It has been said, 'things seem to happen around Dawn.' This time I hit a major crisis. Under new rulings I now pay a nominal council tax. No real problem. Due to be away on the Monday, I did the payment on the Friday beforehand. Imagine my horror when the receipt came back with a couple of extra noughts on it! Frantically I rang my bank. Unfortunately the payment had already gone through and it could not be blocked. To put it mildly, I was in panic state. This had left me heavily overdrawn, my bank account was now frozen, my card useless. It was Monday morning before I could contact the council office. Much frantic running about with paperwork and then glibly being informed that yes, a mistake had been made, however, it would take at least a week to sort out and nothing could be done beforehand.
What to do? Cash wise I had an emergency twenty pound note and some loose change in my purse, nothing else. Also, I was packed and ready to head north. The train tickets had already been purchased. Being cheap tickets they where none refundable. Maybe common sense would have said stay put and sort the mess out. Looking at the clock I could see that if I got a shift on there was a chance I may still catch the train. Laying aside rationality I legged it, catching said train with with little time to spare.
Many, many moons ago, before the time of you young whipper snappers who sometimes read this blog, the majority of us ordinary folks never had bank accounts. Possibly post office saving accounts. However, we had to make do with whatever cash we had. So, I was going to have to wing it.
Arriving at Garsdale I caught 'the Little White Bus' over to Hawes. By now it was late afternoon. Not having eaten since early morning, a cup of tea and some food was a necessity. Nipping in to a cafe, a quick peruse of the menu, a cheese sandwich and a cuppa the cheapest option, (watch those pennies girl!!) A quick change in to boots and it was a stroll up to Gayle. From there it was a case of keeping an eye on the map and heading up the hill. My first priority was water, there was a chance that higher up that there may be none. Footpaths led me over to Burtersett and it was there that I finally managed to fill up with water. With the added weight of water in the pack it was a heavy load to be carrying up the bridleway leading out of the village. A slow, measured plod took me to high above Hawes. The ground being so dry it was easy to find a spot to camp on what would normally be boggy ground.
Early Tuesday morning gave a hint of was to come for the rest of the day. At seven the tent was becoming uncomfortably warm. By eight I was underway. Firstly I followed the path over to the old Roman road, Cam High Road. A long, straight stony, dusty track. Squadrons of horseflies where out on patrol looking for breakfast and decided I would do nicely. Walking down to Bainbridge was straight forward. From there on though constant attention had to be paid to the map. The day was becoming hot, very. Map reading was not easy in the given conditions. For the next few miles it was footpaths across a series of fields. Firstly it was a pleasant walk along a path through shady woodland, along Brough Scar and then across to Cubeck. One drawback, flies, plagues of them. Not harmful, but the moment one stopped the beggars descended and it was darned annoying. A plod up the road to Thornton Rust. Here I managed find a lady in the village who offered to fill up my water container. An added litre and a half just to add to my all up weight. A vital requirement though. My fluid levels where constantly dropping in the blazing sun and oh my, it was hot. From the village there was tricky map reading required. There was little indication of where the footpaths went. Sign posts few and far between. No actual styles, instead, narrow, gated slots in the walls. A boisterous group of heifers escorted me across one field.
My main concern was water. The heatwave meant there was little to be found. The map indicated there was a chance of some further on, up by the Stake Road. A risk, but there was little option. A long, sweaty slog up the track, climbing ever upward, heat radiating off the stony surface of the track.
To compound the difficulties the track higher up suddenly gave way to a newly laid stone track. A most awful surface to walk on. By now I was wearied, drained and needed to stop soon. Stopping to drain the last of my water, I eased the rucksack on and slowly shuffled on with head hanging low, leaning more heavily on the trekking poles. To my surprise a fresh track came in from the left, again, heavily made up of stone. Not the bridleway marked on the map. My luck was in, I found the most delightful tiny little rill of cool fresh water. A gap in the wall, often used by the local sheep allowed me to find a spot for the tent. An impromptu shower from one of my water bladders cooled me down a tad. The day had been a long one. Some twelve miles plus and I was glad to stop.
Early Wednesday morning at around six thirty, I heard a quad bike coming along the track. A farmer shifting livestock to high pastures. As he returned back down the track I sort of braced, quite expecting him to stop and possibly have words. He passed on though and I breathed a sigh of relief. What amazed me was the amount of rabbits, there where multitudes of them. The day though went haywire somewhat rapidly. The newly laid track/stone road did not correspond to anything on the map. Following the track up further, it forked. According to the map there was right hand fork which was a track leading back over toward Flout moor. A large tracked digger parked up nearby offered evidence of the major work being carried out. Another newly carved out track bore off left and then right. Checked out but obviously a new track in the making. Sticking to the map it would appear the track led more or less straight on. A faint track led uphill, ending at a field gate. An ugly scar of a track could be seen snaking across the moorland. Heading over to it another track appeared to lead straight on. Once more, a dead ender. Following the stone road onward it turned in to car park area, or least a parking area for four fours that would bring up the grouse shooting parties. That was what all this track up grading was all about. Grouse shooting in the area was obviously big money! Out of curiosity I followed a faint track that bore off from the parking lot. Yikes! it led to something that looked more like a tank battleground. Shooting butts in all directions, hard stone standing places every which way. A labyrinth of stone laid tracks weaving off in all directions. What a mess, I shuddered and fled!. Another track led on, once more it was being worked on. Checking closely with the map, it at least headed in the right sort of direction. Following it up, I came to another gate. A track led off due right and downhill,. Not what I wanted.
Frustrated and not feeling good, (I had already taken four Imodium,) I decided to call it quits for the day. There was no point in getting in a tizz. Water was way back, after dumping the sack I head down, filled the water bladders and headed slowly back up the hill and around to the rucksack. Flies, did I mention flies? There where swarms of them. That and the rabbits, they ran riot everywhere.
Early Thursday morning dawned hot. Having a morning strip bath there was hardly any need for a towel. Getting dressed was a chore. The midges made sure I hurried things along though. Today the navigation came right. The heat though was oppressive. Even by mid morning the glaring sun was radiating off the surface of the trackway. Sheep lay sprawled out at ungainly angles, panting heavily, big soulful eyes gazing unfocused at me. 'Do what you like with us, we don't care any more!!' Stepping carefully around them, I tried to avoid disturbing them. They never budged though. Despite taking more tablets I still had to make a couple of emergency stops. trying to keep my fluid levels up was essential. However, it was not long before I was down to less than half a litre. The Busk Lane track joined with the Gilbert lane track. Both permitted byways. Eventually the track led down by Hell gap and Causeway Moss. A short bit of road walking. Tarmac melting made it sticky. It was then a footpath leading down to Buckden. It was marked up as a mile and a half. Despite leading downhill it was still hard going. A few startled glances came my way as I came in to the village. Probably because I was dishevelled, dusty, hot, sweaty and desperate for fluids. An elderly couple sitting outside a tea shop showed some concern and asked if I was ok. Quickly I reassured them I was fine. There was a village shop and I bought an ice cold drink and an ice cream and managed to get a water bladder filled. Apparently there had been official records of temperatures in the Dales hitting the thirties. Something I could readily believe. It was hotter than the heatwave Mike and I had experienced last year on the South Downs.
The river Wharfe was very low. Its banks though, had some lovely, shade giving trees. Sitting under the gladsome shade, I had a spot of lunch. Although I felt disinclined to eat, I needed to get some substance down me, just to keep going. Studying the maps I perused the idea of following the Dales Way and heading around to Ribblesdale. perversely, maybe, I stuck to my intended route which went via Littondale. The bridleway that heads over to Litton climbs steadily out of the valley. Up past Redmire, the springs marked on the map, dry. Out in the open the relentless heat hammered down.
Climbing higher, I really began to suffer. stopping often for a breath and a sip of water. Finally reaching the top, I was exhausted. My concern now was water. It was a disappointment to find Birks Tarn dry. Stashing the rucksack, I had to descend back down the hill a short way to where I had spotted a tiny seep of water trickling out of the ground. The water was actually flowing, so no problem there. The problem was that being such a wee trickle, getting it in to the water bladders was going to be awkward. It took some time but using my small, folding cup I managed to get enough water in the end. One snag was the sediment that was also scooped up. My bio degradable wash cloth acted as filter. Wemi wipes are very handy things to have in ones kit. Home for the night was next to the trig point. If there was even the faintest zephyr of a breeze I wanted it. The day had seen me pushing my limits and I felt drained. The upside was that there was no major wobblies!
Descending down to Litton on Friday morning, my legs felt heavy and a wee bitty wobbly on the descent. According to the map there was a post office in the village. Normally they have shop with them as well. The thought that maybe I could get another cold drink drove me on. It was disappointing to find that the post office had recently closed it and the shop went as well. The place was now a B&B. Thwarted from my cold drink, I headed back to the pub. Still closed but the door was open. The landlady was all kindness, most concerned for my well being. Soon I was sitting under a sun shade with a cold pint of orange juice, with ice cubes. All for fifty pence, sheer bliss.
Signs warned of the danger of crossing the ford over the river Skirfare after heavy rain. No chance today? A track and footpath led me over to Nether Hesleden.
For a moment I was thrown by the footpath at the holiday homes. It went through a gate, across a well manicured lawn and back out another gate. A lovely camping spot though, tree offering welcome shade. A hot, slow plod up to the road. A white mini bus and land rover where parked there. (Mike, avert your eyes) There was a group of D.O.E. instructors keeping an eye on their charges. More importantly, they had water and I bummed a litre off them. Down the road a tad and then on to the bridleway that leads over to Foxup. There was no breeze, no shade, just heat and more heat. The Foxup road, led across Foxup moor and below Plover hill. Feeling fairly certain that the upper reaches of hull Pot gill may have water in it that is where I headed. Thankfully I was right. The tent was pitched on s a small flat space that obviously would be flooded in times of heavy rain. It was just out of sight of the footpaths that crossed lower down. Somewhat surprisingly the local sheep where actually paddling in the beck. Mad they may be but not so daft! Finding a convenient little pool I went and had a seat in the cool water myself, delicious!
There was no rush on Saturday morning. A bee somehow managed to fall in to my early morning cuppa. Hooking her out she sat quivering on the edge of my spoon for a few moments before taking of in an unsteady flight. The sound of voices at six indicated the three peaks legions where already on the march. For me though it was just a gentle stroll down to Horton. The trip had been a good one, but oh so difficult in the intense heat. Especially Thursday and Friday. Despite slapping on quantities of sunscreen I was still burnt in places. Insect bites I had by the score To be honest, I felt wearied and drained. It was time to be heading out.
Ambling down the track to Horton, I passed several folk heading up. Groups of two or three, some larger groups. As is the norm. I gave a smile and said 'Hi!' or 'Good morning' To my amazement I was largely ignored. One mixed group just looked at me as if I was some sort of freak. Maybe they where not used to seeing a travel stained hiker just coming off the hill? About the only people who responded where a group of teenage lasses doing their D.O.E That saddens me. Do we have new type of walker, one who drives to a designated area, does the proposed walk and nothing but that walk and then gets back in the car and drives home? No time spent just enjoying being out, taking time just to potter?
A cup of tea and a bite to eat in the village. A treat and also I would not have anything to eat or drink until I got back in the evening. A quick change in to travel clothes in the loo and then a settle down until the train arrived. An added bonus, I still had change left over from my twenty pounds. Some forty miles covered, give or take a few.