Fairy Cupboards, Inspired to Poetry, Stoned to Death.

Post 147:  10 April 1997: Day 6 Cotherstone to Langdon Beck Youth Hostel – 16 miles

On leaving Cotherstone, we joined ‘The Teesdale Way’ long-distance walk and marched with it as far as Middleton-in-Teesdale; the walks symbol, the dipper, being indicated on signs. The Teesdale Way goes from Middleton-in-Teesdale to Teesmouth and offers approximately 90 miles of walking in three counties, Durham, North Yorkshire and Cleveland.

Between Cotherstone and Romaldkirk we visited the ‘fairy cupboards’, small caves which have been scoured out of the rock by the action of water in the River Tees. The delightful village of Romaldkirk was passed through, which, with its two inns and church adjacent to the three village greens, is welcoming to walkers; it would be difficult to find a more delightful village in Teesdale. The Church of St. Romald dates from the 12th century, with later additions in the 13th and 14th centuries. The church is cruciform in design with a 12th-century Norman arcades, an early English south aisle, decorated north transept, elaborate chancel with double piscina (perforated stone basin near the altar for carrying away water used in rinsing the chalice), and perpendicular tower. It is rightly known locally as the ‘cathedral of the dale’ because of its roomy and ornate style. Of the three village greens, one has village stocks and another has an old water pump.

We continued to Eggleston village with a short detour to Eggleston Hall and its fine historic gardens, consisting of rare and beautiful plants set in a walled garden. There are winding paths through the gardens and a stream runs through the grounds. The hall, built in 1614, proudly overlooks the Tees but is not open to members of the public. Of interest is a church with graveyard now being restored from the overgrown vegetation; it fell into disuse once the larger Holy Trinity church higher up in the village was built. Nearby a sun dial has the following inscription:-

‘I walk the hours every one

Nor have I yet outrun the sun’

Fortunately, we hadn’t outrun the sun on this walk.

The previous February, whilst checking the route alone and soon after leaving Eggleston village, on arrival at the River Tees, I stopped for lunch. In the peace, tranquillity, warmth of the sun and the moment, I wrote the following poem.

The Tees Alone?

Broad and shallow

Rustling over rocks

Glistening in spring sunshine,

Trees guiding it from birth to extinction.


The dipper, a white speck, walking on tumbling water

Sun-soaked, curtseying, perched on a rock.

At peace with the world

And so am I……


Orchestras in harmony

Upstream and down river.

Seagulls swoop, on their winter retreat,

As sea sounds echo.


A chill pierces this paradise; it is time to go


A bridleway beckons me back

But the memory and moment are eternal,

I was not alone.


It may not be ‘Wordsworthian’, but it came from the heart and inspiration of the moment, which is all that matters.

The walk along the Tees to Middleton-in-Teesdale is delightful, this being the last town of any size in Upper Teesdale and a good place to stock up with provisions, boasting shops, pubs, hotels, a post office, cafés, an information centre and banks. Large parts have been designated a Conservation Area in order to protect the character of its buildings, which reflect its role as the headquarters for lead mining in the area in 19th century. Before the 19th century the town was a small agricultural settlement until, in 1815, the Quaker-owned London lead mining company established its headquarters for northern England here. They built extensively in the town, including schools, their offices at Middleton House, workers homes and a chapel. Piped water was available in the town and the tap housings in walls can still be seen. The houses had their own vegetable gardens, which are still evident today. A model housing estate, with larger houses, was provided at New Town for the most deserving staff.

The cast iron memorial fountain in the centre of the village was built in 1877, after a collection by employees of the London Lead Company for the retirement of the company’s superintendent, Robert Bainbridge.

The big 50_6761

St Mary’s Church has a detached belfry, little changed since it was built in 1557.

From Middleton-in-Teesdale we rejoined the Pennine Way to march with it to near the Bowlees visitor centre and beyond it to Low Force and High Force. From near the Bowlees Visitor Centre to Langdon Beck Youth Hostel is an area of special interest to botanists, geologists, geographers, ornithologists, industrial archaeologists, and long-distance walkers with an eye to perceive and heart to enjoy. This is one, if not the finest, stretch of riverside walking in the country and, as well as exciting waterfalls, includes an area renowned for rare flowers and many species of birds. In addition, few places in England offer the solitude of the surrounding fells. The area is best viewed in early June, when flowers are in abundance and birds plentiful.

High Force can be seen in a gap between bushes about ten yards off the main path to your right, giving one of the finest views of this magnificent waterfall, the largest and most spectacular of waterfalls in England. After a gate, we dropped to the top of High Force where there are again exciting views of the Tees plunging 70 feet over the Whin Sill leading me to write another poem:

High Force

Escaping from the cold confines of Cauldron Snout

An amphibious amphitheatre is reached.

The Tees plunges painfully to its death,

Over Whin Sill, gasping for breathe.


The juniper watches on

As white waters battle with dark depths,

And from the torrid tumult

The Tees emerges to delirious delight;

It is not dead.

It is difficult to walk through Upper Teesdale, towards Langdon Beck, without being left with the sense of remoteness and wilderness of these parts; to become familiar with it is to be enriched. It is a private world where the silence can be ‘deafening’, something rare and precious in the 20th century.

A sign, now removed, on the drive leading up to the road near the youth hostel used to say:






The big 50_6762

A wonderful portrayal of northern humour in these remote parts, which the authorities did not appreciate (not PC) and forced its removal.

My new bladder leaks, Ripon Cathedral, Cows that can read signs, Bulls that can’t, finding Sanctuary.

Post 146: 25th May 2017, Ripon Rowel Circles, walk 1.

After having just completed my 51st long distance walk after 8 months on Cleveland Circles on the North York Moors, it was time to start a new walk.

The day started badly when a new water drinks hydration system (which allows drinking without having to stop walking), I had bought the previous day was found not to be leakproof so that my rucksack got a drenching. I would have thought the ‘seal’ at the top can never be completely leak proof. I am not sure that calling it a bladder is the correct terminology either! I quickly hunted around for a water bottle as this was not to be a day without water.

I will be taking it back to the shop. My previous Platypus hydration system worked perfectly for many years.


Traditionally in the summer we like to head to the Yorkshire Dales to make a change from the North York Moors and or the Yorkshire Wolds. Summer had definitely arrived  with temperatures of 27 degrees. The Ripon Rowel is a 50 miles circular walk from Ripon Cathedral, but the mileage would increase significantly as we were walking it using day circulars.

The first day alone was to be 16 miles.

We left Ripon Cathedral at 9.30am as shown on the Cathedral clock.


The Cathedral dates back to the 7th century and was founded by St Wilfrid in 672. It became a cathedral in 1836.


Our route soon took us along the Ripon canal. It is the northernmost canal connected to the 2,000 mile English canal system.


It is home to a great variety of wildlife including animals, plants and birds.P1060928

We soon came across cows that were able to read signs in order in find their way up the river. This was at the confluence the River Ure and the Ripon Canal.


We passed some delightful villages, Bishop Monkton, Burton Leonard, South Stanley and Markington before reaching Markingfield Hall. It was a good job the big bull was looking in the other direction. He clearly can’t read direction signs indicating which way to charge.


After passing through a delightful Yorkshire Wildlife Trust woodland near Hell Wath Cottages, we came across an information board for the Sanctuary Way. This is a 10 mile walk around Ripon created to celebrate the centenary of Rotary International in 2005.


There are Santuary markers close to the original sites that which mark the ancient Sanctuary Boundary.


Soon after, we left the Ripon Rowel walk to follow the delightful River Skell through woodland and Hell Wath Nature Reserve back to the cathedral.


Despite taking a flask of coffee, tea and a small water bottle I was quite dehydrated and bought another bottle of flavoured water and drank it all. It was a very hot day for walking!

Post Update – I returned my ‘bladder’ to the shop next day and exchanged it for a leak proof Camelbak hydration system!


Miles Walked 16

Steps 31,000

Calories Burnt 2,000

Average Pace 17 Minutes per Mile

Fastest Pace between 0-2 miles 16.49 Minutes per Mile 






51st Long-distance walk, 30 Walks and 318 Miles Completed, ammonites, early flight, spacecraft, away with the fairies, the final sacrifice.

Post 145: 23 April 2017, Cleveland Circles Walk 30.

We arrived at Filey at just after 8.30am and started walking at 9.00am on a bright sunny day. Descending the ravine below Glen Gardens we passed an ammonite, albeit it a concrete one!


The view looking north towards Filey Brigg was a delight.



So was looking south towards Bridlington.


In the early years of the 20th Century pioneer fliers took great risks here to discover some of the secrets of flight. Not all attempts were successful.


There were also a strange view out to sea – a shoal of fish, fish nets, a sand bank, sea currents, the shadow of a spacecraft? If anyone knows do let me know.



As we headed inland we were clearly ‘Away with the Fairies’


There were even public sandbag stores.


We arrived at the village of Muston for our coffee and banana break and sat outside an unusual corrugated church, with beautiful stained glass windows, and next to the nearby pub.



Muston is an attractive and well kept Yorkshire village.


After passing through Gristhorpe we eventually reached the sea again and the Cleveland Way. When we last passed this location on the previous walk, near the Blue dolphin Holiday Park, there was only the base for a bench. This time a bench had been put in place and with stunning views we decided on an early lunch at 11.15am!



2.7 miles of delightful walking along the Cleveland Way followed


Until we reached the end of the Cleveland Way and the Cleveland Circles at Filey Brigg.

30 walks and 319 miles completed in 8 months.


Hereabouts Romans built a signal station.


It was time now to head for Filey for a celebratory ice-cream. On such a splendid day it seemed more like the mediterranean than the East Coast of Yorkshire.



At the North Cliff Country Park an appropriately named Rambler coach was parked up.


We found a sacrificial site and volunteered Carol as the victim for saying ‘how far now?’ too often.


After a visit to St Oswald’s Church,


we had two ice creams on Filey front and bade farewell to the local wildlife to return to Sid the Yorkshireman’s new ‘Techno-Orange’ coloured car and the journey home.



A great day and great series of walks completed.

Miles Walked  12 miles

Calories Burnt 1,400

Steps Taken 24,800

Average pace 19 minutes per mile.

Maximum Pace 13 minutes per mile

Elevation Gain 597 feet

Minimum Elevation 24 feet

Maximum Elevation 280 feet 


The Friendly/Hungry Robin, Arcadia, The Hermit, High on Garlic, Where it will Take You, Alligators, Fish and Chips.

Post 144: 20 May 2017, The Coastliner Way, Walk 14 and 15, Goathland to Whitby. 

The Coastliner Way is a new long-distance walk developed by John Eckersley, outlining a series of walks from Leeds to Whitby, Scarborough or Filey/Bridlington. Each leg of the walk starts or finishes at a Coastliner bus stop and averages about 7 miles long. Total distances add up to about 170 miles. Further details of the walk and other walking books by John can be found at his website:


We decided to walk the last two sections 14 and 15 from Goathland to Whitby on this, the launch day of the walk. Now of course this was nothing to do with the prospect of fish and chips at Whitby! We felt these sections have some of the best Yorkshire scenery on offer. We were not to be disappointed.

We started walking from the National Park car park in Goathland at 9.00am. We soon crossed the North Yorkshire Moors Railway line at the station and began ascending onto the moors.

There were fine views back towards Goathland and there were curlews and lapwings hereabouts.


A boundary stone dated 1784 was passed just after Whinstone Ridge. It was engraved Sneaton Liberty. The pylons in the background are, we believe, to be demolished at some point to improve the view across the moorland.


We descended to Midge Hall where we stopped for our coffee and banana break. We were joined by a robin, which we soon had eating off the top of Sid the Yorkshireman’s hat (see video on Facebook).


We were now on Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk, but walking in the opposite direction to most coast to coaster’s who were on their last day from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. We passed a number of such walkers, including some with American/Canadian accents. They all indicated they had enjoyed their challenging walk.

Falling Foss next to Midge Hall was a delight. Wainwright describes the area up to and including the hamlet Littlebeck as:

‘…a miniature Arcadia embowered in trees, a glimpse of heaven for nerve-frayed town-dwellers.’


Before Littlebeck we arrived at a huge boulder called ‘The Hermitage’. It has seats and is inscribed The Hermitage, the year 1790 and the initials G.C.

As you can see in this picture below taken on coast to coast in 1991, I haven’t changed a bit but the hermitage is a lot greener! I don’t look too worn out considering I had walked 179 miles from St Bees through rain and storms to get to the Hermitage. It was near here that I later met a father and son walking Wainwright’s coast to coast for the third time and there and then decided to plan and write my own coast to coast walk, The North of England Way. The rest is history…….

Wainright's Coast to Coast 1991

After passing through the hamlet of Littlebeck, we ascended the road leaving Wainwright’s coast to coast before running parallel with Little Beck. The smell of wild garlic was overpowering and if we had stayed I suspect we might have got ‘high’ on it.


We stopped at Sleights station for lunch and were rewarded with a North Yorkshire Moors steam train passing through.

After Sleights, we joined the 80 mile Eskdale Way, which I completed in 2012.  It starts and finishes in Whitby and circuits across the Moors to near Guisborough and Baysdale Abbey.


Whitby Abbey the end of our walk came into view in the far distance. Despite a forecast of showers, the weather was holding up with bright warm sunshine.


We arrived in Whitby to unexpectedly come across some friends of Sid and Carol’s who were on a school reunion! One was over from Australia and was planning to continue parts of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. 

What a small world we live in these days. As shown on the bridge it is a case of WHERE IT WILL TAKE YOU. 


Walking through Pannett Park we were accosted by an alligator.


But survived to reach Whitby Abbey, the end of a fine and enjoyable walk.


Now it was off for fish and chips and then to catch the Coastliner bus back to Goathland. Even better, three of us had bus passes. Poor Carol had to pay! With hindsight we should have had a collection for Carol. But the walk was for Christian Aid so we will be donating there!

It started raining just as we started having fish and chips!

Miles Walked 15.1

Steps 31,500 

Calories Burnt 1,700

Average Pace 19.12 (but that included the fish and chip shop) 

Fastest Split 0-2 miles, 18.45 minutes per mile. 

England’s Last Wilderness, England’s Highest Pub, The Magician and/or Oliver the Dispatch Driver, The Great Comet of 1997.

Post 143: 9 April 1997: Day 5 – Keld Youth Hostel to Cotherstone – 17½ miles

Again we woke up to bright sunshine. There is no doubt that global warming is on its way. If any scientist needs proof they only have to read these diaries. Remember the rain and cold on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast in 1991 and the rain, cold, snow and sleet on the Cumbria Way in 1992? Yet here we were, another day when we would be stripped down to our T-shirts, something I never managed in nearly 300 miles of walking in 1991/2.

Soon after passing East Gill Force, we left the area enclosed by drystone walls to enter what can only be described as ‘England’s Last Wilderness’, the bleak Black Moor.

P1060652It looked like a greeny-brown moon landscape with nothing, as far as the eye can see, apart from moorland and blue horizon. Now what makes people walk into such a landscape? Is it the isolation, the stark beauty of barrenness, the fresh air, sounds of the skylark or lapwing. Don’t be daft; leaving North Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales National Park to enter County Durham, we arrived at the highest pub in England, the Tan Hill Inn.


We were now at 1732 feet, suffering from altitude sickness, and a drink or two was the only remedy. Some Pennine Wayfarers have been known to have camped here for days. Many famous people have commented on the roaring fires in the pub, including Alfred Wainwright, Mike Harding and Hannah Hauxwell. There is always a warm welcome at this pub, one of the most isolated and loneliest habited places in England; it is adorned with postcards sent from visitors from all around the world.

The big 50_6760

In the past the pub has had associations with mining, packhorse trails and sheep fairs. The Tan Hill Show, held annually near the pub, is an opportunity to meet local farmers and to see Tups, the ram or male species of the Swaledale sheep, being judged; some sheep fetch over £30,000 at auction. Personally I’d rather have sports car for that price to replace my fourteen-year-old Volvo (update – my Volvos are not so old now!).

We eventually dragged ourselves away from the pub taking the route along Coal Gill Sike and Frumming Beck where the sense of remoteness is complete and in bad weather it can be a very serious stretch of walking requiring good navigation skills. In good weather it still saps the energy as you hop and wind over, around and through peat bogs; this is true ‘Pennine Way country.’ The isolated but welcome Sleightholme Farm was reached, then, after crossing Sleightholme Beck and Wytham Moor, easier walking alongside the River Greta led to Bowes.

Bowes became an important coaching centre with the coming of a good turnpike road. Now that the A66 by-passes the village it is a quiet backwater, although a visit to the pub, the Ancient Unicorn, a former coaching inn, and the church of St Giles is recommended. The church is of medieval origins with late Norman north and south doorways. The south porch, added at the bequest of Thomas Woodcock, has a weathered sculpture of the Crucifixion. The church has two early fonts, one of the 13th century resting on a Roman altar and an earlier one having zig-zag decoration. A stone from a Roman building has an inscription to Emperor Septimus Severus. The Romans built their fort of Lavatrae here and the basic grassy ramparts can still be traced. The masonry was incorporated into Bowes Castle – a Norman watchtower or keep constructed in the 12th century to guard the Stainmore Pass.

In the 19th century Dotheboys Hall was a school where the pupils were treated to a life of misery being beaten from time to time, receiving a bad education and invariably having poor health. When I was a child I thought all schools gave pupils a life of misery. Actually that’s not true, although being at school does have its ups and downs. Boarders from Dotheboys could be sent to farms and their earnings given to the Headmaster. The grave of 19 year-old George Ashton Taylor, a pupil of Dotheboys Hall School, was the inspiration for the character of Smike in Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby and the hall was also used in the novel. Some of Dickens’ information was obtained from the bar of the pub but also from William Shaw, Headmaster of the school, who is also buried in the church graveyard. Part of Dotheboys Hall has been demolished and what is left remains part of a number of private houses.

After some road walking, then passing Crag Hill and Crag Pond, there is a gradual descent to Teesdale and the quiet, attractive, village of Cotherstone, where we called into the post office to try some soft and crumbly Cotherstone cheese. This delightful village stands high above the confluence of the Rivers Balder and Tees. The 12th-century castle on Hallgarth Hill is now just a steep mound with some broken stones. Cotherstone was established as an agricultural community from Anglo-Saxon times and during the 19th century developed more as a commuter and holiday settlement with the arrival of the Tees Valley Railway. The railway closed in 1964 and the village has grown little since then, although it is a popular place to live in. It is one of the most attractive villages in Teesdale and has been designated as a Conservation Area in order to preserve its beauty. The fine church of St. Cuthbert was built in 1881, in the early English style by C. Purdon Clarke.

Hannah Hauxwell lived in Cotherstone. She had television fame when previously living in isolation at Low Birk Hatt Farm, one of the remotest farms in the country.

A substantial meal in the Fox and Hounds Inn replenished tired bodies, and as we sat in the lounge afterwards with our pints we thought we were in for a quiet evening. In the 1998 AA guide to Top Ten pub names, the Fox and Hounds came eighth.

There were three young men at the bar and a striking blonde lady, on her own, dressed somewhat unusually in black, with a colourful scarf around her neck. It didn’t look as though she had been to a funeral as she had walking maps in front of her. Needless to say our conversation got round to walking. Now blondes don’t normally come over to us; we are ordinary middle-aged guys that women briefly look at and then look away as though we weren’t there. To our astonishment this one came over to introduce herself as a walker and professional magician; she was immediately nicknamed Magician Walker. She had a deep voice, prominent jaw and firm wrists.

‘I can see you don’t believe I am a magician,’ she said, ‘would you like a performance?’

‘Err…………. sure.’ we all said disbelievingly, looking at each other and smiling in faint amusement.

‘Can I have an assistant?’

Alan jumped up, clearly out to impress.

‘Has anyone a £10 note?’

There was silence.

‘Come on, one of you must have a note?’

Everyone looked at Alan who relented under pressure to produce a £10 note, handing it over as though his life depended on getting it back.

She put the £10 note in a glass, rubbed her hands over it and then showed us an empty glass. Alan looked devastated.

At that she proceeded to run through a whole host of tricks, making bottles go through wooden tables, cards appear on the pub ceiling, and burnt paper re-appear. She eventually made a £10 note re-appear in the glass. At the end of about an hour’s performance we burst into spontaneous applause. It was tremendous.

It wasn’t until the following June that this performer was mentioned in the Times. The correspondent said two magicians were performing after a dinner at the Waldorf for a company called Financial Objects plc. As he went in there were loud bangs and claps, playing cards slapping on tables, peals of laughter. He saw a huge upturned hat. The magicians were working the room just as Magician Walker had worked us at the Fox and Hounds. The two of them were holding the tables spellbound just as we had been. They did an unbelievable rope trick, then performed a card trick which ended with a card selected by a random diner being discovered thumb-tacked to the ceiling twenty feet above. Like us they did not know how she did it. Magician Walker was described as rather beautiful with a husky voice, generous cleavage, big hands and a prominent Adam’s apple – strangely, ambiguously sexy. It dawned on the correspondent as it did me that she had changed her gender. She used to be Oliver, a motorcycle dispatch rider.

That’s magic!

 As we walked back to our bed and breakfast, the evening entertainment was concluded with spectacular views towards the dark skies of the comet ‘Hale-Bopp’, much brighter with us being away from City lights. It was the brightest comet for five hundred years and it is estimated that another one so bright would not be seen for another two thousand and three hundred years. It was formed some ten thousand years previously and was part of the left overs from the development of the solar system. This was indeed a memorable sight

England’s Shortest Named River, The Spaghetti Junction of Walks, A Lady Walking the Pennine Way for her 40th Birthday – or was she? Endurance and Maggots. Blind Date. A 73 year old Walking the Pennine Way. How did Kate Winslet Manage to Survive the the Titanic? Matchmaking on the Herriot Way.

Post 142: 7 April 1997: Day 3 – Buckden to Bainbridge – 10 miles

In the morning, whilst watching wild birds eating food put out by the landlady, we had breakfast.

Fortunately, the day’s walk is short and so my hopefully my blisters would recover. The weather was good as we left Buckden. After climbing the old Roman road of Buckden Rake, we decided not to do the three-mile detour to the summit of Buckden Pike as, at over 2,000 feet, it was unlikely to help my blisters to heal.

Continuing over Stake Moss, there were fine retrospective views of Buckden Pike. A clear track alongside Cragdale provided easy navigation with an opportunity to admire the secluded environs of Cragdale Moor, inaccessible to walkers as there are no rights of way. A pleasant descent followed with expansive views of Semer Water as well as the valleys of Semerdale and Raydale. After passing through the quiet hamlet of Stalling Busk and the ruins of the old church, the banks of Semer Water were reached where we took the opportunity to stop for refreshments in what is real Dales country.

On leaving Semer Water, we followed the River Bain, at 2 miles in length England’s shortest named river, into the village of Bainbridge. Here was an opportunity to replenish food stocks and enjoy the wide-open spaces of the village green. In particular, Dick’s mother arrived with a huge, gorgeous, fruit pie, which we completely devoured like starving hyenas. There was also a fine old pub, the Rose and Crown, and sure enough, sitting outside, were Alan and Archie, joining us for the next part of the walk. Bainbridge is the crossroads of this walk and On Foot From Coast to Coast – The North of England Way, my 200-mile walk from Ravenglass on the west coast to Scarborough on the east coast. On reaching Bainbridge, coast to coasters will have walked just over 92 miles compared to our 30 miles.

8 April 1997: Day 4 – Bainbridge to Keld Youth Hostel – 10 miles

As we left this lovely dales village in bright spring sunshine, my feet were somewhat better, but by no means completely healed. After some gentle walking, Askrigg was soon reached where we passed Skeldale House, the surgery-home of Siegfried Farnon, his brother Tristan, and James and Helen Herriot, in the BBC television series ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’

We headed north from Askrigg and, on crossing Askrigg Common, the limestone plateau of Oxnop Scar came into view, followed by the narrow, winding Swaledale valley, surrounded by vast open moors. On reaching Muker, we stopped for refreshments to savour the unique atmosphere of this quaint village nestling between the River Swale and Straw Beck. In fact it was so warm, for over an hour we sat sun-bathing on a bench in the centre of the village. The village marks the point where Swaledale changes in character from a sheltered Dales valley to the upland Dales valley of Birkdale.

The big 50_6759

St Mary’s church was first built in 1580 but the present structure largely dates from 1890, whilst the Literary Institute dates from 1868. At this time lead-mining was prevalent in the area. The district around Muker inspired the Kearton brothers (Richard, 1868-1928 and Cherry, 1871-1940), who went to the village school in Muker, to devote their lives to watching wildlife, pioneering the photography of birds and animals, and writing and lecturing about their experiences. They are commemorated by plaques on the chapel.

For tourists and motorists visiting Swaledale, Muker is often the end of their journey as the roads become distinctly more remote and difficult to negotiate. For walkers the next section to Keld is pure delight, especially in June when the hay meadows are at their best with carpets of yellow, blue, purple and white flowers. Just before the Swale passes though a narrow gorge, I have seen deer pass in front of me, from one side of the valley to another. After passing through this Arcadia, we omitted a short detour to visit Kisdon Force in order to allow my feet to fully recover.

Arriving at Keld, we visited a café for a relaxing rest sitting outside in bright sunshine, before proceeding to the youth hostel, a former shooting lodge, and now an overnight stop for four long-distance walks. Keld’s unique remoteness is now offset by it being the crossroads of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk, the Pennine Way, the Herriot Way and this walk; it is the ‘spaghetti junction’ of long-distance walks. Two chapels, the school and the youth hostel are the main buildings of note in the village, but the Quakers were instrumental in closing the public house.

At the hostel there was an opportunity to swop stories of our experiences with some Pennine Way and Herriot Way walkers.

‘Are you doing the Pennine Way?’ I said to a lady with bright ruddy cheeks which clearly indicated she had been walking along England’s backbone.

‘Yes, I am doing it in celebration of my fortieth birthday.’ She replied somewhat embarrassingly, not really wishing to give her age away to a complete stranger.

‘Your fortieth birthday?’ I exclaimed in complete disbelief. Two-hundred and sixty thousand walkers use the Pennine Way each year, but it was the first person I had met doing it as a birthday celebration.

‘Yes, I’ve never done a long-distance walk before and it seemed like a good idea,’ she said quite genuinely. ‘My companion has done it before and he is looking after me.’

My thoughts went off in a tangent; perhaps they were eloping, having an affair, or something even more interesting. Now a trip to Jamaica, Barbados, Fiji, Australia or New Zealand might be one thing to do when your forty, but to do the Pennine Way is another. Why walk through mud, peat bogs, rain, mist, and winds as a celebration of your fortieth birthday? I might have understood her reasoning if she had been Japanese. Their game show Endurance, where they have maggots crawling over them, lizards running at them and such like, indicates they enjoy suffering. However, she was as English as they come and, as we all know, the British like to see no more suffering than a couple on Blind Date reporting to Cilla Black how they had an awful time on their date and hate each other.

‘Are you enjoying the walk?’ I asked knowing that, if she answered the question incorrectly, all would be revealed.

‘Oh, yes, it’s tiring but I am enjoying it.’

That was it. No one enjoys the Pennine Way, she was clearly in love with her companion, although I never did manage to prise open their exact relationship. She was clearly out to grab her man by accompanying him on the Pennine Way; the birthday was just an excuse.

Also staying at the hostel was a seventy-three year old walking the Pennine Way. There are not that many other activities that you can still do at seventy-three. How many footballers, tennis players, golfers, cricketers do you see over sixty, let alone seventy? Rugby players and climbers seem to retire even earlier, usually with some form of injury. To be fair the pensioner had been a fell-runner for most of his life and for him walking the Pennine Way was not unlike walking to town to get his pension. Like most pensioners, it just takes longer to walk from A to B, but like the proverbial tortoise they get there.

There is little doubt that walking can be a lifetime activity and as you get older you can adjust your daily mileage. In order to maintain fitness it is best to increase the amount of activity that you do. On reading that Kate Winslett, star of the blockbuster movie Titanic, does two hundred sit-ups a day, I increased my level from thirty-five to two hundred a day. This had an immediate impact on my midriff bulge, so that my belt could be pulled in a few notches and it was easier to climb steep hills.

Another character at the hostel was a middle-aged man, walking the Herriot Way, who clearly relished the fact that this was the first time he had escaped from his wife and family for years. He said his wife was delighted to have got rid of him for a few days. Little did she know that the Herriot Way has a reputation for ‘matchmaking’, attracting as it does an even proportion of males and females, unlike the Pennine Way, which is male dominated. One can’t help wonder whether, after this walk, his marriage became another divorce statistic or was saved by it?

With the forty-year old having an affair, a pensioner, a wife escaper and no pub for miles, we had a quiet but interesting night and the coal fire was warming and relaxing.

400 Miles Completed of the 1,000 Mile 2017 Challenge, A ‘Moses Red Sea’ Moment.

Post 141: 1 May 2017, Cleveland Circles 29

One of the good things about a Bank Holiday is that many people have a lie in and so leaving York at 7.30am the traffic was very light. This was the penultimate walk of the Cleveland Circles walk we had started on 11th October 2016. We were soon walking from Holbeck along the dramatic coastline.  An isolated pill box appeared below us.

A mile into the walk I had completed 400 ‘boot’ miles of the Country Walking Magazine 1,000 mile 2017 challenge I am undertaking. I am just ahead of schedule.


Many of our former sea defences are disappearing into the sea!


After walking inland at Blue Dophin Holiday Park to near Cliff house Farm we circled back towards Cayton Bay for lunch.


Whilst having lunch between the rocks we waited in hope that the sea would retreat so that we could walk along the whole of Cayton Bay Beach.


Sure enough, with perfect timing the sea withdrew (not quite a ‘Moses Red Sea moment’ but close), to enable us to walk along Cayton Bay Beach.


Before turning again inland to Osgodby.

A Scarborough golf course signalled that we were nearing the end of our walk.


There were fine views of Scarborough at the end of the days walk.


Miles Walked 11.2