The Pennine Way part one, from Edale in the Peak District to Horton-in-Ribblesdale on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales began with an overnight stay in Hathersage. Despite delays and an uncomfortable journey on the train all seven of us, Steve R, Keith, Emma M, Simon H, Chonde, Erika and I all arrived with mixed expectations of what would lie ahead over the next eight days.
We took a short train ride to Edale on the Saturday morning where the Pennine Way officially begins. The sun quickly vanished under low cloud as we started and the rain soon began to lash down making the ascent up Jacob's ladder harder than it really should have been. Almost immediately we took the wrong path and continued for about half a mile until I realized we were heading east and not north. Eventually after retracing our steps we found the way up to Kinder Low and onwards to a very wild and windy lunch stop, huddled behind some rocks. With two exceptions everyone later thought that this day was their least favourite mainly due to the appalling weather but the rain did stop later on and we reached Crowden YHA at about 6.30pm in sunshine having completed 17.5 miles.
Crowden is a modern YHA set in a lonely spot by a reservoir but the food was good, served as it was by the hilarious Lauren, certainly the happiest person we met on the walk. Simon was certainly smitten and her giggling announcement that she was "a cheap night out" promising to be "on the floor in half an hour" only made his eyes widen.
The next day began with a steep climb up to Laddow rocks and then upstream, occasionally vaulting the river as it meandered across bogs to reach Black Hill. The cloud was too low to see far but as we descended into the valley beyond we could see Holmfirth of Last of the Summer Wine fame basking in sunshine. Lunch was a very windy spot by a very welcome snack van on the road and we took advantage of their plastic chairs to have a sit down. Simon chatted to the van owners who surprisingly had never heard of Diggle, our next overnight stay, despite it being only another 6 miles away.
In Diggle we stayed at the New Barn B&B which we had to ourselves and dined at The Diggle Hotel where some of us tucked in to "Jaws" or fish and chips to you and me; certainly a big fish but "not exactly hanging off the plate" according to Emma. The apple crumble was served as nature intended- hot and almost completely immersed in custard.
Day 3 was probably the easiest day, only 12 miles and fairly flat across a high bridge over the M62 and past several rather empty looking reservoirs. The sun shone for the middle of the day and we eventually reached Mankinholes at the foot of Stoodley Pike at about 4.30pm having started early. There was some confusion over the rooms at the B&B but although Steve ended up down the road and missed out on a cooked breakfast he was given the run of the fruit bowl and maybe came off better, certainly healthier than the rest of us.
The fourth day we all later agreed was the hardest. We began with a very steep climb up to Stoodley Pike with its stone monument to the defeat of Napoleon looming large through thick mist. Some of us climbed up the dark interior to discover 150 years of graffiti but a 360 degree view. We descended down into Calderdale and then very steeply up through wet undergrowth in very humid conditions until we reached Aladdin's Cave, a local farm shop where we bought some homemade pies and had coffees and teas. The landscape had changed over the last few days, from the craggy wilderness in Edale, across open moorland and now typical Yorkshire farmland with sheep, cattle and dry-stone walls. After an hour or so we reached the Pack Horse Inn, ate lunch outside, and went in for tea. NO TEA. Simon's conversation with the landlord went as follows:
Landlord: Oh no, we don't do tea, only coffee and hot drinks.
Simon: Tea is a hot drink.
Landlord: Sorry we only do coffee and hot drinks.
Simon: What are the hot drinks?
Nursing coffees or nothing in Steve's case we watched through the window as the outside world vanished in a thick cloud and torrential rain and sure enough all the way to Top Withens ruin of Wuthering Heights fame we were given a soaking. Simon, Emma and Keith got within 2 miles of Haworth before the Wuthering Heights pub drew them in and a taxi did the rest. Nearly 18 miles in total, the longest walk of the week.
We had a day's rest in Haworth mostly spent doing crosswords, washing clothes and in Steve's case going for a little walk. Here we said goodbye to Chonde and the rest of us continued on to Earby. Lunch at the church in Ickornshaw was interrupted by an attack of two evil looking sheep. Erika unwisely offered them some chocolate digestives which was a green light to a general free for all. Steve's offer of his orange peel almost resulted in an unpleasant soaking as one of the sheep, overcome by the excitement, lavishly emptied his bowels. Once again we were denied tea, at Lothersdale this time having arrived at 2.01pm to find the kitchen shut.
Our overnight stop was the tiny YHA at Earby, converted from a couple of terraced houses. Three of us took the opportunity to cook for a change, prompted by the lack of restaurants. Most fancied fish and chips but sadly both establishments in the village bizarrely shut at 7pm. The only other guest at the YHA seemed to be an extra from The League of Gentlemen, trapping the volunteer warden in the lounge, and subjecting him to a potted life history.
The penultimate day was the flattest, although nothing is very flat in the Pennines, and the hottest. Following the Leeds-Liverpool canal and later the river Aire to Malham we stopped for tea, and later by the river in Gargrave, where Steve dried his washing in the hot sunshine and we all lay on the grass with our boots off, Keith unfortunate to be bitten by ants in the unkindest places.
Malham YHA was excellent apart from the creaking beds and thin walls. Keith walked up to Malham Cove after dinner to take advantage of the beautiful evening light for photography.
So to our last day which had promised to be the hardest but either because we had become accustomed to carrying our larger packs, or more probably because we were in a walking mindset, it seemed to pass by almost too quickly. Steep steps led us to the top of Malham Cove and then onto Malham Tarn where we had a short break. There were more walkers on the path than we had seen since day one as we ascended Fountains Fell and stopped for lunch surrounded by hidden mineshafts. From here we had a fabulous view of Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough beyond. The climb up the steep end of Pen-y-Ghent was a bit of a slog but although requiring the use of hands here and there only took about twenty minutes. As we descended to reach Horton-in-Ribblesdale we looked back to see the summit we had just climbed to shrouded in cloud and the drizzle began just a few yards from the Golden Lion Hotel where we stayed our last night.
This hotel proved a somewhat anti-climactic end to the week as the place was inundated by competitors for the three peaks challenge, and we "enjoyed" dinner in a neon lit room, luckily finding some space in more traditional bar area later.
Most of us thought the last day the most enjoyable, although surprisingly Steve's favourite day was the leisurely canal/riverside walk of 13 miles on the previous day. We all felt like continuing but sadly we were all back to work on Monday. But the next stage beckons and we're all looking forward to picking up the Pennine Way again soon.
It proved to be a real challenge and there's still another 156 miles of it to go. We met a lot people doing all or a part of it and saw of lot of them were limping. Most of us had aches, pains and blisters at some time or another but everyone just kept going, because on this route there simply isn't a choice. Altogether we covered just over 100 miles and Steve probably a couple more as on one or two occasions he roared off in the wrong direction, Absolute 80s in his earphones drowning out our futile bellowing from behind.
I would like to say a very big thank you to all who came and made it such a great week, and also a grateful nod to ibuprofen without which my knees would never have made it.
Report by David H
All ready to start - well nearly all - Photo by Keith
First stage of Jacob's Ladder - Photo by Keith
A scenic rest half way up Jacob's Ladder - Photo by Keith
Soggy snack break at Edale Rocks - Photo by David H
Lunar landscape - HAWOG's worst ever navigational error? - Photo by Keith
Coming down from Kinder Low after a very wet lunch stop - Photo by David H
Surprisingly not the worst bog on the trip as Emma can attest - Photo by Keith
Steep climb from Crowden hostel - Photo by David H
Laddow Rocks - Photo by David H
Waterfall crossing - Photo by David H
Sunny lunch break by Blackstone Edge reservoir - Photo by David H
Grimacing with knee pain near the end of day 3 - Photo by David H
Erika, Stoodley Pike in the distance - Photo by Keith
Safe and sound at The Top Brink Pub in Mankinholes while the rain lashes down outside - Photo by David H
Attack of the killer sheep - Photo by David H
2pm outside pub in Lothersdale. Kitchen shut, no tea for us - Photo by David H
Gloomy beacon above Earby - Photo by David H
Outside Earby hostel - Photo by David H
Steve and Simon dreaming of Kylie - Photo by Keith
Approaching Malham Cove - Photo by David H
View from Malham Cove - Photo by David H
Ascent of Malham Cove - Photo by Keith
Into the abyss - Photo by Keith
Descending from Fountains Fell with Pen-y-Ghent in view - Photo by David H
Group shot with Pen-y-Ghent looming in the background - Photo by Keith
Dave in his best Edmund Hillary pose ready to lead our final ascent - Photo by Keith