6th September 2005 – Grinton to Keld – 15 miles
Day two dawned clear and sunny again, with a hint of mist auguring another fine day ahead. Breakfast was a rather cramped affair, the warden appeared to want the 16 or so of us to use just two tables, instead of spreading across the several others that were available. We were away for about 9am, again later than I would normally like, but a good breakfast more than made up for the delay.
We walked back down the hill to Grinton and across the bridge over the Swale and up the road on the other side into Reeth. The general store was open and we managed to stock up with something for lunch and a bottle of vodka for the expected dry stay in Keld that night. The little shop had a cash machine, which would have been very useful since the bank in Reeth had closed a couple of years earlier. Norman’s book had us expecting a Barclay’s bank in the town, but fortunately we weren’t short of cash, so weren’t disappointed this time.
The path from Reeth to Healaugh is absolutely beautiful, following closely the sweep of the Swale. The level of the river was much reduced due to the dry summer and I can imagine the scene is even more spectacular with a full quota of blue. After Healaugh, the path led us up onto Reeth Low Moor and Reeth High Moor. The sun was getting quite hot now and I had to resort to the dreadful pack-away sunhat I keep in my pack as I refuse to slap sun cream on myself.
The path climbs away from Barney Beck, a little river that runs down from the High Moor to join the Swale at Healaugh. There is a lower alternative route that follows a wooded path along the beck, but then you miss the splendid views. This place is also worth a mention as being the first place I have ever had to take an outdoor poo (apart from the ones when you’re a kid and your Mum can’t find a toilet). In contrast Rob’s daily poo never seems to coincide with an indoor toilet and we always seem to have to stop at some point for him to find a bush or a gulley, fortunately I’m generally a little way down the path on sentry duty.
The path now meets with Old Gang Beck and this is followed gradually up hill towards Level House and its Bridge and Hard Level Gill. The paths are still well defined even once you’ve left the access roads. You now start to meet evidence of lead mining activities, coming first to Surrender Mill, where we took a lunch break in the welcome shade of the crumbling ruin of the smelting mill, before continuing along past other mining buildings to Level House Bridge.
The area between Hard Level Gill and Gunnerside Moor is more reminiscent of a moonscape than any other place I have seen, vast spoil heaps and hardly a green plant as far as the eye can see. Abandoned mining gear gently rusting into oblivion adds counterpoint to the scene.
Norman Scholes states that the path through Gunnerside is easy to miss, so we were well prepared, and still managed to miss it. We went too far up the Gill and picked up what we thought was the right path, unfortunately this actually led us too high up the west side of Gunnerside Moor. From this high point we were not able to pick up the path that leads past North Hush and had to tramp a good long way off-track across the trackless heather moorland trying to pick the path up further to the west.
Rob had borrowed a GPS unit from a friend. This we used to give us an accurate grid reference for the OL30 Ordnance Survey map that covers the whole route. So although we had missed the path, we at least always knew exactly where we were and where we needed to be. This, for me, is enough to justify the statement that we were never actually lost, just off track a bit.
This scenic diversion cost us about two hours we reckoned, the heather was very thick, the hill very steep and we kept having to track left and right to avoid gulleys and drop offs. By the time we got back on track we were hot, sweating and knackered and we still had about 4 miles to go. Rob had drained his platypus and I was down to my last half litre of warm water.
I have a pocket in my pack for a platypus and for a while I did think about getting one, but apart from anything else, Rob’s experience has put me off. I like to know how much water I have left at any point in the walk, so I can ration it accordingly. The platypus is very convenient and keeps the water cooler than a belt attached bottle, but you never really know how much is left, without taking off your pack and having a look – this sort of invalidates any benefits in my view. So I stick with my £2.99 plastic bottle in its thermal lining which I got from Woolies and sewed onto the hip belt on my pack and I carry an appropriate number of spare bottles of water in my pack to refill it.
We got to Crackpot Hall about 5:30pm although we didn’t spend much time exploring it as all we wanted at this point was a shower and a sit down. Similarly Kisdon Force was merely nodded at as we stumbled up the last rise into Keld village. It was close to 6pm now and that was the cut-off time for ordering an evening meal in the hostel, we certainly did not want to miss that, so we tried to move as quickly as possible. However, we were sorely tried by a sign leaning against a wall in Keld village which announced Cold Drinks and Ice Cream. “Sod the deadline” was the unanimous decision and we followed the sign into someone’s converted front room. Very enterprising – they could have charged us £10 a drink and on that day at that time we would both have paid happily.
Rusting mine equipment on Gunnerside MoorAs it was we got to the hostel about 6:10pm, the warden kindly reassuring us that we could still order dinner. Rob carried the bags up two flights of very narrow and twisting stairs to our room. Again we had a four berth to ourselves and by this time the rush for the showers was over, so we didn’t have to wait for them. Dinner in the very cramped dining room was nothing extraordinary, but it was all hot and not much was left to be scraped off into the waiting bowl at the end. The views out of the dining room window were certainly the best I have had to date.
A nice surprise was the beer on sale behind the reception desk, cold bottles of a fantastic dark beer whose name escapes me, but may have had something to do with sheep? We took a couple of these out into a little raised “garden” behind the kitchen, more a bench enclosed by a wall than a garden, but nice and cool in the shade of the building. Once these were finished we purchased a couple more and headed up to our room. Kit was sorted, map folded for the next day and lively discussion about today’s route was had. The half bottle of vodka purchased in Reeth was gradually polished off along with the other beers, to the dulcet tones of the Buzzcocks playing on my mobile phone. You might not be able to get a signal on it anywhere in the Dales, but the MP3 player was brilliant.