Some years ago as an errant and clueless art student, I remember being bowled over by James Ward’s magnificent depiction of Gordale Scar. In excess of fourteen feet in height, and by far the largest canvas in Tate Britain (then simply the Tate Gallery), it caught my eye. I must have lingered for half an hour or so. Marveling in its size, I was transported back to Yorkshire, back to the ‘Gateway to the dales’, a stones throw from where I grew up. Ward completed the work around 1814 and judging by the looming tempest depicted high above the jagged limestone cliffs, the artist didn’t get as lucky with the weather as we were last weekend. Come to think of it, he probably wouldn’t have had the pleasure of staying on the campsite at the mouth of the scar. Who knows?
Gordale Scar Campsite is without doubt one of the most striking sites in England. The current owner appears to be a bit of an artist himself, more Tracey Emin than James Ward. The fellah has an amazing collection of used foil tray barbeques, empty plastic water containers and knackered fold out camp chairs, all neatly stacked in piles awaiting a nomination for the Turner prize. From the looks on the faces of folks milling around the toilet and washing block, I guess the majority of campers thought the old guy must be slowly loosing it. But we ex-art students, we know the truth!
Art aside, I was there to see my pals, some of whom, I’d last clapped eyes on nearly twenty years ago! And what a pleasure it was. It’s amazing how camping can bring folks together. We were surrounded and outnumbered by young candidates for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a couple of whom had the pluck to request that we keep the noise down as they were up at five the next morning. Ok, our party was more Dukes of Hazard than Dukes of Edinburgh, but for Pete’s sake, I hadn’t even got my tent pitched at that stage! An evening in the Lister’s Arms would surely keep us out of trouble.
We awoke in the morning with sore heads and more than a little confusion. So what exactly is a Duke of Edinburgh? We mused. Well, we all agreed, it’s probably a bit like a Prince Albert, but only more painful!