Post 33: 4 April 1991: Day 7 – Kirkby Stephen Youth Hostel to Keld Youth Hostel – 13 miles
Only 13 miles today; a wonderful days walking is in prospect? At least it was, until we left the hostel in pouring rain. The Yorkshire Dales National Park is entered.
‘Don’t worry Archie, we’ll be in North Yorkshire today and it will brighten up,’ I said optimistically. ‘This walk is a piece of cake.’
‘Yeh, sure,’ Archie said, unconvinced. As if to show his scepticism he said he would send some clothing home to ease his pack weight. I also decided to send some maps home, something that always lifts the spirits. It also gave us some extra time in the Post Office out of the pouring rain.
In view of the appalling weather, we decided not to go over the ‘tops’ via Nine Standard Riggs, instead following the B6270 via Nateby. It was some several years later before I managed to walk to the Nine Standard Riggs, which had always intrigued me from photographs and descriptions of them. In recent years, erosion has become so prevalent that the National Park advise alternative routes for different times of the year. Such has been the growth in popularity of walking and, in particular, the popularity of A Coast to Coast Walk. The origin of the Riggs is not known but probably the best explanation is that they were boundary stones from the 18th Century. Less plausible is that they were to keep marauding Scots at bay.
As we climbed the lane between Nateby Common and High Pike Hill, Archie’s leg was clearly causing him problems and gale force winds, horizontal rain and sleet added to his misery. At the top of the watershed a yellow van was parked, enabling me, whilst waiting for Archie to catch up, to stand behind out of the wind,.
‘Do you want to get in the back?’ someone shouted from inside the van.
I looked through a window and saw a father and son.
‘Yes thanks, but don’t move the van or I’ll be disqualified,’ I said, relieved to get out of wet and wind. Within five minutes, four other coast to coasters arrived at the van, including one dressed in a cape, making him look like Batman; they all huddled around the van for shelter. We decided to take some photographs of this ‘mobile oasis’ in the Pennines, but, once my gloves were off, my hands froze. It was April in England.
As promised, on entering Swaledale in North Yorkshire, the weather eased. We reached a barn with a ‘Nuts’ electioneering poster on it, an appropriate name for a politician. The door was open and no second invitation was needed. Forget McDonalds, this had all the trappings of a super lunchtime stop: thick walls, a stone in the glassless window opening, and straw on the floor. What more could we wish for? Actually it was quite dark, but then Clint and Wendy arrived with head torches to brighten up our five-star restaurant. One of the attributes of experiencing hardships on the trail is that the small comforts are greatly appreciated. Another walker joined us; he had started following the Nine Standard Riggs route, but found the weather so bad he had decided to abandon it and head for the lane and shelter. He had no gloves and his hands had turned to ‘Daz’ whiteness.
Continuing along the narrow lane, we arrived at the youth hostel at 4.00pm, giving us an hour to sit in the porch whilst waiting for it to open.
The Black Country Stompers arrived and the porch soon filled up with hot and steamy bodies; for the first half-an-hour it felt as though I was in a sauna with my clothes on. The Black Country Stompers clothes and hats were completely disarranged as though they had just descended K2; in fact they had taken the Nine Standard Riggs route, encountering a rough time, some members of the party falling into deep bogs. The party was getting fractious as some members had not wanted to follow that route. One of the difficulties about large parties is meeting everyone’s needs and keeping everyone happy. I will not go walking with more than four other walkers – call it anti-social if you will, but it minimises friction, increases the likelihood that you will meet and talk to other walkers, and ensures that you are walking with people of a similar ability.
Keld Youth Hostel is a converted shooting lodge and run by the Youth Hostels Association (diary update – in 2016 it is run privately). We were now at the half-way stage of our coast to coast walk. Keld is an ancient settlement of Scandinavian origin its name being a Norse word meaning ‘a place by the river’.
One of my unforgettable memories of Keld Youth Hostel was getting out of the shower, sparsely clad in my towel, just as a female entered.
‘Oh dear, am I in the wrong room?’ I said in panic and embarrassment.
‘Oh no, no,’ a foreign voice said, ‘the female shower is full.’
‘Yes, but this is the male shower room,’ I said clinging desperately to the towel around my private parts.
‘In Holland we often go in the male shower when the females is full’
‘Fine, fine.’ At that point, another female arrived and I left with my tail between my legs, thinking two is company, but three is a crowd.
We later met up with this Dutch party, which had brought a chef with them to cook meals whilst they walked Coast to Coast east to west. They drank wine with their meal, something which used to be forbidden in hostels but is now accepted practice. We were very envious as the nearest pub was about three miles away and we didn’t have the energy for yet more walking.
By this time I had acquired a number of new walking companions, and I was given the job of booking accommodation for these new friends; we usually booked two days in advance. It had been much easier booking for two instead of five.