Apr 25 2011

Walk 28: The Herriot Way – Day Four

Great Shunner Fell behind Thwaite

route: Keld to Hawes
Date: 25th April 2011
distance: 12.1 miles
ascent: 2,282 feet
time: 6 hrs 30 mins
walkers: Dave, Graham, Leanne, Roger, Sandra & Simon

I awoke on day four to the sound of birds tweeting and lambs bleating as we had slept with the window open and what a fantastic sound to start the day off. I slowly eased myself out of bed to see how I felt, as through the night I had woken feeling sick. I don’t know if it was to do with too much sun the day before or if I had caught the stomach bug G had had for a few days, but I felt a little queasy. We met for breakfast at five to eight ready to eat and get moving to enable us to complete the walk and still be home for a reasonable time to enjoy part of our Easter weekend at home before returning to work the next day. If possible I wanted to get back in time to pick Marvin and Poppy up from the cattery too, so there wasn’t to be any messing about. I struggled with my poached eggs on toast but felt a tiny bit better once they were down and after packing up and saying bye to the lovely people at Butt House we made our way towards Kisdon Hill and all this before the sheep were up for the day.

A short distance down the road from the B&B we turned off and began the sharp climb up Kisdon which soon split us up. As soon as the climbing started I began to struggle as my stomach was turning and I just felt drained physically. I would have expected to be tired after three days walking but this seemed to be more than that. With each stride people began pulling away from me and eventually I was left plodding along at the back as I paused to look back at Keld

Roger kept us informed with the route as the path continued to climb but levelled out a little as we got higher. Away to our right we could see Great Shunner Fell waiting for us and from here it looked a long way off. In a way that was good as the climb up it didn’t have to begin just yet, but realistically I knew I wanted to be on top of it as it was all downhill from there.

As we reached the top of the first climb of the day some of the crew nipped over to the corner of the field as suggested in the guide book to soak up the views of Swinner Gill.

We had walked through Swinner Gill yesterday but it is amazing how different things can look from varied angles. The view of Swaledale from this vantage point is one I would recommend even if it meant the nasty little climb up. To be honest it wasn’t that tough and on a normal day I would have been up no problem but today was different and I knew I just had to hang in there. It wasn’t like I wasn’t going to complete so I needed to try to put it out of my mind and crack on. For now I had two things going for me and that was enough, the first one was the sun wasn’t breaking though the clouds and the second was it was downhill for a while until we reached Thwaite.

As we reached the outskirts of Thwaite I felt ok again after spending half an hour or so descending Kisdon, which seemed like a big stand alone lump.

Thwaite was a nice little place but we didn’t stop, instead choosing to keep going and head up the road back towards Keld which was 2 miles up the road. Whoever thinks up the routes for these long distance paths seriously need to have a look at maps from time to time as we could have walked 2 miles along a reasonably flat road instead of walking 3 miles over some big hill, and we ended up in the same place anyway! If I ever create a Rambling Badgers Way you can guarantee it will be pretty simple. Maybe something like 6 junctions down the M1 or something like that (hard shoulder not the outside lane, I am not crazy!). Obviously I jest, but it gives you an idea of my thoughts at the time.

The Pennine Way would be our route of choice for the next 8 miles give or take. We weren’t quite going into Hardraw but we would follow the path almost all the way before leaving to go to Appersett. As we began the long, gradual 3 mile climb to the top of Great Shunner we spotted four little lambs huddle together on the banking at the side of the track. We gave them room as we went by them and we wondered what to do but there is nothing you can do really. Trying to help would no doubt cause more problems but thankfully as we walked off they ran back to the nearby gate and under the bottom rung into the field. There would be no sneaking into fields for us as we continued to get closer to the top with every stride. The underfoot conditions weren’t the best with large loose stones playing havoc with my feet, again taped up with cotton wool pads and toilet roll.

By now it was every man for themselves (we had agreed to reconvene at the top) and in true Rambling Badgers style Beaky soon disappeared into the distance. The rest of us were strung out and Wu Tang and Sherpa G string took it in turns to walk with me and encourage me along. At times I was only going 50 yards before stopping to regain some energy. I wasn’t feeling great at all but we weren’t doing bad against the suggested time in the guidebook which gave me reason to be cheerful. Feeling this bad and still being on schedule surely proves how far we have come fitness wise since we began walking last year. As I started to feel more confident about things and my spirits were lifting I was over taken by a guy who probably received a telegram from the queen about thirty years ago and I realised that maybe I was going a bit slower than I thought. Still we were getting closer with every stride.

The top still seemed so far away but the track that was so hard on the feet was replaced by stone slabs and that, coupled with the fact that the gradient eased a little meant I could get moving a bit quicker and for longer in between pauses. Up ahead G, Roger and Ramblo waited as I approached with Wu Tang encouraging me along. As I joined the others we looked up to see a tiny black dot on the horizon that was Beaky and we decided to keep moving rather than stop for a few minutes. The next half an hour was spent plodding along without any real stops but not at any great pace but at least we were moving. I felt bad I was holding everyone up but it couldn’t be helped, whatever it was had left me drained. I knew the others all understood and they certainly helped me as we focused on the large cairn that was our next mini target. L’Autobus slowly pulled away from me and were sat at the cairn as Graham and Roger walked with me. Five minutes later I had made it…

From the cairn to the top wasn’t too far and after five minutes we set off for the final half mile along the nice stone slabs that make the walking a lot easier. Without them it would be a nightmare especially when the ground is wet as some sections would almost be impassable due to peat bogs.

For the second time in a year we were on top of the third highest peak in Yorkshire and there is no doubting which felt like more of an achievement. The gang tucked into their packed lunches as I took time to inspect the clouds floating overhead.

After a little while I sampled a little of my packed lunch but I didn’t feel too confident I would keep it down so I didn’t over do it and would keep nibbling on it as we made our way back to Hawes. We spent about half an hour at the top as people came and went, many of them doing the Pennine Way. I would imagine that this is one of the busier Yorkshire Tops, with perhaps only the three peaks having more visitors. There was certainly no shortage of people to ask to take a picture of us at the summit shelter.

With lunch consumed or at least partially consumed we headed off towards Hardraw as we did in May last year when we here last. In front of us the only two higher peaks in the Dales could be seen clearly as Ingleborough and Whernside stood above everything else. To my right a grouse stood tall as it called out with the usual cackle.

I stopped for a breather after a half an hour of descent. I was really struggling on the way down too which shouldn’t happen. Something had really done me in and while I could never be sure I would guess it was the previous days sun. Graham asked repeatedly if he could carry my bag as he did for the last mile or so on the way up to the summit. I kept refusing partly because of male pride and partly because to hand it over would seem as failure. Maybe they are both the same thing but eventually, after stopping again I had to concede and reluctantly handed my bag over. It was a weight of my shoulders, literally but whilst it helped it certainly wasn’t the answer as we continued our journey to the finish. Lovely Seat was away to our left as we followed the track for another mile before we joined a footpath away to our right and headed off over the rolling fields.

We reached a gate at the end of the last field in view. The other side of this gate was The A684 and a signpost that said Hawes 1 mile. We were now within touching distance of the finish line and the conclusion of a wonderful walk. My mind computed the one mile to around twenty minutes of walking. We would normally move faster than three miles an hour on the flat but at the end of a long day I would no doubt not be at full speed. It was irrelevant anyway as the book told us we needed to ignore that route and instead we headed towards Appersett. We crossed the River Ure before following a smaller road up and over Widdale Beck. Just before we crossed there were a group of lambs playing around on pile of straw or something similar.

Once over the bridge we immediately entered Appersett and turn right away from the village up an even smaller road that would lead to a viaduct. We stopped for a while and I used the grass verge for somewhere to sit. Beaky was now carrying my bag after he had taken it from G earlier. If I had known I had friends as good as this I would have let them carry it for the full weekend!

We passed under the viaduct and immediately turned to the left to join a footpath. What confronted me was the last thing I needed right now…

Great, so a bull protecting his ladies is going to come charging at us and five of us are going to scarper whilst one of us, me, is too knackered to move. I had a vision on me trying to tense up to make the impact hurt as little as possible. I mean really, I know I am a big bloke but as if tensing up is going to make the blindest bit of difference. Fortunately bully wasn’t in and neither were his lovers, instead we strolled calmly through a field of sheep. It must be the local farmer who like messing with people.

We came out of the couple of fields we crossed through a sheep pen and we had to be careful not to let any escape as we let ourselves in one side and out the other before we continued down the farm track. At the bottom of the track we rejoined the A684 and followed it into Hawes and the final quarter of a mile or so back to the car.

After six and a half hours of walking we had made it back to the car and the end of our journey. I know everyone had enjoyed it but I also got the impression that eaveryone was ready for home. This wasn’t because they had had enough, more to do with the fact that when you know you are going home you just want to be there. Along the way we had seen many things that were pleasing on the eye, and a few that weren’t. We had walked on all sorts of surfaces from soft green grass alongside the River Ure to the old mining tracks of the coast to coast. We had seen many walkers, some out for a day jaunt and others who were no doubt tackling longer routes than ourselves.
I have the utmost respect for anyone who does the PW or C2C or any other long distance path for that matter. I had set off on this journey to determine if those well know routes would be for me and I had my answer… they would. Sure I might not feel like it right now but that wasn’t down to anything other than a bug, sunstroke or some other random thing. The rest of the team felt good and I was just as pleased for them as I was proud of them. We had started as a team and finished as a team. Along the way we had all experienced ups and down but not for one minute did anyone seem to be anything other than happy to be there. The experience would be one I would never forget and one I hope to repeat on another long distance path in the future. And after all this soul searching and the journey of self discovery I went on, the one thing I learnt is… take the correct boots!

Sir Edmund


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