End of Phase 4

Monday 25th June 2018

Train delays today have made this a long journey home.

As I left the Youth Hostel it was to the sound of a camera clicking. Hester had been commissioned to submit a set of updated photographs of Hawes YHA, the location and some guests. I doubt that I represent the YHA target market but it was nice to be included.

Yesterday three of us travelled with The Little White Bus Company (phone, book, pay, go – a most excellent arrangement) to Snaizeholme to find some special residents of the forest.

I sat very still…

This little one liked my walking poles.

It was a delightful experience, more so for being a last minute whim and with no expectations.

In the afternoon I attended a lecture in a very hot and stuffy room at the Museum. The topic was a survey of hay rake making at Askrigg, and although the subject sounds dry, I was interested in the farming methods and tools that kept so many people employed a century ago. Extra interest was added because the audience included people who added their memories of the industry and the people involved.

This morning I once again used the services of the Little White Bus Company to get to Garsdale Station. I think the drivers are volunteers but a lady on the station platform described their service as essential in a rural community.

Garsdale Station Platofrm
No plastic bottles here. Drinking water is on tap.

There was an air of ‘holiday’ about the Leeds – Settle – Carlisle line that disappeared once I arrived at Carlisle which hosted the Trans Pennine route as well as the traditional north-south Virgin trains. A number of freight trains went through the station while I waited.

Just oe of several freight trains using Carlisle Station

The hot weather added to the incident tally that meant over 50% of the trains were delayed, including my train south. Safely home at 10pm, a mere 12 hours after negotiating the Youth Hostel steps, and Phase 4 is complete.

Many thanks to Tom, who stopped me as I was boarding the bus in Hawes, told me he has cycled LEJOG twice, and made a donation to Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. Also to Val for your donation that was waiting for me when I arrived home. Reflections to follow.

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Walk Day 55 – Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes

Friday 22nd June 2018

14.55 miles today. 596.50 miles total.

My last walking day of Phase 4 and another day of glorious views, Packhorse trails and grass paths and wide skies.

My lunch break was spent on the bank of a delightful stream in the company of swallows that swooped around me chasing gnats and midges.

They breed them tough up here. Today’s paths were mostly packhorse trails up over the tops with wide views.

I met a man who had started walking from Hawes and was on his way to Edale for the start of the Summer Spine Ultra – a race along the full length of the Pennine Way. Apparently it starts at 8.30 tomorrow morning. He is now 72, and was the oldest finisher in 2014 but is going as a supporter tomorrow.

The Pennine Barrier Ultra starts at 6.30am from Edale is a ‘mere’ 50 or 100 miles. The route will be busy over the next few days.

At one point I counted 18 paragliders above Cam High road, an old Roman road.

These ladies came across me sitting down giving some First Aid to my feet and stopped to check all was well. They reminded me of some people I’ve known in that they had an opinion but were too polite to voice it.

This was Gayle, the last stop before Hawes YHA.

Rest Day at Horton in Ribblesdale

Thursday 21st June 2018

It’s the longest day today, but for me it has been a rest day.

The sun has been shining all day and a stiff breeze has stopped it getting too hot. Once again I’m camped in a lovely spot with great views.

This the campsite between visitors – just me.

These tiny lambs are one field away. They are the smallest I’ve seen for weeks.

This the flock being moved back into the field on the other side of the wall from me. The sheepdogs were really enthusiastic and seemed to love their job.

I’ve reorganised all my kit,

discovered some items on need of repair/replacement, eaten a lot, updated my log book, cut a new orthosis for my right shoe, and had a peaceful day.

I had lunch at the Pen-y-Ghent cafe and signed their Pennine Way log-book that dates back to 1965.

As the day wore on people started to trickle into the campsite. A Duke of Edinburgh group with leaders and an assessor, people starting the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in the morning, Pennine Way walkers.

This is a great place for active people, but it does mean a fair number of very-tired folks sitting without shoes and socks at the end of the afternoon. Most satisfying.

Tomorrow is my last walking day of this phase, and I then have to wait three days in Hawes before my train home on Monday. This was not the original plan, but the position of campsites forced higher daily mileage, getting me to Hawes earlier.

Walk Day 54 – Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale

Wednesday 20th June 2018

13.50 miles today. 580.49 miles total.

“Good if you like high, wild and lonely places” was the verdict on the Pennine Way delivered by one of the long-legged speedy locals today.

There was a succession of them, striding up hills as if they were flat, walking faster than I can run., keeping warm in the strong breezes. It was a chill wind today, bringing mist and rain, and clearing away the heaviest cloud later. Sunny patches started to scud across the landscape by around lunchtime, but the wind stayed strong.

There are few pictures from this morning because I was trying to keep the phone dry. Sadly I didnt see the Peregrine Falcons nesting at Malham Cove although others did.

The limestone pavement was slippery, and the Pennine Way signage (minimal) blended into the background of mist so it took me several attempts to prove I was in the right place and find the little gate in the wall. I suspect the sheep thought I’d taken up residence.

A party of foreign tourists passed me travelling in the other direction, and most were wearing inadequate clothing. They must have been soaked and frozen.

The first hint of the cloud lifting came on the northern edge of Malham Tarn.

After that it became easier to follow the paths, but distance vision remained a challenge.

By this time the cloud had lifted above the tops of the hills.

This is Pen y Ghent, one the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks.

I had already decided to walk around it rather than over it because it comes at the end of a long day. A woman who set off on the ‘up route just as I set off on the ‘down route arrived at the campsite around 90 minutes after me, and she walks faster than me.

This was my, more gentle, route down.

My camp site tonight is busily packed with small tents. Horton in Ribblesdale appears to be a focus for the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge and it looks as if one large group is preparing for something similar.

This morning’s breakfast in the Youth Hostel showed how well behaved children can be. I hope the ‘older’ ones can be as good here tonight.

Walk Day 53b – Gargrave to Malham

Tuesday 19th June 2018

6.46 miles this afternoon. (11.46 miles today) 566.99 miles total.

Summertime, and the walking is easy. Mostly.

A few climbs but nothing taxing, and of course, lovely views again.

Initially through meadows.

Much of the journey followed the banks of the river.

It included more encounters of the bovine kind. At one point a mother and daughter were standing in my way on the path. The mother looked at me, the daughter tried to suckle, and I walked a wide circle around them.

This lamb was trying a varied diet. Grass must get boring after a while.

I met several other groups of walkers. The men that really impressed me were just getting back into their cars after a six mile walk around Airton. “It’s as much as we can manage nowadays. Every Tuesday we walk together.” They looked as if they were in their seventies, but then it transpired they were all in their eighties. One was eighty-three, another said he was eighty-six and a half. They were encouraging too, as most folks are.

These youngsters huddled together as I walked past. Maybe I looked too scary.

And finally – after over 560 miles…

My first proper cream tea of this journey. I shared the crumbs with a local sparrow.

It waited until I’d finished before landing on the table.

Malham Youth Hostel is fully booked with around fifty Year 4 schoolchildren and their teachers. I’ve booked the only available option which is a camping pod. Outside.

Walk Day 53a – Thornton-in-Craven to Gargrave

Tuesday 19th June 2018

5 miles so far today. 561.99 miles total.

Moving onto Malham after this coffee break.

My energy and health have returned with the sunshine, and easy walking this morning has helped.

The longhorn cattle and the donkey were in the fields at the campsite this morning.

As I was leaving the campsite Steve the dry-stone waller arrived and gave me a donation to PCRF. Thank you. I commented on the flat stones he was using for his wall compared to some other walls I’d seen and he indicated he worked with all sorts. The work I saw looked very smart.

Today, just as I needed it, I’ve encountered gentler hills, a walk along a canal bank and many meadows with lots of soft grass. Lest I get too bucolic I’ve also walked through a slurry bog and now have ‘wet swamp’ shoes and socks again!

Sheep and cattle to admire, and distant views of hills.

On the animal front I watched with astonishment as a black ewe leapt right over a sheep gate, leaving her twin lambs behind! They leapt too but fell back. As instructed I went through the metal gate and closed it securely, smiling at the relative pointlessness of my rule-keeping.

I also had one of those ‘unsure’ moo-ments in one field of ‘teenage’ heifers where a squealing sound rather like the bovine equivalent of ‘yippee, entertainment’ greeted my arrival.

It really doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself they are harmless; when they are running towards me, it’s quite intimidating.

I’ve refined my approach to cattle following the advice received after the field of bullocks in Herefordshire and spoke rather than shouted, and tried not to frighten them. They did move, and I didn’t get kicked or jostled, but they all sniffed at my arms and I received a gentle shove in the back from one.

Once I was safely on the other side of the gate they all looked gorgeous and were sniffing and trying to lick me.

The next field contained rams but they seemed unaffected by my presence.

I’m writing this from ‘The Dalesman’ tea rooms where John has just given me a donation to PCRF. Thank you.

Thank you also to Linda and to Jean for your donations.

More later.

Walk Day 52 – Ickornshaw to Thornton-in-Craven

Monday 18th June 2018

7.4 miles today. 556.99 miles total.

I slept late this morning and only just managed to get myself packed up and out of the campsite by 10am – a very late start. Luckily for me it was a shorter day.

Lucky, because I am bone weary. Even picking up walking poles this morning was hard work.

So I broke the walk into very small sections and had a rest after each one. It meant I didn’t arrive at the campsite until 3.15ish, but it got the job done.

Also in my favour today is that the walking has been more gentle than of late with more grass and meadow and slightly less steep inclines. In fact it has been beautiful.

At one of my rest points I was met by a wall-eyed tri-colour border collie. His handler was smartly dressed in tweed jacket and flat cap, and told me the dog was fifteen years old and deaf, but still had sharp eyesight. The handler also checked where I was going and said, “By’t wall”, making sure I didn’t make the common mistake of taking the wider path to Earby with a road walk back, “Appens all’t time.”

And… when I arrived here I was able to pay close attention to the construction of a new dry-stone wall. Fascinating.

Walk Day 51 – Graining Water to Ickornshaw

Sunday 17th June 2018

10.99 miles today. 549.59 miles total.

Overnight rain meant I packed a wet tent this morning before setting off towards Bronte country.

This was the view from my tent this morning.

The early part of the day was flattish walking around another reservoir, then a long climb on pavement to the house ruin at

Top Withens that is not, repeat not,

Wuthering Heights. Nevertheless it had many visitors.

The Bronte Way is signposted in Japanese as well as English.

I took my leave and travelled up and down hills,

past another reservoir or two,

up an exceptionally steep hill with beautiful purple grass, up some more, across more moor,

and finally down through a beautiful meadow to the road.

At this point I followed the squirrel signs to the camp site where I am now the sole occupant of the bunkhouse, warm and cosy. I would recommend this site for getting a lot right. Check it out.

Today’s smile moment came when I was invited to play by a border collie.

I called the game ‘stone’ but someone I encountered later said there is a variation called ‘ball’ and the dog is well-known for amusing passers by.

Walk Day 50 – Lumbutts to Graining Water

Saturday 16th June 2018.

9.41 miles today. 538.60 miles total.

Stoodley Pike was visible from my tent door last night; this morning the grey and purple cloud behind it lent a menacing air, and it took most of the day before it disappeared from sight.

I was amused by a procession of newly shorn sheep at Mankinholes.

There was more variety in today’s walking.

Steep wooded valleys, canal towpaths, moorland, and of course the ever-present steep climbs and descents, and the ubiquitous limestone pavements of the Pennine Way.

Accumulated tiredness caught up with me and I spent some time trying to work out if this is simply that ‘end of the beginning’ feeling that is familiar in any kind of long-term enterprise, or whether it was the effect of longer mileage and a heavier pack.

Many thanks to the kind lady who bought me a cuppa at May’s amazing shop. It’s one of the few places that is passed on by word of mouth among walkers, as well as being in the guidebooks.

I was quite buoyed up by her encouragement and chirpy good humour, “It’s a lovely walk over the tops, an old packhorse route” and set off with a spring back in my step, imagining the traders and drivers of yesteryear.

It wasn’t long before the steep stony track and strong wind-driven rain that soaked through my overtrousers provided an antidote to any Hollywood type ideas of such a life.

The spit-spot rain followed by the drenching meant very few photographs today,

although it has had some of the best views in between the wet stuff.

When I finally arrived, dripping wet, at the Packhorse Inn aka The Ridge, it was to find three others already gently steaming themselves dry. Lana, Amy and Guy were waiting for a lift home having given up trying to fight the weather.

I left all my waterproofs to drip and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in the pub. With the exception of my shoes and socks I’m now damp rather than sodden.

The landlord of the Packhorse Inn kindly arranged for me to camp in a field just a couple of hundred yards away. It’s sheltered and feels safe. Thank you Nigel and Mart for allowing me access to your land.

Walk Day 49 – Standedge to Lumbutts

Friday 15th June 2018

13.5 miles today. 529.19 miles total.

I overslept this morning and was woken by the sound of the two tents behind me being packed away, and the men chatting as they left.

The wind had died down overnight and it was so still that there was condensation on the tent.

The Pennine Way is very close to the pub and one of the first places I went through was Thieves Clough, which I think I read about in the library yesterday.

They sounded like England’s version of the hole-in-the-wall gang.

Walking was mainly across moorland with the stone pavements and rocky paths that I’ve come to expect of the Pennine Way.

The views improved as I climbed higher.

Daniel was travelling in the opposite direction and greeted me by name. Apparently he had encountered P earlier and had been told to look out for me. We had a chat before continuing our walks.

The weather varied between threats of rain, blustery winds and occasional sunshine. It meant the light was constantly changing and I stopped for lots of photographs.

According to the guide book these single-bloom flowers like wet ground.

Whereas the multi-bloom version like ground that is very wet. It’s a useful hint about foot placement.

My lunch break was taken at a seat cleverly created on the moors.

As I was eating I heard a buzzing noise and saw a drone above me. A man was standing on the moor about 100 yards away, but moved away when I spotted him. Thankfully he took his drone with him. This is Blackstone Edge.

This is the Aiggin Stone, an ancient route marker matched with one of the many cairns that mark the route of the Pennine Way.

At the White House pub Vince gave a donation for PCRF, thank you. This pub was on my ‘Recommended’ list from other walkers accounts. I arrived too late for anything other than a quick drink, but they were welcoming and it looked like a place to come back to.

The last five miles around the reservoirs were longer than the route plan because of a footpath diversion.

The views remained splendid and Stoodley Pike became an ever-present landmark.

The last two miles were downhill on another stone pavement on the Calderdale Way. That was rather hard on the feet.

My destination tonight is the field next door to the Top Brink Inn where I’ve only just managed to finish my dinner. Thankfully I pitched the tent before I started to eat.