(21st March 2013 – 11½ miles)
Pinching myself and knocking my head against the window frame made no difference – the morning sky was still cloudless, still blue-y blue. For the past few days, I was so used to looking out from my B&B window and seeing snowfall, that this was a bit of a surprise.
It had taken a while but today I remembered why I love walking in late winter/early spring. For days like today.
I stepped outside to take some deep breaths, grin and whirl about a bit. After a week of almost unbroken cloud, this was glorious. Then, after a hearty breakfast and bidding Matt, the manager, a fond farewell, I hoisted my rucksack and walked down though a quiet and deserted Keld.
None of the 18 other souls (or dogs) were about as I passed through the village. I found it difficult to imagine that during the 1800’s (at the height of lead-mining in Swaledale) Keld’s population was a huge six thousand.
Today’s Keld is a ghost town in comparison.
Beyond the last house of the village, the C2C joins briefly with the Pennine Way for a few yards, before striking off eastward along the Swale. The PW heads north.
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 alpine air, alpine views.
Soon I was crunching through snow again and squinting against bright reflected sunshine. Heck, I even rummaged about in my rucksack for shades.
You’ll forgive a splurge of snowy photos
but I wouldn’t see blue skies and sunlight like this for the rest of the trip. Indulge me. My walk across England had been, and would be, almost continuous grey cloud with assorted added weather. But today I was cherishing my-at-bloody-long-last-rest-day. No rain, no blizzards, short miles, few climbs and, for once, no tiresome Siberian easterly.
Soon the path diverged: on the left the ‘proper’ Wainwright route climbs up towards old mine workings and ruins and, as I was taking it easy today, I happily left that sight to another time;
the path to the right dropped to the bank of the Swale for an alternative, mostly low-level, walk to Reeth.
After soaking up some rare rays,
and savouring the view,
I began the descent
and joined 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).
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 plenty of dippers;
and today at least spring flowers weren’t buried 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. (The King’s Head has reopened – May 2019).
After Gunnerside, this so-called low-level route
climbed steeply back up to the moors.
But the views up the dale
were worth the panting effort.
By mid afternoon, the path dipped back down to the river
‘The Manse’ hadn’t been open for long but had already collected some great reviews. They were well deserved – I recommend it. Especially as they offered me the use of their washing machine at no extra charge.
That evening, I joined 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 day in the sun.