The Pennine Way

Walked in August - September 2007

Day 5 – Wednesday 29th August

Cowlings - Malham
Pennine Way Distance: 19 miles. Cumulative: 76 miles


DOGS ON LEADS, BABY DUCKS ON RIVER.
On a sign on a tree near Hanlith Hall

I once again awoke to the sound of zips, without even the luxury of five minutes to wake up properly this time before dressing myself in my confined quarters and packing up my equipment and food. It was a crisp, misty morning and the quiet was almost supernatural as I exited the tent and stood up to stretch. Even the chickens were still asleep, and there was a feeling that we would be sneaking away from the campsite, departing with barely a sound leaving nothing but two dark patches behind where our tents had been, to prove we’d been there at all. The clothes I’d washed in the shower the night before were still wet as predicted, so I put them all in a black bin bag and stuffed them into my pack, cursing the fact that their wetness would only add to the weight.

Our camp slowly transforms into two very heavy rucksacks
Our camp slowly transforms into two very heavy rucksacks

Once we’d had some breakfast, we once more became beasts of burden and loaded our bulging packs onto our backs, setting off out of the courtyard, or barnyard, whichever it technically was, then up the road to find the narrow lane that led down to the road below where we rejoined the Way, just out of the nearby village of Ickornshaw. We were soon walking uphill, and it occurred to me that there were a lot of uphills so far. It then occurred to me that this probably shouldn’t be surprising as we were walking a long distance path over a range of hills. I think what I was really taking exception to was having to walk uphill straight away in the morning without much of a warm-up beforehand. Just another thing I was going to have to get used to.

We passed several houses on our way up the hill and followed a long wall beside a field until we lost our sense of direction a little and ended up wandering, or rather meandering up the length of a sheep-infested field looking for the road we ought to encounter at some point soon. Luckily we blundered onto it and Darryl took a photograph of the mist-enshrouded, early-morning valley below while I snacked on some yoghurt-coated raisins. My right Achilles tendon was feeling quite weak at this point, as opposed to the left one that had been giving me trouble the day before, and although it didn’t blister, the ball of my right foot was sore all day, possibly thanks to the padding I had given it. Darryl on the other hand had about six blisters on the go at this point, due to his not breaking his walking shoes in, and was rotating these and his trainers to give his feet a breather every now and again.

The whole landscape shrugs off the veil of sleep
The whole landscape shrugs off the veil of sleep

We trekked on up and down smaller hills, passing farms some occupied, some derelict, along a pretty little stream for a while, until we came shortly to Lothersdale, a quaint little village at the bottom of a steep hill and path, with its trademark chimney, boasting a Post Office, which I think was closed when we got there, and a pub which would have been too much temptation. As it was only nine o’ clock we decided to press on toward Thornton-in-Craven and have a proper break there, before continuing on to Gargrave for lunch. We turned left through a farmyard, with chickens flapping about in the breaks of Sun that were now appearing through the cloud, then up a steep track toward more farm buildings, sheep-infested fields and lanes until we came to Elslack Moor, another wide expanse of purple heather, and a chance to take a quick break and take some photos.

View from Pinhaw Beacon
View from Pinhaw Beacon

The views from Pinhaw Beacon were impressive. It really did look like a giant had spread a vast, green patchwork quilt over a bumpy mattress, and reminded me of the illustrations I’d seen accompanying the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Far in the distance, looming above the landscape and the smaller hills around it was Pen-y-ghent, sitting Mount Doom-like in the clouds that circled it, but not, thankfully, belching out lava and toxic smoke into the air. It was staggering to think that we would be climbing over it the next day, and finishing that day’s walk at least twelve miles beyond it. We were into the middle third of the walk now and doing some serious walking.

We pressed on, walking down toward an old quarry, across a road then down Clogger Lane, a narrow, tarmac road that stretched into the distance with moorland on both sides, until we had to pass through a gate on the left into a wide, barren stretch of land. After trudging through moorland for a good while we were surprised to meet a man out walking his dog. Seeing another human being after hours and miles of what felt at times like uninhabited wilderness, came as a surprise, even though it was undoubtedly a natural and daily occurrence. We passed through one or two more farmyards, negotiating our way past cow pats and molehills, shedding more and more layers as the Sun became more prevalent, until we came to a road, turned a corner under a bridge and found ourselves walking up a steep bank alongside semi-detached houses into the heart of Thornton-in-Craven.

We spent a while walking through the attractive and no doubt popular village of Thornton-in-Craven, looking for shops but not finding a great deal. We asked someone where we could buy food and drink and it sounded like the nearest places were a half mile down the road and even further away from the continuation of the walk, so we decided to just park ourselves on a bench for half an hour or so to rest, eat, drink and lay out some of our clothes in the Sun to dry them a bit more. I hope that people passing by would guess we were walkers rather than tramps. After all, tramps aren’t normally fussy about the gear they carry with them, and we had some good stuff.
When we were ready to move on, we decided to tie some of our clothes to the outside of our packs in the hope that the Sun and wind would speed up the drying process as we walked. True enough, this did seem to work, and we used this method several times more on the walk, since it seemed a shame to waste such an opportunity.

We headed north up Cam Lane and out of Thornton-in-Craven, passing a number of attractive houses and cottages with gardens in full bloom, all looking gorgeous in the Sun. Soon we walking up and down some genuinely rolling fields, populated here and there by disinterested sheep. We could see the Yorkshire Dales National Park now and were already appreciating its beauty and character. We were soon slaloming around cow pats again, and after negotiating a steep downhill, then uphill, we found ourselves approaching the towpath of the Leeds to Liverpool canal, a very refreshing change of scenery, and a nice soft, flat path to follow for a mile or so.

We were almost at the towpath, when we saw what looked like a small fire burning dangerously close to the hedge, attended to by what appeared to be a small terrier yapping excitedly at it. It could well have been trying to say ‘look what some idiot’s done! Someone call the fire brigade!’ but it was hard to tell as neither I nor Darryl could speak Dog. As we emerged onto the path we saw what looked like a seafaring gentleman (well, he had a big white beard), who was keeping an eye on both the fire and the yapping animal, so we breathed a sigh of relief. It briefly crossed my mind then how quickly the fire might have spread if the only potential firefighter in close proximity had been the small dog, and should the animal have been capable of contacting them, how on Earth the fire service would manage to get an engine onto a canal towpath. My thoughts were interrupted however by the voice of the Captain Birdseye lookalike who hailed us with:

“Hello! Only a hundred and thirty-five miles to go now!” If only, we thought in response to this miscalculation. He and his wife wished us luck, and we left them and their pyromaniacal canine to their relaxing day in the Sun, to continue along the canal toward Gargrave. The waters of the canal looked clean, the surrounding vegetation verdant and free of litter, unlike the Grand Union Canal near my home in West London. We walked under the curious double-bridge which is a bit of a landmark on this stretch of the Way. The second bridge was built on top of the first to raise and level the road for faster traffic. It looks odd, but at the same time quite cute. The canal was a lovely place to be on such a sunny day, and we would have been happy to have walked all the way to Gargrave along the canal, but alas, the Pennine Way had a more tortuous, up-and-down route planned for us with more hilly fields, indistinct trails, awkward squeeze-stiles and cunningly-placed cow pats. The terrain was attractive, if not beautiful, but we were after more awesome scenery, which we hoped to encounter later at Malham.

Double-bridge over the Leeds to Liverpool Canal
Double-bridge over the Leeds to Liverpool Canal

Before long Gargrave came into view, a relief for a number of reasons, firstly (at least in my case) because there would inevitably be a toilet somewhere, and secondly because it meant another chance to stock up on provisions. After I’d found the toilet and used it to the best of my abilities, I was able to look around and better appreciate the town. Like Thornton-in-Craven it was very picturesque, and I could imagine sitting outside a pub or by the River Aire all day just soaking it all in. I bought a paper while Darryl bought a few things from the nearby Co-op, and we found another bench to sit on and have a drink. I was aware at this point that we must be starting to look quite scruffy. Our beards were coming along nicely (though Darryl would revert to shaving again soon enough), and the clothes dangling from our packs must have been an unusual sight, so that the occasional disapproving glance from strangers didn’t come as a complete surprise. Ultimately though, we didn’t care. We were focussed on the mission, the task at hand, and sacrifices had to be made. Besides, we’d probably never see these people again anyway, so what did we care?

Although it was a lovely place, we had to leave Gargrave and press on. Another hill loomed, and we were soon passing several herds of cows, most of which had no interest in our progress and ignored us completely, having more important things to do like moo-ing and eating grass. At the top of the hill we decided to stop and eat our lunch. It was sunny but not too warm and there was a light breeze playing about as we ate cheese, bread, apples and biscuits and viewed the wonderful landscape. Reluctantly we stood, strapped ourselves back into our packs and trudged on, focussing on Malham, which we fancied we could see in the distance, though it could just as easily have been hidden behind hills. A short way down the field we came to the boundary wall of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, crossing over without hesitation, and continuing on down the hill along a road until we came to a small footbridge over the River Aire, the course of which we were to follow for several more miles. We took a photograph of each other sitting on the footbridge and then moved off in high spirits, enjoying the river walk and feeling energised after our lunch.

By the River Aire
By the River Aire

We were still in pain as we walked alongside the river, but this didn’t seem to bother us too much as we were enjoying our surroundings immensely. There were a lot more people around now as the river passed through several areas of population and we met people walking dogs, runners and other people out walking, one of whom said he’d walked the Pennine Way before and had been at the same point as us on day five, though he’d taken seventeen days to complete it. This shocked us a bit as we didn’t have seventeen days, we only had thirteen, so it meant a lot more hard work ahead if we were to finish the walk on time.

At one point, as we walked along a grassy path beside an old wall, two sheep trotted over to investigate us. One of them then started playing a game of chicken with us. He or she would trot toward us, wait until we were close, then dart off to the left into the taller grass, before scampering on ahead of us and playing the same little game. Sheep must get very bored just eating grass all day.

Taking a break in the grounds of Hanlith Hall
Taking a break in the grounds of Hanlith Hall

After passing an attractive old mill that had been converted into residential properties, we came to Hanlith Bridge and Hanlith Hall where we had another break by the river. There were a couple of horses in the open field near the hall, and it was a lovely area to stroll through, and nice to know that it was open to the public. When we felt suitably rested, we headed on past the hall and up a very steep road, making a couple of turnings by the houses on the top of the hill, and heading over the brow into more cow fields, and our first real view of Malham Cove and Gordale Scar. The end was thankfully in sight, and we made our painful way down the side of the hill, almost hobbling over the bridge and into the town which is very tourist-orientated and busy, past a couple of very inviting pubs, and on towards the campsite which is on the right along the road leading toward the cove.

First view of Malham Cove

First view of Malham Cove
First view of Malham Cove

There were several families in the campsite with their cars and huge tents, and after we had knocked on the door of the farmhouse, paid for our pitches and bought curious shower tokens, we went and pitched up on a patch of ground separated from the rest of the site by a very narrow stream and pair of patrolling ducks. Once the tents were up we laid out several items of clothing on top of them in the hope of drying them further in the disappearing sun and perhaps during the night if it was warm enough. It was now about seven-thirty and I had held on to the hope of having a pub meal and a few drinks in the hiker’s bar of The Buck Inn back down the road, but Darryl’s horribly blistered feet meant that it would take far more persuading than I had the energy for to get him going. Instead we both took turns to use the shower block (in my case taking an unfortunate and embarrassing diversion into the lady’s washroom by mistake), cooked some dinner and hit the sack. We both wondered how on Earth we would get through the next day in the state we were in, considering it would be a twenty-nine miler, and also considering that we were already thirteen miles behind schedule. Our original destination for the end of day five had been Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which we would reach at lunchtime the next day. That meant we were still about half a day behind schedule. Once more we tried not to let the weight of this get to us, and just got on with it. We were in our sleeping bags by ten, and sleep, needless to say, was not long in coming.

Eee, you two look reet knackered!”
Eee, you two look reet knackered!”

 

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