Herriot Way: Day Three

7th September 2005 – Keld to Hawes – 13 miles

It had, of course, been too good to be true, we just don’t get two fantastic days of sunshine in the UK without some sort of payback – and today was payback day. It started out overcast and grey, which would have been acceptable as we were both a little lobster-looking and raw in places from the previous two days of glorious sunshine.

Swaledale and Muker from Kisdon

Swaledale and Muker from Kisdon

After the best breakfast of the trip we set out at a leisurely 9am for the path up to Kisdon. From the top of Kisdon we had a splendid view down into Muker, where we could see the tents and marquees of the Muker Fair. It was tempting to drop down and have a gander, but we were disciplined and pressed on for Thwaite. As we dropped down from Kisdon we picked up the Pennine Way markers which would take us into Thwaite.

The first view of Thwaite

The first view of Thwaite

The first view of Thwaite from the side of Kisdon is quite enchanting, it sits their nestling in a fold in the land surrounded by miles and miles of hand-built dry stone walls and a dozen or so stone barns. The number of different shades of green that grass comes in must be the envy of any paint manufacturer. Under normal circumstances it would sit beneath Great Shunner Fell, but on this day it simply sat under a huge cloud.

The path down to Thwaite through the heather is well marked with small cairns and eventually you can make out the path crossing the fields below leading through a rather scruffy farm (complete with almost completely decayed old car) into the lovely little village. We stopped at the tea room and gift shop and had a leisurely drink and a lolly, then headed down the lane to pick up the well way-marked Pennine Way.

Decaying old car on the path into Thwaite

Decaying old car on the path into Thwaite

The route up to Great Shunner Fell from Thwaite is not particularly steep, it’s more of a grind; a height gain of about 1400ft over a distance of 3 miles. It started to drizzle shortly after we left Thwaite and we paused to don waterproofs, shortly after that the temperature dropped quite a bit and we paused to grab warm hats and gloves too. I shudder to think what the original Pennine Way’ers had to put up with, because Shunner is basically a peat bog all the way to the top. Without the stone paving we would probably have been lost without trace. By the time we reached the summit, the visibility was down to a few feet and the rain was belting down. Graciously it stopped for about 20 minutes while we were at the summit so we could stop and have a bite to eat in the ingenious seating area which incorporates the trig point.

The summit of Great Shunner Fell

The summit of Great Shunner Fell

As we descended Shunner, the skies cleared and the rain stopped, it had left the path particularly slippery though and Rob skidded on his arse a couple of times, one of which was quite bad and which could have been very serious as his head missed a large rock by only a few inches. I managed to maintain my feet for the whole trip, which is probably just as well because if the old saying is anything to by I would make a hell of a hard fall.

The rest of the trip into Hawes was fairly uneventful and despite being very damp on the outside our gear had kept us pretty dry underneath. We arrived at the hostel in good spirits much too early to check-in, so we left some of our wet gear in the drying room and headed into the town to find a pub. The Board Hotel in the market place seemed pleasant enough and was still serving food, so we ordered some sandwiches and chips and made a dent in their real ale selection.

Rob strikes a heroic pose on the way down Great Shunner Fell

Rob strikes a heroic pose on the way down Great Shunner Fell

At 4pm we sauntered back to the hostel to check-in, grab a shower and sort out our kit for the next day. Most of our wet stuff was already steaming in the drying room. Our room this time was only a two berth so we were very short on space and I was offered the top bunk, which given that Rob is up for a pee three times a night seemed like the best option.

Kit sorted, we went down to see what the evening meal menu had to offer. This was the first hostel where we had the luxury of choosing to eat in the town if we desired. The hostel menu was actually a little disappointing (maybe for exactly that reason?) so we plumped for finding somewhere in town. We found a nice pub selling Theakston’s OP but at £3.20 a pint we’d run out of money before we got drunk! In the end we found a shop and bought provisions for the next day as well as a half bottle of vodka, on the way back to the hostel we stopped at a very popular chippy and got huge portions of meat & potato pie, sausage and chips and took them back to our room.

Another great evening was spent in a very steamy room with Pete Shelley and Co, Mr. Vladivar and several empty chip wrappers. We made plenty of noise that evening I am sure, not least in the digestion of the food.

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