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DAY 6. Thursday 22nd June 2006 - Kirkby Stephen to Keld
"The attainment of Nine Standards Rigg is an occasion for celebration. This is the main watershed of the walk and the most extensive and interesting viewpoint on it. Far back in the west is the skyline of Lakeland.......fading into the haze of distance between the lofty portals of Great Shunner Fell and Rogan's Seat. Somewhere in that haze is the foot of our personal rainbow, journeys end. If you are carrying a can of beer prepare to drink it now"
For the first time since day 1 we set off AND arrived at our destination in the dry, of course it rained in the bit in between and we spent most of the day in our waterproofs but we are beginning to get used to that! Amazing how we were so concerned about maybe being too hot during the walk and tried to get used to walking long distances in the heat! Today is a water shed point of the walk, in many ways, not only will we cross over the Pennines, the backbone of England, all streams now flow down hill away from us towards the east, we are half way through our journey and the path crosses over plenty of wet bogs!
We had been reassured at breakfast when the B&B owner bought out a Pennine Way handbook which stated that the 5th day of a long distance walk was generally the hardest as your body reserves are at their lowest. If you could survive that long then things would only get easier - we have made it past Day 5, although not in one piece!
Lizzie's ankle was still a little tender we had already decided last night to make today's short 11 mile(16km) trek even easier by going along the moorland roads and not going all the way up to the summit of Nine Standards, where nine stone obelisks stand high on a Pennine ridge, and then along the notoriously boggy stretches.
A lorry was struggling to get up the narrow lane on the climb out of Kirkby Stephen, yes another day starts uphill, after a few run ups it just kept sliding back down.
There was low cloud obscuring the hilltops by the time we approached Nine Standards so we were quite pleased that we had decided not to go that way and turned off heading across the moor land towards the road. Even though the path we were following was still boggy in parts it didn't cause Lizzie too many problems, and then as the rain started to come down we got lost! Mistaking sheep tracks for the correct path we found ourselves heading off in the wrong direction but luckily we hadn't gone too far before realising and with the help of the GPS and a compass soon found our way back, only to get lost again! Why can't those sheep just use the footpaths!
We finally found the road and set off along the easier, smoother surface. With just the company of some very confused and noisy peewits and curlews that found themselves flying backwards as the wind picked up speed. Our faces were still stinging from yesterday's hail stones, thankfully today the wind was at our backs, unfortunately this meant that Lizzie was starting to get slightly wet as her waterproof overtrousers had now started to leak from a cut on the back which probably happened when she fell and the splits along the seams which are now getting even longer - Lizzie is not impressed with them at all!
The walking along the road wasn't too bad, moorland either side provided a nice, soft grassy path and with the rain still falling and the hills in cloud we were tempted to carry on the road all of the way to Keld, however, with the promise of better weather later in the day we left the road and took a track that rejoined the main route down from Nine Standards.
It wasn't long before a few rays of sun made their way through the cloud and patches of blue sky appeared lifting our spirits. Passing the Dutch support vehicle which was waiting at the bottom of the valley leading into Keld we stopped and sat down in the sun and had a little break, almost for the first time this week, before heading off for a very enjoyable dry and scenic walk above waterfalls into Keld and our appointment with the "formidable" Doreen Whitehead!
We've noticed in the past that signs in the Yorkshire Dales have a tendency for under exaggerating - 0.5 miles really means 1.5. A theory which was later backed up when reading a book by Alan Plowright who also walked the coast to coast and experienced exactly the same problem. We know Yorkshire people have a reputation for being very thrifty with their money but didn't realised the same applied to distances.
Doreen and Ernest run a guesthouse looking after walkers along the Coast to Coast and Pennine Way, which also passes through Keld, and have an esteemed reputation in the folklore of the Coast to Coast. Specific arrival times and tales of strict rules had already made us curious. At the door we were first greeted by Toddy, an enthusiastic little white terrier, and then Doreen. The terrier seemed to be as curious about us as we were about Doreen. Boots off, Ernest showed us to our room, where our bags were already waiting for us and we received instructions to pop straight back down to the lounge for tea and cakes.
Doreen had gone to so much trouble, baking gluten free
scones for Lizzie, which if you have ever tried to
do you will know how difficult it is to get anything
resembling a scone! She told us that she made a whole
batch and sliced the centres out until she managed to
get two that looked like the real thing! Like Margaret
in Shap, Doreen showed a great understanding of what she
could and couldn't eat as well as buying lots of
different vegetarian and gluten free foods for our meal,
apart from the YHA and a few guesthouses there isn't
anything else in Keld so all meals are taken at
the guesthouses. We have our instructions to be
back in the guest lounge by 7.30pm for what
we anticipated would be an evening to remember.