Edale to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
Follow my progress as I attempt to walk the length of the UK, from Dover to Cape Wrath, wild camping every night. This chapter is the first part of my walk along the Pennine Way, from its start in Edale to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. I met my family again here. My eldest daughter joined me for the next section of the Pennine Way (from Horton to Greenhead).
This is my third time walking the Pennine Way. I last walked it north to south ten years ago, with two of my children, in 17 days. If I am to make it to Cape Wrath in time for my wife to collect me and give me a lift home, I need to beat that. I want to give myself five weeks for the Scottish National Trail if I can.
If you’d like to see an overview map of my whole route from Dover to Cape Wrath, it’s here.
Day 15 continued (day 1 of Pennine Way): Hay Dale to Bleaklow
I had met my eldest son and his friend in the Old Nag’s Head in Edale. This is the official starting point of the Pennine Way. We had a lovely lunch, and then I had some company for the first few miles of the Pennine Way. Lovely.
We walked up the old Pennine Way route on to Kinder Plateau. We then followed a short way around the edge to the path across Kinder Downfall. Here I said goodbye to my son and his friend. I felt quite lonely as I crossed Kinder Plateau – they had been good company.
The route over Kinder Plateau needs careful watching, as there is no distinct path for much of the time. It can be quite disorientating and it’s easy to go off in totally the wrong direction. I chose this route rather than the Pennine Way-directed route around the edge of Kinder and up Jacob’s Ladder due to tradition. I also like the challenge. This was always the start of the Pennine Way years ago (Jacob’s Ladder was the alternative route).
I walked on over Snake Pass, along a path that is now mostly flagstones and easy going.
It did seem to take forever to get to the A57 though. You can see the road for ages, but it never seems to get any closer. After Snake Pass, the path becomes more interesting up Devil’s Dike.
I camped high on Bleaklow with views of Manchester in the distance. It was a very peaceful spot, with none of the train or road noise that I’d kind of got used to over the last two weeks.
I had also got to that point again where I didn’t know how I felt. My sole focus for the past few weeks had been getting to the Pennine Way. Now I’d made it I felt a bit lost again. What’s next?
At 9pm I rehydrated a meal (Expedition Foods’ chicken and ham carbonara – it was lovely). The weather was a bit breezy and chilly. I zipped myelf up in my sleeping bag with my down jacket on.
Day 16 (day 2 of Pennine Way): Bleaklow to Warland
It was typical Pennine Way weather this morning: rain pelting the tent horizontally. I was not looking forward to getting out into it, but had breakfast and was away by 7.45am. This was quite a late start for me. I’d slept really well in the soft ground with my two air mats. Comfy!
This morning was the first time on the trip I had to pack my rucksack inside the tent as it was so wet. At least I had plenty of room to sort out. It’s also great to know I can wrap the tent up and the inner will stay dry. This being the Pennines, the rain could last all day. I may be putting the tent up again in the same conditions. Keeping the majority of my stuff dry is now hugely important.
The mizzle lasted all day with the odd shower thrown in for good Pennine measure. I stopped for a dehydrated meal at 11am, thinking I would stop again mid-afternoon for another meal. I needed to try to eat more calories, as I had lost quite a bit of weight since leaving Dover two weeks ago. It was too cold and mizzly all afternoon to stop, so I was pleased when I came across the White House pub near Blackstone Edge Reservoir at 6.30pm. I enjoyed a lovely meal, great service and a very friendly welcome. All was much appreciated after the day I’d had.
It had felt like a long, rough walk around Clough Edge earlier today. When I got to the dam where the Pennine Way crosses into Crowden, workmen had closed it. I had to detour about two miles around Rhodeswood Reservoir instead. Not the best start to my day, as I really wanted to get some miles in.
It was a nice walk up Black Tor to Laddow Rocks, following the river all the way to Black Hill.
The first time I walked the Pennine Way (over twenty years ago). Black Hill was black with peat. It was a really bleak place, and you needed a compass reading to get off the summit. Now it has all been grassed (to protect the peat) and there are flagstones all the way across. As with much of the Pennine Way now, it is far easier to follow the path.
As I descended from Black Hill, I could see a burger van in the distance on the A635, right where the Pennine Way crossed the road. It’s amazing how energy levels increase with the thought of food and a coffee. I was planning to have two burgers, and was perhaps ten minutes away from the van, when I watched it close the hatch and drive off. Days like this are what make walkers – you just have to put a positive face on it and move on. (Actually, I swore, kicked something, and threw my rucksack on the ground. I opened my rucksack and ate two Mars bars and two Snickers bars over the next couple of miles).
So, as I said, the pub on the A58 was extremely welcome. I left there at about 8pm still needing water for coffee and breakfast, so I couldn’t camp until I had found some to filter. I walked about another three-quarters of a mile and camped by the side of the reservoir near Warland.
Day 17 (day 3 of Pennine Way): Warland to Withins Height
I woke to a cool, breezy and mercifully dry morning. My spot was very quiet so I had breakfast and coffee, and was away at about 7.15am. I was wearing my Icebreaker shirt and vest with my wind shirt over the top, my neck tube and my thin merino hat. Summer in the Pennines.
The views of the surrounding villages from Stoodley Pike were lovely, even on a cloudy day like today.
From there I took the official Pennine Way route, rather than the 2km diversion to Hebden Bridge. I chose not to go that way as it was too early. It is just too depressing walking past closed pubs – and apparently there were 10 of them. The official route did not seem well-walked, so I had the feeling most people divert here.
I did pass an amazing camp spot by the river, near Jack Bridge. Far too early for me, but it made a great spot for an early lunch. It was only 10am, but its my holiday, so who cares?! I made an Expedition Foods’ ham and cheese macaroni meal. Lots of ham. Very nice.
After ‘lunch’ I headed over Heptonstall Moor and the cloud came in. It made this stretch a bit bleak, but from here the day got brighter again and there were even occasional glimpses of the sun.
Walshaw Dean reservoirs felt pretty remote, and then it was on to Withins Heights and Bronte country.
The farm house was derelict but it gave a great impression of what it must have been like to live up here. The views are expansive, but it feels very remote and isolated. Then there was another steep descent into a valley, followed by a very steep climb out – it felt like that’s what I’d spent the whole day doing.
I camped on the descent at about 6.30pm; quite early, but I thought I may have trouble finding somewhere later and my body was telling me it had pretty much had enough. I made a meal and a coffee, and called an end to my day.
Day 18 (day 4 of Pennine Way): Withins Height to Water Houses
The sky had cleared yesterday evening, so I’d slept with the flysheet open – only to discover it had rained again in the night. I’d slept so well I hadn’t heard it. It was so peaceful up here – funny to think that Leeds, Bradford and Manchester were not that far away.
Luckily, thanks to the wind direction and the design of the tent, all my gear in the porch was still dry. After coffee and breakfast, I was away by 6.30am. It was overcast but no mizzle yet. It was another morning of descending into a valley and then climbing straight out again, but levelled out to rolling countryside the nearer I got to Gargrave.
Just before Gargrave, I followed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal for a little while. This was a nice reminder of earlier in my walk when I followed the Wey Navigations, Grand Union, and Oxford and Coventry Canals. I was very tempted to follow the Leeds and Liverpool Canal all the way into Gargrave, but decided that would be cheating. I stuck to the official Pennine Way through fields.
For once I timed my arrival in civilisation right, and got to Gargrave for lunch. I stopped at the Masons Arms and ordered a two-course lunch and a couple of pints. Poppadoms and chutney was possibly not the best starter, as I sat there crunching away, but I guessed I had no image left after I’d walked in unshaven and wearing just my vest (my shirt was hanging off my pack).
I left the pub at about 3pm, heading for Malham Cove. This was an area I was concerned about camping in. From Gargrave the Pennine Way mainly followed the River Aire.
Just before reaching Malham there was a very steep climb at Hanlith (Windy Pike). This was a bit of a shock so late in the day, but actually put me at a good height for stunning views of Malham Cove. It was well worth the climb.
The last field I walked through had an alpha cow in it, who was busy showing the others who was boss. As I walked through the field it did walk up to me to see if I was a challenge. I didn’t look it in the eyes, which seemed to work as it let me pass and just followed me a little way.
Once in Malham itself, I stopped for a pint at the Buck Inn – I was trying to increase my calories in a day as I’d been losing weight. I would have eaten at the Buck but it was a bit too pricey and I had already had a meal. I did appreciate the break and a sit down, though, especially as I knew that night’s wild camp would probably be a stop when it gets dark and be gone as it gets light one.
It was a lovely climb up Malham Cove, and then around to Malham Tarn.
I filtered some water from the tarn and found a place to camp after passing Water Houses. The ground was a little sloped, but I’d had enough and it was almost 9pm. As luck would have it, 10 minutes after I’d stopped, the rain started again. I made a dehydrated meal. Chicken Tikka – a double curry day!
Day 19 (day 5 of Pennine Way): Water Houses to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
I’m used to picking slugs out of my coffee mug in the mornings, but I am not liking being woken up by them at 1am. That’s just not on. Perhaps it’s payback for the pleasure I get from flicking them off the inner as they crawl up, and the sound they make as they bounce off the flysheet.
But last night one had managed to crawl up my stove, around my saucepan and on to my spoon which was balanced on the top (deliberately so the slugs didn’t crawl on it – well that didn’t work). I have decided that slugs aren’t stupid. This one waited until I was asleep, and then decided to crawl along my spoon far enough to unbalance it, and it fell into my titanium mug, making a hell of a racket.
It had been drizzling all night and I hadn’t slept well, worrying about what the slugs were going to try next. I started packing up at 7.30am (checking everything for sabotage slugs), aiming for Horton-in-Ribblesdale for lunchtime to meet my family. As I set off, it turned to full rain. I sent a prayer to the slug weather gods – you stop the rain and I will stop flicking slugs off the inner tent.
As I headed across Fountains Fell, the rain wasn’t just dripping off my head. It was like looking through a waterfall as I walked. My jacket needs to be more breathable for me to call it breathable – I was soaked inside with sweat. My breathable shoes are great for dry, hot weather, but it is probably best that I don’t write about them in this weather.
It remained a wet and very windy walk over the summit of Pen-y-ghent. I love the climb and bit of a scramble up to the summit, and it was quite busy even in this awful weather.
The summit was so miserable today that I just carried on straight over the top and down the other side. I then met my family walking up from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to meet me. (The original plan had been to meet at the summit of Pen-y-ghent, but the weather was just too awful).
We walked back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale together and had a pub lunch in the Golden Lion. The Pen-y-ghent Cafe is a longstanding tradition of the Pennine Way, but it was closed (hopefully a Covid-19 reopening issue, rather than a permanent closure). I resupplied here, and my eldest daughter joined me for the next week. It will be nice to have her company and have time to find out how she’s getting on.
I left my wife and two youngest children at the campsite in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. My eldest daughter and I set off to continue the Pennine Way.
Emma here – Mark’s wife. What a difference a day makes! I stayed in Horton-in-Ribblesdale for the night, and climbed Pen-y-ghent with the two youngest children in the glorious morning sunshine before heading home. Here are a few pictures of what it can look like, in the right conditions…
Read the next section of my travels here: Dover to Cape Wrath Chapter 8: The Pennine Way (Part 2)
Further reading and links:
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