Beautiful Swaledale in the Mist

From Keld to Reeth: The Kings Arms
19.79 km
5 hrs 40 min, 56 minutes stopped
8:30 AM to 2:10 min
402 up, 518 metres down
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

This was a day for many clothing adjustments. The weather changed frequently from dry calm hot to misty windy cold with more of the latter especially in the last half of the day. We are glad we chose the valley route even though we thought it would be interesting seeing the deserted lead mines buildings and moonscape as a result of the nineteenth century mining. Fifty mile an hour winds and hills lost in the mist discouraged us from taking the upper route. I do not think we would have seen much and may have got quite wet if not frozen too. Brian’s knee was also a little tender. The lower route was definitely a good choice.

Yesterday and today we heard from the locals that it is unseasonably cold and windy. Today as we entered Reeth we saw people wearing fur lined hooded parkas and toques. There are hundreds of extra people in Reeth since the two week long Swaledale Music Festival is on. This is one of the best music festivals in Europe. Each day there are guided walks in Swaledale. These at all sold out. We did not see any of these walkers on our hike today. We did not encounter many people at all.

The good news is that we were able to stop for elevenses in Gunnerside at the Ghyllfoot Tearoom. It was lovely, warm, cozy AND we had cappuccino. We were the only guests. I should note that where we had tea at Ravenseat Farm yesterday is the home of local author and shepherdess, Amanda Owen. As well as tending a thousand sheep with her husband, she is ready to pop her ninth baby and her second book has just been released. Amanda’s first book about her life is The Yorkshire Shepherdess. It sounds as if a film may be in the works.

Our family dinner last night was delightful. I had chicken and Brian had steak. Both were very tasty and tender and served with crisp roasted potatoes, broccoli and carrots. We shared an onion poppyseed soup and a lemon-like cheesecake. Our host, Chris was the chef, while his wife, Jacqui, served and looked after our needs. We dined with UK residents: Liam and Gillian from Hastings, Dave and Sue from near Birmingham and Deb and Owen from Dorset. The last couple were doing the Pennine Way. This walk sounds like penance compared to our walk: a much colder, windier, boggier, longer hike. We thought of you, Marie and Jim.

Reeth normally has a population of 724, Keld about 60. We booked the last room at The Kings Arms three months ago. Tonight a group of 17 are expected here for dinner but the barkeep expects 90 will show up and stay for nine hours. These are the clay pigeon shooters. We are going to dine at the Black Bull next door which is known for its homemade meat pies, then we will retire here and probably put in ear plugs and take a sedative in the hopes of sleeping tonight. Dave and Sue booked a quiet room at the edge of town in the Cambridge Inn B and B but they booked all of their accommodations seven months ago. So, future coast to coasters, beware, you need to book well in advance if you want choices. Not complaining, our shower was very hot and there is a huge fake foxglove plant in the window that partially obscures the stone building three feet away. We do not have to worry about privacy, no one can see in our room. Our brass bed is comfortable.

As I am sure you are aware by now, there is no such thing as flat in this part of England. Walking the beautiful green pastures of Swaledale valley does not mean you are walking the floor of the valley. It is true that we had more grass paths to walk and these felt wonderful compared to rocky paths, but trails did take us up and down the sides of the valley. There are beautiful waterfalls as well as the clear Swale River that appeared to have many good fishing pools although Brian only spotted one foot-long trout. He did not have a fishing pole; so, that one get away.

Bunnies were everywhere. We are not sure which number was greater: dead ones or live ones. Foxes, falcons and hunters are after them. We heard one gun shot close by but we were not wounded.

We have heard pheasants every day but today was the first day we saw several. We also saw many mallards in the Swale and ducklings too. Black and white oyster catchers swooped all around us. We did not see but could hear their chicks.

The most outstanding aspect of Swaledale besides its peaceful green beauty, even on a misty day, are the number of field barns: one for every two fields. From what we can gather, the barns, all made in the dry stone style, were to store hay for winter and possibly as a shelter to bring in sheep for lambing. They stand like sentinels throughout the valley.

Brian is busy rubbing our boots with beeswax. Our toes took a beating on all those rocky paths and look well scuffed.

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