Thursday 29th August 1963

We got up at 07.40h in case breakfast was at 08.00h. It was! The Warden thought we had eaten enough last night, and that we wouldn’t want anything else, but he reassured us that he might allow us to lick the porridge pan out.

With this comforting piece of news we sat down and ate three plates of porridge. After washing up in record time, we left the hostel at 09.50h, and walked up to the Cove with the three-legged girls. They had bought a coconut in Skipton, and we talked to them until we had eaten all their coconut, then, at 10.45h, we left the Cove and went up the dry limestone valley towards the Tarn. We were now walking ib brilliant sunshine, through familiar country, and we were quite surprised to have two days of BRILLIANT SUN in the MALHAM area.

At 11.10h we reached the Tarn, which, because of the blue sky and clear air, looked almost inviting. This brought about a remarkable event – Obie took a photo! [believed to be his only one of the trip – editorial note]. We walked round the Tarn and onto the Settle-Arncliffe road, which we joined at the point where it branches off for Tennant Gill Farm. We reached this junction at 12.05h and had a rest for ten minutes before attacking Fountains Fell, 2192 feet above sea level. After thirty-five minutes we were on top, having walked nearly two miles and climbed about 1000 feet. Having patted ourselves on the back, we set off down the other side to Dale Head Farm on the slopes of Pen-y-ghent.

At 13.45h we reached the farm and had dinner. For the first time that day the sky had clouded in a bit, but it soon cleared.

At 14.10h we set off up Pen-y-ghent. The first part of the walk involves a wet path over boggy ground, then a steep dry stretch to the summit.

When we had crossed the boggy part we caught up with a party of lads from Malham Youth Hostel who had gone by road. We passed them and went on towards the summit. The steep, rocky path led over gritstone ledges to the summit cairn. There was hardly any breeze at all, and on the top was a wasps’ nest. We left, after spending a few minutes on the summit, by a scramble down the gritstone crags. We then went across tussocky grass towards the small hut near Hull Pot at the top of the track to Horton in Ribblesdale.

At 15.50h we stopped, after walking across tussocky grass since we left Pen-y-ghent, to give our ankles a rest. We had a drink, as the sun was still blazing down on us, and checked our position, before walking on down the hillside to the track.

Once on the track, we could make good progress north to Old Ing, where we stopped for a rest and yet another drink. It was by far the hottest day so far, and we were being well and truly baked.

We passed Calf Holes, a narrow gorge where the stream falls over a cliff, and then we were out of the short green limestone grass, usually dry, and onto the acidic, boggy soils of the drumlins, near Ribblehead. The track winds up and down, up and down, over these drumlins, and when we had got to the point where we had decided to leave the track to go to Dent Youth Hostel, we were all feeling the effects of the long day and the two high peaks, especially Neil, whose knee was giving him a lot of trouble. My heel had cleared up, and I was free from trouble.

After resting for a few minutes, we set off for the Newby Head road, between Ingleton and Hawes. Neil wanted a photo of Ingleborough, but the sun was in the wrong position, so we pressed on. The drumlins were on a downward slope, so they presented less difficulty than previously, though the tussocks and bogs were no better.

At 17.45h we reached the road, and set off to the point where the road from Dent joined it. We reached this after twenty minutes’ walking up hill, and as it was nearly one and a half miles away, we were proud of ourselves for being able to walk twenty miles, over two peaks, and most of this tussocky grass, and still being able to knock up a fair walking speed.

This rush was to get to Dent in time for supper, and if the youth hostel had been in Dent village we would probably have been unable to get there in time, but we reached the hostel at 18.40h.

The heat and bogs of the long day took quite a lot of removing, especially as we were the last ones to reach the hostel, and there was no water left in the hot water tank.

Just as we were sitting back to let supper digest, a young lad from a school journey party in the hostel told us there was a pub about one mile down the road. We were off like a shot, as soon as we had threatened him with a miserable death if he was lying to us. Peter, who had not bothered to book in at all, was cooking his own dinner, so we dashed off to tell him to come down after us.

We took twenty minutes to get there, and found it was a great little pub. It was called the ‘Sportsman’s’, and the walls were covered with stags’ heads, horse brasses and thousands of things like that.

At 21.45h we left to go back to the hostel, and only took eleven minutes on the return. We then played a game of cards – all semi-inebriated – until 22.25h when we went to bed.

Friday 30th August 1963

We got up at 07.45h and looked out on a miserable world. The mist was down, and a light drizzle was falling, and water was dripping from the trees.

At 09.15h we left the hostel and set off up a track beside a boggy stream, which led us to a high pass on the side of Widdale Fell. We were walking through bogs, and the light rain was wetting us quite a lot.

At 09.55h we reached the summit of the pass after forty minutes of quite hard walking. We didn’t stop, however, and continued down the other side of the fell, which was even more boggy than the first. The mud was deep enough to come over our boot tops in parts.

We walked parallel to the road for some distance, descending through the rain all the time. We reached the road at 10.49h, and set off to Hawes. The rain had now increased, and was falling quite heavily.

An hour later, we rolled into the market town of Hawes, well and truly soaked. We wanted a hot drink, so we went to a café in the main street. We went upstairs to the restaurant, but first we stripped off our soaked anoraks, pullovers and shirts, and dumped them next to the wall.

While we were in the café, another chap came in. He had hurt his shoulder when his excavator had turned over, and was taking a holiday. Like us, he was sheltering from the rain. Behind him was a man and his daughters, also hiking, who were sheltering from the rain like us.

At 14.40h, after three hours, two dinners each and thirty-three cups of tea between us, we left the café and set off to walk over the Buttertubs. Although the Pennine Way goes over Great Shunner Fell we went over the Buttertubs as we had been warned not to tackle Shunner in bad weather.

As we left the houses behind, it stopped raining, but before we had crossed the bridge over the River Ure, we were again getting soaked. (The worst part of our stay in the café was that we had to put on our cold wet clothes again, as we couldn’t afford to get another change of clothing soaked.)

We wandered slowly on up the steep gradient of the Pass, Obie and Peter getting further in front, as me and Neil were singing. We stayed back so they wouldn’t join in and spoil our songs.

We were on top of the pass in the swirling mist, when there was a terrific flash of lightning, followed immediately by a crash of thunder. The lightning seemed to come right in front of us, and when we mentioned this later to Peter and Obie they said it seemed to be just behind them. Immediately after this, the heaviest rain we had ever seen began to fall, and very quickly soaked us to the skin. Me and Neil must have been in a mad mood, because we were laughing like idiots and getting soaked at the same time. A bit further along we saw a steaming heap of rubbish by the roadside and laughed like idiots yet again, because we had the sudden inspiration that it could be Peter and Obie who had been struck by lightning. It wasn’t funny at all, really, but nevertheless we laughed. While walking through a pool of rainwater that stretched right across the road, a car came through and splashed us all over. The occupants seemed nearly as amused as we had been when we thought the other two had been struck by lightning, but they obviously didn’t realise that we just couldn’t be any wetter than we were.

Suddenly, the mist cleared, and the rain ceased, and an icy cold wind started blowing. We were soaked, and it was mighty cold up there, and we were glad to get off the top into a more sheltered part. We were by now as wet as we had been in the Lake District on that fateful Sunday in 1962 and again on Easter Sunday 1963, that is, absolutely soaked. [The wet Sundays are described in ‘A Hiking Memoir’.]

We descended to Thwaite, telling a cyclist, pushing his bike up the hill, of the innumerable hazards up there. We reached the hostel at 17.05h and the chap whom we had met in Hawes told us he had got there just before us, not surprising since he set off ages before us.

Keld Youth Hostel is very nice, and the food is very good, but it is not to be recommended, as there is no pub within three miles!

After supper – fish and chips (my third helping that day) – we sat around and played cards and talked. This chap had evidently been everywhere and done everything. He lived in Sheffield and his membership card had pages and pages of Burley Woodhead Youth Hostel stamps on it, In fact, he even knew Amby Clark at Otley!

We went to bed about 22.30h, and ate our packed lunches which we had not needed because of the accommodating café in Hawes. We worked out that, between us, we had spent thirty shillings while there, and that didn’t include forty cigarettes which we had bought!

Saturday 31st August 1963

Breakfast was at 08.30h, and we found we had an addition to our numbers, in the person of an elderly Scots lady, who didn’t eat as much porridge as we did – Hoots, mon!

The weather was sunny and warm when we left the hostel, quite a change from the previous day, and nearly straight after we had left the hostel at 10.10h, Neil saw a photograph worth taking. He and Peter charged off to take the picture – a waterfall – and me and Obie wandered off up towards Tan Hill. Eventually Peter and Neil caught up with us, and we wandered along together. The scenery was rather bleak, even in the glorious weather which we were lucky enough to have, but the walk was quite pleasant.

At 11.35h we reached the whitewashed structure of Tan Hill Inn, England’s highest pub. Anxious to see what beer tasted like at 1732 feet above sea level, we all went in. Also we had to have a farewell drink with Peter, who was going to Grinton Lodge Youth Hostel, instead of coming with us.

We left Tan Hill, a cold, draughty joint, at 12.15h and left Peter after first getting his address so that we could send begging letters at some later date. We walked across the moors towards the A66 over Stainmore. These moors provided us with a mixture of everything we had so far encountered except peat hags. We had to contend with heather, tussocky grass and bogs. In one part it was so boggy that seagulls were nesting, or had been nesting, on it.

At 13.25h we stopped for lunch on the moors, overlooking the old railway track which runs parallel to the A66. At 14.00h we set off down the railway track, from which all bridges have been removed, to get to God’s Bridge, where we should have left the first part of the moors. The fact that all the bridges, which had previously carried the railway across streams, roads and tracks, had been removed, meant we had to climb down, and up the other side, which slowed us down somewhat.

We reached God’s Bridge at 14.50h. It was far from impressive. At first it looked as if the river was coming to a dead end when it reached a limestone dam across the river. This ‘dam’ was God’s Bridge, which had a gap underneath, through which the water trickled.

The River Greta was, in fact, quite low, and in parts it had sunk below its limestone bed, to reappear at a point lower down. By 15.00h, when we left God’s Bridge, the weather looked unpromising, and we decided to walk to Bowes, as the last crossing of the moors had taken some time, and the next was quite boggy and with few footpaths. Besides this, we had to find accommodation in Middleton in Teesdale that night, as there was no convenient Youth Hostel.

We reached Bowes at 15.50h, and Neil took a photo of me trying to remove the sign of Dotheboys Hall. I don’t think I really wanted it at all.

At 16.00h we set off to walk to Cotherstone about four and a half miles away, which we covered in sixty-five minutes. We checked up at Cotherstone and found that we had done our required mileage for the day, and so we caught a bus to Middleton in Teesdale. The bus driver didn’t seem to know his way, but eventually we got there. We got accommodation in Middleton at ‘The Grove’ and after a bath – a great luxury – we went out for a meal.

This meal consisted, for me, of one-of-each-twice, one whisky and ginger, one pint of bitter – which was pretty lousy – and ham and onion sandwiches. The other two had something very similar to this as well. And before the ‘meal’ we had helped Neil to eat some of his Kendal Mint Cake, so we must have remarkable – or cast iron – digestive systems.

We left this pub after a while and went to another, where we found some locals who had been in the other pub. While I was keeping a semi-drunk quiet, by offering him Obie’s cigarettes, one of these blokes said that Neil had been staring at him all night. This was probably true since when you’re in a strange pub your eyes wander, and suddenly rest on someone, and the someone often falls under your eyes more than once. There were rather a lot of people in the pub, and everyone in Middleton seemed to know everyone else, so we left before there was any more trouble.

We got back to ‘The Grove’ at about 22.00h, and had tea and biscuits before going to bed.

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