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19th June 2015
Present: Syd Bennett, Robert Brown, Dave Burrows, Steve Carey, Dave Dalton, Bill Flanagan, John Guest, Trevor Heywood, Robert Holmes, Larry Johnson, Kevin Jordan, Alan Larsen, Kevin McDonough, Barry McGuinness, Paul Morrell, Paul Muir, John Nelson, Mark Nutter, Neil Shortland, Tony Statham, Dave Whittle, Mike Whittle
It is oft said that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. It was by no means a certainty that your correspondent would ever cross the path again of one, Paul Muir, emeritus doyen of purchase cards and erstwhile colleague of mine at a leading greater Manchester local authority. On platform two at Todmorden rail station, however, there he stood, looking as pleased as Punch following his recent retirement from the aforementioned organisation. I hesitate to describe his attendance as his inaugural appearance as I seem to recollect his presence as a guest some years ago when we visited Littleborough.
The two of us exchanged a volley of pleasantries between each other before being joined by John Guest. We hadn’t stood for very long before the next train arrived and following some delay in the opening of the carriage doors, the three of us boarded. It was mercifully a shorter period of time before it dawned upon us that we had boarded the wrong train: it was destined for Bingley rather than Bradford. Disembarking smartly at the next station, Hebden Bridge, we stood and waited for the next train from Manchester carrying our compatriots who had boarded at Manchester.
Arriving several minutes later than scheduled, we duly boarded the Bradford service and greeted our seated Manchester colleagues.
In due course, we arrived at Bradford Interchange station where we were met by the organiser, Alan and a longstanding childhood friend of John Nelson: Dave Burrows. Dave, another retiree who has recently retired from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Taxes had hitherto, organised a pub visit to Keighley in West Yorkshire and had also made a very brief and fleeting guest appearance at our previous visit to Bradford during 2014. In view of this, today could be properly described as his inaugural visit. Following Dave’s introduction, Alan quickly shepherded us to the bus stop where we had to make a short bus journey across the city to Crossflats – a suburb of Bradford. We caused a few raised eyebrows as we quickly subsumed every available empty seat much to the consternation of the extant itinerant passengers.
After alighting from the bus, we headed towards the Leeds and Liverpool canal and walked along it for some distance until we arrived at the outskirts of Bingley. We seized upon the opportunity of a brief break at the Brown Cow public house where we stopped for some brief liquid refreshment. The predominant available brews were Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, Golden Best, Ram Tam, Landlord and Dark Mild. Stowford Press was the cider on offer.
We left the Brown Cow and plotted a route towards the River Aire. Our target now was to reach the Devil’s Alter. Following a reasonably testing incline up the hillside we reached the hill’s plateau and progressed along it with the Alter soon to appear in our sight. Several members’ facial colour, pallor and heart rates had visibly and audibly changed soon after their successful overcoming of the incline.
Alan and your correspondent were the first to arrive at the Alter. Alan, confronted by several rocky outcrops any one of which could be persuasively described as having the appearance of an ‘Alter’ shape, was briefly racked by indecision as to which of these he should be describing as the genuine article. A quick random decision provided a solution to this most vexing of geological condundrums. He turned to me and in a somewhat hushed voice whispered: “Christ! They all look the bldy same! That one over there looks like a pretty convincing outcrop!” The remainder of the group began to arrive whereupon Alan with the assured flourish of a confidently outstretched hand and forefinger authoritatively proclaimed with aplomb: “Here gentlemen lies the Devil’s Alter!” Somewhat surprisingly, there were no dissentients coming forward questioning the validity of Alan’s judgement. Perhaps any such individuals were simply overwhelmed by the panoramic views afforded by our lofty position of high altitude.
In due course we began our gradual descent and imminent arrival at the St Ive’s estate. We navigated our way through some impressive deciduous woodland and a plethora of rhododendron bushes. Along the way we stumbled across an engraved sandstone rock informing its readers of a Dowager* Lady Blantyre by way of a brief inscription (http://www.friendsofstives.org.uk/history/ferrands_4.php). Confusion quickly spread around the group as to the definition of the word “dowager” (see below).
Having sated our appetites for local history, we wound our way down to the Coppice Pool, which, historically, was the source of the Estate’s water supply. It also provided an abundance of wildlife and freshwater fish, which were comprehensively catalogued by a wooden signl. Following a brief rest, we walked from the pool towards a narrow bridge to cross over the Aire as we made our return to Bingley.
We set a course for our second port of call: Off The Tap. Here we enjoyed an eclectic variety of bitters and ciders such as: XT15 IPA, Darkside Of The Moose, Acorn Belma IPA, Coniston XB, Perfect 10 and ciders: Wyldwood, Sandford Orchard and Black Dragon.
Sometime later, a selection of members headed down the road to the local Wetherspoon’s to enjoy a ‘Ruby Murray’. Those Wetherspooning members were to subsequently rendezvous with us later at our final hostelry. The remaining members headed towards the bus stop for a return bus journey to Bradford city centre for our next hostelry visit: Jacob’s bar. It was situated in a location, which entailed a five minute walk to Bradford Interchange station. Here we were provided with beers such as Pacifica, Blantyre Red, Stancil Mild, Titanic Plum Porter and Dark Side Of The Moose. The cider on offer was Kingstone Press.
We began to wind up the evening when the first tranche of members opted to go for the 20:14 service to Manchester. The remaining members departed for the subsequent 20:58 service.
Many thanks again to Alan for his tireless devotion to his organisation of our walks. We all thanked Paul and Dave for coming along and joining us.