6th May 2010 – Crowden to Bleak Hey Nook – 13.5 miles
“Have you ever walked the lonesome hills and heard the curlews cry?
Or seen the raven black as night, upon a windswept sky.
To walk the purple heather and hear the westwind cry.
To know that’s where the rapparee* must die”
The Pogues – Young Ned Of The Hill
*rapparee = freebooting soldier of 17th-century Ireland, a bandit or robber
Well, not a great evening for City fans as we slumped to a rather pathetic 0-1 defeat. So much for Champions League football next year. Night time at Old House wasn’t much better either really. My room is adjacent to the shared shower and toilet block, so nocturnal flushes sounded loudly into my room. The three rooms appear to be set in a recently converted stables and not all the residents are human. I could hear scurrying in the roof space all night as little buggers practiced their square dancing noisly above my head. The final straw was the 04:45 alarm call from the resident cockrel. He was in snooze mode obviously because he repeated his alarm every 10 or 15 minutes for the remainder of the morning.
Old House B&B is actually a little disappointing, it’s really just an upmarket bunk house. Each room sleeps 3 or 4 with a shared kitchen and 2 shower stalls and 2 toilets. The sign at the top of their drive proclaims “all rooms en-suite”, but unless this is a new definition of that term I don’t think it’s strictly accurate.
It was great to see Tex and Rog last night. Just like the familiar start to the walk yesterday the night out seemed to displace the fact that I’m starting a long distance walk. They’re meeting me tonight as well, I’ll still be close enough to Manchester, so that should be a good evening too.
Just seen the weather forecast on the TV and it looks a little bleak for the next few days. As much as I don’t tend to listen to the weather guessers it’s hard to ignore the rainy icon for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Ah well that’s the risk you run when you walk in the UK I guess.
Breakfast at Old House was excellent by the way. Quality ingredients and well cooked too and a nice selection of cereals. I shared the dining room with a solo walker doing the Way as far as Horton, taking 6 days. He’d arrived quite late yesterday afternoon, just in time to catch the lift from the host to the local pub. He was accompanying a group of four young guys who have Room 3, who are also doing the Way. Although I started mid-week there seems to be quite a few people walking the route. At least 8 others that I know of. I found out later that the solo walker is called Nigel and the four lads are only doing the first three days – to Hebden Bridge.
I’m now relaxing in my room at Wellcroft House just outside Standedge and my feet are still protesting at the punishment they received today. Although the distance was about 2 miles less than yesterday there was a lot more ups and downs involved and that has been tough on occasions. The weather on the whole was better than forecast. There were no proper showers today although the drizzle was heavier than yesterday and it did force me to don waterproof troos for a couple of hours. It wasn’t rain as such – just wet air being blown against me 🙂
The morning started appallingly. I left the B&B at about 09:00 and was shown a short cut that avoids the main road. Unfortunately it used a nasty little tunnel with a very steep and slippery cobbled surface and I slipped and fell heavily, sliding about 10-15 feet on my arse down the slope getting very wet and cutting my hands in several places as I tried to halt my progress. I spent the next few minutes cursing my clumsiness and trying to patch up the cuts on my hands with anti-septic wipes and plasters.
The drizzle and mist were ever present as I climbed past Crowden Hostel and up the steep stony path to Laddow Rocks. The wind was much more forceful today as well and the combination made the walk along the precipitous edge all the more interesting.
I came across my first walkers of the day shortly after donning my troos and gaiters – as I approached the crossing of Crowden Great Brook. A foreign (possibly Swedish) man and wife with huge packs who were struggling with the boggy section at that point. They were most interested in my gaiters – obviously not something they see in Sweden.
I left them to their own company and pushed on up the paved path towards Black Hill. Here I met a guy coming towards me, walking 5 little dogs. He was a chatty old fella and eager to meet as many Pennine walkers as possible as said he was walking it next month. “Times pushing on, I’m 60 and I thought I’d better get it done while there’s still life in my legs” he said.
I could see a lone walker with a white hat on ahead of me and I presumed it was the Tilley guy from yesterday, but as I summited Black Hill I could see it wasn’t. He was a black guy – unusual in that I rarely see black walkers, no idea why, but they seem to make up such small proportion of walkers I see on the fells. He asked me if I would take a photo of him with the trig point and then he set off again into the mist, while I paused to snaffle some raisins and take some photos.
After 10 minutes or so I caught him again as he stopped to chat to a woman coming towards us. We walked together for a few minutes and he told me he was going as far along the Way as he could manage in 7 days. He hoped to reach Tan Hill – which would be about right I guess. He was quite a slow walker though, so after a few minutes I excused myself and pushed on.
There was no tea van at Wessenden Head (A635) as the guide book had said was likely, so I was a bit gutted. I was cold and damp and would have loved a warm cuppa at that point. So I pushed on, down past the reservoirs to a new diversion of the path.
At Wessenden Lodge the path has been diverted, permanently it seems, down a steep narrow clough which means a knee jarring descent immediately followed by a lung bursting climb out the other side. Bloody unwelcome I can tell you at that point of the day.
The mist and drizzle and wind had discouraged any prolonged stops so far, so I was going to be quite early at the B&B again, so I eased back on the pace. Just before Black Moss reservoir I met the two lads who’d tried to lose themselves on Bleaklow yesterday. As unkind as the nickname might be, I’d dubbed them the “Lost Boys”. They were relaxing by the path, obviously they didn’t like the new diversion either. The quieter of the pair spoke to me today and he sounds American or possibly Canadian, but they are camping again so I’m unlikely to see them this evening. No doubt we’ll continue to cross paths for a day or two more.
I finally arrived at the B&B at about 15:25, having walked as slowly as I could for the last hour or so. I apologised to the landlady, but she told me it wasn’t a problem. Much earlier though and it would have been as she’s a school teacher and isn’t around until about 15:15.
Two of the 4 guys from the B&B last night were already sitting behind her dining room table enjoying tea and cake. They’d caught a taxi from Wessenden Head after one of them couldn’t carry on due to bad blisters and the other was suffering from shinsplints. Their two companions were still walking. As it happens, they were only doing the first three days of the Way so it’s not going to be a big problem for them.
Despite the apparent moan about the weather I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these 2 days of walking. I love the Pennines in the mist, they’re so remote and desolate – it adds a real edge to the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong I would love to see some sunshine, but mist and drizzle are fine too in their own way.
Tex and Rog are on their way to meet me again, so we should find a nice pub and enjoy a couple of drinks.