Where’s the massage parlour? The Devil’s Causeway. Lost in the mist and Stoops Bog. Drug smuggling?

Post 13: As we started to climb the blisters on my heels rubbed more painfully and Gary seemed to use this as a cue to increase the pace. Showing no mercy, he began to stride out, full of energy and in sickeningly good spirits, whilst I began to curse him under my breath and focus my pain and anger on him. It did the trick as we made good progress towards Cam Houses, at which point, some 14 miles into the day’s walk, we stopped for lunch. This was my usual youth hostel packed lunch of rolls, crisps, cake and an apple (if they give you an orange take it back. The horrible things give you sticky fingers and squirt orange juice over your expensive waterproof jacket). Had we been doing the walk ten years later, the owner of the Cam Houses Farm would have supplied food and drinks, such is the growing popularity of long-distance walking. However, they have yet to provide a masseuse, which would have been most welcome at this point. One day an entrepreneur will open a massage parlour on The North of England Way, Pennine Way or Coast to Coast Walk and make an absolute fortune. Who needs a massage in the Cities? It is long-distance walkers who have a real need for a massage to ease aching and tired muscles.

A steep climb, then gentle descent, brought us to the spaghetti junction of footpaths on the Cam High Road, where the Dales Way, Pennine Way and The North of England Way meet. The Cam High Road is a Roman road and was known as the Devil’s Causeway where, in medieval times, wolves roamed and howled. The only devil I saw was Gary keeping up a horrendous pace and the only howling heard was from me in response to the pain from my blisters. You can’t imagine tough Roman centurions suffering from blisters, but I expect they did.

As we descended to Gayle Beck the mist started to envelope us. With tiredness creeping on and over 3 miles to go, an ascent onto open moorland near High Gayle was the last thing we wanted. On reaching a stile, beyond which all I could see was impenetrable mist and featureless bog, I said we had better take a compass bearing. Gary was clearly frustrated at the delay and didn’t want to stop for a compass bearing.

‘The paths over there,’ he said.

‘Hm…. possibly,’ I said trying delaying tactics, whilst I rummaged in my rucksack for my compass.

‘It must be over there,’ Gary said, getting cold and ever more impatient. I tried not to get flustered but was feeling harassed, tired and hungry.

‘No, I think you’re wrong,’ I said not very confidently, ‘if we head north instead of west along your path we should hit a lane’

We proceeded north through a squelching bog, aptly named Stoops Moss, and, as my knees sunk further into the quagmire, I thought maybe I was wrong. However, two further stiles were reached which, according to our guide book, should have been the North Yorkshire and Cumbria boundary. There were no customs or passport controls and had we been into drug smuggling we could have got through scot-free. Some years later I returned to this bog in dry conditions to see the good views of Ingleborough. After further scrambling over moss grass and bogs, we at last reached the lane leading down to Dentdale Youth Hostel.

Dentdale
Dent Head Viaduct, Dentdale

Had we taken Gary’s path we would almost certainly be wandering around the bog to this day, albeit as the ghosts of Gary and myself. As it was my feet were in such a poor state that in the evening, I couldn’t even walk a mile along the road to the Sportsman’s Arms. Gary did obtain liquid refreshment there at the end of his ‘thirsty’ day, but with 24-miles planned for the next day, all I could manage was to climb into my bunk.

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