Hawes to Keld
Approx: 13 miles
“But I can stand where legends stand, when I walk the hill”
Big Country – I Walk The Hill
Peeking out of my second floor window, high up in the top of Herriots Guest House I could see only blue sky – not a cloud in sight. It was very cold again though, with frost on the car windows in the street below. Not for the last time today did I think “looks like May, feels like February”.
I was out walking shortly after 09:00 due to breakfast only being available from 08:30. When I’m offered a late start like that I now tend to settle for tea and toast, otherwise I’m carrying too much on board for the first couple of miles.
I started out with base layer and fleece and this actually felt too warm in the sun, with very little breeze in the village itself, but once I’d crossed the bridge and entered the fields that lead to Hardraw it felt about right.
I met my lone backpacking companion from yesterday as I left Hawes, he was on the hunt for some gas so he had a later start than me and I didn’t see him again for the day. He was heading to Keld though, so we should still cross paths at some point.
I knew almost all today’s route from memory, apart from the section down into Keld, as I’d always used the Herriot Way route to cover that section, rather than the PW route (the former goes west around Kisdon while the latter goes east). I skipped the visit to Hardraw Force and headed straight up the lane that leads to Great Shunner Fell.
As I gained height it began to chill noticeably and I had to pause for a minute and add my coat onto my existing layers. As I was pulling it on I saw a Land Rover approaching from Hardraw, up the very stony and bumpy track, he was coming slowly and towing a very noisy trailer.
As he passed I could see he was the Pennine Way Ranger (he had a large sign painted on the side that sort of gave the game away). He stopped at the gate in the final wall before the open fell side. By the time arrived he’d started to make some masonry repairs to the gate post, apparently clipped by a careless tractor driver.
I stopped and chatted with him for a minute or two (as much to catch my breath as anything). He commented on how bizarre the weather was at the
moment and how there had been two or three feet of snow on the Cheviots just a couple of weeks previous. I asked him to get up there and shift it before I arrived!
I left him hard at work, somewhat envious of his job, even if it was a bit chilly. I could think of worse jobs to have!!
I had to stop again shortly after and apply hat and gloves to combat the cold wind. It wasn’t as strong as previous days but what it lacked in strength it more than made up for in temperature.
I could see three figures a long way ahead on the path, the weather was clear, which is unusual for me when I ascend Shunner and you could see all the way to the summit shelter and much of the path on the way there too. I had no idea who they were, they could easily be day walkers, but I’ve come to assume anyone on the PW path is a Pennine Walker.
I arrived at the summit just a few moments after they did and we shared one of the quarters of the cross shelter, the other one on the sheltered side being occupied by a canoodling couple. I’d already met two of the three guys, although for the life of me I couldn’t remember from where. They were Pennine Walkers obviously and I recalled they were doing quite a quick schedule – they’d been joined by a friend for a couple of days – but were continuing on alone after Middleton. We had a very jolly 15-20 minute break in the shelter and we posed for a group photo, before they set out again – it was unlikely I would see them again, they were off to Tan Hill and then Middleton and I was taking three days for that journey.
I let them go, as I wanted go take advantage of the phone signal I knew I would get on Shunner, as I also knew that I wouldn’t have one in Keld later. I called Chris and updated her on progress and caught up with news from home. I also downloaded all my emails and then set out into the wind again and down to Thwaite.
On the way down I came across a man and woman walking together, I could see they were walking the Herriot Way as they had the Scholes guide book in a waterproof map case. I asked them how they were enjoying it and asked a leading question about the guide book they were using. When they said they weren’t very impressed, but it was the only one they’d found for it, I felt quite pleased. I told them about my recent project to write a new guide book for the walk. It didn’t help them much of course, but it helped me 🙂
As I approached Thwaite I could see a torrential downpour on the path ahead of me. It was very strange, watching a huge dark cloud dump large amounts of water in such close proximity to me, without actually being rained on. I eventually had to pass through it though and was bizarrely pleased to discover it was actually a hail shower and not rain at all. It was ferocious though and the little pellets battered off me for 5 minutes until I reached the Kearton Tea Room in Thwaite vlllage. I took shelter and ordered tea and a slice of lemon cheesecake.
The cake arrived on a huge plate with a side order of ice cream and some lemon sorbet, the tea included a huge ginger biscuit. I had a very relaxing 30 mins in there are the hail storm passed on, until I got the bill that is. £5.55 for a cup of tea and a slice of cake!
There’s a wicked little climb out of Thwaite, up the lower slopes of Kisdon, gaining about 500 feet in 1/2 a mile or so and I felt the burn as I pulled slowly up the hill.
The PW path around Kisdon is a little gem. It has the most incredible views of Swinner Gill and the fells on the opposite side of the gill. It’s a stony and rocky path too, feeling very wild and remote and adds to it’s charm. Its also a doddle to walk along and to follow and it had several day trippers from Keld and Muker walking it.
I soon arrived in Keld, around 14:40, so I wandered up to the Keld Lodge for a pint if Diet Coke and a sit down. I chatted with several Coast to Coasters who had just arrived from Kirkby Stephen, coming over Nine Standards Rigg and the notorious peat haggs which are entailed in that journey. As with my experience over the last few days though, they said it was very dry.
When I checked into Butt House I was pleased to find another very friendly group of C2C’ers. Although they hadn’t set out together, they’d formed that C2C bubble – a group of people all walking the path at the same pace, often stopping in the same b&bs and becoming firm friends. I chatted with John and Lori (Canadian couple), Dickie and Paul (2 friends doing the walk for charity), “little” Ben and his Mum, first time walkers having a great time and Colin and Cathy (I think that was her name). We were also joined by Dave and Rachel (from WalkingPlaces Forum), who were part of the same bubble but staying at the Lodge.
It was a real clash of cultures that night. The intense camerarderie of the C2C and the solitude of the PW. Of the 29 people staying in Keld Lodge and Butt House that night, 28 were walking the C2C and the other was me! Not in all the previous nights put together had I experienced that number of fellow walkers – and certainly not that level of friendly interaction. The PW and the C2C really are two very different walks.
I had such a good time that evening that I never had a chance to write up my journal and couldn’t take advantage of the WiFi in the Lodge. It’s being posted from the rather stale and seedy environs of the Ancient Unicorn in Bowes.