Tuesday brings a grey sky seeming to promise rain… but its not raining yet, and not too windy. We may yet make it alive over the peat bogs after all. Breakfast is a dark affair in a dark wood panelled room. It’s a relief to get out into the air and on our way through the back of the High Street and over a stream (Frank’s Bridge), towards the village of Hartley.
We’re not very cheerful. Oh dear. Bit silent. Hartley is most definitely on Postman Pat’s route. (Although Pat’s Village is supposed to be in the Yorkshire dales I thought). Anyway, if there were any doubt about it, there is his van!!
We turn left for a look around the village instead of going right. I bend down, fatefully, to tighten my laces (this operation is performed daily after about half an hour, and is probably why I have no blisters but a numb toe). When I straighten up from the lace of destiny my walking companion, light of my life, long suffering friend, has gone. No problem you might think. Can’t have gone far.
It turns out that the village has THREE bridges over a small stream, all within 300 yards, but not visible to each other.
In retrospect viewed from above we must have looked like one of those preposterous farces on stage where people come and go through revolving doors (or in this case over bridges) somehow without catching sight of each other. Of course Ray thinks I was doing it deliberately. Of course I think that he was. Whatever. It went on for far too long and became too serious to see the funny side. I even went a short distance up the track before turning back and going round the village again. So did he. Still we didn’t see each other. Finally I enlisted the help of a village resident, ‘Mrs Goggins’, who was out polishing her letter box.
Had she seen a man circling the village with a blue rucksack? No she hadn’t, but her conclusion was “It’s the gentlemen. They can’t help it.” Followed by the observation that hers was safely playing golf today so she knew where he was.
Just after leaving her I was off for another circuit, when we met up! I was upset. He was a bit cross. Mrs Goggins came down the road to see what had happened. Never could explain it.
I was left to contemplate ruefully how easy it is to lose someone in a short time.
The quietness continued.
“This day is something of a Red Letter Day. Not only do you cross the Pennines – the so-called backbone of the British Isles on whose flanks the Industrial Revolution gathered pace 200 years ago – but in doing so you cross the watershed of the Coast to Coast”
You also cross from Cumbria into Yorkshire.
Also Keld is half way.
Well then lets crack on. The track is now up past a quarry, and up and up onto the open top. Most people have got ahead of us due to the Hartley Disappearance, but we catch up John and Trish by the Rest-a-while Carved Seat. They are taking the lower ‘green’ route today to avoid the bogs. At the parting of the ways we meet Bob and Priscilla. Both concerned about the bogs, but we encourage them that it can’t be that bad (why am I saying this??)
We can now see Nine Standards Rigg in the distance. It doesn’t look that far after all. So we press on up the ‘red’ route, the path designated for July usage, a system in place to try to spread the erosion of the peat. I do want to get there. It looked amazing on TV.
It is amazing.
The monuments have been recently restored, but what they are or why…
They are right at the top, though. FAN-tastical. It is still grey and windy but we can see for miles all around. Too windy to linger long though. We take it in for a while, then onwards dear friends over the hour or so of epic bogs.
How lucky are we that it has been such a dry month. There’s a lot of DRY bog up here. Gynn (U3A) was contemplating making ‘bog shoes’ from old tennis rackets. Not necessary this week, although its easy to see how it could be very tricky in
normal wet conditions. This is a watershed after all.
In some places we descend down into ten feet of peat. Peat Hags. In others we have to leap over wet oozy green stuff. We are constantly going round the worst bits, and then its hard to find a path. Navigation is to head towards distant white posts, when they can be seen at all. Other than that it is just a case of trying to follow the bootmarks.
Its still easy to see that it is drier than usual. What it must be like up here in the wet I can barely imagine.
The grey increases, and it comes to a light drizzle. Then we find a cairn, and a little later a tower of millstones can be seen in the far distance. Bit by bit we make it through and eventually descend from the moor tops, down to a gravely track, where we have lunch with the sheep sitting in a Grouse Butt (semicircular stone hide for gunslingers). The drizzle comes and goes, and the wind wuthers a bit on and off. There is a real sense of freedom up here though. Everything is spare and open. There is something wonderful about it.
We are now in Yorkshire. Not sure if its technically Swaledale as yet, but we are getting there. Although the path is still occasionally muddy, the bogs are behind us, and in a short while we can see the first Yorkshire habitation, Ravenseat Farm. Something of a TV hotspot, this, as the farmers wife, whilst supplying cream teas, featured on Julia’s C to C, and according to the gossip we get in Keld, has been on Countryfile too… and in a magazine!!!
There is a notice on the kitchen door. ‘Ring Bell for Teas’, which we do. Luckily she’s in, and in a couple of minutes we are sitting on a picnic table just moved into the barn as the rain is starting to look more threatening. The cream tea arrives, as do more people. Its great.
She already has 5 children, and another is imminent. She tells us all that she bakes scones everyday, and nothing ever goes to waste with all those mouths to feed.
The rain is easing off a bit, so we make a move. Not much further to Keld. There are a notable number of stone barns up here, according to Wainwright mostly empty. It gives the scenery an Alpine feel as they are perched on the side of steep inclines.
We follow the river into Keld, hitting the tarmac road just before the Wainwath Falls a spectacle depleted by the lack of rain.
I can live with that!
Keld is a great little village at the head of Swaledale. It is a crossroads of the C to C and the Pennine Way. It was the centre of a lead mining industry in the 19th Century, not that you would ever guess it now. It has a public toilet and a phone box (no mobile signal). There is a Church and a new Visitors Centre, The Keld Countryside and Heritage Centre, only open since May. Inside we learn that Keld is undergoing a kind of restoration resulting in old derelict properties being turned into holiday homes.
It doesn’t take long to see all there is though, and we are making our way up to Keld Lodge, our B & B for the night, and once the old Youth Hostel, when we are accosted by 2 middle aged men sitting on a bench. They are going the other way along the C to C, East to West. How were the bogs, and what was the Lake District like they want to know. They have plenty to say, and one of them has a complete set of Ray Majer Equipment (Zamberlan boots, Green rucksack, and even a blue hat with mesh bits!) Their attention is soon diverted, however, by the arrival of 2 exhausted girls who need their bench, having come via the Pennine Way. We make our escape.
Keld Lodge is more of a Hotel than I was expecting. There’s a friendly bloke at reception who later turns out to be the owner, good food, a drying room AND holy of holies… we get THE ROOM THAT JULIA STAYED IN!!! Nothing more need be said.