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Walking through Smardale is like walking back in time.There are many earthworks which were once a prehistoric village complex. We see the “Giants Graves” (raised rectangular mounds) which it is believed are not in fact graves but platforms for stacking bracken in prehistoric times. There are also signs of mediaeval furrows. We sit under the bridge and bask in the luxury of the shade and enjoy a cuppa. After a brief glimpse of the railway viaduct we cross Smardale Fell. We stop under a railway bridge, taking advantage of the shade, for a drink and are soon in Kirkby Stephen.
It is one of the hottest evenings of the walk. We treat ourselves to fish and chips but wish we had ate it outside as the shop is stifling. We spend a restless night. It is a large family campsite. No-one seems to able to sleep. People are wandering around all night and children are fractious. The weather is tropical. As if to emphasise this fact, the next
morning, I see a pair of blue and yellow macaws fly over the site!
Escapees or residents? I will never know.
We head for the cairns in the distance, thinking them to be the cairns of Nine Standards. Of course, when we get there, we can see Nine Standards in the distance. Yet another false summit! These cairns mark the crossing of the Pennines. We are told that the weather is never the same both sides. It has been so hot since the start of our walk we are not sure if this is a bad thing but the sky is starting to look a bit blue ahead. Those cairns just don’t seem to get any nearer!
There, at last, but the walking has been easy over springy peat. We stop for lunch beside the cairns but not for long. It is very windy and cold on the top. Yes, I did say - cold!
We follow a line of posts from Nine Standards down to Whitsuntide Beck. Around Ney Gill the landscape is littered with shooting butts. We stop for a tea break with the sheep and continue to Keld.
We camp on a site by the river. It is alive with midges! Putting up the tent and cooking is a nightmare.
We intend walking the “high route” today but somehow lose our way around Crackpot Hall and end up on the low route, along the river all the way to Reeth.
The weather is still sunny and hot - so much for crossing the Pennines.
The scenery is great all along the river. At one point we encounter numerous bees who are disappearing and emerging from holes in the path. There is nothing for it but to walk through them, for some considerable distance, and hope. They are obviously oblivious to hiking boots and totally ignore us.
We arrive in Reeth around 5.00 pm. We stop for a welcome pint and sit outside a pub on the village square. Someone asks if I carry Shredded Wheat in my sack! We treat ourselves to a B&B and a luxurious shower. We really “push the boat out” and go for a meal at The Buck.
After a few miles we reach Marrick Priory, established in the 12C and occupied by Benedictine nuns. It is now a ruin but has been restored and with some new buildings, used as an outdoor centre
After crossing Clappergate Beck, I negotiate a particularly high stile. In a moment of madness, I decide to jump off. Anyone, who has carried a heavy pack will tell you this is not a good idea. As I land I feel an excruciating pain in my groin. I have twisted a ligament. I remove my pack, sit on the grass and try to ease it back. I am thinking my coast to coast may end here. I rant and rave and tell myself how stupid I am and that one moment of thoughtlessness could jeopardise the rest of the walk. Fortunately, I feel the ligament jump back. Relief! The pain has gone but it is very sore. I continue on very gingerly, testing every step.
We arrive in Richmond and I can’t believe I have actually made it. my leg still sore but improving all the time. I am not too optimistic though, as I am prepared for it to stiffen up overnight and to be totally immobile when I wake in the morning.
We sit on a bench for a while and then decide to find a fish and chip shop! We walk around the outskirts of the castle and eat our fish and chips on a bench looking out over the Swale and Richmond Bridge below. We finish with a pint of shandy and decide to walk on before finding somewhere to camp for the night.
We walk for a further 2 miles and it is beginning to get dark. We have found nowhere to put up the tent so far apart from a field with a large herd of cows with accompanying pats. We see a barn owl glide past and reach the village of Colburn. We come across a pub and there is a large notice outside - “free camping” - how fortunate. We have a pint, put up the tent (it is now almost dark) and return to the pub for the evening. We chat to a local who used to live in Tottenham, as I did, and after that in the same street as my sister in Stevenage - small world.
We are the only campers.An owl screeches above us all night it seems!