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We wake, shower and go downstairs to the bar for breakfast. There is no sign of life. The bar is exactly as we left it the night before. Dirty beer glasses, full ash trays, crisp packets etc. and not a sound to be heard!
We hang around for a while. Nothing happens, time is getting on, so we decide to leave without breakfast and incidentally without paying but find we are locked in!!
We resort to loud coughs and banging furniture, all to no avail. We try to amuse our selves, consider pulling a pint but decide it’s probably a bit early and will spoil our breakfast if we ever get it! We stomp up and down the stairs several times hoping to wake somebody. Finally, we find a door marked “private” at the top of the pub and knock loudly upon it and when even that fails to get a response, we call, rather lamely, “Hello, is there anybody there?” We hear footsteps. A young man of about eighteen with tousled hair peers round the door with half open eyes and grunts excuses.
He cooks us a superb breakfast for which we forgive him everything but we have rather a late start!
We climb very steeply out of Hebden Bridge along a narrow, cobbled street with tiny cottages clinging to the hillside. We continue climbing until we reach High Gate Farm where there is a great shop selling fresh produce including pies and pastries.
We descend into a little hollow where Graining Water meets Reaps Water. We stop for a brew. The sun shines intermittently between dark clouds.
We continue to the Walshaw Dean Reservoir (there are actually three of them - this part of the country seems to supply water to the whole world!) and have a very arduous and muddy walk alongside. The path is about two feet wide between a wall and a wire fence. It is a quagmire and absolutely unavoidable. If the Water Authority are only going to allow you 24 inches to walk in, the least they can do is to make up the path.
We are now in Bronte Country. Never satisfied, I am now hoping for atmospheric mist but the sun shines.
Top Withens is purportedly the setting for Wuthering Heights. We see many tourists on the “Bronte Trail”. The view from here, though, does not disappoint. The walking is easy and we soon arrive at Upper Heights Farm. We are the only campers there and have a marvelour view over the Ponden Reservoir (yet another one!). We sit in the sunshine and eat huge cheese and onion pies, bought at High Gate Farm and to be recommended, and there we stay till dusk.
There is rain in the air. We go down to Ponden Reservoir, cross and ascend again.We continue over very wet pasture and moorland. It begins to rain very heavily and on reaching Ickornshaw we dive into the Black Bull to dry out a bit. I order coffee and receive a jug full of instant! We look out of the window hopefully but there is no change in the weather. There is no alternative. We shall have to brave it. We skid and slide over pasture and farmland, meet a great many cows, and reach Lothersdale
The rain eases off. We are wet and cranky after encountering so much mud! We need a brew. Everywhere is so wet and drippy we take refuge in a yard, by an old cowshed, on the outskirts of Lothersdale. It is so nice to rest our feet on a firm surface!
Refreshed, we leave Lothersdale and continue over more pasture, more mud and subsequently, more moor! We cross the heather on Elslack Moor to the summit of Pinhaw Beacon at 1,273 ft. This is easier walking with a much firmer foothold on peat.We descend towards Thornton in Craven. The sky is black. It looks like imminent rain. That will make a change! We reach Brown House Farm. The name is very apt! The mud you can see is not just that. It is a mixture of slurry and cow dung all mixed to a sticky custard. We have to wade through this, as it gets progressively worse toward the stile, for about 200 yds! I try balancing along the wire fence feeling like a second rate circus act. We pass Thornton and on through more pasture to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and East Marton. We are wet and tired and head straight for the pub, hang out all our wet things, take off our boots and leave them to "steam" and warm up with a fantastic home-made chilli.
We wake early and pack up in the rain; quite a common occurrence it seems, and are off by 7.30am over cow pasture and into Gargrave
In Gargrave we restock, buy Cornish pasties and cakes for lunch and eat them on a bench (sheer luxury) by the river. Then up to Horrows Hill and more cows!
So down to the River Aire. What could have been a beautiful river walk under different conditions turns out to be a nightmare. We slip, slide and slurp along the river bank, cross a great many stiles, and make very slow progress.
When we reach Hanlith we divert from the PW and carry on along the river to Malham in order to see Aire Head. This is a fascinating place where the river just materialises and bubbles up from underground. The path from Hanlith to Malham is a joy after the rest of the day and the sun even shines. Why no photographs? Search me!
We arrive in Malham with tired limbs (through balancing all day) and find there is no shop. We haven't any tea bags! This is a calamity. I walk back to the Kiosk in town and buy crisps and cold drinks - they don't stock tea bags. Why didn’t I buy tea in Gargrave - search me! I walk back to the campsite and then do the decent thing which involves walking uphill for a mile or so to the Youth Hostel (where I buy ten tea bags and two coffee sachets) Eureka! I’m glad to get in the tent.
It's raining again!
At the top, we cross the limestone pavement, which resembles a large brain. It is an ankle breaker and in the wet is like ice (so much for my assurances).
The way follows the Watlowes Valley - an eerie place in the mist. I was half expecting the sheriff and his posse to come riding round the corner.
We climb up the dry (not in this weather) valley onto flat limestone grassland. The mist is very low but it is quite warm. The stream gurgles and bubbles. I find myself looking for fairies and pixies.
We reach Malham Tarn which must be a beautiful place but we can only hear it lapping against the shore. The mist is really thick now. We take water from the tarn hoping for a cup of tea but there are floaty bits and swimming things in it, so we decide against.
Charl uses a lot of energy here, helping a girl to bump start her motorbike. He runs up and down the track, pushing the bike, whilst the girl pulls on the throttle. He finally succeeds and she is off without a backward look.
So, on to the summit of Fountains Fell. It is very good walking but we can only see our feet in front of us. In fact we take a wrong turn and have to retrace our steps to a stone wall and start again!
There is a sharp descent on a rocky path down to the road. We ask a woman, who has parked her car, the time as we want to reach our destination before the shops close. We decide there is no chance. She must have taken pity on us as she goes to her car and returns with an apple each for us.
Pen-y-ghent now comes into view shrouded in mist. As we approach the mist lifts a little, gradually revealing the steep shoulder where we will ascend. It is a rocky climb and a little awkward with a heavy back-pack but quick and in no time we are on the summit. We are lucky. The mist on the 2,277ft summit clears for a few minutes. Long enough to take in the view
There is a long descent from Pen-y-ghent and eventually we meet a “green road” between parallel dry stone walls and make our way down into Horton. We arrive at 8.00pm, pitch, forget about a shower and hot foot it to the pub before they stop serving meals. We meet several PW walkers all of which walked round Pen-y-ghent! Strangely enough, many of them also went wrong on Fountain's Fell in the same place as us.