Does anyone know of a decent etiquette guide for Dales walkers? I’ve tramped the county’s hills and valleys, villages and tracks for umpteen years and still I’m never sure when and how to greet fellow walkers. My guess is that you’re allowed to acknowledge people as long as there aren’t too many folk around. For example, if I’m walking from my village of Langcliffe to Settle along the back road known as the High Way, it seems acceptable to say ‘Morning’ – provided it’s the morning of course – but by the time you get to Constitution Hill at the top of Settle you must not pass the time of day with anyone (unless you know them).
Last week on a lonely green lane, after not seeing a single person for almost an hour, I crossed paths with a jogger who completely blanked me. Perhaps runners and cyclists have their own code of conduct? What do you do when you’re out in the countryside, where paths can be quite busy – like at Gordale Scar or Malham Cove – and where you can spend too much time saying hello when you ought to be admiring the scenery or avoiding animal droppings? Or when you pass a waggle (that’s my collective noun for a group of walkers) who have stopped mid route for refreshments, or you meet at a gate or stile – ‘morning all’ has to suffice in such cases, surely? When a waggle is a straggly waggle, it just becomes tiresome to say hello to everyone.
Then there’s what to say. I’ve tried all sorts … hello, how do, hiya, the aforesaid morning (but at what time should this change to aft’noon?). Just to amuse myself I have been known to drift into Yorkshire with ey up and na’then. Often I’ll come out with something that’s a mixture of many greetings and I’ll wander on, somewhat embarrassed, thinking ‘why on earth did I say that?’.
Sometimes I get the feeling that strangers from distant lands, like Bradford and Leeds, are humouring my quaint rural ways. Other times I receive a wary, suspicious response as strangers mentally question my sanity. And just who am I allowed to involve in this briefest of communication? You can get those strange teenage-type gawpy expressions from some younger folk; others avoid eye contact. Couples can be deep in conversation or mid argument and I don’t like to intrude – do I march on and ignore them? Occasionally there are those who deliberately bring you to halt and want to know your life story – or at least demand to know where you have been/going. There are walkers who insist on mentioning the weather – nice day; bit colder today; that wind’s a bit naughty intit? Not being one for eloquent or snappy responses, I normally respond with ‘Aye’ and quickly move on. And when is just a brief nervous smile, a raising of the eyebrows or a Yorkshire nod of the head deemed acceptable as a greeting? Walking can be stressful. Is it any wonder I try to find the loneliest places in the Dales?
Anyway, on with this week’s photos. The top pic and this one were taken on a morning walk by the Ribble from Horton.
As mentioned on my Yorkshire Surnames page, I write a short piece each month about names for Down Your Way magazine. I’m pleased to see that the publication won Best Community Publication at this week’s O2 Media Awards. Visit http://downyourway.co.uk
I see there’s festive food for sale in supermarkets. First person to ask me if I’ve made any plans for Christmas gets a withering look.