9th May 2010 – Cowling to Malham – 17.7 miles
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking”
The longest day of the walk so far at almost 18 miles has left my feet feeling warm and slightly abused, not sore exactly and nothing to worry about, but they know they’ve had a day out for sure. The weather was pretty much perfect today too – sunny, but plenty of light cloud cover and almost no wind to speak of, apart from on the most exposed sections.
I arrived down for breakfast at 08:00 and met my fellow lodger, Nigel. He’s the solo walker who wears jeans, from the Old House on Day 1. He’s also stopping at Beck Hall tonight, but he’s finishing at Horton tomorrow. He set out about 08:20, a good 30 mins before I was ready, so I didn’t really expect to see him until the evening.
As it was I met him about a mile outside Garsdale (Ed: actually it was Gargrave), he was searching for the path, which is easy to lose around there – too many fields and not enough fingerposts. We walked together into the village where he stopped for lunch in one of the cafes and I settled for a huge ice cream from a little van by the canal locks. But again, I find myself jumping ahead.
Woodland House is an excellent place to stay and both hosts are experienced walkers, having done the C2C a few years ago, you can’t go wrong booking here.
The first four miles of the day are tough, three nasty climbs account for nearly all of the days 2400 feet of ascent. No sooner have you reached one summit than you plummet down the other side of the hill and are presented with another steep climb. The drop down to Lothersdale is the most impressive – a real knee trembler down into a lovely picture postcard village, but the most dispiriting thing is the sight of the immense hill you face on the other side, up to Pinhaw Beacon.
The Beacon is the high point of Elslack Moor, a tiny oasis of moorland in a day almost completely dominated by fields and pastures. In fact I found this to be the most disappointing day of the walk so far, and not quite fully compensated by the lovely final four miles or so through Airton and Hanlith and into Malham.
Every long path has these “transition” days though, as you move from one scenic area to another and looking ahead as you approach Malham you can see the limestone hills and Malham Cove, hailing the start of “Limestone Country”.
The majority of the peat moorlands are behind me, I’ve been very lucky and crossed them mostly dry-shod. I’ve also had some of the best possible weather with which to experience them – let me clarify. The best weather for walking the high moorland of the Peak District is lowering, swirling mist, with ocassional light showers or drizzle, cold enough to mist your breath and to make you long for a warm fire at the end of the day. That was pretty much what I got.
I’ve walked almost all the distance of tomorrows walk, at various times on various walks, so I know what to expect. I’m not looking forward to the steep little pull up PYG after 11 miles, but it’s got to be done 🙂
I said farewell to the Lost Boys today. They were resting on the first climb out of Cowling this morning and are suffering from blisters and cramps, their pace has dropped to little more than a crawl, but they were only walking to Gargrave today and then Malham tomorrow, so I’ll be a day ahead of them now. They seem determined to plod on, they’re camping all the way and they have the biggest packs. Good luck to them!