PW day 10: Wed 02 Mar 2016; Bowes to Middleton
|Walk descriptor||Pennine Way||Day||10|
|Date||Wed 02 Mar 2016||Start to end time||06h 28m|
|Start point||Bowes||End point||Middleton|
|Miles today||12.71||Cu miles||158.63|
|Ft today||1,677||Cu ft||26,506|
|Route miles left||127.63||Route ft left||18,764|
|Today’s weather||Cloudy with occasionally sunny intervals. Mostly dry but with snow shower late afternoon. Moderate northerly wind. Temp appx 1C|
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
|GPX based track of today’s walk
(click button to download file) GPX
I knew something strange was happening last night when I noticed that the television screen, at the end of the bar where I was having dinner, was becoming blurred. I am now at the age when any optical impairment signals in my mind the imminent onset of blindness – or worse. And my sense of unease only intensified when I thought I noticed a strong smell of smoke. This is it, I thought. I have had a stroke.
So I was wondering what to do when the barman came up to me and said “I’m sorry about this”. Maybe he’s going to call an ambulance I thought. But he went on “it always happens when the wind changes”. Yes if only I’d turned around and looked at the fire instead of the TV, I’d have noticed that the smoke, rather than going up the chimney as it was supposed to, was now actually billowing out of the fireplace and filling the bar with a woody haze.
So apart from the relief at not having to contemplate my imminent demise, I did wonder what this would mean for the next day’s walking conditions. I could quickly tell what it would mean when I got up this morning and found a covering of snow on the ground outside. This was the first time I’d seen snow in any quantity since I’d set off on my walk. But given that it’s still only early March, I guess it’s not entirely uncommon.
As I set off from Bowes this morning, I wondered if this was going to be a “Gold” or a “Classic” day. It quickly became apparent, however, that it was going to be classic, and very classic at that. There was mud, water and slush in great abundance today, and none of the nice flagstones that had so easily paved my way in the earlier sections. The path was at best indistinct, and the dusting of snow rendered what little trace of it there was, more or less invisible. I was glad I’d got my electronic GPS gizmos to guide my route, or else navigation could have become very tedious indeed.
I’d spent the night in Bowes, which is actually on a section of the Pennine Way called the “Bowes Loop”. This is an alternative to the main route, which allows hikers to take in the earthy pleasures of civilisation. Actually there isn’t much there except a Working Men’s Club and the B&B where I was staying (the Ancient Unicorn, which was very nice actually). I had hoped that when the Loop and the main PW reconnected near the charmingly named Hagworm Hall, the path would recover, but it didn’t. So I squelched on through the mud and snow, glad that today was only a short walk.
As it happens, today was one of the less interesting sections of the walk so far. A bit like the day from Horton to Hawes, it lacked a significant summit en route, but unlike the Hawes section, it didn’t have the compensations of elevation and fine views. This was mostly a trudge through farmland, repeatedly ascending and descending, oscillating between the valleys of Greta Vale, Deepdale, Baldersdale, Lunedale and Teesdale, and the saturated moorland between. But at no point climbing above 1,400 ft.
Despite the lack of challenge in today’s walk, I enjoyed it because of the novelty value of the snow, but also more excitingly because of the tantalising glimpses occasionally afforded of the high northern Pennines – Knock Fell, Dun Fell and Cross Fell. Today they were clothed in a pristine white blanket, and to me they looked very alluring. The PW does traverse these summits, but for me, not for another three days. I have to wait until Saturday for this elevated section of the walk, though I do have the compensations of High Force, Cauldron Snout and High Cup Nick to look forward to in the meantime.
In fact, because of the vagaries of the PW route, for the last section of the walk today, I was actually heading away from the High Pennines – I had to keep reminding myself that this isn’t a race to the end, but a journey to be savoured. And so far it’s been great. Long may it last.