When – 10 May 2013
Where – Kirkby Stephen to Keld
Distance – 14.5 miles
Walking with – Annette
Home for the night – Pry House Farm
Weather – Dry. Then cold. Then cold and wet. Then eventually dryish again (but by that time my feet were so wet it didn’t matter).
Today being 10th May, I invested in an obvious springtime clothing purchase this morning at the outdoor store in Kirkby Stephen: a pair of gloves. My hands have been cold most days, but in a flash of logic I realised that if I just spent a couple of quid on some hand wear I was almost guaranteed hot and sunny weather the rest of the way – you know, like smokers can summon a bus just by the action of lighting up a fag at a bus stop? Except I did need the gloves today. And if the Met office five day forecast is anything to go by, I’m going to get good use out of them…
Today was a big day on the trip: we reached our halfway point, crossed the Pennines from Cumbria into the self-proclaimed ‘god’s own country’ of Yorkshire, entered the Dales – our second national park – AND I won three out of the four games of 20 questions I played with one of the Steves as I negotiated the peat bogs. Yup, one of those classic days for the digital scrap book.
We left Kirkby Stephen a little after 9.30am, crossing the Eden River and heading up Hartley Fell past a quarry on the way up to the mysterious Nine Standards – stone pillars of various shapes and sizes with no agreed upon reason for being, which mark the watershed of the Pennines: from now on the rivers will be draining eastwards towards the North Sea.
After an hour or so we caught up with the ‘Gang of 15’, who kindly let us walk with them as we crossed the peat bogs of the Pennines. I’m glad we did – their leader Geoff knew the red route (there are three routes across- apparently the red route is the May-July one. Not entirely clear if it’s to do with erosion, the shooting season or an entirely more whimsical explanation) and guided us across, as the cloud closed in and visibility yet again bid us farewell, with aplomb. Gaitorless and sans walking sticks, Annette and I survived out first peat bog test relatively intact.
Coming down the other side a small black hut with benches and tables in gave us a welcome shelter from the wind and rain outside, and after another half hour or so of negotiating a somewhat boggy path along the Ney Gill stream we parted ways with the gang at Ravenseat Farm, Annette and I forgoing the delights of a cream tea for pushing on towards Keld and the tantalising promise of having dry feet once again.
The final stage of the walk was a straightforward, if occasionally soggy under foot, wander along field boundaries, track and finally road, as we enjoyed our first few miles of walking in the Dales. I’ve so been looking forward to our second national park of the trip, and Swaledale, the area we’re now in, is gorgeous.
Arrived at the Keld Lodge (beautifully decorated, very nice manager, fabulous views, but chef who should be replaced as soon as humanly possible) to have a welcome pint of beer while waiting for our hosts at Pry House Farm (great place, highly recommend as a stay if you’re in the area) to pick us up. Another day’s walking done!
Photos, top to bottom – signpost by Eden River, Kirkby Stephen; The Nine Standards, top of Pennines; looking down on Swaledale.