Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Pennine Way South - Hebden Bridge to Cowling - 17th May 2014

Gorple Reservoir

Breakfast meant going upstairs into the owners part of the house and once up the stairs I found myself in the kitchen where all of the breakfast paraphernalia was set out in neat readiness, although I noticed that there were two place settings on the table. The owner (I never did find out her name) was efficient and polite but gave no sign that she was interested in conversing with me at all, other than providing me with the correct way to tackle the breakfast I had paid for. I imagined that after I had eaten she would 'shoo' me out of the door to enable her to eradicate any trace of me ever having been in her world. The reason for the second place setting soon became apparent as another guest arrived and was given his 'instructions' and though initially as taciturn as the landlady, soon loosened up as we had a conversation about the Pennine Way before I learned that he was in Hebden Bridge for a 24 hour running race. This surprised me as he didn't look like a particularly athletic type and certainly wasn't a youngster, although depressingly, as is becoming more common, I noted he was younger than me! I finished breakfast and returned to my room and was soon outside the front door sitting on the bench provided for putting on walking boots, this being a task that was forbidden in the house. I wondered what happened when it was pouring with rain! 

Top Withins

Returning to the Pennine Way normally involved a trudge back along the canal towpath before enduring a steep climb out of the Calder Valley but the landlady's husband - who I assumed was no longer with us - had written out directions from the guesthouse back onto the Way without having to endure any back-tracking and each guest attempting the walk was furnished with a slip of paper detailing this alternative short cut. I guess that some purist walkers would baulk at the thought of missing a mile or so of the route but I had no such problems and gratefully accepted the route details. I soon found myself walking along a beautiful leafy lane above Colden Water where I eventually rejoined the Pennine Way as it crossed the lane from the left and descended to the river, which it crossed by a bridge in the idyllic surroundings of Hebble Hole. As I climbed steeply up from the river, I looked back and saw the two walkers in the distance that I had last bumped into at The White House pub the day before and I gave them a wave. Apart from a couple of glimpses of them off in the distance throughout the first part of the days walk, I never saw them again and I guess that as they were only planning to go as far as Horton in Ribblesdale, they were in no hurry. 

As I dropped down to Gorple Reservoir, I noticed that the Pennine Way signs and the guidebook diverged so I continued to follow the signs thus avoiding a descent into a small valley where the book showed the Way crossing Graining Water. I arrived at a road and stopped for a chat with a couple, the male half of which reminisced with me about his walk along the route some years before. The walk now followed the road for a while before turning off across the dam of the Walshaw Dean Lower Reservoir. It was here, as I opened the gate to the reservoir wall that I caught my finger in the gate latch and turned the air blue with expletives before trying to 'suck' the pain away. A walker coming towards me in the opposite direction sympathised and told me he had done the same but it didn't ease the pain any. I have to say that of all the irritations I encountered along the way, opening and closing gates while holding two hiking poles was probably the most annoying! 

Ponden Reservoir

For some reason, I had decided that I would finish the day at Ponden, where there was a campsite and I was just setting off after a brief rest break when a walker with no pack caught me up and I stopped to let him go by but he engaged me in conversation about the PW. He told me he was walking to Haworth where there was a forties festival and we walked together over the moors to Top Withins. He turned out to be excellent company and after being mostly alone for a few days,it made a nice change to be able to chat to someone as I trudged up the hills with my heavy rucksack. We reached the ruin of Top Withins, which is a bit of a tourist attraction as it is said to have inspired Emily Bronte when writing Wuthering Heights. There is a plaque affixed to the ruin and an information board but the most remarkable thing about it for me was that some of the signs hereabouts are written in Japanese as they are apparently fascinated with the book and visit Top Withins in large numbers. It was here that I parted company with my newly acquired friend who peeled off on a path to Haworth while I continued along the PW to Ponden. It soon became clear that I was going to arrive in Ponden far too early to stop for the day and I skirted around Ponden reservoir before crossing a road and climbing a very steep field and continued without incident into Cowling, which I had decided would be my revised halt for the night. Here, I secured a pitch for the tent in a field at the back of the Winterhouse Barn B&B for the night and having pitched the tent, proceeded to spray it with the waterproof spray I had purchased the previous day in Hebden Bridge. Later, I walked along the road to the Bay Horse pub for a meal, which I ate in the very busy bar watching Arsenal beat Hull City in the FA cup final. I returned to the tent after the food and a couple of beers and was soon asleep but unfortunately, this wasn't to last long and events during the night caused me to alter my plans for the rest of the walk.   

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