Day Eight

Kirkby Stephen to Keld (13 miles)

Today was to be a special day. We would pass into my favourite walking County, Yorkshire and reach the half-way point of the trip. However, this wasn’t the first thing I thought of as I woke up in the comfort of Fletcher House. My mind jumped to all the images and stories I’d read about the Nine Standards. About how people would despair as the stone pillars, first spotted in Kirkby Stephen, never seemed to get any closer as they trudged up Hartley Fell or how people would sink into the bog up to their waist if they put a foot in the wrong place.

Breakfast was eaten quickly and in silence as we prepared ourselves for a real test. The sky was cloudy but bright as we set off past Franks Bridge to start the trudge up Hartley Fell. Part way up we stopped for a break and got a surprisingly clear view back towards Kirkby Stephen.

However, the visibility ahead seemed to be getting worse with each step so we just put our heads down and plodded our way forward hoping to get some good views before they were obscured by yet more of the moist grey stuff.

To be honest, Nige and I didn’t find this climb at all difficult. Maybe we had walked ourselves into a super-fit state? The anti-climax was completed by low cloud at the top but this didn’t spoil the feeling of achievement as we took pictures of the funny shaped slate towers from every conceivable angle.

A few months before starting this trip I was diagnosed with a ‘frozen shoulder’. The only real inconvenience up to this point had been the awkwardness of putting my jacket on and off or reaching up when climbing stiles. However, as we finished our photo shoot I reached out instinctively to catch my walking pole which was slipping off one of the monuments and I found myself bent over double in pain rocking backwards and forwards. Nige told me later that I let out quite a cry but I don’t remember that. All I remember is that it really hurt. Not wanting to make too much of a spectacle of myself in front of the growing number of people reaching this landmark I told Nige I was ok and we should move on swiftly. As we did a group of ladies nearby came over very concerned and asked Nige if I was ok. I suppose seeing a bloke bent over clutching one arm across his chest and face contorted in pain made them think I was having a heart attack. More embarrassed than anything we moved on quickly but not before we checked we were taking the correct route. The satnav (The ‘Precious’) really came into its own and led us perfectly across the deep undulating bogs. It wasn’t quite as bad as we expected, not that much different than some of the terrain around Bleaklow and Kinder Scout which we were used to walking.

We dropped down onto a grassy track following Ney Gill and stopped here to eat our packed lunch supplied by Fletcher House. We again tried to pad it out by pretending to have a snooze or sunbathe but we found it difficult to stop for any period of time. Full to the brim having consumed the excessive amount of food in the bags we moved on and within half an hour arrived at Ravenseat Farm. I remember this place from watching the Julia Bradbury series on TV. I remember the farmers’ wife describing how remote it was from civilisation and she was right. A beautiful spot but nothing at all within miles. She had set up picnic tables by the ford and was selling cream teas. Now this felt like a genuine reason to stop and enjoy the moment but we were stuffed to the rafters and the thought of a cream tea falling on top of what we had just consumed had us debating whether or not to give it a miss. We decided it would be rude to not support this enterprise so we ordered the works each and washed it down with 2 mugs of tea. All homemade and delivered to the table by the same farmers’ wife it was a great moment on the trip. She had time to stop and chat at each table she served even though she was so busy.

This was the point we realised why we didn’t stop very often. It was really hard to get back up and going again but reluctantly we did and started back on the track following Whitsundale Beck. We passed many farm buildings along this stretch, most of them dilapidated or just shells of buildings. We continued along the cart track to join the B6270 which was to lead us into Keld and our digs at Keld Lodge. Just before arriving at the lodge we passed Wainwath force, a series of small waterfalls and we stopped, again, to have a look and take a few piccies.

We weren’t sure what to expect at Keld Lodge as we knew it had once been a Youth Hostel so we were over the moon to be led to a very swish and spacious double ensuite room. It was all very smart and clean and knowing that we would not only be eating at the lodge but also patronising the bar made us feel there was no need for the usual mad rush to shower, change and go. Ours was a room at the corner of the building so we had great views in 2 different directions.

We wandered down to the public phone box near Butt House just before our evening meal as Nige needed to phone home and there was no mobile signal here. Back in the restaurant there was a very good choice on the menu and despite all we had eaten during the day we decided we should celebrate reaching the halfway point of the walk by eating yet more meat. Afterwards we retired to the bar which was really quite lively as it was open to non-residents. Quite a few people we had met along the route were staying across the road at Butt House and they had wasted no time walking the short distance to get a good seat and settle in for an evening’s relaxation. Unfortunately Nige and I did get collared early on by a very boring and pompous couple of blokes who were walking the Pennine Way but neither of us were prepared to sacrifice a good night in the name of good manners so we just moved on and spent the evening chatting to Sue and Merv who had been joined by Sues sister and brother in law to walk with them for the next few days. We definitely went over the quota of 4 pints and a whisky but neither of us knew by how much until our heads told us early next morning.

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