It must be five years since I walked the Pennine Way from Edale as far as Horton in Ribblesdale - I don't know why it took me so long to come back, except that other ideas kept getting in the way. (I was really trying to decide between Raad ny Foillan and the Ridgeway for this Easter, when I suddenly settled on the Pennine Way out of nowhere!)
Edinburgh in the early morning was deep in mist, which lasted until somewhere past Carstairs - a real 'someone stole the world' kind of day, until it suddenly disappeared. Then onto the Settle line for the first time in a while, with the hills still in a haze but the sun shining - very quiet until about Appleby, when the train started to fill up with crowds of very young men and a large amount of beer.
I'd had no breakfast except a muffin around 7am, so I was hoping for something more, but having walked right through Horton the Pen-y-Ghent cafe was closed (presumably permanently, if they haven't opened for Easter - I know the national park don't control the cafe, but couldn't they take down the tourist information centre road signs and maybe ask them nicely to clear the 'shop' window?) and the gift shop place only seemed to do cake.
So I ended up walking right back through the village to the little cafe at Blind Beck beyond the station - the real old fashioned kind in someone's front room and garden, where I got a bacon roll and a pot of tea and a tuna sandwich for lunch all for £5.80.
With so many 20 mile days ahead of me, and behind me on previous April trips, I couldn't manage to feel much urgency about 15 miles - I wandered back through the village to the shop, and it must have been about 11.30 when I finally set off, eating lemon meringue flavoured ice cream.
Pen-y-Ghent is the landmark of the area, of course - I climbed it twice five years ago, first taking a shortcut down to Horton to make sure I caught the train home, and then going back on a whim a month later to climb it again (in the pouring rain) with Plover Fell, and follow the Pennine Way down. The way out of Horton runs parallel to the way into it, so the silhouette of Pen-y-Ghent was watching over me.
This first section is a steady but fairly gentle climb - I never much like starting off uphill, and I wasn't sure my legs were fully recovered from the first Lake District weekend of the year, so I was pleased with how I was getting on.
Various signposts pointed off to the Ribble Way and the Three Peaks, which I had thought was more a concept than a fixed route, but there were no very definite landmarks otherwise - I thought I was turning off when I came towards a great band of trees, but they were hiding off on the other side of a low rise. The path turned off just the same, though, and took me down past another edge of the trees to join a track past the farmhouse at Old Ing.
This was a more scenic stretch, with a tiny waterfall where a stream seemed to vanish into a hole in the ground.
Further on two trees growing close together each seemed to have taken on the job of supplying half the branches. I also met a lot of cyclists who told me to look out for a tandem, which was having a rest when I passed it.
I was walking roughly parallel to my journey down, and the Ribblehead viaduct was hazily in view to the west.
Little crags on the slope opposite turned out to be the top of the tiny and very steep nature reserve at Ling Gill - it's open in theory, but there's no obvious way down into the little gorge, and apparently you have to keep out of the water because of crayfish plague.
So instead I just went on to the bridge, a very pretty spot - a stone plaque records it being rebuilt in 1765, although the rest of the stonework looks a bit newer than the inscription.
I knew I was going on to join the Cam High Road, but I hadn't taken the 'high' bit seriously enough - this is not a way through a high pass, but a way right over the top of the hill, and the track towards it climbed relentlessly up and up and up.
At the junction I sat down for a rest and to eat my lunch, with the road winding away to the valley. Although it's not a 'real' road here it is a byway, and a kind of lorry came clattering past carrying a little road-mending machine, and the driver waved hello.
What at first was just reflected flashes on the hillside had become a great orange digger as I climbed towards it - it stopped politely as I went past, and then growled off scenically in the direction of Ingleborough.
The road was still climbing, up above the start of a valley and past more of the huge patch of trees, some of it felled.
Cam Houses down below looks at first immensely lonely, then as the valley curves round you realise that there are more houses in sight, a couple of farms scattered down the valley towards the tiny village at Oughterside - and then you realise that the valley road ends at the next farm, a mile and a half away, and the only access here is from the high road, without another house on it for maybe five miles.
The surfaced road starts from the junction with the farm track, a smooth stretch towards another junction where the road goes on round one side of the hill and the Pennine Way round the other.
The Pennine Way here passes within half a mile of the Hewitt summit of Dodd Fell Hill, and I wasn't willing to be so close and pass it by, but it wasn't very obvious how best to get there. Heading up from the junction was possible but a long way, and there seemed to be a wall in the way, so I took the track along the side to look for a better spot - hills on one side and the long valley of Snaizeholme on the other.
There seemed to be always wall up above me, and I was keeping an eye out for any place where it might be crossed, when suddenly it ran down to the track - the gate made a good landmark to come back to, and I obviously wasn't the first person to turn off the track here, because there was a little trace of path starting off towards two tiny rocky outcrops.
Beyond that there wasn't much to be seen - my marker to head back towards was a hilltop over two nearly parallel walls in the far side of the valley.
It was all surprisingly dry, although with that odd crunch of dry bog - up over the curve of the slope, and then I was coming up with a kind of a dip to my left. Away ahead of me was a pile of stones, and whether it was meant as a marker or not I decided to head over that way - it was an odd thing, too big for a cairn and too small to be the remains of a building.
From here I did pick up a faint trace of path again - it seemed to be heading for a high point, then when that turned out not to be the summit swerved off again. Heading on again brought me in among peat hags, although it was all still pretty dry.
There was no real sense now of heading uphill - it was just a case of going on until the trig point appeared ahead, which after a while it did.
Between the flat top and the haze there wasn't much of a view, although there were hills on the horizon all around, notably Ingleborough and Wild Boar Fell.
I could never quite decide whether the name of the hill made sense or not - if 'fell' is in the sense of an area of hillside grazing, as it often is in the Lakes, then 'fell hill' is ok, but then 'dodd' is a rounded hill, and the hill of the fell of the round hill is getting a bit circular.
With the boggy top sinking away in spots it looked like an area over to the west might be slightly higher - I don't think it was, but it proved to be the start of a better way down, picking up a faint track which became a path to head down the other side of the dip and cross a burn and skirt the top of a hole to end up more or less where I'd started.
The track continued on along the side of the hill, with views down into the valley - a place made all rough by streams, then trees, and further along more buildings - and further on a second ruined wall joined the one bordering the track.
Just where the track started really heading downhill the Pennine Way turned back onto the hill instead as a grassy path, coming more directly down the nose to meet a scatter of buildings. Drumaldrace looked very attractive from here, with its sides all cut into green squares, but it was a bit odd to see a road coming down it, where it didn't seem like any road should be.
Eventually I was out on the road, but of course it's never that easy on a long distance path, and instead I had to cross a series of little fields, banging my legs on narrow stone gap stiles and being chased off them by gates with overly strong springs, and scattering nurseries of lambs. One field had a sign say that it was a hay meadow and I had to walk in single file, but it was only growing ordinary grass, and I couldn't walk any other way anyway.
A little flagged path brought me across another field among houses and out onto a road where the waymarking abandoned me - I took an educated guess and followed a path on past a lovely view of houses above me.
The path finally led down past the church to come out more or less in the main street of Hawes, very busy with people enjoying the Good Friday sunshine. The hostel is out on the edge of the town - it was pretty busy, a nice little place with real keys for the doors and a proper common room.
I'd hoped it would have got a bit quieter by the time I got back down the road, because it was well after seven, but it hadn't really, and it took me a while to find somewhere to eat, especially because I got all indecisive with hunger - I managed to grab a little table in the end. It had been pretty warm for walking, which was tiring, but it had been a pretty good first day.
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