Thursday April 21st 11. Camped OS map OL19 GR724065.
An odd day, the morning was calm and still, after a restless night it was sheer bliss to sit outside the tent as the sun rose. The heartburn was as bad as ever and so it was more gaviscon. Breakfast was supposed to have been a sachet of porridge, still finding it difficult to get food down I added more water and milk powder and sort of drank it. Was underway by eight, although not indicated on the map, the old rail track bed is a regular bridleway up as far as |Newbiggin on Lune. Delightful walking too, a lovely amble with wonderful views, peaceful. A quick dash across the main road, past Betty Beck and Sandwath and the terrain began to head upwards. My aim was for Green Bell. Following the path across Pinksey, it went from clear and easy to see to something vague and indistinct. There is a clearly defined track leading in to Pinksey Bottom, but the track indicated on the map was further over to my left. Striking off at an angle up and across the hill I found it again higher up. My pace was slow, I was deliberately pacing myself, trying to stay within my comfort zone. However, the heartburn/indigestion was worse and my chest was hurting. The sun was hot but a strong north easterly breeze was keeping temperatures down. A pause for a think at Hunthoof pike; overall I was not doing too bad; if only this heartburn would ease up I would be fine. Made Green Bell ok, marvelous views in all directions. Sauntered on, had a look for Spengill well but saw no sign of it. Randygill Top was a long time coming, nice walking, the ridge a well rounded whaleback. Paused for a break by the cairn and had a ponder over what was best; to be honest I was a tad concerned over this indigestion, my chest was hurting and I did not feel my best..My intention had been been to carry on over Kensgriff and on to Yarlside. Studying the map it looked as if the easier option was to drop down off Randygill in to the upper reaches of Bowderdale and stop there. There was an actual path leading down. Never before have I ever really struggled with a steep descent, but for whatever reasons this one proved horrendous. It felt never ending and relentless in its steepness and I had to stop several times to give myself a break. Once down my legs where like jelly and I did not feel good; all I wanted to to was drop the sack and collapse and basically that is what |I did. A couple who had been walking up the track came hurrying across, they had been watching me coming down and where rather concerned; I assured them I was ok, just winded a bit. After that I just sat for half an hour or so before getting the tent up on the first available bit of ground. This is most frustrating and I am unsure what is happening here, certainly I feel I was moving well within my capabilities, have kept to a slow steady pace, kept my pack weight down etc; I am not happy over this. Supper was soup, I am not managing food as such and even find taking liquids a bit of a hassle. The evening is a wee bit blustery but the tent is well pegged down and I am curled up in my sleeping bag listening to the sounds of the dale in the fading evening light. Sheep close by, their munching of grass clearly audible; they have their own vocabulary too, not just snuffles and coughs, but low, soft murmurs. Later, a loud snort near to the tent, a gentle whicker, ponies grazing close by.
Saturday 23rd. Same map, GR678995.
A non day, packed up this morning but felt woozy and my breathing was a bit odd. Basically I moved the tent over to a more secluded spot in Hazel Gill and after some major faffing got the tent up, climbed in to the sleeping bag and remained there for the day.
Managed to get a brew of tea down this morning, gagged on the porridge though and gave up on it. Decisions had to be made, there was no point moping in the tent for another day. Mulling over the map, I formulated a rough plan of action. Packing up and getting the tent down was not easy; it took over an hour and I felt well out of sorts. Started off down the path that runs down through the fell; the pace was slow, very, shuffle, shuffle, pause, rest, move on. A small group of mountain bikers stopped and where rather concerned, one lad wanted to call the rescue team. To be honest, it was tempting but knowing the hassle it would cause I thanked the lads and assured them I would be fine. Gradually as I pushed on down I began to eventually perk up a bit and managed to get in to a steady pace. By the time I reached Bowderdale I felt more confident of things.A spot of road walking past Wath and on to Newbiggin on Lune. Needing fluids I strolled in to the tea room at Bessy Beck's fish farm. Managed a couple of glasses of squash, food was out of the question though. Feeling a bit more confident I began the uphill plod to the camping barn; was quite chuffed that I was doing ok even though it was all uphill. Was at the barn by around mid afternoon; not a soul in sight, no response when I knocked on the farmhouse door, nothing. The barn was unlocked and taking a chance I dumped the sack inside and got a brew on the go. What bliss to kick off one's footwear, to settle back against a dry stone wall and just enjoy the sunshine. An old sheep came wandering over, had a look at me and then headed over to the bunkhouse. Obviously she had the place well sussed out, first she checked the door, finding it closed she moved on for a mooch around the rubbish bins. It became obvious why the lids where strapped down, the sheep carefully and methodically gave each lid a nudge, hoping to dislodge the lid, her efforts to topple the bins also failed. With another hopeful glance at me, she finally ambled off. Speaking to the farmer later when I checked in, he was highly amused when I referred to the sheep as a 'canny yow'.He blinked and looked at me with a wide grin and asked if I understood what yows and tups where; I assured him I did; quite made his day. Fortunately the camping was quiet, two lads doing the coast to coast and |I had a dorm to myself. Eating is still problematical but I am managing plenty of fluids.
A quiet night, the coast to coast guys where away quite early and I had the place to myself. Plenty cups of tea and a cereal bar and I was ready to go. The morning was overcast with a chilly wind. My plan was simple, to follow the coast to coast route in to Kirkby Stephen and possibly check in somewhere.It is only a few miles from the camping barn to town and I found it a pleasant stroll. Kirkby was heaving, wall to wall with people and traffic. Checked out the local hostel and bumped in to the warden. The place was almost empty and she booked me in on the spot. Given the key code to all me entry during the day allowed me to come and go as I wanted. Got some chips from the local chippy, a mistake, managed about half the portion with plenty of fluids but that was my limit. For the rest of the day I was content to curl up on my bunk with a book. A few folk booked in early evening; all coast to coast. What struck me though was the cliquishness of the those people. In the kitchen making a brew and several folk asked the same question, 'doing the coast to coast?' As soon as I said no, they turned away; obviously, I was not one of them. Fortunately the hostel was not busy and I had a dorm to myself and I just kept out of the way. Mixed loos and showers where a tad disconcerting.
Waited until the majority of folk had left and headed out myself. With the train south not until twelve forty six it was just a case of killing time. Went for a walk over and around Hartley and back across toward the station. Making my over past Half Penny house I was shocked to see what had been a pleasant footpath that avoided the main road was now a hideous scar, a track had been bulldozed right the way up to the station, ugly and brutal, nasty. Things certainly have not turned out as planned and certainly, in some respects I do feel jinxed. However, I do have a few ideas for another trip in to the Howgill fells. Possibly using the Bents farm camping barn as a first night stopover and then heading more toward Tebay and then camping high for a night or two.