Sunday, 19 May 2013

Bowes to Baldersdale

Yesterday was devoted to logistics – and I was really pleased not to be walking, as it rained continuously.

It was a taxi to Kirkby Stephen railway station, which having ordered the taxi much earlier than necessary I reached a good half hour before the train was due. But at least there was a waiting room. The train was five minutes late, and then proceeded with the dame delay to Skipton. The unfortunate thing was that visibility was appalling: this is supposed to be the finest rail journey in England. At Skipton it was a quick trip to Morrisons, just by the station, for a newspaper and some bananas. The bus to Malham was on time, but there were only three passengers after the first couple of stops (all walkers; the other two sounded Dutch).

I then drove to Greenhead, where I took some time to find the B&B I had booked for the following Thursday. Nobody was in, and I have to report that it looked somewhat uninspiring. We shall see.

Flooding on the South Tyne at Haltwhistle
I then found a local (Chris) and asked him about local taxi services. Very generously he drove me to Haltwhistle, from which I already knew I could catch a train to Carlisle which should arrive just before the Leeds train was due to leave. Though we passed a train going my way as we drove to the station, and I therefore had to wait an hour for the next one, at least there was a pub nearby. The trains duly performed as required, and I reached Appleby just before 7:00 p.m. I had chosen Appleby instead of Kirkby Stephen, as KS station is miles from the town, and I was uncertain about finding a taxi there. No such problem at Appleby, but the taxi back to Bowes set me back £50, which pretty well doubled my expenses for the day. But at least (a) I was back at the Ancient Unicorn, and (b) my car was where I wanted it to be at the end of the week.

At breakfast the following morning there were two Welsh brothers who were also walking the Pennine Way, half way through the middle section from Hawes to Greenhead. They are regular walking companions, and do a week of long distance stuff every year as well as more local stuff in the Brecon Beacons. One is 66, the other 71, so I’m not the only gentleman of a certain age doing this sport of thing. They had walked the previous day from Keld to Baldersdale, from which they had a lift to get back to the Ancient Unicorn, as they had been unable to get into accommodation in Baldersdale. I think the only place there is Clove Lodge, where I would be staying that evening. They had organised everything through a walking tour company, which in turn uses Brigantes for some of the logistics. Tony from Brigantes was to take them back to Baldersdale that morning to resume, and also took my luggage on to Clove Lodge.

I was on my way soon after 9:30, only to be brought to a halt when I noticed a message on my phone. It was an unrecognisable number, but I assumed it might well have been Lloyds Bank, since they had apparently tried to reach me at home the previous day. So it proved. Two long phone calls followed, the first inexplicably dropped. It was the fraud unit at Lloyds, and they had obviously been on the ball. Some eight or nine transaction had been attempted overt the previous three days, all of which were indeed fraudulent. Three at the iTunes store, others at House of Frazer, Sports Direct and other on-line stores I didn’t recognise. So I was asked to destroy the debit card, which could prove a real nuisance. My suspicions were that Heriots in Hawes were in some way responsible: I had used my debt card there, and it had been taken from me, and they also knew my home address from the registration form. It will be interesting to find out what happens, if I ever get more details.

Then, after the half hour to resolve the issue, it was on my way. It was initially a gentle climb on the minor road from Bowes, which goes through an old MoD dumping ground with warnings of unexploded ordnance from WW2. Not really through: the road is obviously savfe, but the dumping ground is on both sides of the road. Then there was a half mile across fields before reaching a track to the moor. The farmhouse at the end of the track was unusual in being thatched: this is not something I have seen anywhere else in this limestone country where nearly everything is stone built and roofed.
A farm above Bowes - unusually with thatched roof

The first half of the moorland was pretty dull. It was grass and tussocks, with no heather, so I was surprised to come across a pair of grouse only a few metres away from me. I thought they always needed heather: the nearest was a good mile away. Otherwise my company was lots of lapwings and meadow pipits, skylarks, and the odd curlew. And snipe, drawing attention to themselves by their strange drumming display flight. No golden plover, though.

The first part of the moor bordered another restricted area, this time a shooting range. The actual range is a good two or three kilometres away, with the butts and firing points clearly marked on the map, but I guess one has to allow for the odd misdirected shot. There were no red flags today, though. I suppose it was a Sunday, but I suspect there isn’t that much use made of such firing ranges nowadays anyway.

Goldborough Hill
The second half of the moorland part of the walk was towards Goldborough, which turns out to be a prominent rock-crowned hill. It’s not particularly high, at 389m, but still pretty significant in this country. Borough seems a fairly common latter part of hill names hereabouts, so it must mean some kind of hill. Maybe it refers to rocky outcrops at the summit. Research is required. The Pennine Way actually skirts the top of Goldborough, but there are perfectly acceptable (but unmarked) paths up and down, so it seemed churlish to omit its summit. There I at on the edge of the rocks overlooking the moors and had my lunch. This was a short day’s walk, so I felt justified in taking a very leisurely approach to the proceedings.

My lunchtime view from thecrags at Goldborough
Once off the moor, there was a short stretch on a minor road, and then a track down to a farm described on the map as East Friar House. But at the cattle grid fifty metres down the track I found a lamb trapped beneath the grid. I thought at first that I’d just tell the people at the farm, but then thought that they might not actually be the owners. So I decided to attempt the rescue myself. It proved much easier than I expected. The first time I tried to grab it by the neck it wriggled free, but the second attempt succeeded, and it popped out like a cork from a bottle. It immediately dashed off to its agitated mother, and the pair of them lolloped off down the track ahead of me. I felt that I had preserved it for time enough for it to grow into a source of lamb chops.

There was then a mile or so of farmland, crossing a succession of fields of sheep with stiles between. These are mostly the local version with stone steps protruding from the stone walls, and either a narrow slit at the top or a small gate which closes on a spring. They are not my favourite kind of obstacle, but where there were gates they were usually tied firmly shut with baler twine, and the stiles are preferable to clambering over the gates themselves. I suppose using the stiles provided is an essential part of observing the Country Code.

Back on the main branch of the Pennine Way
The final part of the walk was backwards up the main part of the Pennine Way. There was a sign at the turning point referring to the route I had taken that day – and missed the previous day – as the Bowes Loop. It adds some four or five miles to the overall distance, but can’t really be avoided if you decide to stay in Bowes. Not that I’d particularly recommend Bowes, but it is a convenient stopping point after Keld or Thwaite.

I reached my B&B, Clove Lodge, a little before 3:00. I had dawdled for much of the day, but it was still a very short section. I can’t imagine that there will be any other as short, though Greenhead to Twice Brewed, which I shall be walking in June, is a possible competitor. I was welcomed with tea, some delicious cake, and a promise of a drink before dinner. My room is called the pig stye, which is a little unfair. It’s certainly a whole lot better than the vast majority of places in which I’ve stayed so far.  A definite “A”. I had time for a shower, a change, and an opportunity to catch right up to date with my journal (or blog). I look forward to dinner.

Spring at last? The view from Clove Lodge

 Overcast early and late, but dry. Sunny between 12:00 and 2:00 adn again in the evening. Much warmer – 12-18C, I estimate. Only 13.01 km, 236m ascent, and 203 descent. 30% on roads or tracks, 20% on farmland, and 50% on the open moor.

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