Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Pennine Way - 30th June 2015 - Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes - The Cam High Road

Pen y Gent

We awoke to yet another fine day. The campsite was alive with movement as the DOE youngsters and their ‘handlers’ readied themselves for another day in the hills. We packed up and were soon away, although the main road through the village resembled a busy high street with all of the activity as the groups of youngsters headed out, it wasn’t long before we were alone again as we climbed the track out of the village on our way to Hawes. This section I knew was quite straightforward and easy, as it largely follows broad tracks that ascend easily onto open moorland. Alan seemed to be in better form and we were in a relaxed mood as we enjoyed the views across the dales and headed towards Ling Gill Nature Reserve. As we approached the reserve, we could see Gordon and Rowan sitting on the banks of Ling Gill Beck brewing tea and we stopped and joined them for a break. The midges were out in numbers, and we were never really able to relax as we had to constantly brush them away from our faces and Alan and myself were soon on our way again.

The road to Hawes

Ribblehead Viaduct

 As we approached the Cam High Road, the countryside opened out around us and we enjoyed good views to the Ribblehead viaduct in the valley below. This viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument and was constructed between 1870 and 1874 by Midland Railway using a thousand navvies who established shanty towns for themselves and their families on the moors. They named the towns after Crimean war victories, well-to-do areas of London and biblical names. Around 100 navvies were killed during the construction of the viaduct, which now forms part of the scenic Settle to Carlisle railway. The viaduct comprises 24 arches and and is over 100 feet high at it’s highest point. Although I don’t usually like to see man-made constructions in remote natural settings such as this, I had to admit that the viaduct had a graceful beauty that fitted in well with the general surroundings. The Cam High Road made a ninety degree right turn at Cam End away from the viaduct and soon we were walking along it’s wide, stony surface, which in the past was used by the Romans, drovers and packhorse carts. Now, apart from it’s use as a route for the Pennine and Dales Way long distance walks, it is also used for more mundane purposes and at one point, we had to make way for a logging lorry as it bounced past us on it’s way to the forest in the valley below, where we could see much evidence of tree harvesting. 

On the Cam High road

As we continued along the track, we could see a walker approaching us from a distance along a deserted tarmac lane, which he eventually left to join up with our route. We stopped for a chat and while we were talking, I noticed that he was wearing lightweight trail shoes and I had a discussion with him about the benefits of walking in them as opposed to heavier, leather boots. He said that, although the trail shoes wore out fairly quickly, he would never consider returning to wearing boots again as the comfort and light weight of the shoes made walking so much more enjoyable. I had to agree as I had now been walking for a week in my trail running shoes and had suffered no foot problems at all and found them extremely comfortable. After a short walk on tarmac,we turned off onto the West Cam Road, which contoured high above the Snaizeholme Valley, a picturesque scoop in the landscape decorated with forest on it's slopes and one or two farms that punctuated the valley floor where we saw and heard a shepherd on a quad-bike calling to his dog as he herded sheep. I had particularly enjoyed this section the previous year, despite the conditions being somewhat hazy and it proved to be just as enjoyable a march below the summit of Dodd Fell as it had the year before. Just before Rottenstone Hill, we left the West Cam Road and followed an intermittent grassy path down the hillside as Hawes came into view across the grassy meadows in the distance. 

Descending to Hawes

Although the distance of the day’s walk was 14 miles the walking was straightforward and easy, which meant that we were going to be finished just after midday, so we decided to head into Hawes centre for lunch before booking into the campsite. We reached the hamlet of Gayle on the outskirts of the town and crossed fields before finding ourselves deposited in the bustling high street, where we found a table outside one of the pubs and sat enjoying lunch surrounding by a throng of tourists out enjoying the pleasant weather. The campsite was a mile or so from the centre of town and after we had checked in, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon relaxing in the sunshine after we had attended to chores. Later in the afternoon, Gordon and Rowan arrived and pitched in the far corner of the site and I went over to have a chat with them. I had gained the impression that they were on a fairly tight budget as they were rarely in the pub in the evening, preferring instead to cook outside their tent. As the sun set over the hill behind the campsite, we headed back into town where we had dinner in a pub before returning back to the campsite via a slightly shorter route we had discovered across a field. 

Meadow path to Hawes

Monday, 29 June 2015

The Pennine Way - 29th June 2015 - Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale - Twin Peaks

Malham Cove

After a very full English breakfast, we stepped out into a fine morning in Malham and headed along the lane to the start of the climb to the top of Malham Cove. The top of the cove is accessed by a steep, stone staircase that climbs to the left of the cliff, which was a rude awakening so early in day. This impressive, two hundred and fifty foot limestone cliff is topped with an equally impressive limestone pavement. This large, limestone platform is crissed-crossed by narrow channels called ‘grikes’, cut into the limestone by the erosive action of rainwater and leaving small islands in the stone known as ‘clints’. We walked carefully over the potentially ankle breaking pavement to the edge of the cove and peered over the dizzying drop to the path we had climbed up from below. I felt extremely fit and energetic and the view to the riverside path below on this fine morning had a very liberating effect and I looked forward with anticipation to the days march into the Yorkshire Dales, on this, one of the finest days walking on the whole Pennine Way. 

On Malham Cove

Limestone Pavement

 As we turned and headed up the narrow defile of Watlowes dry valley, I wondered what the valley and cove would have looked like in times long past when Malham Beck flowed above ground along the valley floor we now walked along, before tumbling over the huge drop of the cove and into the streambed below. The curious characteristic of limestone country is that over time, rivers erode the limestone riverbed and eventually disappear underground before re-appearing further along it’s course. In this case, the river had disappeared underground before re-emerging at the foot of the towering cliffs. We climbed easily up and out of the valley in impressive rock architecture and eventually emerged into open country next to a small, metalled lane which we crossed before reaching Malham Tarn. The tarn is something of a geographical oddity as it is one of only eight alkaline lakes in Europe and it looked very placid as we skirted around it shores on a pedestrianised path where we passed a few people out for a morning stroll before leaving it to head off across open country towards the day’s next objective, the summit of Fountain’s Fell. 


It was during the next section of the walk over Fountain’s Fell and Pen y Ghent that I noticed that Alan didn't seem to be at his best. Until now, we had been walking well, at a good pace with no real problems and although Alan had suffered a little with blisters and midge-bites, I had detected nothing to suggest that he was suffering from any other issues. However, as we climbed Fountain’s Fell, which is an admittedly long haul although not particularly steep, I noticed my friend regularly falling behind and making occasional, critical comments regarding the scenery we were walking through. These comments, although insignificant on their own, combined with the sudden drop in pace, alerted me to the fact that all may not have been well with my walking companion. As we headed for Tennant Gill Farm, two young walkers appeared on a low rise to our right and fell in behind us after a brief ‘good morning’. We climbed the short, very steep path from the farm and out onto the open fell and as we climbed, decided to pause for a short break for a drink. The two youngsters also stopped and after chatting a while, we ascertained that they had started walking in the Lake District before heading across to the Yorkshire Dales. They were now following a section of the Pennine Way before they headed off west once more with the intention of finishing their walk in Carlisle. We wished them well and they continued their climb before we shortly shouldered our packs once more and continued our climb. It was on this section that Alan fell behind regularly and I stopped every now and again to let him catch up. In fact, the two young lads that we had spoken to were now also walking separately as a large gap had also developed between them. Soon, we arrived at the tall cairns on the top of the climb as the impressive bulk of Pen y Ghent came into view across the valley. 

Pen y Gent

The two young walkers were slumped by one of the cairns and as we passed them, Alan confirmed with me that our route lay over the summit of Pen y Ghent, which highlighted to me that he was feeling the strain of the climb up Fountains Fell. I personally was enjoying myself immensely but tried not to sound too upbeat as I knew this can be annoying to someone not feeling at their best. As we began our descent to the lonely road on the valley floor, I marvelled that this was the second time I had walked this section of the Pennine Way in consecutive years in fine weather. In fact, the whole of the previous years truncated trip had been walked in almost perfect weather and yesterday’s morning of rain aside, this year was turning out to be similar. Surely, it couldn’t last? We reached the road and followed it for around a mile before heading off on a track to Dale Head Farm as the isolated peak of Pen y Ghent - the hill of the wind - towered over the surrounding landscape. We climbed steadily on a well-engineered path before crossing a wall to reach the start of the summit path, which by now looked almost vertical. The guidebook promised that the climb looked worse than it was and sure enough, after around twenty minutes of scaling the rocky, scree-strewn ‘ladder’ of a path, we were stood on the summit, enjoying the surrounding landscape and snacking on what food we had in our bags. There was a keen, chilly wind on the top that I was anxious to escape and it wasn’t long before we were crossing the wall through a small stile and heading down the path in the direction of Horton in Ribblesdale. 

On the summit of Pen y Gent

The descent path, I knew from the previous year was an unpleasant route covered in much loose rock and debris so I followed the faint, grassy path to the right, which made for a much quicker, more comfortable descent. Alan had fallen into conversation with some other walkers on the main path and I met up with him again further down as we began the long three miles along a rocky track into Horton. In Horton, we headed for the Pen Y Ghent cafe, which also has a shop area selling outdoor equipment and we both purchased socks and snacks for the following day, as well as a huge mugs of tea and sandwiches, which we ate outside in the sunshine. As we sat, the two lads from Fountains Fell sat opposite us and during our conversation we discovered that they had omitted the climb onto Pen y Ghent and taken a direct route into the village. We finished our tea and wished them well on the rest of their trip and headed for the campsite which turned out to be a very well-run site with pitches for tents separated by ‘alleyways’ mowed into the long grass. We checked in with the campsite owner who was sat outside a large tent, which seemed to be furnished like an apartment inside and we pitched our tents and showered as Gordon and Rowan arrived and began setting up. There were a large number of DOE youngters on the site and I wondered if this would cause a problem with noise later on during the night but in the event they couldn’t have been more well-behaved. After we had finished our chores, we walked to the pub next door where we were met by Trevor and Barbara, two walkers I knew from my home in Tenerife where I had enjoyed their company on many walks and we enjoyed a meal and a few pints of real ale in their company before returning to the campsite.

Campsite at Horton in Ribblesdale

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Pennine Way - 28th June 2015 - Cowling to Malham - Into the Dales

Leaving Cowling on a grey morning

After a decent night’s sleep, we awoke to a grey, cool morning, with low cloud threatening rain scudding across the sky. Gordon and Rowan made their customary early getaway and we weren’t too far behind them as the cool, blustery conditions didn’t encourage us to linger and we were soon back on the trail after a quick breakfast. While packing up the tent, I managed to cut my finger on a tent peg and after covering various items of gear in blood, had to stop and bandage up the finger before finishing packing the rucksack. Today had been the turning point on my previous attempt a year earlier when all of the issues that had plagued my walk came to a head and I made the decision to finish at the halfway point. A combination of factors had culminated in a terrible night where I got virtually no sleep as a noisy road and church bells ringing from a nearby tower every fifteen minutes meant that I woke in a foul mood. This wasn’t helped when I discovered that my second canister of gas had mysteriously emptied itself during the night so I didn’t even have the comfort of a hot cup of coffee to start the day. After an annoying experience in a cafe later in the day, I had finally given up and ‘dumped’ my malfunctioning camping gear and booked bed and breakfast rooms for the rest of my truncated trip. This year however, as we left the campsite in Cowling, I felt totally different and despite the gloomy conditions, was raring to go and felt very energetic. We passed through the village of Ickornshaw and headed off into fields but were soon stopping to put on waterproof jackets as the rain had started and didn’t appear to be in a hurry to stop. 

Descending to Lothersdale

We crossed fields that were now becoming increasingly wet and it was here that I got the chance to experience the sensation of my feet getting wet through my lightweight trail runners, which let the water in almost immediately. I had decided on this approach based on my experience of walking in heavy rain on the Coast to Coast the previous year as I had returned from my Pennine Way trip. Then, I had arrived in Keld to find that the bus service to Richmond was no longer running so had to walk to a town with transport links the following day utilising a section of Wainwright’s famous trail. I had decided on Kirkby Stephen because I had long harboured an ambition to travel on the Settle to Carlisle railway and this would give me a chance to sample at least a section of it. Once there, my uncle was going to drive from his home in North Wales to pick me up in Settle as we hadn’t seen each other for a number of years and he had invited me to spend a few days at his home. It was during this walk over Nine Standards Rigg from Keld that I had decided not to worry about the weather conditions or trying to keep dry and I walked in shorts, as I had for the whole of the Pennine way trip. I was wearing a waterproof jacket however but my only real problem was with my goretex lined boots that continually filled with water, which meant that I had to regularly stop to ‘empty’ them. Other than this, I had thoroughly enjoyed my watery trip across the Pennine Watershed and decided to investigate the principle of walking in less ‘waterproof’ clothing and footwear when I returned home. The lightweight trail runners I was now wearing had no waterproof lining and a mesh top so water just flowed in but the reasoning was that it could just as easily flow out and the action of the foot bending caused the water to be ‘squeezed’ out, like a sponge. It did feel odd at first as the water filled my shoes but once I became used to the sensation, I had no problems. Indeed, as the day wore on, the weather dried up, as did my shoes and socks, meaning I finished the day with dry feet, which was exactly the point of the exercise. Had I been wearing the boots I had worn on my previous Pennine trip, they would have been wet for a day or two after. Walking in the trail runners also meant that I had very little weight on my feet, which wasn’t increased by being waterlogged as with ‘waterproof’ boots. 

Double bridge on the Leeds-Liverpool canal

After negotiating the series of wet fields, we descended steeply into the idyllically situated village of Lothersdale, nestled in its snug valley location, the incongruous chimney of it's long abandoned mill signalling the end of the former mill-town country of the South Pennines. Passing briefly through the village, we climbed alongside a deep, wooded ravine before we found ourselves back on open moorland where we soon reached the trig point on the summit of Pinhaw Beacon. Here, we had magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, in an almost 360 degree panorama as the strong wind whipped at our clothing and rucksack straps. We descended to a road and the rain began in earnest and we retreated under our hoods and plodded on in the deluge looking for the tell-tale fingerpost ahead that would signal the point where the Pennine Way veered off once again onto the moors. As we approached the turn, we spotted Rowan and Gordon, who appeared to be setting off after a rest break and we greeted them before carrying on across the wet moors together with them commenting on how quickly we must be walking to have caught them so soon. It was here that I realised that I must have been forging ahead in the poor conditions as Alan commented to them that I was a very fast walker. I had to admit that I felt in really good shape and the conditions meant that I just had my head down and was bowling along and really enjoying the sensation of walking and feeling fit enough to tackle anything that the trail could throw at me. It hadn’t occurred to me at that time that I was walking any faster than anyone else. 

Lock gates at Gargrave

Eventually, Rowan and Gordon let us go ahead and we agreed to meet them at the Abbot’s Harbour cafe on the Leeds-Liverpool canal and soon left them behind as we negotiated even more soggy fields. We passed through the neat but largely anonymous village of Thornton in Craven and were soon plodding along the banks of the canal, where we turned off to the cafe for a welcome break of hot drinks and food. Probably because of the weather, the cafe this time was a complete contrast to my earlier visit the previous year where it had been invaded by a couple of dozen lycra-clad cyclists. It was here, that I had finally decided to abandon my attempt to walk the entire Pennine Way after my anticipated leisurely lunch, which I had promised myself as a reward for the lousy night in the campsite at Cowling, had turned into a cramped, noisy interlude listening to a loud female cyclist expounding dietary advice to all within earshot. The crowded, noisy cafe had caused me to flee into a nearby field and phone ahead for a room and having secured one, dump my camping gear in a wooded hollow. This time, the cafe was as I was hoping for the previous year with as there were only a handful of people and we spread out on a table to enjoy pots of hot tea and bacon rolls. After a while, Rowan and Gordon arrived and joined us for a pleasant lunch where we chatted and satisfied our appetites while chatting about the walk. Eventually, the time came to leave but by now, the weather had turned for the better and we set off across fields, passing the wooded dell where I had previously dumped my camping gear. I did stop to look but it was no longer there so someone had scrambled down to retrieve it. I hope they found some use for it. The countryside now began to subtly change as we approached the Yorkshire Dales. Limestone country always ‘feels’ comfortable to walk in as often you find yourself walking on springy turf, which makes the going easier. It certainly felt comfortable as we approached Gargrave in the improving sunshine and we passed through the town without stopping, despite the numerous temptations of pubs, cafes and shops. It had only been an hour since leaving Abbot’s Harbour so we couldn’t justify stopping again so soon. As we crossed Haw Crag we spotted a group of young boys doing their D.O.E standing on the crest of the hill studying maps and looking confused. We didn’t pass close enough to ask them if they needed help but as we descended to the road I looked back to see that they had taken a path signposted to ‘Bell Busk’. 

River Aire

As we approached the road, a path veered off to follow the River Aire, which we would follow virtually all of the way to Malham where we intended to obtain a room for the night. This decision had been made during the heavy rain of the morning and we had decided that even though the weather was now fine, we would still carry out our intention to sleep in a proper bed for the night as we had spent the previous five nights in the tents and we now wanted the luxury of a proper bed. We crossed the road at Newfield Bridge at the same time as the route crossed to the other bank of the river and we stopped at a convenient spot for a break. As we sat, a man walked over to us from the road and enquired if we had seen a number of young boys along the route. We said we had and pointed out to him on the map where we had seen them. They were indeed doing their D.O.E and should have been following the same route as us but had obviously become confused as we had seen them heading off in totally the wrong direction. The man was the boys’ ‘shadow’ and now hurried off in search of his missing charges.

Approaching Malham

The rest of the walk was a pleasant stroll in the sunshine along the river bank to Malham, apart from one unwelcome steep ascent on a road at Hanlith Bridge, where the route veered away from the river briefly. As we descended again, the village of Malham came into view and we had glimpses of the cove looming in the background. Arriving in the village, we secured a room in the same guesthouse I had used the previous year, which despite being fairly old and tired was quite cheap. I seemed to offend the owner when I asked him for a key to lock the room when we went out to eat and was given a sermon about how they ‘have no need for such things around here’, before giving me a key that didn’t work anyway. I decided I would have to trust the veracity of the other residents, which in the event was well placed. After we had attended to our various chores, we spent a leisurely evening in the Lister Arms pub before returning to enjoy a comfortable night sleeping on a proper mattress.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Pennine Way - 27th June 2015 - Jack Bridge to Cowling - A Pennine legend

Gorple Reservoir

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

Top Withins

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. 

Ponden Reservoir

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

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Pennine Way - 26th June 2015 - Standedge to Jack Bridge - Breakfast of Champions

Leaving the Carriage House Inn, Standedge

As we were packing up the following morning, a few raindrops had started falling, which had me dragging the tent into the shower block in an attempt to keep it dry. As there had been no rain in the night and it had been fairly windy, the tents were dry when we emerged from them, so it would have been really irritating if they got wet while packing up. In the event, it didn’t amount to anything so the tents were still dry once packed. We set off directly across the road following a path we had seen the couple using. I had checked on Patrick’s map and saw that it led directly back onto the Pennine Way at Millstone Edge without either the need for road walking or retracing steps. Although it was dry when we set off, there was a lot of low cloud cover and the day threatened rain but the shortcut proved a useful one and we were soon back on the trail. 

Millstone Edge

The walk along Millstone Edge was fairly exposed and there was a little drizzle as well as a chilly, blustery wind and as I was feeling fairly chilly, I stopped to retrieve my jacket from the rucksack. The walking was quite enjoyable and the conditions excellent for walking and we made good progress to the summit marker on the top of White Hill. From here it was a short walk to an ‘A’ road where we stopped for breakfast at a roadside snack van, mostly used by passing lorry drivers. We were surprised to see Patrick sat enjoying breakfast and we proceeded to order two huge breakfast baps that were so enormous, it was difficult to know how to start eating them. After breakfasts consisting of flapjack bars over the previous couple of mornings, the baps consisting of egg, sausage and bacon were soon consumed, despite their enormous size. These we washed down with pint mugs of tea as we joked with Brian, the owner of the van who informed us that he had been in this location for 38 years. We bought snacks from Brian - who was something of a joker - to put into the rucksacks and he obligingly took a photo of the two of us before we said our goodbyes and headed for the footbridge suspended above the M62. 

Summit of White Hill

Breakfast at Brian's

We crossed the six lanes of traffic as it roared beneath us like a vast river in spate and headed off across a moor in pursuit of Patrick, who by now was just a small blemish on the ridge-top ahead of us. Soon, we reached the trig-point on Blackstone Edge, curiously placed in an elevated position on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking Littleborough before descending to walk alongside a drainage ditch via a short section of ancient cobbled packhorse trail. 

Blackstone Edge

Arriving at the White House pub, we decided against the forty minute wait for it to open and carried on alongside a number of reservoirs on level tracks. Throughout the morning the low cloud had sprinkled us with occasional showers but none had lasted long and the keen wind had kept the temperature just about right for hiking. After leaving the reservoirs, the prominent spire of the Stoodley Pike monument came into view on the ridge ahead but it was some time before we actually reached it. As we approached the entrance, Patrick emerged from the interior gloom of the tower and warned us that it was very dark on the steps up to the viewing platform. The view from the viewing platform was pretty impressive and we walked around the outside of the tower to enjoy the 360 degree view before descending. 

Wild horses near Stoodley Pike

Approaching Stoodley Pike

The afternoon passed uneventfully as we made our way to the Calder Valley and it wasn’t long before we were descending steeply through woodland to the Rochdale canal and the road into Hebden Bridge. Here, because there wasn’t a campsite at Hebden Bridge, we temporarily left the Pennine Way and followed the Pennine Bridleway as it zig-zagged steeply up the side of the Calder Valley on a track to Jack Bridge, where we knew there was a campsite next door to a pub, which seemed like an ideal prospect.

Stoodley Pike from the Pennine Bridleway, near Jack Bridge

By now, the sky had glazed over in a sheet of steel grey that threatened rain as we emerged at a road in front of houses where there was no sign of the Pennine Bridleway. We followed the road for a while to Blackshaw Head, which wasn’t our intention and as light rain began falling, started to descend on a road down to some houses. Our spirits had dropped a little in the rain as we stopped to look for a campsite from above when suddenly, I made out the name of the New Delight Inn in very faded paint on the rooftop of one of the buildings in the valley below and we left the road for a track that descended straight to it. We found the campsite next door and after a checking with the campsite owner, put the tents up just in time for the rain to start in earnest. Once the rain had cleared, we attended to various hygiene tasks and made our way to the pub for dinner, where we were joined by Patrick, who had pitched his tent next to ours. This also allowed us to escape the midges, which were out in force and we spent a pleasant evening in the pub eating, drinking and chatting.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Pennine Way - 25th June 2015 - Crowden to Standedge - Reservoir Bogs

Looking down to Crowden Brook

Patrick was up and away early and we packed up while trying the impossible task of avoiding the midges that continued to breakfast on our blood as we breakfasted on flapjack and coffee. As we left the campsite, we watched a group of girls on the Duke of Edinburgh awards climbing a steep hill from the site watched by their guardians. These 'shadows' follow the youngsters on the scheme at a distance so that their presence is undetected and we were to be approached a few times during the early part of the walk by concerned 'shadows' seeking for their errant charges. We climbed the steep hill out of the campsite and at the top, turned off of the campsite access road to follow the Pennine Way into the valley. This was one of the sections I had enjoyed most the previous year, setting off alone and in silence at 6.30am for what was for me one of the most dramatic sections of The Way as it ascended to the summit of Laddow Rocks. 

Climbing up to Laddow Rocks

Laddow Rocks

We stopped regularly to take photos and climbed steadily as the path ascended above the river running through the valley bottom. The climb was soon over and we admired the view from the summit of the cliffs to the river below. Behind we could see the hills we had descended the previous afternoon, the steep path clearly visible. As we descended the cliffs to the river, we passed the couple from the campsite who had stopped for a break and said ‘hello’. They seemed quite friendly but not anxious to hold a conversation so we continued on our way along a flagged path across a gently ascending moor towards Black Hill. This hill was once a feared obstacle on the Pennine Way, a sticky black morass of peat bogs that the walker was obliged to negotiate but now all has changed as the flagged paths have repaired the erosion and the summit is now quite green after a programme of regeneration. 

Black Hill

As we neared the summit, we could see a small gathering there. Two of them caused a temporary confusion in me as they looked very familiar but I couldn’t think how I knew them until it dawned on me that they were the two ‘shadows’ from the campsite. With them were Patrick and ‘Beardy & Bandanna’ so we had quite a party on the summit, in total contrast to my visit the previous year. After quite a long break on the summit of Black Hill, we shouldered our packs and set off once again following ‘Beardy & Bandanna’, who had set off a few minutes earlier. We had not got far when we heard a shout from behind and turned to see one of the ‘shadows’ running towards us holding out a bag, it seemed that one of us had left something behind. It quickly became obvious that the bag belonged to ‘Beardy & Bandanna’ who were almost out of sight by this time so I ran after them shouting and waving until they heard me and stopped. The bag contained clothing and after thanking us, they continued on their way. As we continued, we climbed steeply in and out of the Dean Clough defile and headed for the road, where as expected, the mythical snack van lived up to its reputation by being absent. 

Descending to from Black Hill

  It was while skirting the reservoirs in the Wessenden Valley that I became irritated by my rucksack, which seemed to be very difficult to get to sit comfortably on my back. I fidgeted constantly with the straps but it just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. We descended into the Wessenden Valley on a good track with views of the reservoir and after passing a lodge, dropped off of this down to the river. From here, there was a short, almost vertical climb onto a hill and once on the summit, we stopped for a break. As we sat, relaxing and taking in the views, we caught sight of Patrick, who was still on the track as it headed down to the town of Marsden. He was making a detour to do some shopping before returning along the main road to Standedge and the campsite at the Carriage House pub, which was also our halt for the night. I had highlighted a path from Marsden that he could follow almost back to the pub but he didn’t seem interested in following it, preferring instead to stick to his plan of walking alongside the busy road, which I found strange. Personally, I will go to any lengths to avoid road walking, particularly along busy highways. We finished our break and set off once again but had only gone a short distance when we found Beardy & Bandanna having a break by the edge of a stream. They seemed to have settled in and were looking quite comfortable, which was odd as they had a long day of around 22 miles as they were aiming to get to Mankingholes Youth Hostel. I later discovered that they never made it that far. We had a bit of a chat with them and said goodbye and left them sitting there in the sunshine. 

Because of their schedule, that was the last time we saw them. There now followed yet more reservoirs and boggy moorland, which inspired me to label this section ‘Reservoir Bogs’, and it wasn’t too long before we were descending to Redbrook Reservoir, where the Great Western pub was clearly visible just beyond. At this point on my walk the previous year, I had left the Pennine Way to take the track towards Marsden for a short distance before heading towards the Carriage House pub on a smaller, narrower path. I had arrived to discover that the pub didn’t open until the evening and as I had set off early, it was now only around 1.00pm. I had then road-walked to the Great Western, which was open and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before going for a stroll around Redbrook Reservoir and having doze in the sun while I waited for the Carriage House to open. As we knew the Carriage House wouldn’t be open, we crossed rough ground passing the sailing club and headed directly for the Great Western where we hoped to get lunch but were disappointed to discover that in the year that had elapsed since my previous visit, it had closed down. Disappointed, we strolled along the road to the Carriage House where I phoned the owner and enquired about camping. He gave us instructions on where to pitch and details of the shower and toilet block and we were soon relaxing by the tents on what proved to be a pleasant, sunny afternoon. Later, Patrick arrived as did the quiet couple, and we spent the afternoon attending to chores such as washing and drying clothes before retiring to the pub at around 6pm for dinner. We were joined by Patrick who sat with us but the couple remained apart, preferring their own company on the opposite side of the pub. 

Wessenden Reservoir