Thursday, 22nd August 2002
We are now exactly half-way through our 190 mile journey from the West coast of England to the East coast and we are all happy for the time being. It is a point which I did not think I would reach and I am very pleased that I have been able to do so without blisters or otherwise – these could be famous last words!
We had an excellent stay at the Kearton Country Hotel, Thwaite and a good breakfast but as Tina had picked us up at Keld the previous afternoon she had to take us back there this morning to start our day’s exertions at the YHA building where she had met us. The two Australians, Peter and Melva, were staying at the YHA and they set off with us at just after 10 a.m. (It’s getting later as we progress through the journey). We left Keld by the specified Wainwright route, passing Crackpot Hall (it must have been named after the masochist Wainwright) and made our weary way up the first hill.
Nearly all the places we stay at are in the valleys or, now that we have made it to Yorkshire, the dales and it is therefore inevitable that the first few miles (and the first few hours) are uphill each day. I hate having to climb the hills and I am slow whilst Pat careers off to get to the top as fast as he can. He says that he does it because he doesn’t like heights but when Mary (his wife) and I got to the top of one hill we found him sitting precariously on a large boulder overlooking a disused quarry. It seems illogical to me that the faster you go up a hill negates the fears of heights but I suppose that we all have theories which are extremely suspect.
We have to climb to 2200 feet today but we have the advantage of having started at Keld today at 1100 feet above sea-level which makes the climbs not quite as severe as yesterday. The views of the surrounding hills from these heights are always spectacular and today, after two miles, we have the luxury of a path about two metres wide which apparently runs most of the way towards Gunnerside but I didn’t have the opportunity to find out. My erstwhile younger, adventurous colleagues wanted to climb higher and go over the top of the highest hill to make our way towards Reeth.
To be fair, this appeared to me to be the official Wainwright route although my map-reading skills are very limited and I tend to make my comments on reading the narrative to the walk and also rely on my trusty compass, on which my son Paul had given me lessons two days before departure on this trip. The decision to go over the top today, rather than take the easier route at ground level, proved unfortunate for me as I slipped on some loose stones when descending a very precarious hill towards a cement works, slid five metres down the hill and very nearly over the edge, and ended up with cuts to my face, left arm and knee. It was however perhaps slightly fortunate as Mary who was following me also slipped in the same area and crashed into my prostrate body which probably saved her an injury. I was pleased to be able to help in this way as Mary has been very supportive during the past eight days and kept me going.
Pat and Mary patched me up getting stones out of my nose and face generally and cleaned me up as far as possible so that I could carry on the tortuous journey. My sunglasses had been damaged in the fall but Pat mended the arm to the glasses as best as he possibly could and we re-started. We were surprised to see some people working at the cement works when we got there as we assumed that this was disused in the same way as the other mines etc. which we had passed. What anybody sees in making routes to go past disused mines, quarries and cement works, I do not know as they could hardly be termed attractive.
Today we passed the 100 mile mark on our journey at Level Bridge and we had our photographs taken to mark the historic event (from our point of view). This did not happen until 2.30 p.m. i.e. 5 miles in 4 ½ hours and I am sure that Wainwright does not take into account the distance in going up and down the hills, then up again in calculating the distance walked. I am always moaning about the distance and I am sure we have probably covered about 150 miles (not 100) to get to this point but it does not matter anyway as we still have 90 country miles still to do and I can assure you they are very long miles.
We reached Surrender Bridge at 3.45 p.m. and it clearly states that there is only 3 miles by road to Reeth. What am I saying – only 3 miles – two weeks ago that seemed to be a long distance by foot. My companions however did not want to take the safe easy route into Reeth, they wanted to go by some treacherous footpaths which were difficult to find and we did not arrive at The Buck Hotel, Reeth, until 5.30 p.m. and the last half-hour’s walking was marred by a heavy shower which could have been avoided. Fortunately, at this hotel we had a bath (instead of a shower) in our room and we could relax before having an enjoyable meal at 7.15 p.m. followed by the customary drinks.