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Autumn Gathering near Hebden Bridge 3rd-5th November 2017

GOC’s first autumn gathering at Mankinholes brought together 24 members - including six women - from Scotland, Transpennine, East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales and London. We had exclusive use for the weekend of this atmospheric YHA hostel in a 16th century grade II listed building situated on the edge of the moors, high above the Calder Valley between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.

On arrival at the hostel, the participants, a good number of whom were new to GOC, began to get to know each other over tea/coffee and a selection of cakes. A convivial atmosphere soon started to develop and this continued with a pub meal at the nearby Top Brink Inn, where those staying at the hostel were joined by local GOC member, Bernard, and five others including East Midlands group stalwarts, Sue and Flo.

Next morning, after a communal breakfast of porridge, cereal and toast, 23 people set off to climb local landmark Stoodley Pike, with its iconic monument commemorating the Crimean War. Waterproofs had to be donned on the ascent, but the weather improved as the day progressed.  We continued along the Pennine Bridleway and Pennine Way link path to Hebden Bridge, with its well established lesbian population and plethora of cafés and interesting shops. The return route took us along the canal towpath towards Todmorden and then a short, but steep, uphill section back to the hostel, where we soon polished off the remaining cake.

The highlight of the weekend was Saturday evening when there was a communal meal and entertainment at the hostel. The meal consisted of a Greek salad, followed by a choice of meat and vegetarian pies with peas and green beans, then fruit salad with crème fraiche. This was all washed down with copious quantities of Corbières kindly donated by Adrian and Stuart from the East Midlands group.

The entertainment, for which we were again joined by Bernard and his happy band, was on a ‘traditional Yorkshire and Lancashire’ theme, with a number of people dressed up in appropriate costume including flats caps, waistcoats and collarless shirts. Kevin got the ball rolling with a rousing rendition of The Rawtenstall Annual Fair, a traditional song from Lancashire. Everyone then joined in Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At, Yorkshire’s unofficial national anthem after which there was a recital of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch by Peter, Andy, Kevin and me. The final programmed item was a ‘Yorkshire and Lancashire’ quiz, hosted by quizmaster extraordinaire, Peter Blackburn. However, the merriment continued late into the evening with songs from Kevin, Sue and Flo’s music hall repertoire.

On Sunday morning the weather turned sunny but cold. After another communal breakfast and a quick clean-up of the hostel, we divided into two groups: one driving to Haworth for a visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the other walking from Hardcastle Crags.

The walkers, consisting of 13 people, stuck together for the first few miles through lovely National Trust woodland, then divided again with Kevin leading a shorter variant. The main group, after a packed lunch in a picturesque spot by a confluence of streams, climbed up on to the moors to join the Pennine Way and eventually reach the hilltop village of Heptonstall, where we visited the grave of the American poet, Sylvia Plath, before returning to the car park at Hardcastle Crags.

Many thanks to:

  • Richard, Chair of GOC, for his original concept of a ‘mini-AOG’, which eventually morphed into this event
  • Peter for buying the cakes and hosting the quiz
  • Peter, Andy and Kevin for performing the Four Yorkshiremen sketch
  • Adrian and Stuart for donating the wine
  • Dave and Val for helping with the shopping
  • Kevin for singing the Rawtenstall song and leading the medium walk on the Sunday
  • Others for giving lifts, preparing food, washing up and cleaning the hostel prior to our departure
  • Everyone who attended for helping to make it such a great weekend.

Words: Chris Loy Pictures: Paul Conway and Chris Loy

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