Friday 17th June – Reeth to Keld
Today I shall mostly be headbanging whilst walking to “Walk On” by Deep Purple.
Note: Apologies, but there are no photos for the next two days – for some unknown reason the bloody camera hasn’t been writing them to the memory card. The card is readable and the camera has been making all the right noises etc., but I’ve just checked and there’s nothing since arriving in Reeth – I’m absolutely bloody furious with the camera and myself of course – but there you have it – no photos. Which also means I’ll forget a load of things I saw and did, people I spoke to etc., because the photos I take are all little reminders of them.
The noisy toilet had me up at silly o’clock and I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I flicked on the TV and listened out for the weather forecast from the BBC. It sounded bleak – showers expected all day with winds increasing in the afternoon – great.
I was down at breakfast at 08:00 and settled on tea and toast, the place seemed quite empty – in fact I’d noticed Vacancy signs on most of the places in the village – it has lots of beds, but even so I would have expected it to be a little busier at this time of the year. I had to wait a while before I could pay my bill – no-one to man reception while breakfast was being prepared.
I was out and walking by 09:00. There was absolutely no rush today – I only had 12 miles or so to do. The weather forecast had put me off doing the high level route I’d planned over Great Pinseat, but I was determined to do the usual high route; past Surrender and Old Gang.
I settled on a compromise ensemble of baselayer and Paramo jacket – no waterproof trousers – so at least I would be dry on top and the trousers are pretty quick drying, so no huge problems. As it was it didn’t rain at all – and the wind was fairly light all day – and at my back – which is the first time yet.
I used a footpath through the fields west of Reeth to gain some altitude this morning – they looked familiar and I reckon I must have used the same path on a previous circular walk a while ago – the idea had been to gain height gently, rather than the usual path that hugs the Swale all the way to Healaugh and then heads steeply up the hill to reach the 4WD drive track beside Nova Scotia.
My route was great, lots of field boundaries – and their tiny stiles and gates, but lovely and quiet and I didn’t see a soul once I left Reeth behind. I found a couple at Surrender Mill, but they weren’t walking, just having a stroll from their car. I met the first wester of the day at Old Gang Smelt Mill, he’s set out early from the campsite at Keld and had made pretty good time, he was heading for Richmond, so I recommended the Reeth Bakery as a lunch stop and wished him well.
The beauty of today was that I needed no map – even more so than yesterday afternoon I knew this route like an old friend and could have walked it blindfolded. I gained height along the track until I reached the old Stone Crusher on Melbecks Moor. I was tempted to take a break here, but I was still a little worried about the forecasted showers, so I thought I’d make hay while I could, before the rain came and see what happened. I met no-one at Blakethwaite ruins and it wasn’t until I started to climb out of the valley up to Lownathwaite that I encountered my next westers.
I met a trio of older walkers – sticking to the guide book no matter what happened. I’d recommended a slightly easier exit from the valley for them, but they weren’t having it – Martin Wainwright knew best and that was an end of the matter. I met a pair of female walkers a couple of minutes later – they didn’t even acknowledge me as we passed – I just don’t understand that attitude!
I decided to rest for a while. I found shelter from the increasingly strong wind, in a grouse butt beside the path and enjoyed a sausage roll and a Diet Coke – and watched two more trios of walkers pass by. And that was it for westers – 12 in total – all day. There must be a huge number who took the Swaledale path instead of the high route. Keld has about 30 beds and another possibly 20 campers – so out of a possible maybe 50 people – only 12 came the high way. Maybe that was to do with the weather forecast and maybe it’s just that the guide books emphasise how lovely the Swale route is – I’ve no idea.
I took my time after my lunch break and sauntered along the track, down East Grain, past Swinner Gill ruins and down to Crackpot Hall. Here I met a group of three easters – that now makes six of us that I know about. They’d gone the lower route along the Swale and said they’d seen only a few people too. We walked together into Keld – a father and his late-twenties daughter and another older male companion, with a straw cowboy hat on! They’d all prepared for the wet forecast too and had been hot and sweaty all day as a result. Bloody weather guessers.
They were off to Tan Hill and stopped at the phone box to call the landlord to arrange for a lift. I headed to Keld Lodge for a shower and a drink. I was fairly sure that even at 2:15pm I’d be able to get into my room.
I walked in with a couple of westers who were just arriving from Kirkby Stephen and we all got the usual warm welcome from mein-host Tony. He showed us to the drying room – which the other two guys were glad of – and then our rooms.
By 2:30 I was back down in the bar. There was a guy in full army combat gear, with the biggest pack I’ve seen in ages, sitting at the bar nursing a pint. Tony said he was off to Reeth in a minute and he needed some route advice. I offered help, but the guy said he was going to hoof it along the road as he’d had enough of navigation today – having made something of a whopper from KS and missed the Nine Standards completely and ending up on the road instead.
The younger of the two guys who’d arrived with me came down and we all stood at the bar chatting. We were joined 10 minutes later by another chap, a Ukrainian. The three chaps all knew each other – part of the same bubble – but I wasn’t excluded from the conversation. We spent the next 6 hours getting to know each other very well. Nick the Army Medic, after 7 or 8 pints, decided not to hump it to Reeth and when we told him there was a lovely campsite at the bottom of the village he seemed quite content to sit, drink and chat.
John – a botanist with aspirations to be an entomologist – was walking with his Dad, Nick was trying to beat an 8 day crossing set by his friend 20 years earlier and Alan the Ukrainian, was a 30 year old retired financial advisor who was immediately christened Boris the Banker. He was spending a year walking the great paths of the world – although he was getting a little bored and was considering going back to work!! Jammy sod.
I’m not a big drinker – the occasional drink on a weekend with the wife – so the first 4 or 5 pints of Black Sheep were something of a shock to my system – a nice shock, but after that I decided to switch to whiskies, just to slow the pace down.
We spent a great evening – Keld still living up to my view of it as the social hub of the C2C, last year the C2Cers had welcomed me, a Pennine Wayer, with open arms, now these three chaps. Nick had dinner with us even though he wasn’t a guest and Alan bought and smoked one of the largest (and most expensive) cigars I’ve ever seen in my life. He and Tony did some secret negotiations over the price, then he had to go and sit outside for an hour and smoke it.
By 11pm I was bladdered, blog forgotten about, considerations for tomorrows excursions over Nine Standards completely ignored and I went to bed happy and merry. Thankfully, Keld Lodge is a peaceful oasis and I slept soundly until the alarm at 7:15.
Apparently Keld Lodge is up for sale – if you have £850,000 to spare and fancy a thriving business in the best village in the Dales then give Tony a call. He did say he would only sell it as a business, so there’s no danger of the village losing the hotel, which will be a huge relief to all C2Cers, Pennine Wayers, Herriot Wayers and all the other walkers who visit the place.