Pennine Way: Day Nine

13th May 2010 – Keld to Bowes – 12.6 miles

“Ahh, get that, country air, nothing like it”
“Smells like normal air, with cow shit in it”
“Exactly, nothing like the all pervading stench of faeces to take your mind off your troubles”
Jimmy & Fletch – Lesbian Vampire Killers

I had a slightly emotional morning, as I said farewell to the C2C bunch from last night. All I could think of was the lonely evenings ahead of me, sitting on my Jack, in quiet pubs with just my iPhone for company. I envied them the camerarderie of the walk they were doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the solitude of the walking during the day, the quiet paths and desolate moorland of the PW are just what I was hoping for. But the lack of other people’s company in the evening is becoming a bit tiresome, it makes the separation from my wife, kids and grandson all the harder to bear.

Dave & Rachel (and their rubber chicken) and Paul, Little Ben & Dickie

Dave & Rachel (and their rubber chicken) and Paul, Little Ben & Dickie

Farewell to the C2C'ers

Farewell to the C2C’ers

Butt House is a great place to stay and breakfast is a rowdy, communal affair – there’s only one breakfast time, which you need to agree as a group the night before. After we’d finished we all congregated outside at about 09:00, shouldering packs and getting boots on. The C2C bunch were waiting for their bubble to come together, with some coming over from the Lodge. I was waiting to see Dave and Rachel, to say goodbye and to wish them well for the rest of their walk.

I got a photo of them together with Rachel’s rubber chicken mascot and then walked down to the start of the path with them. I said farewell as they waited for someone and I ended up walking over the bridge with Little Ben, Dickie and Paul. These last two were walking to support East Anglia Air Ambulance and they look like they’ve been kitted out by the same outdoor retailer, with matching jackets and walking poles.

I headed left over the bridge, on my own, and their caterpillar headed right, up towards Crackpot Hall. No that wasn’t a tear, I had grit in my eye.

Nine Standards Rigg, just about visible from the path to Tan Hill

Nine Standards Rigg, just about visible from the path to Tan Hill

I took it really easy up to Tan Hill, I had loads of time and very little distance to cover today and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get into the B&B much before 16:00. The path to Tan Hill is mostly uphill so I was happy to walk slowly and admire the distant views. It was good walking weather all the way, bright and sunny with very little wind and not too cold or too warm. I managed to see the whole day out with just base layer and fleece.

I arrived at Tan Hill and was pleased to find it open and serving tea and coffee. I found the Aussie Ladies inside and said hello, but they were packing up to leave, so I sat outside and chatted with a day-walker who was waiting for his friends to arrive. I sent a few texts and emails with the signal that I now had, having left the black hole in Keld.

Tan Hill Inn, it's a bit remote up here

Tan Hill Inn, it’s a bit remote up here

At about 11:15 I pushed on across Sleightholme Moor, one of the wettest places on the whole route so far. Fortunately the recent dry spell had tamed it somewhat and although I managed to lose one foot up to the shin in a wet patch, I mostly crossed the 3.5 mile bog unscathed. After rain this place must be a nightmare. I can’t state how lucky I felt being able to cross so easily. The road runs almost parallel to the moor and after any sort of rainfall this would be the best route to take.

Views of Sleightholme Moor - a great place, unless it's rained in the past 3 months

Views of Sleightholme Moor – a great place, unless it’s rained in the past 3 months

Views of Sleightholme Moor - a great place, unless it's rained in the past 3 months

Views of Sleightholme Moor – a great place, unless it’s rained in the past 3 months

I passed the Aussie Ladies as they took an “orange break”, in the middle of the moor, no shelter protecting them from the chill wind and they soon followed me across this barren moor. I could still see Tan Hill in the distance behind me, it must be a torment for N-S walkers who see it way ahead and never seem to get any closer.

Once I reached the road I started to look for somewhere to stop for lunch. I wanted some shelter though, so it wasnt until I reached Sleightholme Farm that I managed to find a spot behind a wall to sit down and have a break. I heard the Ladies pass me, twittering amongst themselves, but I was out of sight so they didn’t see me.

A little while later I passed them again as they sat taking lunch at the wonderfully named Bog Scar. It was here that I took the first unintentional diversion of my walk. I somehow missed the path as it rose away from the river and I found myself stuck between a wall and the riverbank and obviously needing to be higher up than I was. I scrambled up the bank beside the wall, over a drystone wall and through someones front garden (they weren’t in) aiming for a fingerpost I could see on the otherside of their hedge. I finally managed it and found the sign was a PW sign! Bonus!

Forgotten road sign near Bowes

Forgotten road sign near Bowes

I passed my half way point today. Just before arrival in Bowes I walked through a dreadful, shit-ridden, stinking, sess-pit of a farm called Lady Myers. This place isn’t going to win “farm of the year”, but it was the point beyond which it’s easier to walk to the end than it is to walk back to Edale.

Half Way!!

Half Way!!

Bowes CastleI strolled into Bowes, along lanes and through fields, quite aware that this is an alternative route and nowhere near as well trod or well signed as the main route. Farms in particular seem reluctant to admit there’s a path through their property and once or twice I felt I was unwelcome. However, Bowes Castle soon came into view and I had a little mooch around it before heading off to find the Ancient Unicorn. I spotted the solo backpacker I’d first seen in Malham Cove, taking more photos, this time of the Castle, but he left before I arrived.

Bowes Castle

Bowes Castle

I’ve not had much to complain about on the B&B front so far, but I’m not really happy with this place. The room is very dated, the tiny single bed is ancient and lumpy, bathroom is minging, no shower, radiator will not switch off, everything creaks or clicks and the window won’t shut properly. Plus, to cap it all, the village shop has gone, so I can’t buy lunch for tomorrow. End of moan.

I’m feeling really strong physically but psychologically I’m feeling quite low, possibly due to the great night last night and possibly due to the feeling that 17 days is too long to be away from home. I don’t think I want to do this amount of “away” time again, I miss home and the people there. If I was doing the C2C I would only have another 2 or 3 days to go, whereas I have another 8 still to do – it feels like a lot at the moment.

The huge plus to staying at the Ancient Unicorn, however, is the fact that I was forced to take a bath – the first one I’ve had since being forced to take one in the Drover’s Inn on the West Highland Way. The bath in the Unicorn was huge – obviously an old one, I just don’t fit into new baths – I filled it as far as I dared and lay soaking for ages. I had some Pink Floyd playing and kept topping up the hot water and lay there luxuriating in the steam and the hot water – utter bliss!! Only the need for food forced me out of the water and back into the real world.

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