(21st March 2013 – 11½ miles)
Pinching myself and knocking my head against the bedroom wall made no difference. The morning sky was still cloudless, still wonderfully blue.
It had taken a while but at long last I remembered why I love walking in late winter/early spring.
I stepped outside to take some deep breaths, to grin and whirl about a bit. Then, after a hearty breakfast and bidding Matt, the manager, a fond farewell, I hoisted my rucksack and walked though a quiet and deserted Keld.
None of the 18 souls (or dogs) were about as I passed through the village and I found it difficult to imagine that during the 1800’s (at the height of lead-mining in Swaledale) Keld’s population was 6000. (You’ll want to make a note that ‘Keld’ comes from the Viking word for a spring – Kelda).
Beyond the last house, the C2C briefly joins the Pennine Way, before striking off eastward along the Swale.
I had been smitten by Keld
and as I plodded away (followed by a long line of sheep – I don’t know why), I stopped and gazed back and wondered when, or even if, I might visit again.
I ambled high above the Swale
relishing the alpine air and views.
Soon I was crunching through snow and squinting against the bright reflected sunshine. Heck, I even put on my shades.
You’ll forgive me a splurge of snowy photos
but I wouldn’t see blue skies and sunlight like this for the rest of the trip.
Soon the path diverged: on the left the ‘proper’ Wainwright route climbed up towards old mine workings and ruins and, as I’m not a fan of industrial archaeology, I happily left that sight to another time.
To the right, the path dropped to follow the river bank most of the way to Reeth. I had already decided to finally have my easy, rest day and eagerly chose the latter.
After catching some rare rays,
and savouring the moment,
I descended to join the river. (Immediately after I took this photo, an RAF fighter screamed close overhead. It was long gone by the time my heart restarted and I thought to raise my camera).
On the far bank lay the pretty, little town of Muker (a favourite of James Herriot). It was a shame that I was too early for lunch at ‘The Farmer’s Arms’ – supposedly excellent.
This was simple, non-strenuous walking with plenty of time to stop, look around and fiddle with my camera. I had made no specific plans to meet Pat today – we just thought that we would bump into one another. As it turned out, we didn’t and I walked solo all the way to Reeth.
Like the River Wharfe (which I walked beside on the Dales Way),
the Swale is home to dippers;
and today at least spring flowers weren’t hidden by snow.
There were plenty of squeeze stiles – which did just that to me and my rucksack.
At lunch time, I approached Gunnerside where I had planned to stop at ‘The King’s Head.’
But Matt had warned me that the pub had closed; and quite possibly for good. The denial of a pint by an open fire made me sad.
After Gunnerside, this so-called low-level route
climbed steeply back up to the moors.
But the views back up the dale were
worth the panting effort.
By mid afternoon, the path dipped back down to the river
for the final leg into Reeth. I had booked into ‘The Manse‘ – one of my favourite B&B’s of the trip. It hadn’t been open long but had already collected some great reviews. They were well deserved – I recommend it.
That evening, I sat with Pat and Sue before a log fire at the ‘The Buck Hotel’ for pizza, beer and chat. Though I enjoy walking by myself (and don’t even mind my own company, really), I was grateful for friendly faces, laughter and the chance to swap stories of the day’s walk. Pat and I planned to walk together the following day. The path to Richmond would be another short day (12½ miles) but bad weather would return and the going would be harder and far less pleasant.
I’d had my moment in the sun.