Tuesday 5th July Kirkby Stephen to Keld

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.

Anyway, onwards.

“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.


Monday 4th July Orton to Kirkby Stephen

Over a very civilised breakfast next morning, the landlord, not David, waxes lyrical about Pennine rain, something he seems to relish. Then just as we are finishing breakfast he tells us about some local art installation thing. It’s a pinfold by Andy Goldsbury, and its “just down the road” beyond where we turn off to rejoin the track. Many people might have found this a bit vague. Certainly John and Trish were not sucked in to the idea of seeing it, but of course it was just the sort of thing we would find irresistibly attractive. Even before we had repassed the crazed dog, still hurling itself against the glass, we both knew we were going to look for it. Not that we knew what we were looking for exactly. Or indeed where we should look exactly. But you sort of feel that you will know art when you see it. Unfortunately we never did see it. Even though we now know that we came quite close, it was not “just down the road”. Whether we would have recognised it had we got there is a question which will remain unanswered, as we turned round and retraced our steps to Knott Lane in order to rejoin the track. In compensation we did locate a stone circle by the side of the lane, and failed to herd up two straying sheep escaped from their field. (Very stubborn creatures, sheep.)


Back on the track, then. In retrospect, the walk from Orton to Kirkby Stephen was a most pleasant one. It begins over soft sheep-cropped grass fields enclosed by stone walls beneath Orton Scar. There are views to Howgill Fells. After a short moorland detour you come to Sunbiggin Tarn “an important bird sanctuary” rather lacking in birds today.


After the Tarn there is a short section of road where Ray spots a rare flower.


Then this very varied day continues over more moorland, then farmland, via a cow blocked gate to “One of the most important prehistoric sites in Britain”, apparently, being the Severals Village Settlement (Unexcavated!!) Whilst it looks no more than a field, you must not walk on it. It is all very pretty hereabouts, however, and we stop for lunch just by it, sitting by flower encrusted limestone pavement with a view down into Smardale Bridge. Across the valley are the ‘Giants Graves’ (Rabbit enclosures? Pillow mounds? No one seems sure.)


Down in the valley there is a bridge across the Scandal Beck, a few ‘hairy cooos’, a disused railway line (Tebay to Kikby Stephen), sunshine, and lots of little fish in the stream. Then its up and up again, alongside that very long wall, to see a view of the distant Smardale Viaduct.


The track continues up over Smardale Fell. Once over the crest we should see views of Kirkby Stephen, but we don’t. We can certainly see the Pennines, however, and they are close now. We descend, join a road, then turn back through fields and cross underneath the Settle to Carlisle Line.

After a diversion around the very muddy yard of Greenriggs Farm we enter the back lanes of Kirkby Stephen. Shortly these same lanes spit us out into the throbbing centre of the town. It is only the B6270, but it feels as though the town straddles the A1. There are lorries aplenty, cars, buses and motorbikes. Women with buggies and schoolkids on bikes throng the pavements. Noise. Confusion. We’ve been countrified for too long evidently. The up side of town life is, of course, the Tea Shop. Words cannot fully express the pleasure which can be enjoyed at this stage of the day from a cup of tea and a piece of lemon drizzle cake!


Ah, Kirkby Stephen, the northern equivalent of Totnes, capital of weird. Opposite the tea shop is Old Croft House, our B&B for the night. It is indeed an old house. A slightly rusty iron gate prefaces the solid front door. Inside, dark wooden panelling and red painted walls; a quirky suit of armour holding white gloves in the hallway.


The landlady hopes we weren’t hoping for an evening meal. Officially we were, but after yesterday our expectations have relaxed somewhat. She’s too busy to cook as she is moving out on Friday. Not going far though. Only to the other end of the village to enjoy a sort of retirement. “Couldn’t leave Kirkby!”

She ushers us upstairs, past an enormous book clad wall. “Weathers not good tomorrow.”

Our room is not so much a bedroom, more a fairy glade. Clashing green and pink walls are surmounted by a fabric covered ceiling gathered together in the centre. It gives the impression of a large tent. The walls are hung with numerous fairy pictures. The small colourful bathroom is crammed with bathing products and includes a foot spa. The bed is old fashioned and high, and it is rather dark in the room. Too dark to read anyway. I suppose that, given the unusual surroundings, it is not surprising that we have our first and only falling out of the walk here. THE BOOK has to take some of the responsibility for this, as it turns out that I am not the only one to be spooked by the description of the way over Nine Standards Rigg… the poor paths, the deep bogs.. especially the deep bogs. I am worried. Instead of keeping this to myself I have to tell Ray, and I have to go on about alternative paths, and what happens if the mist is down, and so on and so forth. I feel better after our discussion, but he does not.

Following a rest we hit the high spots of KS. Namely the Church (Cathedral of the Dales with Viking Loki Stone), the furlong signpost, and the Temperance Hall and Hotel. We even hear and then see one of the flock of large blue Macaws that roam the town by day and home at night. (Quirky? KS?? Nooo)

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With the matter of tomorrow not settled between us, and the weather deteriorating, it was a bit of an unquiet night.

(Although not as much as it was for John and Trish sleeping next door who claimed that their room was haunted!)

Sunday 3rd July Shap to Orton

Wake up in The Hermitage on another bright and beautiful morning. No pressure today as we have a short ‘recovery’ day of 8 miles. The main route carries on to Kirkby Stephen, some 20 miles away, but we are going to make the less stressful detour to Orton, and stop there for the night. Outside the beautifully maintained garden is bathed in sunlit dewiness, and there is already someone up a ladder painting the windows. There is a fantastic breakfast. I think it’s the only actual FULL English I have on the entire trip, witness to yesterdays exertions, and its really good. Even the marmalade seems special. Everyone seems cheerful too. Even the painter. “Well, you av to take advantage of dry weather round ere!”

I am foolishly excited about crossing the M6. All this nature we have seen, and I am thinking about a motorway. Something not right there surely. The walk through Shap is surprisingly long. It is a brilliant example of that ‘O’ level geography settlement phenomenon, the ‘Ribbon Development’. It is hard to imagine now what it must have been like here when the village was on the main and only western route for most of the traffic going to Scotland. Particularly quiet and empty on this Sunday morning, it must have then been thronged with lorries and fumes. It is still the highest main road in the country, and I can remember in early life hearing news report about traffic stranded in the snow at Shap.


It’s a 20 minute walk out to the bridge over the M6, through houses and then over fields. In the distance over to the right you can clearly see the Lakeland Fells, and even make out Kidsty Pike. This occasions a twinge of regret. As Wainwright says, leaving the Lakes is sad, and in some ways the best of the walk is now over. On the other hand there is a sense of achievement. We made it across the lakes with legs and feet in working order. The next section is into the unknown, as neither of us knows much about Westmorland, so that is exciting too. Onwards, then, across that motorway!!

Crossing the M6 does not disappoint. After days of foot paced travel the cars seem to be going at rocket speed. How can they go so fast?? We fail to capture it on camera anyway… no wide angled lens, it looks like any old dual carriageway.

The route continues via a quarry, and on up over some moorland still in view of the M6.It is already getting hot, or maybe its just me.A shady break is taken under some obliging trees before we emerge onto another moory treeless expanse. One thing you learn on this walk is that, as with bogs so it is with moors. There are many different types. This one is a limestone type of moor.

Just off to the right there is, allegedly, an ancient stone circle. Wainwright mentions it as a double circle. Of course Raymond, that renowned antiquites bagger, is off across the tussocks with stone detector on ‘stun’ before you can say ‘are you sure th…’. Clearly feeling the effects of yesterday my enthusiasm for this is low. Nevertheless the circle is found, admired and photographed. Afterwards the path is also refound. It’s a strange thing to me, but if you go off of the path on moors or bogs for only a short distance, it disappears completely from view. There’s something perceptual and philosophical going on there. Deep.


A short distance up the track we meet an American waiting patiently for his wife, who has also gone in search of the stones. They later become known as Bob and Priscilla, a couple from Connecticut with a liking for Real Ale and British puddings.

Soon after this Ray is taken with a field of thistles! In the context of the rest of the day this particular wildflower spotting proves to be rather insignificant. Next we see the limestone pavements as we approach Crosby Ravensworth Fell. Something I have only seen on TV or in books. Yes there really are clints and grykes, and yes they really do have little rock gardens growing down in them clip_image006

The distant horizon now reveals the Pennines, our next objective, and a sight to carry us forward if one were needed.

The legs are weary, and at one point we descend and ascend the sharp sides of a little dry valley. When we emerge onto a road we realise that in that valley must have been the cairn with the unlikely claim of being Robin Hoods Grave. Ray is put out. We have missed an antiquity (To be fair we don’t miss any others. It only happened this time because I had THE BOOK, and my navigation is pants. I’ve never got much of an idea how far along a path we are.) If I were anything of a wife I would have insisted on going back. Sad to say, I only thought about my aching legs, and wasn’t keen to go backwards. I now regret this failing deeply, and would most humbly like to apologise dear Ray. (Whilst knowing that this doesn’t in any way make up for my selfishness…)

Anyway, we didn’t get to see Robin Hood’s ‘Grave’. We walked on instead up a somewhat boring section of road until we reach a viewpoint where I receive a photography lesson.

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Same path, two shots. They do look completely different.

On past a lime kiln where a group of Australians are having a photo stop. Then we turn off the main track.

From this point we descend towards Orton, alongside the MOST beautiful stream. Wildflowers are everywhere in profusion as we cross and recross the tinkling stream on small picturesque bridges. There are so many different kinds you can hardly believe what you see. It really is a kind of bucolic idyll, and makes you feel that perhaps the countryside isn’t so doomed after all whilst also making you wonder if it was mostly like this before THE CAR.


You want this little path to last and last, but when we eventually emerge into Orton it is like walking onto the film set for Middlemarch. The path comes out between beautiful gold coloured Georgian style manor houses, not even on a tarmac road. It is an uncanny feeling, taken with the lovely path. Like time travel.

It is about 1.30, so we are in time for a pub lunch, even if they close in the afternoon. The recently reopened George Hotel is easily found. Its very quiet indeed for a Sunday. There is a TV, but its fairly small and unintrusive. It is also relaying sound consistent with the programme being shown (football) unlike those wall sized TVs in many pubs these days. I demand a beef burgher – rather out of character. I am starving again. More beer please. Course, we shouldn’t have too much as we have an evening meal booked at the B&B. A sumptuous 3 course affair according to our information.

Later we proceed outside for a large ice cream from the Orton Chocolate Factory. Yum. The chocolate Factory itself is similar to the small enterprises in Swansea and Pembertons in Llanboidy, except that it has a large café area and a bigger shop than I have seen elsewhere. The chocolate novelty items on sale are awesomw in their variety. Unfortunately not likely to survive in a rucksack, so we buy a couple of bars. After that, time to spare until we can check in about 4.00, so atour of the village reveals more beautiful houses, a shop and post office, a set of stocks and a church – All Saints - with a white tower.


The proprietors of Barn House will be waiting for us with tea and cakes we are told, so when we pass a village Strawberry Tea event with union jacks flying we resist temptation in spite of the friendly shout, “Come on in. We’ve got plenty to spare!!”

There’s a school here too. What must it be like to live here? Can’t help but wonder if it is a idyllic as it seems.

Our B&B is outside the village at the side of a little housing development, inside one of which a barking dog is hurling itself furiously against the glass by the front door. (One of the very few dogs we saw en route, and the only unfriendly one I can remember.)

Our landlady for the night is busy in the garden when we get there. No tea and cakes in evidence. It seems that Lilian and David have moved on… Disappointing! Later the second disappointment when no evening meal seems to be forthcoming. Although we later find out this is because the pub is now open, it would have been nice to know. (Mickeldore failure we later realise, when it happens again in Kirkby Stephen.) The house seems to have been purpose built for B&B, as the guest half is self contained. Our room has its own staircase up to modern arty interior decorated with posters from the Tate Gallery and tones of Shocking pink and Lime green. Lots of magazines. I find a recipe for Sloe Whisky.

Later, back in the pub, we meet up with John and Trish, and there is much talk of Golf and related matters. Not something we can really contribute much on.