Dear Reader: In the wonderful wildlands of Bilton + dancing at Worlds End

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Saturday, 16th April 2016, 4:35 pm
Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers,

The thought struck me that I might be a little over-dressed as I got ready to head into a wild untamed land last week.

I’d donned my full walking gear and silly hat in preparation for meeting award-winning nature writer Rob Cowen.

But it turned out our destination was scarcely remote - it lay only yards from Bilton Lane and the Gardeners Arms pub.

The Harrogate author was kindly taking me on a personal tour of some of the spots that have made Bilton almost famous in his recent bestselling nature book Common Ground.

Perhaps that’s why so few of the cyclists, dog walkers and mums with prams flowing along the smooth ribbon of the popular Bilton-Ripley bridleway nearby were paying much attention to the land the path actually dissects.

I was lucky, though. Each step I took in this undistinguished-looking patch of semi-rural neglect was accompanied by a fresh nugget of historical or natural information courtesy of my luxury tour guide.

This plant is edible, that one’s not, Rob explained.

That one’s called that because of this, this one is called this because of that.

On we went through the undergrowth in the shadow of the old viaduct and into Nidd Gorge on this mini journey of exploration.

I’d actually trod this muddy earth many times before in the days when I used to run quite a bit. What I hadn’t experienced before was history being unfurled with every step.

Up to now I simply hadn’t had the knowledge to realise what I was seeing.

But it had all been there the whole time just waiting for the right person to reveal it.

As I just mentioned I rarely run these days but I’m still in a local running club, mainly for social reasons, it has to be said.

It’s cheaper, too.

The closest I’ve got to actual physical exertion because of my membership happened on Saturday night at the big birthday bash of one of the proper runners.

I don’t know why but I suddenly found myself dancing amid the pleasantly traditional surroundings of a very crowded Worlds End pub in Knaresborough.

I say dancing, it was more an unimpressive ‘shugle’, to resort to a Scottish expression, involving a drop of one shoulder and a irregular shuffle from foot to foot.

Around me were club members - accountants and nurses, IT consultants and artists - and a few others I didn’t recognise.

Some of my companions were due to take part in the Manchester Marathon the next morning less than 12 hours later. I heard later they’d all got there and finished the race successfully , some of them recording highly impressive times.

As for me, I didn’t make the journey across the Pennines on the M62.

But I thank God for Nidd Valley Road Runners, a club that loves to run but not at the expense of friendship or fun.