"A Walk on the Moors" - John's Pennine Way Ramble, Day 6 - July 6th 2000, Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
|Day||Date||Start||Finish||Approx. Miles||Hours Taken||Accommodation|
|6||Thu. 6th July||Malham||Horton-in-Ribblesdale||14.5||6||B&B - Crown Hotel, Main Rd., Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 0HF, Tel: 01729 860209|
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Left Malham at 09:40 in dull, misty weather and walked with Noelene to Malham Cove, a spectacular place in good visibility with its 80 m high arc of white limestone cliff. The Way goes along a road for a short while and then down a path to the Cove itself. I left Noelene at the base of the cliff taking photographs and to make her own way to Horton-in Ribblesdale, today's destination.
I had done one of my practice walks over this leg of the Way on a day when the temperatures had been between 28 and 30°C. Then I'd found the climb up Malham Cove and over Pen-y-Ghent quite challenging (that's a polite way of saying "b****y hard"!).
Today the ascent of the 440 (ish) steps to the top of the Cove wasn't so bad with the day being cooler and, by now, my fitness increasing. At the top the Way crosses what's known as a limestone pavement with deep clefts between the higher ridges that you have to scramble, hop or jump between. In damp weather like today they can be very slippery and run quite close to the edge of the cliff! I stopped at the top and waved and whistled at the figure I thought was Noelene but later she told me that it wasn't her. Someone will have been mystified, then!
After picking my way across the top of the Cove I entered Watlowes, a strange, arid looking (even on a damp day like today) valley, bleak and full of huge limestone boulders. The weather made it look even more menacing. There was no-one else around, in contrast to the Sunday walk I'd done over the same route several weeks before.
After the valley there was a sharp climb and then level, albeit rocky, walking to Malham Tarn, a natural lake extended in the 18th Century by Lord Ribblesdale (named after the famous viaduct, oh no that the Ribblehead Viaduct, he must have been named after his father, then) and now a part of the Field Studies Council Centre. In good weather the Tarn is quite beautiful and was even attractive, in a rather strange way, on a dull day such as today. There was still no-one around other than a pair in a rowing boat on the water. At the entrance to the Tarn I passed a gang of school students that we'd seen the previous evening in Malham, carrying out some sort of survey. One of them tried to interview me but I said, very pompously, "Sorry I'm walking the Pennine Way and I've got a long way to go today!" (what an a******e!).
After the Field Studies Centre the Way took me across fields and past two guys rebuilding the same stone wall that they'd been working on several weeks before. Apparently there are EU grants for rebuilding the dry stone walls so the farmers get on with it. They'd seen Harry and Elaine just ahead and I soon caught them up, although Peter had left a lot earlier and, even with his eating habits, it was unlikely that we'd catch him today.
We climbed Fountains Fell together in increasingly bad weather. Here there are a lot of "false summits" before reaching the top of the climb. Each time you think you are just about there you cross another crest to find yet another uphill stretch. At the top visibility was about 25 m and no views to be had. Here, a few weeks previously, I'd had a spectacular sight of Pen-y-Ghent but today it was all just white.
The descent from Fountains Fell is down an uncomfortable rocky path and then along a seemingly endless stretch of tarmac to begin the climb of Pen-y-Ghent (694 m), the highest point on the Way, so far. On my practice walk I'd climbed this hill in very hot weather and had been overtaken by a woman, carrying only an apple, who said that as 2000 is her 50th year she would be climbing Pen-y-Ghent 50 times in the 12 months and that she was on her third climb, via paths from Horton-in-Ribblesdale, of the day. I could only gasp in astonishment!
Today the climb was easier, the paths good, the weather cool, but increasingly windy towards the top. We made the summit and carried on with hardly a stop. There were none of the normally spectacular views to be had. We passed a gang of unruly school students going the other way with two teachers trying, not very successfully, to control them. We really didn't hope that one of them would fall from the top and break his or her neck - honest!
Pen-y-Ghent is one of the three hills (along with Ingleborough and Whernside) of the famous Three Peaks race. Spaced evenly apart in this area there's an annual fell race over them with the winner taking only about 2½ hours to complete the run. Anyone can clock in and out at the Pen-y-Ghent café and do the walk or run at any time and I decided there and then that I'd eventually just have to do it.
We followed a long descent from the summit down a stony path (how I was beginning to hate steep descents down stony paths, "oh my poor feet"!) of about three miles to a road leading into Horton-in-Ribblesdale, arriving at 15:40. We celebrated the end of the day's walk with a pint of tea at the famous Pen-y-Ghent café, a real walker and fell runners' shrine. Peter and Noelene had arrived there before us and he was devouring a huge all day breakfast, complete with the plate. I signed the Pennine Way walkers' book "feet sore, brain dead, long way to go"! and we checked into the Crown Hotel, actually on the Way, for a well earned bath. One of the problems with my right foot turned out to be simply a long toe nail digging a bloody hole in the adjacent toe and that was soon sorted out. But the actual aching feet never really got much better until two days after finishing the walk.
The dinner at the Crown was good, the beer only average but the breakfast next day excellent. I retired early, wrote up my notes for the day and read the relevant chapters of Barry Pilton's book "One Man and His Bog", a hilarious account a poor sucker walking the Pennine Way!
The walk from Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale is a wonderful and special day in good weather. The scenery at Malham Cove, the strange Watlowes Valley, Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent are both spectacular themselves and offer wonderful views, the calmness and serenity of Malham Tarn providing an excellent contrast. But, when I walked it, this beauty was reduced to a "get the head down and the miles done" sort of day. What a shame. However, the view from the top of Malham Cove offered some compensation and the developing camaraderie between the Yorkshire lad and lass, Peter and myself made up for it too. The beer at the Crown was another disappointment!
Theakston's XB Bitter
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