Ambling along the River Esk yesterday I passed a signpost which was being studied by a bunch of lads. One of them quipped, ‘Gill Force? I knew her sister, Gail …’ For some reason I found that quite funny but his mates met the remark with a stony indifference and I thought he’s either too good for this lot or else he’s a right PITA.
I was at the Eskdale Dubfest which is well worth a visit if you like the Lake District scenery, real ale, live music and VW campers. I would add a little caveat – you’ve got to really like the scenery because it’s a helluva drive on some the tight little Lakeland passes. It’s not like driving to Bowness or Windermere.
You’ve also got to accept that not all VW campers are Bays – at the Eskdale event we are vastly outnumbered by the T4s and T5s. And that the musical highlight is Chuck Fish. I saw Chuck, and his pretty young wife last year and I enjoyed the act. They had only just got married and she was clearly besotted by him. She gazed at him as she mouthed all the words to all the songs. This year the magic was not quite there. After a year of marriage she had put on a bit of weight, seemed a little less star struck and her gaze frequently wandered around the pub. I guess that’s marriage for you. Still, the beer was every bit as good as it was last year.
I got myself a table close to the front by reserving a bar meal for myself. Better for Leo too as, in a very crowded pub, he has a refuge under the table. I’d heard that if you stay at the Eskdale campsite you get a discount on bar meals and as I was confirming this at the bar a voice boomed out behind me, ‘ Yes, but you’ve gotta bring a tent peg to prove it!’ I turned round and it was Chuck himself. Not just a great voice but a good line in humour too …
There are three excellent pubs around the campsite, two are in easy walking distance and the third, the Woolpack, is a mile away. They lay on a free shuttle service for this one – it’s an old Army truck which is perfect for the night when the music is on at this pub. Having done the Hardknott Pass in the Sick Bay, I asked the driver if he could get over in this truck. He almost laughed – easy, dead easy. I kept quiet about my ‘achievement’, he didn’t sound like he’d be that impressed.
On the way to the pub I noticed on the horizon a spectacular waterfall and wondered if it would be possible to walk there. In the morning I set off in the rough direction and soon got onto the network of lovely footpaths and bridleways that surround the River Esk. I followed one, heading for Dalesgarth Falls, which I assumed was the waterfall I had spotted the previous day.
Pretty soon I had lost my bearings but Leo and I were happy to plod on as it was a really pleasant walk along a boulder strewn ravine. On either side there were rhododendron bushes which they were trying very hard to eradicate – apparently these invaders make life difficult for native species and provide nothing for local wildlife.
Further along the ravine became really spectacular and the path began to criss cross over small wooden bridges. It became necessary to watch your footing – there was quite a drop and the noise was reaching a crescendo. We passed a guy whose dog, a large Labrador, had simply refused to go any further. Leo took the opportunity to show us all how confident and surefooted he was, by contrast.
Eventually we came to the star attraction, Dalesgarth Falls, and it was well worth the effort of getting there. The noise is deafening as all the river drops through a gap only a couple of metres wide. Impressed as I was however, I had to conclude that this was not the phenomenon I had spotted from the road. That was somewhere else and maybe I’ll get there another day – possibly even buy a map rather than following my nose.
Back at the campsite I mingled with the tiny band of Bayers – it’s not quantity but quality that counts. There were five buses from The Late Bay – me, Martin and his mate from from the North East, the famous Flag Bus and a beautiful blue Westfalia called Clarissa. This is owned by a very pleasant couple, (wish I could remember names), who showed me inside the bus because I wanted to see his dash mounted horn. My horn doesn’t work so I may resort to the dash version. Anyway the interior was every bit as attractive as the exterior and most of it was self built. Geordie Andy was also there but apparently had made his way to the wrong campsite and so I missed him.
I thoroughly enjoyed Eskdale Dubfest 2017 but was sorry that a few diehards such as the Wilmas, (who saved me from freezing last year after I forgot my bedding by lending me a hottie), and Bern had to pull out. Just like last year my friend Dave, (aka Lord Congi), had double booked with a trip to Portugal so I took his booking again. This saved me a few bob on the campsite fees but it would have been nice to have had his company. And I’ve still not seen his new Landmark! Here’s hoping we all make it in 2018.