Kirkby Stephen to Keld
First there was exciting stuff to be done down in the town, though. I was planning to send some food home, since I'd been eating most evenings in the pub, and I was still hoping to find a walking shop that could sell me a decent flask.
By not long after 8.30am I'd packed up, and I began to walk down towards the village.
It was a while since I'd been there, and in the intervening period it seemed to me that Kirkby Stephen had perked up considerably. It's still very much a traditional old Westmorland town...
...but there were a number of shops selling particularly nice and interesting foody things, as well as freshly brewed coffee, and as soon as I'd finished posting my spare food home in the Post Office--to save carrying unnecessary weight--I immediately filled up the gaps in my pack with some crunchy, salty, deep-fried (or possibly roasted) broad bean snacks. Doh... :)
Clutching a coffee I crossed the road, and spotted Debbie and Mike outside what looked like the nicest of several very nice places to buy sandwiches. I asked where they were going that night, and they told me that they were going to stay in Keld at what used to be the youth hostel, and is now Keld Lodge. I was quite excited to hear that, because I'd stayed at the hostel when it was run by the YHA and I'd heard that it was going to re-open as a private house. I was keen to try it out, but I hadn't realised when I'd set off that it was already open. I was so excited, in fact, that I decided to dump my Reeth plan in favour of a night at the lodge, if I could manage to book a place.
Mike gave me the phone number and I tried it immediately from my mobile. Happily there was an immediate reply. When I asked whether there was a space for that evening I had a brief but anxious wait, as I heard the person at the other end of the line making enquiries. Eventually the answer that came back was that the lodge itself was full. However, they said they could put me up in the famous Butt House just across the road. I could have breakfast there, and dinner in the lodge. That was actually the very best response they could have given me, because all my previous attempts to book into the Butt House had ended in failure since, prior to the retirement of Mr and Mrs Whitehead earlier that year, it had generally been booked up months in advance, with no places left for a last-minute planner like me.
My accommodation booked I put off the awkward matter of the lost afternoon for further consideration later that evening, and retired happily to the sandwich shop where I stocked up on yummy things for lunch. After that I made my way back out to the main street, and as I was packing my sandwiches away I noticed that somebody had left a camera on the window ledge outside the shop. I thought it probably belonged to one of the C2C'ers who'd been buying lunch in the shop and so I picked it up and dashed along the street to catch the rapidly disappearing walkers. Fortunately the camera turned out to belong to one of them.
Anyway, after that I set off in search of a walking shop. In fact, I found one just a little bit further along, and was able to buy not only a new flask but also a light and compressible fleece smock. My little PHD Minimus down vest kept my torso lovely and warm, but there had been occasions during the last couple of days when my arms had been cold and I'd regretted not taking some kind of soft, long-sleeved mid-layer with me.
My pack now bristling with my purchases, I continued down the main road towards the rest of the C2C walkers, who were congregating next to what I think was a bus stop near St. Hedda's church. I often find navigating out of the town to be the most difficult part of the day on this sort of walk, but this time I was able to keep a careful eye on where the others went and so not very long afterwards I found my way through pretty, narrow streets...
...to Frank's Bridge, and from there onto the start of the path which would eventually lead me to the top of Nine Standards Rigg.
I walked along happily for a while, enjoying the breeze now that my arms were warm, and deeply ensconced in the continuing adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. After a while I saw others on the path in front of me, and eventually a steady pace brought me level with Clive and Jackie, Jim and Catherine. I'd only really had a chance to smile and nod at Clive, Jackie and Jim in the pub before, but now we settled down to chat as we made our way towards Nine Standards.
I expected it to be very windy up on top, and was glad not only of my fleece but also to know that I had my Paramo Viento jacket in my pack. I was going to include a link to my Viento here, but have just noticed that it doesn't seem to appear on the Paramo site any more and so I wonder whether it's been discontinued. What a great shame, if that's the case! Here it is in the OutdoorsMagic reviews section, though. Mine came with a faulty zip, and last year I sent it back to Paramo and requested a repair pursuant to their Lifetime Guarantee against manufacturing defects policy. Sure enough they replaced the zip and sent the jacket back as good as new. Very impressive indeed, I thought :)
As we drew closer to Nine Standards Rigg it became clear that the little path which leads up the last section was pretty busy.
Up on top it was just as windy as I'd expected it to be, and before I settled down to eat a sandwich I dug into my pack for my jacket, hat and gloves. Now warm again, I inflated my little Thermarest seat and settled back against one of the cairns.
Apparently the origin of the 9 cairns--each about 10 feet tall--is a mystery, but certainly the shelter they provide is very welcome. I became so involved with my sandwich that I forgot to take a piccy, but here's a site that provides an interesting aerial view.
Since I'd dumped the Reeth plan in favour of a comfy bed in Keld there was no real need to press on with any degree of urgency, but it was so cold in the wind that after no more than 20 minutes or so we all began to get our things together and think about leaving. First I scrambled down through a bit of rubble for a loo break behind the most distant of the cairns, but shortly after that we all got back into our rucksacks and moved on. The weather remained windy and cold, and from the look of the heavy, grey clouds above us it seemed to me that the afternoon might bring rain, and so I was glad of my jacket and warm Cascada trousers.
I continued with the others for a while, and we stopped to play on a trig point at one stage.
At some stage we passed the remaining Sherpa walkers, and also Debbie and Mike, and eventually the path led us downhill across moors. The ground was quite wet and muddy in places, and although we had no problem finding our way I imagine that it could be a bit of a nightmare on a misty afternoon.
We could hear people shooting, and I hoped that they'd spotted us despite our dark clothing. Apparently they had, since I'm still here to type the tale :)
A smattering of Swaledale barns began to appear in the near distance...
...and after a while I pressed on a little more quickly, keen to get to Keld and check out the new accommodation there. One of the things I'd heard about the new lodge was that it incorporated a bar, which could be used as a pub by passing walkers, and since Keld has been dry since I've known it (well, apart from the wine that it's been possible to buy to drink with dinner at some of the B&Bs) I began to think in terms of a very welcome G&T, or possibly even two...
I had intended to stay up on the fellside until the point at which I absolutely had to descend, but at some stage I took too early a path to the right and the path began to drop down towards the road. By the time I realised I'd definitely gone wrong I couldn't be bothered to go back, and in any event the sun had now made a late but very welcome appearance, and so I stopped to take off my jacket and long trousers and was then able to proceed in T shirt and shorts.
I enjoyed the leisurely stroll along the narrow road in the hot sunshine...
...particularly beacause it was such a welcome contrast with the weather I'd experienced earlier in the day. I passed an interesting structure in a field to the right along the way. A lime kiln, perhaps?
It wasn't long before the first buildings appeared over the brow of the gentle hill ahead of me...
...and a couple of minutes later I arrived at the rejuvenated youth hostel and went in.
It was so extremely smart and differently laid out that I immediately lost any remaining sense of how it had looked before. One now enters through a large porch, leaving wet clothing and muddy boots on the stands set out to accommodate them, and is immediately confronted with The Bar :) What a welcome sight! It's only a small bar, but it was big enough to supply me very rapidly with a gin & tonic, and I then retired to a room on the left where I found Sharon, the American Sherpa walker who'd broken her wrist on the walk across to Grasmere. She was waiting for the rest of the group, and we sat and chatted together for half an hour or so, during which time I renewed my gin & tonic and indulged in a packet of crisps.
I'm not sure what time it was when I arrived in Keld, but I eventually spent at least a couple of hours at the Lodge, chatting with walkers as they arrived and also with the friendly owners.
The two C2C'ers I'd shared a garden with in Shap arrived in due course. They'd been intending to walk on to Reeth, but unfortunately Ian had developed bad blisters and in the end they asked the landlord to ring them a taxi to take them there. Meanwhile the other Sherpa walkers were taking longer to arrive than Sharon had anticipated, and so after a hour or so, and for a bit of exercise, I ran down to the B&B that Sharon was sharing with her husband, Dick, to leave a message against his arrival, informing him that Sharon was at the Lodge and suggesting that he should make his way there on his arrival, for a drink.
Jan and John--the Sherpa Leader--arrived, but they didn't stay long as Sherpa hadn't been able to find accommodation for the whole group in Keld when they'd booked the trip, and so Jan was going to walk on to the Tan Hill and stay there for the night. The Tan Hill is the highest pub in Great Britain, and it's a few miles away on the Pennine Way route. It's a quirky place with a perpetual selection of semi-tame sheep and chickens milling around outside the door. I always enjoy stopping there for a drink, and I'm sure I'll get round to actually staying overnight at some stage.
I followed my second G&T with a pint of Speckled Hen, and very good it was too. One of the rooms at the front of the Lodge has been fitted with a large, arched window: a bit like the one on Play School, but a little more sophisticated. There's a long, low table with newspapers and magazines, and comfortable seating, and eventually I went to sit in there and flick through the papers, basking in the the knowledge that both a hot bath and a good dinner lay ahead of me.
Finally I looked at my watch and realised that it was within an hour of dinner time. I decided I'd better make a move towards the Butt House, and it was truly exciting to enter through the famous door and leave my Roclites where so many boots had stood before them. I was shown to my room, which was small but clean and perfectly comfortable, and a quick check confirmed the presence of a large bath behind an adjoining door. The bath was bliss, and afterwards I got into my evening clothes and walked back up to the Lodge.
I'd been studying the menu earlier, and had been surprised to find razor clams on a list of special starters. Now I decided I was going to try them, and in the end I had the clams and then mushroom stroganoff with chips. It was all delicious, and there was much hilarity at the table, where I was sitting with Jackie, Clive and Jim. By 10pm my eyes were beginning to close, though, and so reluctantly I gathered my things together and made my way back to the Butt House, where I fell instantly asleep.
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