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That Reminds Me – the joy of proper walking boots


OVER the past 20 years or so I have tramped many thousands of miles in the wake of our dogs – two working cockers and now a yellow Labrador pup. For much of the time I did it with wet feet.

I have spent fortunes on guaranteed ‘waterproof’ boots which proved to be anything but. And those which did succeed in keeping out the moisture caused my feet to sweat profusely with the same end result.

With the onset of age I developed a variety of aches and pains, including severe backache and shin splints – tenderness along the tibia, or shin bone.

One day in the park, a bloke who has a cockapoo named Summer – dog people tend to remember the pets’ names while never asking what the owner is called – noticed my grimace and asked what the problem was.

When I replied ‘shin splints’, he smiled and said: ‘I used to have that. What you need is a visit to Whalley Warm & Dry.’

That was my introduction to a wonderland of outdoor apparel set back from the main street in Whalley, a small town on the other side of Clitheroe. It is only four miles or so from our home but boasts customers from throughout the country who often build weekend trips or holidays to the Lakes or Dales around a visit to Warm & Dry. Its website claims a clientele from every postcode area in the country but one.

Apart from its vast range of waterproof coats, jackets, headgear, socks and I don’t know what else, the great selling point of Warm & Dry is its specialist boot fitting service. After making a telephone appointment (I had to wait a few days because they were booked up) I arrived last week for my fitting with a chap named Dave. He asked me what sort of walking I did, and I replied mainly on the fells, the banks of the Ribble and the park. Did I have any health issues? Backache and shin splints.

For the first time since I was a nipper in a Clark’s shoe shop, I found myself having my feet measured in every conceivable way. Dave informed me that the left was slightly bigger than the right, but assured me that hardly anyone’s are exactly the same. In adulthood, I have always taken a size eight but Dave said I was in fact a seven or seven-and-a-half and needed a broad fitting.

From the endless shelves of footwear he selected a pair of Arncliffe boots, size seven with a G fitting, made by Altberg, a Yorkshire-based outfit established in 1989. The accompanying leaflet vouchsafed that ‘the leather used in Altberg boots is European, best quality full grain, selected personally by the Altberg Senior Bootmaker during his visits to the Tannery’. Which is kind of him.

Dave removed the insoles and replaced them with some heavy-duty jobbies guaranteed to cushion my aching frame.

The boots seemed to fit fine but Dave was not satisfied, feeling they were a ‘bit snug’ around the instep. He produced a pair of seven-and-a-half G with which he was more satisfied. They felt extremely comfortable but he said if I felt they were at all too tight I could bring them back and have them stretched free of charge. Provided I kept them moistened with beeswax to prevent cracking, he said, they should last at least seven years by which time they might need resoling, another service on offer.

And so, after a consultation of about half an hour, I had my new boots and all that remained was to pay for them. With the insoles, beeswax and a little brush to apply it with, the total came to just short of £300. Which is more than I have ever paid for a pair of boots but, I reflected, if they give me seven years of happy walking they will be well worth the price.

At the weekend I christened my Arncliffes on a wet and windy fell and I have to say I am delighted with them. Completely watertight yet still breathable, hence sweat-free. Brilliant support for my creaky old ankles. And my back and shins feel better already. My only regret is that I didn’t visit Warm & Dry two decades ago.

The Absolutely Interlude

I wonder how many readers remember as I do the TV game show Take Your Pick, presented by Michael Miles. It began with the Yes No Interlude, during which contestants tried valiantly to avoid saying yes or no despite Miles’s best efforts to tempt them into it. Standing beside them was Bob Danvers-Walker, who would bang a gong when they succumbed to their host’s trickery.

A suitable modern equivalent, I feel, would be the Absolutely Interlude, when a gong would be bashed every time a sporting commentator or pundit used the dreaded A-word. I have already complained about Gary Neville’s constant use of ‘absolutely’ but he has many rivals, pre-eminent among them the dreadful Ally McCoist.

This former footballer brings a broad Glaswegian accent to ITV’s World Cup coverage, presumably to soothe the sensibilities of its tens of viewers north of the border. His analysis combines stating the blindingly obvious with the finesse of a pub bore, while agreeing with everything the commentor says, invariably saying ‘absolutely’ (gong!) and usually followed up by ‘I really believe that, I really do.’

Which brings me to another bête noire, the ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley, or Cloyve Tywdsloy as he would pronounce it in his herniated Estuary English. By the sound of him, you would think he hailed from Basildon, Chelmsford or some other Essex conurbation. In fact, he was born in 1954 in Radcliffe, near Bury, but managed to lose his Lancashire accent like a snake sheds its skin, leaving it in a bin at Watford Gap services. Shame on him.

Still on footie, I can’t resist sharing with you a wicked email from my former Daily Mail colleague Mike Stanford. He wrote: ‘Re the World Cup and speaking as someone who fell out of love with football many years ago, I notice that the BBC scoreline on the England-Iran match read ENG-IRA.

‘Thank God Nigeria are not scheduled to play Germany.’

Old jokes’ home

I’ve decided to sell my Hoover. It was just collecting dust.

A PS from PG

I goggled. Her words did not appear to make sense. They seemed the mere aimless vapouring of an aunt who has been sitting out in the sun without a hat.

PG Wodehouse: Right Ho, Jeeves

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to

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