6th May 2006 – Keld to Reeth – 13 miles
The house and the close proximity of the other occupants meant that I was awake at 3am, 4am, 6am and I finally got up at 06:50. Any earlier and my movements around my room would certainly have disturbed the others. The single bathroom also meant that there was something of a queue for the facilities. The upside to the size of the place was that we could smell breakfast cooking long before we got down there to eat it.
As I had such a short day I had decided to go for a smaller breakfast than usual and just had poached egg on toast with more toast to finish off, washed down with copious amounts of tea and orange juice. The eggs were poached the proper way and not done in the microwave. You certainly could not fault Margaret on here culinary skills or the quality of the ingredients.
I think I may have mentioned elsewhere that I love Swaledale. I had been looking forward to these two days for ages and the weather today wasn’t going to disappoint. As I had already done the high route over Gunnerside the previous year on the Herriot Way, I had chosen a route today that hugged the Swale nearly all the way into Reeth. G&D were doing the traditional route, but we would walk together to Crackpot Hall, before we went our separate ways.
The morning was a little overcast and there was a hint of mist in the valley, and this never fully burnt off even when the sun came out, but the day ended up being sunny and warm. We said our goodbye’s to Margaret and headed off down the path to the falls, over the little bridge and up onto the fellside above the Swale. Crackpot is only 15 minutes or so out of Keld and the old ruined house soon came into view. Last time I had passed this way I had been walking for almost 9 hours (we had inadvertently taken the scenic route across the heather) and was in no particular mood to take in the sights. In it’s hey day the Hall must have been a superb place to live, for the views down the valley and along the Swale if for no other reason. I could have stayed there all day looking down at that view, but decided instead to put myself in it.
G&D had recently moved into a new house and were trying to decide on a name for the place They were very struck on Crackpot Hall, not least because of the roots of the name which roughly translated from the original Viking means “a deep hole or chasm that is a haunt of crows”. Their new house was surrounded by tall trees, all of which were occupied by crows. We hunted round the ruins for a small souvenir that could go home with them and tie the two building together. The old tin bath and the remains of the oven and fireplace would have been perfect, but neither of them was willing to carry the weight 🙂
G&D and I were in different accommodation that night, but we made loose plans to meet up for dinner before they headed up the path to Swinner Gill and I headed down the path towards Swaledale. I was surprised to find that the water level in the Swale was still very low, this had been the case 8 months previous and the situation had not improved at all. It was more stones than water for most of the way down to Muker.
The path is clear and wide all the way from Crackpot as it winds its way down the valley alongside the Swale. It crosses Swinner Gill at a small footbridge beside a ruined building of some unknown (at least to me) purpose, it looked like some sort of oven or kiln possibly. Muker is soon visible through the trees on the other side of the river and a diversion is possible if required as there are places to cross before and after the village. The path now cuts across fields and pastures, through old stone walls with narrow little gaps in them and tightly sprung gates to keep the sheep in. A rather considerate farmer had been muck spreading in one field, yet left a clear path down the middle from one stile to another.
Before very long the narrow single span of Ivelet Bridge came into view and shortly after the little cluster of buildings that make up the village of Ivelet. Although there is a phone box here, there was no other reason to break my stride as I continued on through the glorious fields and pastures. My best estimate suggested that I reached the 100 mile mark at about 10:15, shortly before Gunnerside. I celebrated with a piece of chocolate and a photo of me holding up a hastily scratched “100” made from a page from the journal.
The 100 mile mark occurred 5 minutes from Gunnerside and although I had no plans to stop there, it’s difficult to avoid the village as there is no easy way to cross Gunnerside Beck as it tumbles down the hillside towards the Swale without going into the village. I followed the path into the village and decided that I would take a short break at the tea room that is located there. I had plenty of time and not very far to go. Unfortunately the tea room was closed, the sign on the door apologised, but the proprietor had gone to a funeral. The little museum shop was also closed although there was no sign explaining the reason behind that.
At Gunnerside Steadman’s book suggests leaving the Swale for a while and taking the path across Low Row Pasture, which is fine, but this does mean about 2.5 miles of road walking further on. I had chosen a path that hugged the Swale much more closely, almost all the way into Reeth and this requires only about half a mile of road walking.
The start of my path was located down the side of the public toilets in Gunnerside and ran between the Swale and the B6270. It soon came to Isles Bridge which is a very impressive stone structure with three central arches across the now quite wide Swale. The bridge has stone steps built into it to allow walkers using the footpath to gain access to the bridge and cross to the other side. At this point the path runs along the top of a field boundary wall with a 6 foot drop into the field on one side and another 6 foot drop into the wood running along the Swale on the other. Fortunately, the wall is much wider than a traditional boundary wall, probably 3 or 4 feet, but the top is smooth and I can imagine quite slippery in wet weather.
As I am quite tall, I found that I spent a lot of time ducking tree limbs on this wall section and although this is a novel way to skirt a field, I was relieved to step down off the wall at the end and join a sandy path close to the river bank. When you see the Swale from a distance it seems like a majestic winding ribbon of water, but I found that closer inspection reveals a different story. The amount of farm rubbish that collects at the banks of the river is quite remarkable. This mainly consists of plastic bags; old feed bags, the plastic that hay bales are wrapped in and various other brightly coloured plastic and polythene material. This all gets blown from the fields bordering the Swale where it has been carelessly discarded by farmers and others and gets hooked in the roots and branches of the trees that grow alongside the river. I could quite easily have filled a dozen skips with this uninterrupted stream of rubbish. Although it’s a small distraction, I couldn’t help but get more and more annoyed at this situation as I followed the river.
There is a nature trail that runs alongside the river complete with small wooden boxes attached to trees that contained laminated sheets identifying local flora and fauna. I also spotted a carved wooden otter sitting beneath a tree, the chances of seeing a real one are so slim nowadays that I guess this is the best way to show children what one looks like. Obviously some of the local residents appreciate the beauty of the location more than others.
Shortly after passing Feetham on my left I joined the B6270, the path twisting up from the river bank through a rather tatty wood. The road leads to Healaugh, but I left it before this point and dropped back to the river bank for another mile or so. The path finally left the banks of the Swale about half a mile from Reeth and I entered the town from the south west corner, cutting down an alley to reach the central village green of Reeth at 12:42. If I had needed to continue, I could have been in Richmond by 16:30 without any problem. As it was I had about 3 hours before I could realistically knock on the door of Walpardo, my B&B for the evening. I found the place easily enough, located just off the main square.
I headed to the top end of town and the Buck Hotel for a Diet Coke. The pub was empty at this point and I found a quiet spot to sit for a while and made some entries in the journal. You can only nurse a Diet Coke for so long, so I soon moved on and bought an ice cream from the little gift shop on the west side of the square. I met G&D briefly here and they did not appear to be too happy about the route over the top. They found it very bleak and uninspiring and it had even rained on them for 10 minutes or so. They certainly thought I had chosen the better route for the day. They were able to check-in much earlier than me, they were staying in the Buck, so they left me for the luxury of a shower and clean clothes.
I visited the Post Office shop on the other side of the square and restocked my water supply and bought a couple of postcards, startling the young lady who was having a mid-afternoon nap behind the counter.
After a snack in the Black Bull I eventually knocked on the door of the B&B at about 15:15 and was welcomed in by the landlady Anne. Walpardo is very small and I found I could not stand up straight at all in my room, or in the bathroom, as these are located at the back of the house and built into the eaves, the slope of the roof making things very difficult for me. The room was quite small with just about enough space to sort my kit out for the next day. There was a Blue Riband provided with the tea and coffee making facilities which was a nice touch.
I hadn’t spent any time in Reeth, other than visiting the shop, when we did the Herriot the previous year so this hadn’t prepared me for how busy the little town can get. It’s also quite expensive in comparison to other stops along the route. I found all three pubs to be quite busy, loud and smoky in the evening. I eventually picked the Black Bull for dinner as it had a separate dining room away from the noise and smoke of the rest of the pub. It was a good choice as the food was excellent. I had the Steak and Ale pie and two pints of Old Peculier.
Back at the B&B I was intercepted on my way to the room by Anne and her husband, who kindly insisted that I spend some time telling them about my journey so far. I was also entertained by tales of local council politics and some of the battles Reeth council have had with borough and county council officials.
I was finally released after 2 hours and was in bed and asleep for 22:30
A small, friendly B&B perfectly located off the village green close to the eating and drinking establishments of Reeth.
The only bath I took on the C2C and only because I couldn’t stand up in the bath to use the shower. I spent all my time upstairs stooped almost double. This is a property with next to no headroom in the single room or bathroom. I am tall, but even an average size person is going to struggle in here.
Small single room with single bed, TV, tea and coffee, biscuits, wash basin, small cabinet and chair, plus two plug sockets. Other than the ceiling height, the room was clean and tidy. Although guests were not allowed to smoke in the rooms (quite right), this was a smoking household and this smell was apparent on occasions during my stay.