BLAKE Morrison, writer and poet, is also an old boy of Ermysted's Grammar School, Skipton, and what an entertaining guest speaker he was at the school's annual speech day last week. Morrison, now Professor of creative and life writing at Goldsmith's College, University of London, spoke with real fondness of his days at his old school, even though he was caned, and teased for being overweight. Although he now lives in London, he returns regularly to visit his sister in South Craven, he told the assembled parents, students and guests.

He went to school in Thornton-in-Craven and was overwhelmed by the size of Ermysted's when he first arrived. He recalled how younger boys had to wear shorts, unless they were very tall and got a special dispensation, and how he and other boys had played football on the quad, with a rugby ball, because rugby was the school sport. On one occasion, he had kicked the ball right into the face of one of the teachers, resulting in the whole lot of them getting detention. Morrison, who wrote about his parents in his memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father?, which was later made into a film staring Colin Firth, said how his parents had wanted him to become a doctor and take over his practice in Earby, but that his interest lay in English. And, it was at Ermysted's where he made his literary debut - in the school magazine, The Chronicles of Ermysted. But, one of his articles, about a girl whose flammable nightdress caught fire, was censored by the editor, who decided his use of Woolworths as the place of purchase, ought to be changed to the more general 'bought off Skipton Market'. A clash of timetables meant he was unable to study Latin, and ended up studying English Literature at Nottingham University, rather than applying for Oxbridge, which at that time required students to have Latin O Level. He was greatly honoured to have attended his old school on speech day, he told the audience, and to have presented all the boys with their prizes, noting that the most common choice of book by the prize winners, had been Orwell's 1984.

A MAN walking the Pennine Way for charity received a welcome committee of two Shire Horses as he passed through Malham. Keith Stanton (pictured outside the Lister Arms) was on day five of the 268 mile hike, with his dog Phoebe, and had battled through heavy rain and gale force wind to reach the Lister Arms in the village. “I started in Edale and it’s going to take me 16 days of walking in total – I’ll finish on my 55th birthday. I’ve done 200,000 steps so far with my 70lb rucksack on my back," he said. “It’s really not what I expected. It’s been hard work - a lot harder than I thought, and it’s taken a lot more effort. It’s been very cold, very wet and incredibly windy – the wind has knocked me off my feet twice. Hopefully the weather will improve." But the hard work proved worthwhile, as he was on course to raise £5,000 for four charities close to his heart: Parkinsons Disease Society, Dementia Care, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Yorkshire Regiment Benevolent Fund - Keith served with Prince Wales’ Own Regiment of Yorkshire – which is now the Yorkshire regiment. He added: “I decided I wanted to mark my 55th birthday with some kind of event – I’ve walked bits of the Pennine Way before but never the whole route. The Lister Arms was happy to support Keith on his adventure and made sure he was given a good pint of real ale as he travelled through. He was supported by his family and friends who are walking part of the way with him.

CHILDREN at Greatwood Primary School in Skipton have been out and about on a couple of trips - and very different they were too. Key stage two children, seven to 11 year olds, went to Manchester to see David Walliams' Gangsta Granny at the Manchester Opera House, and are here pictured waiting for the curtain to go up. Meanwhile, year one children went on a trip closer to home to the RHS Harlow Carr Gardens, Harrogate. The children where there as part of their work looking at plants and were able to take part in a variety of workshops (pictured) and activities aimed at helping their studies.

A WONDERFUL day out for horse riders is promised on Saturday, July 29 when the Pendle Forest and Craven Hunt holds one of its pleasure rides. The ride will start from Kilnsey Trekking Centre, Conistone with Kilnsey, and will follow a route, much of it over private land, and taking in stunning views of Kilnsey Crag and limestone pavement. There will be some hill work, and trots and canters. Cost, £25 for horse and rider, to include a drink and cup cake. To find out more, and to book a place, telephone Kilnsey Trekking Centre on 01756 752861.

ANOTHER 'pop up' fete held in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, Skipton to coincide with town events, has been declared a great success. The first went ahead on the same day as Skipton Car Show last month, and now, a second has been held on the same day as Sheep Day. Once again, people were offered the chance to climb up the tower, for a wonderful bird's eye view of the High Street, and there was also an outside cafe, with a range of stalls which included home cakes, plant, crafts and bric-a-brac.The Rector of Holy Trinity, the Rev Veronica James, and her team said: "Holy Trinity Church, the church at the top of the High Street are delighted to contribute to town festivals, and look forward to further events."

WHICH part of Craven was once thought to be a gateway to Hell? That’s a question that may evoke a variety of responses from local residents, but the one answer was provided to TV viewers who tuned into BBC4 last week.

The programme was Britain Beneath Our Feet, a repeat of one first shown on BBC1 in 2015, in which presenter Dallas Campbell whizzed rather breathlessly around the country, showing us the surprising and exciting features to be found underground. This took our wide-eyed host from the reassuringly deep foundations of The Shard in London and rowing along a subterranean river beneath the streets of Bristol to somewhere a bit closer to home.This was the entrance to Gaping Gill, which Mr Campbell assured us was once considered to be the aforementioned short cut to Hell.

He also remarked that more people had reached the summit of Everest than had abseiled into the great cavern below, which he then proceeded to do for the camera.One might wonder if one reason for the low number of abseilers might be the fact that quite a lot of people have taken the opportunity to make the descent using the winch facility provided twice a year by Craven Pothole Club and Bradford Pothole Club.

However, having tested any fear of heights by abseiling down, Mr Campbell then suffered further for his art by enduring claustrophobia as he made his way out again by a much narrower route.

Before that he explained briefly how incoming water, like the torrent flowing during the filming into Gaping Gill, had down the millennia created a chamber the size of York Minster, before departing for the next stage of his underground adventure.