by Simon Evans
Winding, wending, bending round,
The rocky path winds down and down
Before us is the grey house
Far out of town
“Dinner’s ready, come in now”
Shouts Mother from corner of her mouth,
She’s had seven strokes
But she aint been taken out
Not by death,
Not by Dad,
Not by nowt.
I’m sitting at bottom of path,
It winds and wends all way down
Me and me brothers Darren and Darron
Shouting and throwing rocks at mud
Thud splat thud
All gangly elbows, bones and rickets
Mum clanks the pans, curses and bangs
Massive forearms, hair like hay and arms like roast lamb.
We squeak and squeal and roll the tractor wheel,
All noise blown away across moors,
Moors and moors and more moors
Our house like a tiny pebble surrounded all around
By mud and stone and gorse of course
Goats and shit and flies and mud
Beatles, wind and stone and blood.
Dad’s yell brings us in,
Course it would
Dad in his boots,
Hands like vices,
“Sit down yer blighters, don’t cause a crisis”
The dogs a barking
Our asses want parking
Angry in boots
Mums still clanking
going grey at the roots.
Dad grabs me shoulder and yanks me up
“Look at state of that face, mucky pup”
Feet scampering over cold old stone
I’m just skin and bone
Dad’s massive handful of soapy water
Splashes me face and scrubs like a daughter
I splutter and cough
I stand and I drip
All startled but clean.
We sit at table
Elbows on wood
Mouths full of stew
Eating fast as we could
Chairs scrape on stone when bowls are licked clean
I run outside, feel the wind cold and keen.
We wheel and wheel
Making airplane noises
Bombing the field
High above a kestrel circles round
In a graceful mimic
Of the boys
Far below on the ground…
* * * *
Jack Bryan had all the kit – Regatta walking fleece, Berghaus Pro Mountain Gore Tex lined hat, Berghaus Powerstretch gloves, Highlander breathable waterproof walking gaiters and RayZor professional lightweight silver hiking sunglasses, with a smoked mirrored anti-glare lens. He looked, as they say somewhere in America, or possibly London, ‘the shit’.
He was about to embark on a 12 mile round trip rated as difficulty level ’hard’. The downloaded hike he now perused was kept safe from harm behind the clear plastic notepad pouch of his Highlander waterproof map and compass reading case cover (£4.95).
The interesting aspect for Jack about this route was that it took in several military aircraft crash sites, predominantly dating from World War II. Jack’s bedroom in his flat was adorned with photos and models of Lancasters, Halifax and Wellington bombers, an American Liberator, a Super Fortress bomber and a Thunderbolt, amongst others. His ex-girlfriend had once unkindly said that his planes were his ‘biggest turn on’. But of course that simply wasn’t true – he also loved the Dales. Hanging on his bedroom wall, between a hanging model of a Stirling Bomber and a photo of a Sabre Jet, was his Yorkshire Dales calendar. The Dales were his special place; a place of breath taking natural beauty and variety, a place of ancient grandeur, a place of tranquillity and soul enriching solitude, a place to be revived and invigorated.
The first point of interest on Jack’s walk was the impact site of an RAF Wellington bomber DV718. Jack stood next to the scarred earth and took several photos before scribbling some notes in his pocketbook. According to the walk notes the bomber crashed in September 1942 in bad weather and blew up on impact when a fuel tank ruptured.
At the next crash site Jack sat next to the twisted propeller of a Hellcat F6F-5 and ate his packed lunch (cheese and pickle sandwich, a cereal and nut type bar, a slice of fruit cake, a pork pie, a carton of orange juice and a bottle of water.)
After several more hours of heavy duty hiking and crash site photography Jack found himself winding down a steep path which led to the crowning glory of his walk – the old farmhouse. The most likely of several theories uncovered by Jack’s research was that the building was hit by a nose diving German Bomber which ran into difficulty heading back from a notoriously devastating raid on Bradford. There was, however, a very passionate counter argument by a local historian quoted in one of Jack’s guides which suggested that the home suffered due to the unfortunate proximity to RAF Womad, which was situated just over a mile away. The base had been targeted several times in late 1943, early 1944.
Either way the fact remained that a family of five died here when their cottage was hit by a Dornier Do 215. The site was eerily beautiful and a shiver ran up Jack’s spine as he reflected on the horrific misfortune of a family killed by such sudden, catastrophic tragedy.
The old stone building was overgrown by twisted vines. A leafy branch had grown through the jagged whole where a window once was. The roof was now just a shattered mess of splintered, blackened beams.
Jack slowly turned in the front garden as he took a panoramic photo of the ruined home.
High above him in the afternoon sky a kestrel circled.