?

Pass over six wooden stiles keeping to the field boundary by the river. There is a steep decline down into the water and barbed wire at the other side of a narrow path. On the left you can admire the little house on the meadow. Maybe it’s for storage, shelter or pigeons cooped up against the weather. Ilkley Moor lightens up behind as binoculars reveal the maze of path to the pinnacle.

Over a ladder stile and between shorn sheep preoccupied with chewing the cud. Continue through a fence stile and on to a path into the wood. Climb wooden steps through a wall, cross the road and through a small gate stile to the Society of Friends Meeting House. Theology in stone with plain simplicity built in 1689. There are no priests, prayer or creed. You just wait her until you are moved. A sanctuary where you are offered light and refuge. A shelter and tranquil port in a storm. Make sure you sign the book of remembrance in communion with ramblers from Australia, Netherlands and Isle of Man.

Turn right into the farm lane as indicated by Dales Way yellow arrow. After 10 metres right over a wall stile on the permissive footpath to Bolton Bridge. Carry on round a cindered track and over another wall stile. This avoids the dangerous road on your right – a highway with no footway. Slip sliding along by side of wall. After two wall stiles continue on to the road and turn left.

These labours take their toll as insides rumble and throb. Our churning stomach and loosening but obdurate bowels a repeating accomplice. Burning up tubes hammer out a splitting headache. A sudden rush of nausea as heart pounding loudly against its limits. Bodies are built to move but it is becoming a wasting asset. Keep breathing and stretching too promote recovery. There’s a nagging doubt that revival will always be available. You cannot hide from the wheezing and whistling. We decay and decompose amongst the heather.

Old age is not for cowards as the crocks and creeks of the aged reduces our field of activity. It can be cruel if your elegance is diminished in our shrinking domain of mastery. Each day brings a novel pain. Signals to kick the bucket now loud and piercing, no longer the faint echo.

Push aside these old friends. These are not growing pains but debilitating afflictions. Parts dripping away yet to be broken with advancing senility. The ancient Greeks considered physical deterioration a curse worse than death, but we soldier on.

About 30 metres before the roundabout turn right through a wooden gate with a Dales Way sign. Over a narrow pedestrian bridge to the river and under a road bridge through two wooden gates. A blue painted bench announces it is only 78 ¾ miles to Bowness. Proceed up the stone steps and across the road. Enter the metal gate access to Bolton Abbey estate. Bolton Priory is ¾ mile ahead. The Devonshire Arms and cricket field are over on your left.

Across the fields you can catch waders in the river togged up for fly fishing. The Priory magnifies as you approach along the valley surrounded by sweeping fells. For us the Priory a pilgrimage and anniversary to honour the short span of our Patrick, brought down in the prime of his life and music. We know the Greek Gods take those they love at a young age, deserting the unwanted to experience old age. Colluding in keeping their flame untarnished and immortal.

In old age we must search for time to reflect. The fecundity and mystery of time is always with us. It is our arch enemy and intimate friend. Humans are a bundle of time with our bodies a repository for storage as it latches on to us. It is our exclusive possession although it belongs to everyone. You must guard against other people sucking our time away.

The olders inheritance perceived with the past as a constipated accumulation of exhausted time. The present constantly swallowed up as the past. Time is bewildering and puzzling yet everyone knows it by their own timepiece. We all deal in the currency of time.

Augustine reflected that time does not really exist. Aristotle imagined it was simply the measure of motion. Maybe effected by the rhythm of your stride as the pendulum swings.

Before 1800BC the Babylonians invented time in days, hours, minutes and seconds. Since time immemorial God ordained time as three score years and ten, and set it ticking.

Time is jealous of youth, as it sticks almost stationary in the early years. When you have skimmed through the ages there is a rapid decent and dawdle into old age. The march of time flows faster as you grow old. Old Father Time stands still for no-one. Even if we follow gurus to meditate till our body clock stops time will tick tock on.

For some time is the adversary. Simone de Beauvoir found the ravages of time cruel as “my face attacked by the pox of time”.

We may need deep inhalations of youthful fragrance to let it seep into our pores. As you become a connoisseur of time, harness, clasp and hold it tight. You need time for yourself so slow it down, caress and preserve in the hold.

Life is time consuming and a few would like it turned back in its retracting space. “ I wish it were all reversed”.

The direction of time wound back in the Hogarth phase when everything shifts backwards. The dead call from their graves to be excavated.

In our hours of senility we surrender our possession of time as past, present and future dissolve and merge. We retreat from the world as our equilibrium shatters between body and soul. Where the weight of the past brings about barrenness and the imminence of death an unbearable burden; displaced into a flight of fancy and anxiety.

Our memory is lived time as growing old becomes the most solitary of journeys. Some of us will lose track of our memory worn out by habitual engagement.

In the advanced stages time becomes re-defined and re-configured. It becomes circular and elastic as the past overtakes the present to converge with the future. We will be joining Philip Gould in the Death Zone where time hovers suspended in the moment which goes on for ever, cradled in emotions and relations.

As creatures of time we cannot compete with the Time Lords. Remember we could have years of fast time ahead. Our times glide along till we reach 75. Reaching the zenith we clamber aboard the plateau. In our dotage dense time hangs heavily ignorant of seeds sprinkled for new growth if only we knew where to scavenge. Time to let my beard grow.

Follow the path to cross over the footbridge, or step out along stones in the river. An iconic and tragic scene for many people. A beauty spot where victims end their life. Our moment of passing will not be here on this occasion.

The Duke of Devonshire has a seat here. Doesn’t he set gamekeepers on ramblers? The aristocracy still stamp these grounds. As we pass the stepping stones scarcely visible covered in the stampeding currents.

Keep to the path with the river on the left on to a made up track leading into the tree line high above the river. You will come down to a road, crossing the ford or a diversion round to the footbridge on your right. Turn left after the ford and after 30 metres proceed through a gate in the wall on to a path by the riverside.

After a few hundred metres turn left and continue across the bridge to the Cavendish Pavilion. For generations it has offered tea, handmade cakes and selections of home-made ice creams.The gift shop sells fishing nets, beach balls, maps, pollen honey from Denholme Gate and publications of the history of Bolton Abbey. You can be pampered in plush public toilets, convenience designated lavatories in this locale.