Pennine Way Part 1

  • Day: 50 – Tuesday 4th July
  • Started at: Squirrel Wood, Cowling
  • Finished at: Malham YHA
  • Miles: 17.5
  • Miles from LE: 608.5
  • Duration: 10hrs (8:30-18:30)
  • Trig points visited: Pinhaw Beacon, 388m – SD944472
  • Ales imbibed: 0.5x Wainwright

I left promptly as I knew I had a long day ahead of me and was looking forward to getting to the picturesque village of Malham and a night in the youth hostel. Soon after rising out of Cowling the drizzle began but I reached Lothersdale in good time. Unfortunately I was too early for the nice looking pub – it was only 10am! So I continued on climbing upwards; deeper into the cloud. Reached Pinhaw Beacon and enjoyed the spectacular view – not!

Me looking cheery at Pinhaw Beacon
Me looking cheery at Pinhaw Beacon

By the time I got to Thornton-in-Craven I was pretty damp and my boots hard started to squelch. This village is crying out for a pub but unfortunately lacks one so a bench would have to suffice (during a brief pause in the rain) where I changed my socks. Just before reaching East Marton – and it’s pub! – there was a short stretch alongside the Liverpool to Leeds canal which included the double arch bridge. An odd feature that can’t be explained.

The double arch bridge
The double arch bridge

Unfortunately the pub lacked a fire or warm radiator – it was actually almost chilly inside – but what it lacked in warmth it made up for with a delicious steak sandwich. Once I was mostly dry apart from my socks and boots I stepped back out into the rain and promptly slipped down the stone steps back onto the towpath. Luckily no damage done. On arriving in Gargrave and being presented with a tearoom I flexed my will power and managed to walk straight on by – there were still a lot of miles to go today.

Having noted that the route crossed numerous fields (with saturated grass) I opted to continue along a track and cut back across just one field. Part way along my phone pinged and it was a photo from my dad of my mum enjoying the glorious warm sunshine back home in the garden. This tipped me over the edge and I burst into tears – “It’s not fair! Why can’t the sun come out here? What am I doing? This is miserable. I too could be sat at home enjoying the sunshine, instead I’m trudging through the rain. Was this whole LEJOG thing such a good idea?”. I rejoined the route and was quickly met by another walker and just about kept myself together as we introduced ourselves. This was Connor, on day 5 of walking the Pennine Way, a student who’d just competed his first year studying physics at Cambridge and as I would find out over the next couple of days was into ultra-light backpacking, that, and his brain is the size of a planet! He could tell me the weight in grams of virtually every item in his bag. (Hi Connor if you’re reading this – hope you’re progressing along the Pennine Way as planned with your very light bag!)

Conversation ensued for the remaining 6miles which made the time pass by much quicker and almost made me forget just how wet my feet were – sort of, although I think the squelching was audible. Walking over the crest of a hill and seeing Malham Cove looming in the distance, gave me a new appreciation of its sheer scale and uniqueness – that’s a moment I won’t forget.

First glimpse of Malham Cove
First glimpse of Malham Cove

In Malham, Connor headed to a campsite, I went towards the YHA and as I approached I dreamed of a very efficient drying room – it’s the small things! On inspection it seemed adequate and I practically deposited all of my belongings in there. In the kitchen I met Jane and Mark who are also walking LEJOG (that’s 9 others now)! Their journey had a different feel; there was no camping so their bags were very light and they were walking a much more direct line through larger places. Unfortunately they are also going to have to cut their trip short, at the Scottish border, due to family circumstances. (Hi Jane and Mark if you’re reading this – hope you enjoyed the rest of the Pennine leg and are able to return later in the year to conquer Scotland!)

  • Day: 51 – Wednesday 5th July
  • Started at: Malham YHA
  • Finished at: Horton-in-Ribblesdale
  • Miles: 12.5
  • Miles from LE: 621
  • Duration: 7.5hrs (8:30-16:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Ingleborough Ale

The hostel was rammed full of year 6 kids who had booked breakfast for 8am and so the vast majority of the hostel patrons were rushing to breakfast between 7:30 & 8:00. I saw Jane and Mark again and we swapped blog addresses before I departed.

The first leg of the walk was to wander down to Malham Cove, climb the staircase and clamber across the limestone pavement at the top. Looking back I could see others starting to trickle out of Malham but as it was still relatively early I was alone on the top, that was until Connor’s head popped up from the last step. I couldn’t understand where he’d come from but it was nice to have some company again.

It's quite daunting when you're underneath
It’s quite daunting when you’re underneath

We set off around Malham Tarn and then up over Fountain Fell where, as we descended, we stopped for lunch with a view over the valley to Pen-y-ghent. Even though the cloud was rising off the top I had already made up my mind that I was going to take the more direct route to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. So at a fork in the path we went our separate ways but knew we were staying the in the same (and only) campsite in the middle of Horton, so it wasn’t for long.  Soon after I’d pitched my tent and showered, some cadets arrived and pitched their tents, then more arrived, then more! It made for some rudimentary entertainment to watch the organised chaos of approximately 40 16/17 year olds put up tents, cook dinner and unwind all the while complaining about blisters.(Jasper and Max were also at the campsite in Horton but had taken the bus for today’s leg because they were suffering with blisters.)

The cadets setting up camp
The cadets setting up camp
  • Day: 52 – Thursday 6th July
  • Started at: Horton-in-Ribblesdale
  • Finished at: Hawes
  • Miles: 13.5
  • Miles from LE: 634.5
  • Duration: 6.75hrs (9:45-16:30)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1.5x Lightfoot Ale

When I poked my head out of the tent in the morning all the cadets had packed up and gone without making enough sound to rouse me – couldn’t believe it!

Without much in the way of food and with the well known Pen-y-ghent cafe / tourist information / shop / Yorkshire three peaks challenge check in/out post en route I decided to head there for breakfast. And who should I find waiting outside for it to open…Connor! After I’d watched him drink a pint of hot chocolate – none of this grande, venti nonsense, it was small or a pint when it came to hot drinks – we set off for Hawes.

Today’s walking was fairly unremarkable as it was along old packhorse ways – gradually uphill for the morning and then downhill for the afternoon. However what was remarkable was that at some point in the day I passed the halfway point! 600miles down, 600 to go. When I realised this I was on Birkwith Moor which unfortunately lacked a champagne bar so I merely stopped, through my arms aloft, whooped and then continued.
The second half of the day we were a group of 4 – we had caught up with Jasper and Max.

Route over an old bridge at Ling Gill
Route over an old bridge at Ling Gill

Once in Hawes I was celebrating reaching the halfway point with a pint outside one of the many many public houses on offer when Jane and Mark walked by. They joined me and even bought me a drink, and we shared stories of our walking experiences. The campsite was 1km out of Hawes so I had to drag myself away from the pub and go and get my tent set up and dinner cooked etc.

Sunset at Hawes
Sunset at Hawes

The following day was to be a rest day – eating lots of cheese courtesy of the Wensleydale cheese factory and waiting. Waiting for what? Well the Rockhoppers (the mountaineering club of which I am a member) just happen to have a trip booked on the same weekend in the same valley, just 10miles from me. So I’d arranged to meet with them for the weekend and do some more walking – in a circle for a change. I must be mad!

Author: lhwood1

I enjoy a good walk and so I decided to go on quite a long walk from Lands End to John O'Groats this summer. You'll be able to keep up with my progress through this blog.

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