The following morning we were up early and bade farewell to Patrick, who left slightly before us. We were ready just after 7am and heading for a May’s Aladdin’s Cave shop at Highgate Farm. We picked up a path just along the road from the pub, which was to save us looping back to the shop. The shop, and May herself, have become a bit of a Pennine Way legend as she supplies virtually everything a walker could require so we were taking the opportunity to do some resupplying and hopefully to enjoy a hot breakfast. The path emerged onto a country lane but it wasn’t clear which direction we needed to head in so after turning left we stopped a passing motorist who confirmed that we should have turned right. It had only cost us a couple of minutes and we were soon at May’s shop where we met with the couple who we had camped with at Crowden and Standedge. They introduced themselves as Rowan and Gordon and they had taken the opportunity to camp for free in May’s field the previous evening and were now enjoying a hot breakfast before starting the day’s walk. We headed into the shop and purchased various items for the rucksacks from the shop, which was indeed aptly named, stacked as it was with virtually everything a walker could want on the trail. We were very happy to find that there was indeed hot food and we both ordered hot pies and huge pint mugs of tea and took them outside to the picnic table and joined Rowan and Gordon in our second hot breakfast of the trail. We sat chatting for quite some time before we decided that it was time to head off and picked up the Pennine Way, which was just a short walk along the road.
Heading for Walshaw Dean Reservoir
Walshaw Dean Reservoir
Soon, we were back out on the open moorland with open country stretching as far as the eye could see ahead. A reservoir came into view as we were turned downhill towards a row of houses, which we soon passed and descended to the bridge over Graining Water set in a very attractive hollow. The weather was proving to be excellent and the walking was easy and enjoyable as we enjoyed the beautiful scenery around the shores of Walshaw Dean reservoirs that were, bedecked in a floral display of rhododendron bushes. We climbed easily up onto Within’s Height and descended to the ruins of Top Within’s where we took the opportunity to take a break on the bench situated under the tree by the ruins, which are reputed to have literary connections to Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. According to the notice on the building, it is believed that the location may have been the inspiration for Bronte’s book but the building bears no relationship to the one described by the author.
On Withins Height Hill
After taking advantage of a rare phone signal, we sent messages before continuing on to Ponden set in an attractive reservoir valley and climbed steeply out of the opposite side up onto the lonely Ickornshaw Moor. From here, the hills rolled out in all directions and the walk felt remote with a sort of bleak beauty that I find fascinating. One criticism levelled at the Pennine Way by one or two people I had spoken to before setting off was that it crosses large stretches of ‘featureless’ moorland and in the following days, Alan also commented on a dislike for extended stretches of moorland. It is certainly true to some degree that inbetween the ‘highlights’ the route does indeed regularly traverse lonely, often bleak, moorland but I personally didn’t see this as a negative, quite the opposite in fact, as for me it only added to the feeling of remote adventure that I was looking for when deciding to attempt the walk.
As we began descending to Cowling, we passed a number of well tended shooting huts before passing farm buildings and arriving at the road between Cowling and Ickornshaw. I didn’t want to stay again at the campsite in Cowling but we decided that we didn’t have many options, other than booking into a guesthouse, which we decided we didn’t want to do so reluctantly, in my case, we booked in and pitched the tents in the long, comfortable grass. It all seemed so idyllic in the sunshine and as we dried our washing, Gordon and Rowan arrived and pitched their tent a short distance from ours.
Looking towards Lund's Tower
It was here a year earlier that the accumulation of things that had bugged me since I had begun organising the walk came to a head. The noise of the road and the church bells along with my inadequate sleeping bag had contributed to my worst nights camping ever and this combined with events the following day led me to decide to finish at the halfway point in the trail. After we had finished our chores, we walked down to the pub in the village and spent a pleasant evening and enjoyed a delightful meal before returning to the tents where I managed a better night’s sleep than I had the previously.
Camping at Cowling