This was a wee trip that had been on the back burner for a while. It was well suited as a pre challenge trip. Travelling up on the train on the Monday though, I was mulling over my original plan. That had involved getting off the train at Horton in Ribblesdale and walking up to Ling Gill. An easy enough afternoon walk.There was one downside though. It meant a shorter walk the following day, which involved following the Pennine Way over to Hawes. My aim was for a longer walk not a short one. Horton to Hawes measured out at roughly fourteen miles Thus it was that I ended up in the campsite at Horton. It was run by a delightful, eccentric chapppie. The campsite was basic, nothing fancy, which suited me fine.
A student group from Burnley came in later in the day but they where polite and well behaved. A blustery night with showers of rain. Tuesday morning was dry, and not wanting to hang around, I was up and away shortly after half past eight. The wind was fairly strong but no problem. The day was overcast but not cold. It was good to be out and on the move. Encouragingly, I was managing quite well going uphill? A slow, steady plod. The air was alive with the piping calls of lapwings, curlews and peewits. Ground nesting birds, they would be rearing their young before long. Stopping at Ling Gill for a break, it was noticeable that the wind was now much stronger. It is a long pull up past Cam End. Upwards, ever upwards. No shelter to be had from the gale that was now blowing.Gusts of wind causing me to occasionally stagger. Coming to a gate, I had a struggle trying to open it. The wind wrenching it out of my hands. Eventually getting it open enough to wriggle through, the wind slammed the gate against my back. Fortunately the pack took the brunt of the blow, but I was momentarily pinned up against the gatepost.
Stopping for a quick break by Hestor Hole, I hunkered down behind a dry stone wall to take stock of the situation. My intention had been to camp at Ten End. There was no chance of that now, it would have been crazy to try. The wind was most certainly gale force, roaring loudly across the hills. It was also predominately side on and making the going very difficult.It would have to be Hawes for the night. My concern was that I was tiring and fast running out of energy. Another handful of chocolate raisins and a drink, heft the rucksack and stagger on. Snowdrifts across the path added to the difficulties. Unfortunately the dry stone wall that offered a degree of protection, stopped. It was now wide open moor, exposed to the full force of the elements. This was pushing my limits and I was really struggling to make any headway. Blast after blast bludgeoned me sideways. Suddenly I found myself airborne and I was thrown several feet, landing heavily. Two guys who had passed me earlier had felt rather worried about my well being and had decided to wait for me. They had actually seen me take off. They told me later that I had bounced on landing!! The pair of them had fought their way to where I was trying to get to my feet. One of the chaps, half expecting broken bones actually had his mobile out to call 999! Certainly I was hurting but nothing felt broken. The three of us battled onward. It seemed to take an eternity to get down off the hill. All three of us took a few tumbles. Everything was a howling, roaring maelstrom of wind.. Eventually we made it down to the road. Somehow I made it to the youth hostel where my two Samaritans where also staying.It is an odd thing but my Parkinson,s affects me badly when I run out of energy. my shakes are much worse, also I tend to go a tad blank. This happened when I attempted to check in. Firstly I could not remember my details and then my pin number could not be brought to mind.. A bottle of fizzy drink helped bring up my sugar levels and restore a bit of compos mentos. Later, when I reached Kirkby Stephen, I discovered that wind speeds for the area had been recorded at sixty eight to seventy miles an hour with occasional gusts exceeding that. Impressive, a lot of wind going from one place to another in a hurry!
Wednesday turned out to be an odd sort of day. Bruised and hurting from yesterdays drubbing, my intention had been to do little and generally take things easy. The hostel had posted up a weather forecast. It was more gales for both Wednesday and Thursday. My intended route over Great Shunner Fell and the Mallerstang ridge on the Thursday, was now out of the question. Also, a wild camp up near the crags by East Side. Far too exposed to the wind. There was an alternative plan in mind. Taking a slow stroll over to Hardraw, I pondered on what to do. There was a campsite in the village, behind the tea room. Staying there would involve some sixteen miles plus walking to kirkby Stephen the following day. Doable, however, the idea of a day spent in a campsite did not appeal to me. Thus I ambled on, heading over to Collier Holme farm and the path that led up to the High Road. Aware that there was a short, rather steep bit of hill leading up to the high ground, my thoughts where that if I could manage that, then a camp higher up would be ideal. Also I knew that a good, sturdy dry stone wall ran close to the path. Excellent protection from the gale that was blowing strongly across the fells.
The path was as steep as I remembered, the upper part churned up by off road motorbikes. There where some excellent spots to camp, but alas, no water. Finally I pushed on over to Hell Gill Bridge. Still large, lingering banks of snow drifts across parts of the path. A couple of wild ducks taking off, beating hard in to the gale but making no progress. Eventually, bowing to the inevitable, they turned and dove earthward once more. A most inviting spot to camp, sheltered from everything. The downside was that it was right next to the track. Worse, it was next to a gate where it was evident that a shepherd came through on a regular basis to tend his sheep. Rather than risk upsetting the shepherd, I pushed on a tad further. Rain was now coming in as well. There where places to camp but exposed. The sheep had muddied the ground close in to the wall. and the ground was wetter. With no choice the tent was pitched as close in to the wall as possible.
It was a storm tossed night with torrential rain hammering down, colder too. Early Thursday morning and all hell broke loose. The wind had swung and was now pounding the rear of the tent. So much for my leisurely lie in and late start! Standing pools of water gave evidence of the amount rain that had fallen during the night. Thankfully it had eased by morning. The tent was rapidly dropped and I sat on it while pulling out the tent pegs. The whole lot was unceremoniously bundled in to the rucksack. No finesse, just rammed in any which way. Bursts of icy rain occasionally skittered across, but nothing too much. A long, steady drop down to Mallerstang and then it was a gentle low level stroll to kirkby Stephen. The fell sides where streaming with water. Where farm machinery had been entering fields and using tracks, there was mud. Thick, glutinous goopy stuff. Following a footpath by the river Eden, I crossed a style into a field full of sheep and lambs. There was a shifty eyed sheep watching me intently. Next thing I knew she was heading for me at rapid speed. It was the signal for pandemonium, sheep came running from all directions. They surrounded me on every side. Sheep and lambs, all yelling at the top of their voices, what a din! They wanted fed and demanded feeding immediately. Life can be hazardous at times, mobbed by sheep, a risky business?
It was early afternoon when I arrived in to Kirkby Stephen. Unfortunately the hostel was fully booked. The local campsite did not appeal to me. Loads of caravans, open and exposed to the wind and probably the ground would be saturated. This was getting expensive but it had to be B&B. My room was a nice one with a plush carpet. Unfortunately, sorting out the rucksack, bits of grass and debris littered the carpet. It was a hands and knees jobby, meticulously picking up every last bit of debris!
A short but eventful trip. My computer is running on only one hard drive, it has two. It refuses to allow me to download my pictures.
Arriving back Friday evening, I had a two day turn around. My flat descended in to chaos.. Everything unpacked, kit washed, aired dried. Food to be packed for next week. Kit to be sorted, repacked. Monday I have shopping to do, prescriptions to pick up. Also I have two hospital appointments. Tuesday I am off early morning to link up with Mike for another wee trip.